I grew up with V.C. Andrews. When everyone else my age was knee-deep in The Babysitter's Club or Goosebumps I relied on V.C. to take me to a world of wealth, beauty, darkness, and corruption. I would sit outside in the grass under the hot Texas sun and wander and revel in her purple (yet skilled) prose and delightful twists and turns. Of course, looking back, I see now how easily her work can be dismissed, as unrealistic, soapy, and trashy. But everyone has to have their guilty pleasure, and I find that I still keep a copy of Flowers in the Attic and Heaven alongside my Issac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and J.R.R. Tolkien, much to the embarrassment and chagrin of my intellectually-inclined friends. Without her my love for writing may never have been initially sparked.
Cleo Virginia Andrews was born in 1924 in Portsmouth, Oregon. She was brought up and raised in Rochester alongside three siblings. Tragedy befell her at an early age. When she was fifteen, she fell down a flight of stairs and was crippled, confined to a wheelchair for life. She was twenty when she lost her father. The family then moved to Missouri. She never married and died of cancer December 19, 1986.
V.C. cites her mother as being the key inspiration to her start in writing. After becoming crippled, her mother thought that the accident was an omen of bad things, and hid her from the outside world. She made Virginia feel like a defect to society. She became a closet writer and artist (selling a few paintings commercially in her early years). She was bright, and finished all of the classic novels by age 12. She also studied psychology, which was another inspiration for her often disturbed characters.
In her later years, she made an 'idea notebook' filled with her new ideas or concepts of new series. After she died, her family carefully selected a ghostwriter to complete her ideas as excellent novels, and those amazingly sell millions.
While she has published more, the books worth reading, in my humble opinion:
Flowers in the Attic (Also a movie, starring Kristy Swanson.)
Petals on the Wind
If There be Thorns
Seeds of Yesterday
Garden of Shadows
Casteel (my favorite series!)
Gates of Paradise
Web of Dreams
There are more, but I've noticed the quality of her writing declined over the years. If you are an avid V.C. fan, however, I recommend that you peruse her other selections.