Ive written before about the mysterious Ms Andrews , how so little of her life is truly known and how that feeds in the mystery surrounding her life …
It is widely known Virginia herself fed these mysteries , she rarely gave interviews, she dropped hints when she did driving fans wild with speculation and particularly played up to her most famous story : Flowers in the Attic – by giving journalists sugared doughnuts and Southern fried chicken when they visited.
Due to the fact she had dedicated Flowers in the Attic to her mother and the subsequent Petals on the Wind to her brothers who remembered when … The fact her life was so private … A lot of fans wondered if the story of the dollanganger s could in fact be her life story ? Was she Cathy ? Her writing was so heartfelt , so intense and so raw it wasn’t too difficult to imagine so ….
Her ” official” biography from her publishers didn’t help cast any light either, brief and contradictory it all fuelled speculation into this woman’s life and the reason she was so fiercely private
To add fuel to the fire , the one infamous interview she did with People Magazine was littered with false information about her and her life .. information which for some reason has over the years found its way into the mainstream by being repeated in innacurrate Wikipedia articles and helped purportrate the myths surrounding her.
With all this in mind, I have over the years made it a project to piece together her actual life story, to sort the fact from the fiction using research from the archives , actual historic records, family information and data to create a more accurate detailing of her life story.
It’s no where near complete but as part of the 40th anniversary celebration of Flowers in the Attic and to be able to pay tribute to this amazingly talented lady – I’d like to set some records about her straight.
For me it would be an actual dream to write her complete official biography , to be able to look at previously unseen records regarding her life but until then I’m pretty happy with what I’ve been able to research … therefore I bring to you ….
The Biography of V C Andrews
Cleo Virginia Andrews was born on 6th June 1923 in Norfolk, Virginia to William Henry Andrews , a toolmaker and Lillian Leonora Parker, a telephone operator.
The middle child and only daughter , she had two brother s – older brother William Henry Andrews ( born 24 May 1921 , in Norfolk, Virginia and known as Bill and younger brother Eugene Clifton Andrews ( Born 15 september 1929 in New York and known as Gene )
Her parents had met in Virginia, Lillian s home state when William was in the Navy and they married 8th may 1920 • Portsmouth City, Virginia
Sometime after her birth, the Andrews family relocated in Rochester , New York to be near her paternal grandparents and family.
This is where younger brother Gene was born and the family can be found in the 1930 US Census living in Monroe, Rochester where William is working as a furniture tool maker, Lillian having no employment and staying at home with the three children .
Virginia spent the early part of her childhood residing in Rochester, New York.
However, by the time Virginia was nine in 1932 the family had returned to Portsmouth to live closer to her maternal family – The Parkers.
Residing at West Henrietta Drive, Portsmouth, Virginia – Virginia herself recalls that the family were bought up in the Southern Baptist Church.
“My grandfather was fanatical about his religion. When we moved to Portsmouth, my mother fell under his control, and he insisted that everybody go to church on Sunday morning and Sunday night and on Wednesday.
It is believed that Virginia attended the Robert Lee Grade school where the precocious student skipped both third and sixth grades and she graduated from Woodrow Wilson highschool.
However, despite these claims there is no evidence in the Woodrow Wilson highschool yearbooks of Virginia or her siblings , although in later years there is evidence of her cousins attending .
It is also around her teens that there is talk of an accident down the stairs at school which led to her having severe back injuries – this was first mentioned in the people magazine interview however, her family claim she was diagnosed in her early teens with severe rheumatoid arthritis.
It is only in the newly discovered Twilight Magazine interview that Virginia herself states the truth regarding her injury.
Whilst it was a fall down the stairs that gave her the back injury, this hadn’t happened until 1973 when she was in her fifties – not during highschool or due to rheumatoid arthritis.
This is supported by the 1940 US Census in which there is a specific entry to state if a member of the household is disabled – Virginia’s is empty showing that she was suffering from any disabilities which plagued her in later life at the age of 17.
The census also tells us that the highest grade she ever completed was third grade meaning she would have graduated at 14-15 , yet still there is no evidence of this.
It is also worthy to note the family were living at 1229 Atlanta Avenue and William Snr was the only one working , as a machinist.
The previous year of 1939 , Virginia’s maternal grandfather Clifton Linwood Parker , had died – in a fatal boating accident just days before her 16th birthday – he had been the deeply religious Baptist minister of the area and a military man to boot, having served in the navy.
It was during these war years, Virginia’s father Henry re enrolled into the navy and served for a time as part of the war effort.
When the war ended, a few years later the Andrews family took in a younger cousin of Virginia’s – the other only girl in the family Patricia Parker whilst her family moved to San Diego for a spell. It is Patricia s family that is thought to have been the inspiration for the Dollangager family as the eldest boy became a Dr like Chris jnr and there were a pair of twins in the family of six.
However, tragedy was to strike the family on 22 February 1957 when Virginia s father died of a sudden heart attack. Shortly after Virginia and her mother moved to Manchester, St Louis, Missouri, to live with one of her brothers and his wife.
It is widely believed during this time Virginia helped to support her family through her extremely successful career as a commercial artist, portrait painter, and fashion illustrator. However , Virginia herself refutes this claim, again in the 1983 Twilight Magazine interview in which she claims she was successful in her art in the terms of awards , she never actually financially gained from her ability.
They moved again in the following years to Apache Junction, Arizona to stay with her other brother and Virginia is believed to have entered a dark depression during this time in which she tried to commit suicide twice – by slitting her wrists.
It’s after this point, she and her mother returned to Virginia to live and where the accident on the stair occured in 1973 – due to this crippling arthritis and failed spinal surgical treatments forced her to spend most of her life on crutches or in a wheelchair, and at one point, she was even in a full-body cast.
Family members remember that Virginia lived her adult life with little to no neck movement. She bravely lived through pain on a daily basis
Virginia sought creative release through writing, which she did in secret.
Her first manuscript ” Under the parasol” was so autobiographical that she destroyed it in order to keep her life private.
In 1972, she completed her first novel,
Gods of Green Mountain, a science-fantasy story. This however was only published post humously in 2004 as an e-book.
Between 1972 and 1979, it s claimed she wrote nine novels and twenty short stories.
According to the pitch letter written 13 January 1978 • Michael Lane, Churchland,Virginia to Anita Diamant she had previously sold three Gothic Romances on her own, under a pen name and without an agent, and before that she wrote confession stories.
One of her confession stories, the infamous “I Slept with My Uncle on My Wedding Night”, was published in an unknown pulp confession magazine.
None of these unreleased materials have ever been discovered.
Upon receiving the pitch letter Just three days later, Anita requested the entire manuscript. Virginia submitted her ninety-eight-page manuscript titled Flowers in the Attic.
In 1979 , Flowers in the Attic was released. Her new-generation Gothic novel reached the best-seller lists a mere two weeks after its 1979 paperback publication by Pocket Books.
1980 saw the release of Petals on the wind , subsentqly followed by If there be thorns in 1981.
The release of My Sweet Audrina in 1982 as a stand alone novel saw a departure from the dollanganger saga followed by a break in book releases.
After being named the Professional Woman of the year in 1984 in her hometown of Norfolk, Virginia she followed up with the publication of Seeds of Yesterday, the fourth installment of the Dollanganger saga.
Heaven, the first in the Casteel saga followed in 1985 with its sequel Dark Angel in the November of 1986.
Virginia C. Andrews died on the 19th of December, 1986, after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 63 years old and had refused treatment whilst writing Dark Angel in order to concentrate on the book.
Her final resting place is Olive Branch Cemetery , Portsmouth , Virginia.
According to the Complete VCAndrews web site ;
“At the time of her death, her accomplishments as a writer were great. She had over 24 million books in print and her books were translated into multiple langauges, including Dutch, German, Hebrew, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, and Turkish. Her estate was estimated at about $8 million.”