Somebody told me today that V.C. Andrews, the woman who wrote THE gothic-horror novels about super-sick-messed-up families, died years ago. And all the novels that have been coming out under her name for the past however many years have actually been written by her family. Could this be true?
Yes. It is true. And apparently it has been old news for some time.
And was her own family the model for the lurid nastiness in her novels?
- She was born in 1923 as Virginia Cleo Andrews, in Portsmouth, Virginia.
- She was the youngest of three children. Her father was a retired navy officer who ran a tool-and-die business, and her mother was a telephone operator.
- When she was in high school, she fell down the stairs of her school and suffered severe spinal injuries. Some say her doctor was an idiot and denied that she was in pain. Others say that doctors tried experimental surgery and failed. Either way, she underwent several surgeries, but they never really worked and she had to use either a wheelchair or crutches, and she battled with arthritis for the rest of her life.
- After her father died in the 1960s, Virginia supported the rest of her family as a commercial artist, professional portrait painter, and fashion illustrator.
- In 1972, at 48 years old, she started writing novels, but none were published. One short story she wrote did get published; it was called "I Slept With My Uncle on My Wedding Night."
- In the late 1970's, she submitted a novel called The Obsessed. At the request of her publisher to spice it up, she added "unspeakable things my mother didn't want me to write about." In 1979, it was published as Flowers In The Attic.
- She discovered after it hit the shelves that the publishers had decided to change the name on the cover from "Virginia Andrews" to "V.C. Andrews." They thought men wouldn't be likely to buy a horror novel written by a woman.
- Other books that followed included Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns, My Sweet Audrina, Seeds of Yesterday, Heaven, and Dark Angel in 1986.
- She died in 1986 after having been diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time of her death, she had over 24 million books in print and her estate was worth more than $8 million.
- Five years before she died, she told the Washington Post that she had made synopses for 63 other stories. After her death, two novels that she had actually written were published, and then the family announced, in a letter printed in the novels, that they were "working closely with a carefully selected writer" to turn the synopses into full-fledged novels.
- It has since been disclosed that this ghost writer is a horror novelist named Andrew Neiderman.
- A rough count of books that have been published under V.C. Andrews' name since her death, through March 2005, totals 49.
All the sources I checked say that except for the debilitating fall she suffered, her childhood was a happy one. She was interviewed as saying she writes about fears that people develop as children, fears of being helpless, trapped, or out of control. One source of inspiration for her novels may have come from the fact that after she was relegated to a wheelchair, her protective mother tried to keep her indoors so that she would not be injured further.