Andrews, V(irginia) C(leo)
ANDREWS, V(irginia) C(leo)
Born 6 June 1924, Portsmouth, Virginia; died 19 December 1986, Virginia Beach, Virginia
Wrote under: V. C. Andrews
Daughter of Lillian Lilnora (Parker) and William Henry Andrews
V. C. Andrews' series of horror/gothic novels made her aworldwide bestselling author over her seven-year writing career. Catering mainly to adolescent females, Andrews' stories deal with young, frustrated, imprisoned, desperate characters who manage to overcome their tragic situations and obtain revenge against their oppressors. The novels tend to revolve around forbidden love (particularly incest), rape, and child abuse. Their popularity has been attributed to Andrews' ability to capture the feelings of adolescents who simultaneously feel the helplessness of childhood and the negative side of adulthood.
Andrews spent almost her entire childhood in Portsmouth, Virginia, with a brief sojourn in Rochester, New York. The youngest of three children and the only daughter, Andrews secured her first library card and the opportunity to take art classes at the local junior college at the age of seven. She later completed a correspondence course in art over four years, going on to become a successful commercial artist and selling every piece she painted.
Andrews was confined at home partly due to an accident she had as a teenager. She fell down the stairs at school, causing back pain and spinal spurs, and it was years before the problem was accepted and treated by physicians. She spent her teenage years on crutches and her adult life in a wheelchair because walking was so painful. Giving up her dream of becoming an actress, she turned to writing so that she could become many different characters in her imagination.
For seven years Andrews stayed up late writing, either by sitting up in bed with a typewriter, or standing to write while wearing a back brace. By writing obsessively, sometimes as many as 40 pages a night, Andrews produced 9 books and 20 short stories. She marketed them all but sold only a fictional piece for a confessional magazine.
Andrews' big break came in 1979 when Pocket Books encouraged her to edit and then resubmit her 290,000-word novel, The Obsessed. After she had trimmed it down to 98 pages, she was then asked to expand the novel by making it more sexually explicit and grotesque. Renamed Flowers in the Attic, the novel became a bestseller in two weeks. Detailing the lives of four children, Cathy, Chris, Carrie, and Cory Dollanganger, who must live hidden away in an attic, the novel was classified as horror. All the children are products of incest, and their mother imprisons them because their grandfather might learn of their existence and cut her out of his will. Incest between the older son and daughter is also hinted at.
Andrews immediately began a sequel, and in 1980 Flowers in the Attic was released as a hardcover and its sequel, Petals on the Wind, was released as a paperback. Both appeared on the bestseller lists that year, selling over seven million copies in two years. Andrews' advances surged from $7,500 to $35,000 to $75,000 for the third book in the series, If There Be Thorns, published in 1981. Again within two weeks, Andrews' third novel appeared on the bestseller lists.
In 1982 Andrews took a break from the Dollanganger series to write My Sweet Audrina. Despite its status as a stand-alone novel, it made sales comparable to those of her first three books, perhaps because of name recognition. My Sweet Audrina deals with a girl's bizarre childhood in which she is forced by her family to forego her own identity for that of her dead sister. In 1984 Andrews completed the saga of the Dollangangers with Seeds of Yesterday. She went on to begin another saga, this one concerning the Casteel family of West Virginia. Heaven (1985) was followed by Dark Angel (1986), which went to number one on the best sellers chart two days after its release. Andrews was declared the top bestselling author by the American Booksellers Association.
Andrews died of breast cancer in 1986, but her name continues to be placed on the covers of new family sagas. Shortly before her death, Andrews stated that she had written down 63 synopses of novels she planned to write. Four books published after 1986 may have been completed by Andrew Neiderman, who continues to publish novels under her name.
Garden of Shadows (1987). Fallen Hearts (1988). Gates of Paradise (1989). Web of Dreams (1990).
Huntley, E. D., V. C. Andrews: A Critical Companion (1996). Winter, D., Faces of Fear (1985).
CA 97-100 (1981). CANR 21 (1987).
LAT (obituary, 21 Dec. 1986). NYT (obituary, 21 Dec. 1986).