String Duet

updated 03/09/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/09/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

READING ANNE RICE'S GOTHIC vampire novels hardly prepared Leila Josefowicz for meeting the author at Rice's New Orleans home last year. "She just stared at me with unblinking eyes for 15 or 20 seconds," says the 20-year-old violinist. Rice admits she was awed by her guest. "I touched Leila's violin with worshipful fingers," says the writer. "It was so incredible that after Leila left, I burst into tears."

The meeting came about after Rice, moved by Josefowicz's 1995 debut recording of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major ("I love the maelstrom, its rhythm, luster and brightness of sound"), gave the musician's forceful style to Stefan, the virtuoso fictional ghost in Violin, her last bestseller. Last fall, Josefowicz paid homage to her new friend with a collection of Rice's favorite works, titled Violin for Anne Rice. "How she listens is so passionate, so attentive," Josefowicz says.

Born in Mississauga, Ont., and raised in California and Philadelphia, Josefowicz signaled her musical gift at age 5 when she informed her parents, physicist Jack and biologist Wendy, that the home vacuum cleaner's hum was an F. Today her partner in vacuuming and music is 33-year-old pianist John Novacek, with whom she shares a life of black-tie performances and microwave meals (neither wants to get too close to a kitchen knife) in their one-bedroom Manhattan flat.

Rice thinks that Violin might have turned too dark had it not been for the uplift she found in Josefowicz's music. "It's always a good day to die," she says in her characteristically ghoulish way. "With her help, I was able to describe wanting to live."

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