Cleo Virginia (she later reversed her names) Andrews was the youngest of three children. She grew up in Portsmouth, Virginia and excelled in school -- she skipped both the third and the sixth grades. As a teenager, she had a serious accident, falling down the stairs at school and suffering severe hip and back injuries, and later arthritis, that caused her to spend most of her life on crutches or in a wheelchair.
After graduation from high school, she completing a four-year correspondence art course while living at home. Following the death of her father, Andrews and her mother moved first to Missouri and then to Arizona to be near her brothers. Andrews helped to support her family through her successful career as a commercial artist, portrait painter, and fashion illustrator.
She originally kept her writing a secret. She sold three Gothic romances under a pseudonym and without an agent, and before that she wrote stories for pulp confession magazines. In 1975, she completed a manuscript for a novel she titled The Obsessed. The novel was returned to her with the suggestion that she "spice it up" and expand the story. In interviews, Andrews claims to have made the revisions in a single night, re-submitting the book as Flowers in the Attic. This novel, published in 1979, was an instant and hugely popular success, reaching the top of the bestseller lists in only two weeks. The publisher assigned her the pen name of V.C. Andrews to mask her gender from readers. Every year after that until her death from breast cancer, Andrews published a new novel, each one earning her larger advances and a wider audience -- making her one of the most popular authors of all time.