Cleo Virginia Andrews, better known as V.C. Andrews (June 6, 1923 – December 19, 1986), was an American author, mainly known for family-themed Thrillers.
A voracious reader as well as a skilled artist and designer, Andrews didn't really get serious about writing until she hit middle age. After finishing quite a few unpublished manuscripts, her debut novel Flowers in the Attic came out in 1979, and quickly gained notoriety for a subplot involving Brother–Sister Incest, but that infamy translated into huge sales. In its wake, Andrews wrote several sequels and produced other novels. Plagued with health problems throughout her life, Andrews died of breast cancer at age 63 in 1986. She never married, nor had children.
Andrews has since become perhaps equally notorious for the manner in which her work has Outlived Its Creator. The real Virginia Andrews published only seven books in her lifetime. After her death, however, a ghostwriter (Andrew Neiderman) quietly took over at her publishers' behest, and has continued to churn out novels under the Andrews pen-name for decades ever since, basically turning "V.C. Andrews" into a brand. Quite where the lines are drawn between any genuine unfinished manuscripts he may have completed, works "inspired by" her ideas but otherwise his own, and works entirely plucked from his imagination, remains officially unacknowledged. More than seventy books by him have appeared under the Andrews name, though — over ten times more than the original author ever managed, and unabating even as the centenary of her birth approaches.
In 2022 Neiderman published a biography of Andrews, The Woman Beyond the Attic.
- Gods of Green Mountain (completed in 1972; unpublished during her lifetime; released as an e-book in 2004)
- Dollanganger Series
- My Sweet Audrina (1982)
- The Casteel Series
- Heaven (1985)
- Dark Angel (1986)
- Dollanganger Series prequel Garden of Shadows (1987)
- My Sweet Audrina sequel Whitefern (2016)
- The Casteel Series (1985-1990)
- Cutler Series (1990-1993)
- Landry Series (1994-1996)
- Logan Series (1996-1999)
- Orphans series (1998)
- The Wildflowers series (1999)
- Hudson Series (2000-2007)
- Celeste series (2004-2005)
Tropes that apply to her:
- Genre-Busting: Andrews' work is hard to classify because it skirts the edges of a bunch of genres but doesn't fit into them. Andrews basically felt she was a genre unto herself, and other commentators like writer Sara Gran agree."Though there’s an obvious debt to the Brontë sisters, nineteenth-century sensation novels like Lady Audley's Secret, and Daphne du Maurier's Gothic fiction, at heart Andrews’s novels have little in common with the genres where they ought to fit. They’re too offbeat for romance, too slow to qualify as thrillers, too explicit for Gothic, and far too dark and complex for young adult. Many booksellers shelve them with horror, but Andrews’s concerns with family, emotion, and relationships put her books firmly outside the genre. Although the supernatural makes brief appearances in Andrews’s work, her largest topic is the all-too-natural tragedy of families gone wrong."
- Middle Name Basis: She went by her middle name Virginia her whole life, even switching around her initials for her author's credit. Also intersects with Meaningful Name, since she was from Virginia, and the state itself embodies a lot of the Old Money and Southern Gothic themes that showed up in her work.
- Moustache de Plume:
- The reason she was Only Known by Initials. She said in a 1985 interview:Virginia: The publisher sent me a copy of the galley of Flowers in the Attic, and it read "Virginia Andrews." Then, when they sent me the cover, it said, "V.C. Andrews." So I immediately called up and complained. And they said, "It was a big mistake by the printers, and we can't change it—we've already printed a million copies of the cover and it's too expensive to throw them away." Then later, I learned the truth. It was an editorial decision. Men don't like to read women writers, and they wanted men to read the book. They wanted to prove to men that women could write differently—that we don't write only about ribbons and frills and kisses and hugs, that we can really write something strong.
- Outside of the US, where V.C. Andrews was marketed toward women, the books were published under the name "Virginia Andrews." Ironically, since her cult status has risen after her death, some of these foreign editions have changed the name to her more familiar (in the US) initials.
- The reason she was Only Known by Initials. She said in a 1985 interview:
- Reclusive Artist: While she didn't exactly shun the spotlight (she even did a publicity tour in the UK at one point), Andrews was still a fairly private person even after the Dollanganger books catapulted her into literary stardom. Some of this was due to her physical condition: she spent most of her adult life in a wheelchair, due to a combination of a painful bone spur and chronic rheumatoid arthritis, and still required her mother Lillian as a caretaker. But she was also annoyed at how stories about her played up her disabilities, incorrectly claiming she was paralyzed. As a result, she only gave a handful of interviews. Also, perhaps a bit self-conscious about achieving success at an advanced age, she flat-out refused to divulge how old she was. When she died, news outlets guessed that she was in her 40s or 50s, rather than the actual 63.
Tropes common in her works:
- Big Fancy House: Foxworth Hall in the Dollanganger Series, Farthinggale Manor in the Casteel Series, and Whitefern in My Sweet Audrina.
- Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Foxworths are slightly ahead of the Tattertons in terms of incest and insanity, but only because they've been at it longer. Yet the Adares of My Sweet Audrina manage to pack a lot of crazy in a fairly small house.
- Died on Their Birthday:
- Flowers in the Attic: At the beginning of the story, Christopher, Sr. is killed in a car crash while driving to his 36th birthday party.
- Petals on the Wind: Julia kills Scotty on his 3rd birthday as part of a Murder-Suicide. They both drown.
- My Sweet Audrina: The first Audrina dies on her 9th birthday on September 9.
- Domestic Abuse: Another thing she is famous for. While her plots may be soap-opera like, her depictions of abuse—and even more, people's reactions to said abuse—are chillingly realistic.
- Dysfunction Junction: Good luck finding a character in her work who doesn't have deep psychological damage.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: The classic Andrews trope is "young girl in desperate situation dreams of better life; works, struggles, and schemes to achieve her dreams; finds out her dreams are actually even worse than the life she just escaped; repeat for five books." The lucky V.C. Andrews heroines make peace with their pasts, but rarely do they reach a happily-ever-after.
- The Film of the Book: Flowers in the Attic had a modestly successful big screen adaptation released in 1987. More recently, Lifetime has produced an extensive Made-for-TV Movie series of Andrews adaptations, starting with a well-received Flowers remake in 2014, though after running out of the actual Andrews-penned books they've turned to adaptations of the Neiderman books. Neiderman's Rain also got a feature adaptation in 2006.
- Generational Saga: Both the Dollanganger and Casteel series.
- Gothic Horror: Andrews was credited for codifying the "children in peril" genre, in which children are frequently the victims or prisoners of their own caregivers, often with lots of Gothic trappings (grand, labyrinthine houses, convoluted family secrets, and so forth).
- "Reading Is Cool" Aesop: It's not merely that Cathy and Heaven both love reading, but—more specifically—that they both use the escapism of stories as a way to cope. Virginia was a writer and book lover, after all.
- Shock Party: There's a party, everyone is gathered to celebrate, and then disaster strikes. Maybe the person whose birthday it is never arrives to the party. Maybe the guests don't arrive. Maybe someone makes a scene. But almost every party in her books goes awry in one way or another.
- Southern Gothic: Foxworth Hall in the Dollanganger books is located in Virginia, and as a result the stories broadly fit the category, even if they don't really display the conventions of the genre.
- Theme Naming: The book collections have names with a noticeable theme: The Dollanganger Series has floral names ("Flowers", "Petals", "Thorns," "Seeds," "Garden") while The Casteel Series uses angelic themes ("Heaven", "Angel,").
- Troubled Abuser: There is often a cycle of abuse in place, and many of the abusers are victims themselves.