Cleo Virginia Andrews (June 6, 1923 – December 19, 1986), better known as V. C. Andrews or Virginia C. Andrews, was an American novelist. She was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. Andrews died of breast cancer at the age of 63.
Andrews’ novels combine Gothic horror and family saga, revolving around family secrets and forbidden love (frequently involving themes of consensual incest, most often between siblings), and they often include a rags-to-riches story. Her best-known novel is the infamous bestseller Flowers in the Attic (1979), a tale of four children locked in the attic of a wealthy Virginia family for over three years by their estranged pious grandmother.
Her novels were so successful that after her death her estate hired a ghost writer, Andrew Neiderman, to write more stories to be published under her name. In assessing a deficiency in her estate tax returns, the Internal Revenue Service argued (successfully) that Virginia Andrews’s name was a valuable commercial asset, the value of which should be included in her gross estate.
Her novels have been translated into Czech, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Korean, Turkish, Greek, Finnish, Hungarian, Swedish, Polish, Portuguese, Lithuanian and Hebrew .
Andrews was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, the youngest child and only daughter of the Andrews family. As a teenager, Andrews suffered a fall from a school stairwell, resulting in severe back injuries. The subsequent surgery to correct these injuries resulted in Andrews’s suffering from crippling arthritis that required her to use crutches and a wheelchair for much of her life. However, Andrews, who had always shown promise as an artist, was able to complete a four-year correspondence course from her home and soon became a successful commercial artist, illustrator, and portrait painter.
Later in life, Andrews turned to writing. Her first novel, titled Gods of Green Mountain, was a science fiction effort that remained unpublished during her lifetime but was released as an e-book in 2004. In 1975, Andrews completed a manuscript for a novel she called Flowers In The Attic. The novel was returned with the suggestion that she “spice up” and expand the story. In later interviews, Andrews claims to have made the necessary revisions in a single night. The novel, published in 1979, was an instant popular success, reaching the top of the bestseller lists in only two weeks. Every year thereafter until her death, Andrews published a new novel, each publication earning Andrews larger advances and a growing popular readership.
“I think I tell a whopping good story. And I don’t drift away from it a great deal into descriptive material”, she stated in Faces of Fear in 1985. “When I read, if a book doesn’t hold my interest about what’s going to happen next, I put it down and don’t finish it. So I’m not going to let anybody put one of my books down and not finish it. My stuff is a very fast read.”
Andrews died of breast cancer on December 19, 1986, in Virginia Beach, Virginia.After her death, her family hired a ghostwriter, Andrew Neiderman, to finish the manuscripts she had started. He would complete the next two novels, Garden of Shadows and Fallen Hearts, and they were published soon after. These two novels are considered the last to bear the “V.C. Andrews” name and to be almost completely written by Andrews herself.
Andrews’s works are usually grouped into series of five books. The first five series share several elements: The first few books are about the main character (always female); the fourth is about that character’s child or another family member; with the last being a prequel explaining how the events of the first book arose, centered around a relative of whom the main character is descended from.
After the Logan series ended, Neiderman decided to follow publishers’ wishes and try something different with the Orphans miniseries; since then, only the Hudson and DeBeers series have followed the original formula.
Andrews’s first series of novels was published between 1979 and 1986.
The first two, Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind, focus on the children: Chris, Cathy, Cory, and Carrie, who, after losing their father in an accident, are imprisoned in an attic by their mother and grandmother; Flowers in the Attic tells of their incarceration, the death of one child, and subsequent escape of the other three, with Petals on the Wind picking up directly after. With If There Be Thorns and Seeds of Yesterday, the story also includes Cathy’s children, Jory and Bart, after a mysterious woman and her butler move in next door, gradually turning Bart against his parents. Garden of Shadows is a prequel which tells the grandparents’ story, and also how the parents became involved.
The five novels making up the last known series started by Andrews were published between 1985 and 1990, with the only first two published before her death.
This series traces the lives of a troubled West Virginia family, originally from the viewpoint of Heaven, a young girl whose mother died during childbirth and has a love/hate relationship with her father, and, later, to Heaven’s daughter, Annie, with the fifth and final novel centering on Leigh, her mother.
This series and all subsequent novels were written by Neiderman, but are attributed to Andrews.
Published between 1990 and 1993, this book series covers nearly 80 years of the history of the Cutler family. The first three books; Dawn, Secrets of the Morning, and Twilight’s Child, follow the character of Dawn from her childhood to her marriage and subsequent return to the Cutler mansion. Midnight Whispers focuses on Dawn’s daughter Christie. Darkest Hour, the last book in the series, goes back in time to focus on Dawn’s grandmother, Lillian.
This series of novels focuses on the Landry family; Ruby Landry, her daughter Pearl, and Ruby’s mother Gabrielle (referred to as Gabriel in Tarnished Gold). The novels, set in the Louisiana bayou, were published between 1994 and 1996.
The series follows Melody Logan from a West Virginia trailer park to Cape Cod as she helps her relatives deal with the problems they’d rather bury. Melody stars as the main character in Melody, Heart Song, and Unfinished Symphony. The fourth book, Music in the Night, tells the tale of Melody’s cousin, Laura, who died before the events of the first book. The fifth book, Olivia, serves as a prequel to the series, with the main character being Melody’s great-aunt Olivia.
The Orphans series focuses on the lives of four teenage orphans, Janet (Butterfly), Crystal, Brooke, and Raven, who are sent to the Lakewood House foster home.
The Wildflowers series are about a group of girls in court ordered group therapy and why they were ordered to attend. The first four serve as prequels to the therapy sessions while the last one deals with what happened after. The sixth book is the collection of the first four stories in the series.
The Hudson series tells the story of Rain Arnold Hudson, a child conceived in a biracial affair between a black man and a wealthy white woman. Her story is told in Rain, Lightning Strikes, and Eye of the Storm. The fourth book, The End of the Rainbow, is the story of her daughter Summer. The series had ended with only four books until a prequel, titled Gathering Clouds, was announced. The book was released alongside the movie adaptation of Rain and revealed the story of Rain’s birth mother.
The Shooting Stars series tells the stories of four girls, each with a different background, upbringing, and talent. The first four books each focus on one of the girls, Cinnamon, an actress who deals with her domineering grandmother, Ice, a vocalist whose mother wishes she never had a daughter, Rose, a dancer who deals with the ramifications of her father’s suicide, and Honey, a violinist whose grandfather sees sin in everything. The final book is Falling Stars, told from Honey’s point of view, in which the four girls meet at the Senetsky School for the Arts in New York where they try to uncover the secrets of their instructor, Madame Senetsky.
The DeBeers family series is the story of Willow DeBeers, who learns from her cruel stepmother that her real mother had been a patient of her father’s. The first two books, Willow and Wicked Forest cover her meeting with her mother and half-brother in Palm Beach, Florida, her marriage which ends on a sour note, and the birth of her daughter Hannah, who is the main character in Twisted Roots. Into the Woods is the first prequel to the series about Grace, Willow’s mother, and what led to her being admitted to the hospital. Hidden Leaves and Dark Seed are both told from the perspective of Willow’s father, Claude, and tell how he met Grace and how Willow was born. Interestingly, some novels in the DeBeers series feature letters from characters from other V.C. Andrews novels, such as Ruby Landry and Annie Stonewall.
The Broken Wing series is about three juvenile delinquents, Robin Taylor, Teal Sommers, and Phoebe Elder, who each act out for various reasons. They are sent to Dr. Foreman’s School for Girls, run by the abusive Dr. Foreman, in an isolated part of the Southwest.
The Gemini series follows Celeste, a young girl who is forced to take on the identity of her dead twin brother Noble by her New-Age fanatic mother. Celeste’s story is followed in Celeste and Black Cat. The third book, Child of Darkness, is about Celeste’s daughter Baby Celeste.
The Shadows series is about a teenage girl named April Taylor, who is short, not overly talented or popular, and fat. The first book focuses on April’s relationship with her athletic older sister Brenda and the deaths of their parents. The second book focuses on April’s adventures after moving in with a foster family in California.
The only book in the VC Andrews novel to feature a little girl throughout the book. Jordan March, unlike every other of VC Andrews characters who are sixteen or twelve, starts out as six, then turns seven. It’s about a little girl who is developing too fast.
According to Neiderman, this series will “follow the story of two small-town girls, a murder, and the attic they use and develop into something very special.” Neiderman explains that the two books were slightly inspired by a true story.
The Delia series revolves around a young Latino girl (Delia), whose parents died in a truck accident in Mexico and how she must now cope with fittitng into her aunt’s wealthy and sometimes cruel Mexican-American family.