Author Andrew Neiderman has been penning novels as V.C. Andrews for more than three decades. Photo courtesy of Andrew Neiderman
NEW YORK, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Andrew Neiderman says the gothic novels he has been penning as V.C. Andrews for more than three decades honor the original author's fascination with damaged people and the distinctive places where they live.
Neiderman, 81, took over the franchise and assumed the pen name when Andrews died of cancer in 1986 at age 63.
"She was interested in why people who were supposed to love each other hurt each other," Neiderman told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.
"That was the central theme of the V.C. Andrews novels -- family and the pain people endure from people they love," he said. "Getting into that was really what she did and really what I do with the books -- all of them."
The settings, whether they are mansions or rural shacks, are essential to the V.C. Andrews brand.
"It shapes the character," Neiderman said, noting that loneliness is another theme that runs through the books.
"Either they're isolated because of their family situations or, in many of the books, the main character is isolated by her peers."
Neiderman's latest V.C. Andrews saga checks all of these boxes.
The first part, The Umbrella Lady, introduced Saffron Faith Anders, a young girl taken in by a mysterious woman after her mother dies in a fire and her father abandons her at a train station.
The sequel, Out of the Rain, which goes on sale Tuesday, follows Saffron, now 13, as she tries to find and reunite with her father.
The V.C. Andrews library includes more than 80 tales that have sold a total of nearly 110 million copies and inspired numerous screen adaptations, most notably by the Lifetime cable TV network.
Neiderman, who is a consultant on the movies, said he doesn't think anybody expected his ghostwriting gig to last as long or be as successful as it has.
He wrote Garden of Shadows, the prequel to Flowers in the Attic, on a one-time contract "to see how it would go," the author recalled.
His stewardship of the franchise was cemented when he completed the Heaven series of books, and then created the Cutler novels.
Most made it to the top of the New York Times best-seller list.
"At that point, there was no doubt that it would go on," Neiderman said. "The publisher at Simon & Schuster at the time said to me, 'This could go 20 years.' Well, it's gone 40 years, 35 of which are mine, basically."
He said it has never occurred to him to rest on his laurels.
"I don't like to dwell on it," he emphasized. "I just keep thinking, 'What's next?'"
Neiderman has his next four books finished and scheduled for publication. The author avoids writer's block by working on projects instead of simply talking about them, stopping when he is on a roll and constantly rewriting what he has done so he has somewhere to start each day.
He also embraces what he calls "organic writing."
"Once you create the character -- if the character is really well done, complex enough and interesting enough -- the character is going to create the story for you," Neiderman explained.
"He or she is going to start doing things that are 'in character' as opposed to you just inventing it. You might want to go in one direction, then think, 'This character would not do that!'"
The "what if?" question is the engine that drives most of his stories.
"I start working and it just comes," he said.
As for who and what he writes about, Neiderman said he often wonders where Andrews would be now and what would interest her.
"In the early days, they used to say, 'Just look at the headlines and you'll come up with your story ideas,'" Neiderman said.
"The idea of children being kept in an attic came from a real person, but the idea that [Andrews] would write about this kind of thing was because she saw it in the world around her, and I think she would have done the same today."
The key is not to duplicate exactly what readers see when they read or watch the news.
"They want something that is going to be entertaining, interesting, challenging," Neiderman said, adding that Andrews also shone a light on real-life horrors like incest and child abuse when most other artists shied away from them.
"She kind of broke the ground, and I don't feel there are any topics that are off-bounds anymore," he said. "Nothing."
The Woman Beyond the Attic, a biography about Andrews, written by Neiderman, is set for publication Feb. 1.
Neiderman said his comprehensive portrait of the late, journalist-hating scribe is the account many fans have been craving. To complete the task, he interviewed family members and combed through private letters.
Neiderman teased that a lot of surprises occur in the book.
"The situation has always been a twist of misinformation, largely because V.C. Andrews wanted it that way. She used to lie to reporters," he said.
"One of the things biography does is straighten all that out -- what really happened to her?" he added. "There's a great mythology about her and I think we kind of bring it down to Earth, but in an interesting way."