Real life of ‘Flowers’ author VC Andrews was as creepy as her gothic novels

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Flowers in the Attic” — the 1979 bestseller — continues to shock and thrill readers greater than 40 years later. The gothic horror basic about 4 siblings who spend three years locked within the attic of their grandparents’ mansion whereas their mom tries to win again her inheritance, comprises nearly all kinds of taboo: homicide, non secular fanaticism, youngster abuse, rape, incest. 

It’s so outlandish, followers have lengthy questioned if author “VC Andrews” primarily based the novel — and its numerous sequels — on her personal life. In her public appearances, Andrews herself appeared like a fairytale determine: a platinum blonde magnificence certain to a wheelchair, her watchful mom completely at her facet. 

While the brand new guide “The Woman Beyond the Attic: The V.C. Andrews Story” (Gallery Books) by Andrew Neiderman might not be as salacious as “Flowers in the Attic,” it’s absolutely price its personal Lifetime Original Movie. Neiderman — who has continued pumping out VC Andrews novels since her demise in 1986 — had entry to Andrews’ letters and manuscripts and interviewed dozens of relations to get the within scoop on the author. 

Cleo “Virginia” Andrews (in beret) was born 1923 in Portsmouth, Va., the second of three children to World War I vet William and telephone operator Lillian Andrews (above).
Cleo “Virginia” Andrews (in beret) was born 1923 in Portsmouth, Va., the second of three youngsters to World War I vet William and phone operator Lillian Andrews (above).

Cleo “Virginia” Andrews was born 1923 in Portsmouth, Va., the second of three youngsters born to World War I vet William and phone operator Lillian Andrews — and their solely woman. Her two dad and mom spoiled little “Virginia,” all the time shopping for her “beautiful things,” her cousin Pat advised Neiderman. “When rubber bathing suits were the rage, Virginia had one in every color. Forty-dollar blankets were casually purchased when 40 dollars was a fortune.”

The younger household struggled to outlive on William’s earnings from the US Navy, and — earlier than Virginia’s youngest brother got here alongside — they lived in Lillian’s dad and mom’ four-bedroom home, together with Lillian’s 5 siblings. 

Andrews had an lively creativeness. She liked fairy tales and gothic romances like “Jane Eyre” and “Dracula,” which scared her a lot that she would put a chunk of garlic at her bed room window to keep at bay the vampire. She channeled her creativity into drawing and portray: Her second-grade instructor, so impressed with her abilities, despatched 7-year-old Virginia to junior school for artwork classes, the place she needed to sit on prime of a dictionary to see the entrance of the room. 

Virginia, pictured here at 15, grew up spoiled. Her parents always bought her “beautiful things,” her cousin Pat told the author of a new book.
Virginia, pictured right here at 15, grew up spoiled. Her dad and mom all the time purchased her “beautiful things,” her cousin Pat advised the author of a brand new guide.

As an grownup, Andrews liked telling the story about how Frank Lloyd Wright got here to her class and requested her a few sketch she did. 

“Why did you draw a round house with all glass?” he requested. 

“Well, it’s my mother,” 7-year-old Virginia mentioned. “She always complains that she never seems to have enough windows.”

According to Andrews, Wright checked out her instructor and mentioned, “A child like that scares the hell out of me.”

At 17, Virginia stumbled down a flight of stairs and threw her spine out of alignment. She went through two surgeries and was put in a full-body cast, which only made things worse.
At 17, Virginia stumbled down a flight of stairs and threw her backbone out of alignment. She went by two surgical procedures and was put in a full-body forged, which solely made issues worse.

Andrews had magnificence, brains, expertise and creativeness, however one thing occurred at 17 that might alter the course of her life. 

‘Let’s not enable anybody to see my daughter.’

Lillian Andrews, as her daughter was confined to a wheelchair

She tripped on a stairway in school, badly twisting her hip. The stumble appeared to trigger a bone spur that threw her backbone out of alignment, exacerbating an arthritic situation that was already there. She went by two surgical procedures and was put in a full-body forged, which solely made issues worse. 

Andrews was advised she would spend the remainder of her life on crutches and in wheelchairs. She by no means went again to highschool, and have become fully depending on her dad and mom. 

Her mom, particularly, couldn’t cover her disgrace.

“Let’s not allow anyone to see my ‘afflicted daughter,’” she would say when positioning Virginia behind two conifer timber on the entrance yard, so she may sit on the entrance porch shielded from their neighbors.

When requested how she may bear being shut in, Andrews would reply: “I imagine I am a princess in a castle enjoying life.” Her dad and mom nonetheless purchased her fairly chiffon attire and jewellery, and he or she would gown up, paint her face and coif her hair, regardless of having nowhere to go. One cousin remarked that she appeared like a “romantic princess” within the model of Rapunzel.

Andrews claimed that she wrote “Flowers in the Attic” in two weeks, combining a tale of hidden away children with a dash of fairy tale horror and some of her own experiences.
Andrews claimed that she wrote “Flowers in the Attic” in two weeks, combining a story of hidden away youngsters with a splash of fairy story horror and a few of her personal experiences.

William died within the Fifties, when Virginia was in her 30s. William’s pension checks have been meager, as have been Virginia’s incapacity funds, so Virginia started promoting her art work — luxurious velvet work of flowers that her mom would carry to the native division retailer and hawk herself. 

If Virginia led a airtight life earlier than, her life grew to become notably lonely after William’s demise. Lillian hid her daughter away greater than ever: She shopped for her, monitored her guests and barely let her out of the home. 

“She hungered for fun and excitement,” mentioned her cousin Pat, recalling how she would take Virginia out to bars and eating places regardless of Lillian’s protests when the 2 stayed with her in Atlanta. When Pat took her to Lord & Taylor, Andrews admitted she hadn’t been to a shoe retailer since she was 16. She was 41. 

Mother Lillian refused to read any of her daughter’s novels, but still accompanied her on book tours.
Mother Lillian refused to learn any of her daughter’s novels, however nonetheless accompanied her on guide excursions.

At some level, Virginia stopped doing artwork and started writing tales, salacious tales that she mentioned she printed underneath a pseudonym. (One pattern title of an early unpublished manuscript: “I Slept With My Uncle on My Wedding Night.”)

Neiderman doesn’t clarify how Andrews obtained the itch to put in writing about incest, however the basic concept for “Flowers in the Attic” was impressed by a real story. When Virginia was present process surgical procedure for her backbone troubles at 17, she grew to become shut to at least one of her docs. One day, he advised her a surprising story: that he and his siblings had spent six years hidden away in a household mansion to protect an inheritance. 

The story caught with her for many years.

Lillian (above) traveled with her daughter on book tours to France and England, and sat beside her during all her signings.
Lillian (above) traveled with her daughter on guide excursions to France and England, and sat beside her throughout all her signings.

Andrews claimed that she wrote “Flowers in the Attic” in two weeks, combining the physician’s story with a splash of fairy story horror and a few of her personal experiences (the fire-and-brimstone church her grandfather made them attend in Portsmouth, her personal entrapment). A virgin, she consulted medical books and her teenage niece to assist in giving the intercourse scenes their technical and emotional veracity. 

“I lost 12 pounds [in the weeks writing it] it upset me so much, for I lived through everything those children suffered,” Andrews mentioned. If her earlier tales have been warm-ups, “Flowers in the Attic” represented her true potential, her masterpiece, and he or she was very proud of it. This work she printed underneath her personal title.

Immediately upon its 1979 debut, the book was banned in libraries and bookstores across the country, dismissed as “deranged swill” by one review.
Immediately upon its 1979 debut, the guide was banned in libraries and bookstores throughout the nation, dismissed as “deranged swill” by one evaluation.

Immediately upon its 1979 debut, the guide was banned in libraries and bookstores throughout the nation, dismissed as “deranged swill” by one evaluation. But the guide, which was printed by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, grew to become an prompt bestseller. Suddenly, Andrews had a limo with her personal chauffeur and was touring the nation for guide signings and interviews. Readers wrote letters to her, begging for sequels. She was a well-known author on the age of 57.

Andrews devoted “Flowers” to her mom, however Lillian — listening to that the guide featured incest — refused to learn it, or any of the opposite novels her daughter would write. Still, she remained a steadfast presence at her daughter’s public occasions, accompanying her on guide excursions to France and England, and sitting beside her throughout all her signings. Andrews purchased a home for the 2 of them in Virginia Beach in 1980, and their codependence made some followers marvel if the fraught relationship between Cathy, the dreamy teen protagonist of “Flowers,” and her scheming mom was primarily based in some reality.

Ellen Burstyn and Heather Graham star in the 2014 “Flowers in the Attic” movie adaptation.
Ellen Burstyn and Heather Graham star within the 2014 “Flowers in the Attic” film adaptation.
James Dittiger

Andrews relished her new life, going to Hollywood in 1983 and even making a cameo within the movie model of “Flowers in the Attic.” She churned out six extra novels, flirted with males (although her mom’s fixed presence made any actual relationship not possible) and tried to make up for these 40 years she spent shut away from the world. She died in 1986, of breast most cancers — seven years previous to Lillian, who handed away in 1993 in Naples, Fla., the place her sons had set her up in a home with a caretaker.

At the time of Andrews’ demise, she was engaged on her fourth “Flowers” guide — a prequel — and her writer requested Neiderman if he may end it, and maintain writing novels underneath her title. Now 81, he’s written some 60 of them, and doesn’t appear to be slowing down. This 12 months will convey two extra VC Andrews books, together with the biography, and final 12 months Lifetime premiered 4 films primarily based on her works.

VC Andrews covers
At the time of Andrews’ demise, she was engaged on her fourth “Flowers” guide.

Andrews foresaw all of it.

“All my life I thought I was meant to be something special,” she as soon as mentioned. “I never knew what it was. Now I have the satisfaction of having my name recognized. And it will live after me.”

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