“The creative genius begins in the idle moment, dreaming up the impossible, and later making it come true.”
Cleo Virginia Andrews was better known as VC Andrews through her life, even leading some of the more casual readers of her work to believe the author was a man. I had never heard about VC until a few weeks ago when I was told about an incredible scene from the film adaptation of her book, Flowers in the Attic, from the woman that's taught me so much about horror and life - my fucking amazing mom (the Uncle Ben to my Peter Parker existence).
The story follows the narration of a twelve year old girl and her family. Her father dies in a tragic car accident and the family moves to their mother's parents' home where the girl, her brother, and two younger siblings are locked in the attic and shit goes pretty fucking bad from there. The scene that introduced the work to me was when the daughter confronts her grandmother, telling her right the fuck off. After she leaves, the mother puts a handkerchief into her mouth, then screams silently. Wicked. Now, let's start from the start of Virginia's life.
"Tragedy had sent me headlong into reality. All the things I had seen before now looked different, even nature."
Virginia was the youngest child and only daughter of the Andrews family. She was born June 6, 1923, in Portsmouth, Virginia where she always showed promise as an artist. When she was a teen, she would take a horrible fall down a flight of stairs at her school which would leave her with severe back injuries. When she underwent surgery to correct these ailments, the procedure would result in crippling arthritis that would force Virginia to use crutches and a wheelchair for remainder of her life.
“Only someone who had cried a great deal understands why someone else wants to stop the tears.”
A force to be reckoned with, in spite of her constant pain, Virginia moved forward. She would complete a four year correspondence course from home which would lead her into becoming commercial artist, illustrator, and portrait painter - and a very successful one at that. It would be years later that Virginia's interests would lead her to writing. Her first novel was called Gods of the Green Mountain and remained unpublished throughout her life. It wasn't until 2004 that is actually had a release, an e-book release. Maybe there wasn't enough incest in it for the publishers - that joke will become more funny after you read the next paragraph if you are unfamiliar with VC's work.
“There was a war going on in our house. A silent war that sounded no guns, and the bodies that fell were only wishes that died and the bullets were only words and the blood that spilled was always called pride.”
In 1975, Virginia would finish a new novel, originally title The Obsessed. Being a manuscript at the time, it was returned to her with the suggestion that she expand the story and 'spice it up'. She rewrote it that night, coming back with the title, Flowers in the Attic. Now, I'm not certain what the original version contained, but I do know that this story was highly controversial. The fact that it was based on a true story that had been told to Virginia by her doctor during her treatment at the University of Virginia hospital just seems to upset more people.
He and his siblings had been locked away in the attic for six years to preserve the family wealth. In her story, two sisters and two brothers are locked in the attic by their mother. There is a younger set of boy/girl twins and the older brother and sister that begin to almost be like parents to the younger siblings and start a strange relationship as the two are maturing at the time. Harsh things happen, the children are starved, tortured, at one point the older boy cuts his wrist to feed the blood to the younger ones, the older girl steals a kiss from her new stepfather which results in a jealous raping from her brother. Yeah, I can see how that would piss people off. It was removed from schools due to the 'filthiness of the material'.
“I wish the night would end,
I wish the day'd begin,
I wish it would rain or snow,
or the wind would blow,
or the grass would grow,
I wish I had yesterday,
I wish there were games to play...”
There was a lot of harsh honesty in the work, too. The grandmother character suffers from her injury that keeps her in constant pain. One must wonder if that was similar to the pain Virginia must have been tormented with during her life. Flowers in the Attic would be published in 1979 and see great success. Within two weeks, it was at the top of the Bestseller's List. Every year that followed until her death, she would publish a new novel.
“You've got to learn something from every defeat in life or life will defeat you.”
Virginia's novels had a style of combining family drama and gothic horror. Many times there would be themes of consensual incest and would be a type of rags to riches tale. Her work was so sensationally poplar that after her death, her estate hired a ghost writer by the name of Andrew Neiderman to continue publishing work under her name. Sadly, Virginia would succumb to breast cancer on December 19, 1986.
It's a testament to the life of an artist that even when they are gone from this world, their work continues to exist on its own as people discover her books and lose themselves in her stories.