V. C. Andrews (1923–1986)


V. C. Andrews was best known as the creator of the Dollanganger trilogy, the story of four children born of an incestuous union and imprisoned in an attic by their sadistic grandmother. A popular success, especially with adolescents and young women, V. C. Andrews wrote in a genre first explored by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Bram Stoker and later popularized by Stephen King, Ira Levin, and Tom Tryon. Like them, she attracted an international audience. The Tidewater native told an interviewer that her stories were “based on dreams, and situations taken from my own life, in which I changed the pattern so that what might have happened actually does happen.” In 1984 the city of Norfolk named her Professional Woman of the Year.

Virginia Cleo Andrews was born on June 6, 1923, in Portsmouth, Virginia, where she later attended high school and then studied art. Crippled by rheumatoid arthritis as a young woman, she had to use crutches and later a wheelchair. Andrews never married and always lived with her mother. Secretive about the details of her life, particularly her age, Andrews related little about her early adult years. She resided in Manchester, Missouri, and Apache Junction, Arizona, but had returned to Portsmouth by the time she began earning professional acclaim late in the 1970s. Later she moved to Virginia Beach. Andrews worked as a portraitist, commercial artist, and fashion illustrator, but she eventually turned to writing. Often typing in bed or propped up in a body brace, she wrote thirty to forty pages a night for years. Her only publications before 1979 were pieces for confession magazines.

Andrews eventually completed a 290,000-word novel, The Obsessed. Retitling the work Flowers in the Attic, she shortened it to ninety-eight pages but was again told to revise it. As Andrews later recalled, she added “all those unspeakable things my mother didn’t want me to write about.” She sold the new version for $7,500 to Pocket Books, a division of Simon and Schuster. Published in 1979, Flowers in the Attic was the first of the Dollanganger trilogy.

Many critics dismissed Andrews’s novel, but it was an immediate success, prompting the release of a sequel, Petals on the Wind (1980), in which the children escaped and exacted their revenge. The final installment, If There Be Thorns, appeared the following year with an initial printing of 2.5 million copies. Andrews followed her first successes with My Sweet Audrina (1982), Seeds of Yesterday (1984), Heaven (1985), and Dark Angel (1986). Together, the seven novels sold more than thirty million copies and consistently reached best-seller lists.

On December 19, 1986, Andrews died of breast cancer in Virginia Beach. She was buried in Olive Branch Cemetery, in Portsmouth. A movie adaptation of her first novel was completed in 1987. Before her death Andrews had reportedly completed synopses for another sixty-three story lines and several more novels. Four Andrews novels published posthumously may have been completed by Andrew Niederman, who also wrote many additional novels under her name.

Major Works

  • Flowers in the Attic (1979)
  • Petals on the Wind (1980)
  • If There Be Thorns (1981)
  • My Sweet Audrina (1982)
  • Seeds of Yesterday (1984)
  • Heaven (1985)
  • Dark Angel (1986)
  • Garden of Shadows (1987)
  • Fallen Hearts (1988)
  • Gates of Paradise (1989)
  • Cinnamon (2001)
June 6, 1923
Virginia Cleo Andrews is born in Portsmouth.
Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews is published, turning the unknown writer into a best-selling author.
December 19, 1986
V. C. Andrews dies of breast cancer in Virginia Beach.
  • Andrews, V. C. “Turning a Profit from Memories.” Writer 95 (Nov. 1982), 7–8, 46.
  • Campbell, Edward D. C., Jr. “Andrews, Virginia Cleo.” In Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 1, edited by John Kneebone et al., 170–171. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 1998.
  • Huntley, E. D. V. C. Andrews: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996.
APA Citation:
Campbell, Edward & Dictionary of Virginia Biography. V. C. Andrews (1923–1986). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/andrews-v-c-1923-1986.
MLA Citation:
Campbell, Edward, and Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "V. C. Andrews (1923–1986)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 18 Jul. 2024
Last updated: 2021, December 22
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.