Influences on my early writing

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It has been at least fifteen years since I’d read My Sweet Audrina.

I’ve always considered V.C. Andrews novels a guilty pleasure (like the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella). They are easy reads, and, considering I do most of my reading in bed at night before I go to sleep, it’s what I need.

I was afraid of reading Audrina—afraid that it wouldn’t be as good as I remembered—but even though V.C.’s novels aren’t considered literature, Audrina touches on a variety of important topics: self-hypnosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, brittle bone disease, autism, and how parental favoritism can destroy the favored child.

What is haunting about V.C.’s Southern Gothic horror novels is their timelessness. Reading this book made me nostalgic for that time when I was getting into more “adult” novels.

 

The first time I came across a V.C. Andrews novel was at a “Friends of the Library” sale (https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfWFPL). It was Dawn—the first book in the Cutler family series—a crisp, hardcover edition sheathed in a dust jacket with a haunting family photo on the cover. I was immediately intrigued, and of course, I had to read everything she wrote after that.

When I was a teenager, I wrote part of a sequel about the Lamar Rensdale character in Audrina, bringing him back from the dead. I wanted Audrina to ditch Arden and marry Lamar instead—a man who helped her—even as Arden had failed her the first time, a second, a third…

I think my juvenile attempt to write a sequel to My Sweet Audrina was my way of living in that crazy Whitefern world just a little longer.

What’s more, I’ve always wanted to give characters happy endings—just like I wanted to give a happy glimpse of Ginger (from Black Beauty) in the afterlife.

 

Audrina is unputdownable, for it drew me into this strange, Whitefern world. Coming from a caring, but odd and somewhat dysfunctional family (a neighbor of ours, I found out, once referred to us as the Addams family), I related, however distantly, to the Whiteferns/Adares, for they live in an old house where things don’t always work and consider themselves outliers in the community. (My parents don’t even watch the local news.)

 

I think, when we read a book, we either like to be taken away or see ourselves in someone else’s work, to feel less alone—Audrina was both. It was also well-edited, unlike some of V.C.’s other books, where last names are spelled two different ways and middle names were changed altogether.

 

I don’t recommend any V.C. books after the Logan series, because the quality tanked and they all started to sound the same. I have no plans on reading Whitefern, the sequel to Audrina that Neiderman wrote, though I will try the televised version of Audrina. (The original flick, Flowers in the Attic, though not a masterpiece, had a haunting quality about it the TV movie lacked.)

 

V.C. Andrews had one hell of an imagination, and it’s too bad she passed away before she got to write more books. She was an influence on me in my early writing (who doesn’t love dark family secrets?), just as the breezy, Shopaholic series lightened what V.C. darkened.

 

Even though I read many novels by different authors, I think series books will always have a place in my heart, because I fall in love with the characters, and don’t want to let them go. I think that’s why I’ve always preferred novels over short stories, and short stories over poetry. It’s always been about the characters for me. Even the poetry I write is often about characters (many of them wacky).

Plots may keep you reading, but characters will keep you rereading.

 

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Prequels and Sequels vs. Retellings and “The Wizard of Oz”

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Is either necessary?  I think most books are better left to stand alone, like “Gone with the Wind”.  I just read where a prequel to “GWTW” is in the works.  Wasn’t “Scarlett” (which, I admit, I never read) bad enough?  Maybe I just don’t want to like “Scarlett”.  I see writers who write sequels or prequels to famous novels as piggybacking off another author’s success.

I prefer retellings.

That said, years ago, when I was an avid fan of V.C. Andrews, I wrote a sequel to “My Sweet Audrina”–the only stand-alone novel V.C. wrote.  I don’t know whatever happened to it, but I am tempted to go back and rewrite it.  I know I could do better in V.C.’s stead than that hack, Andrew Neiderman.  (Most anyone could.)

I’d also thought about writing a sequel to “Pollyanna” (even though the movie was much better than the book), only to find that one had already been written by the author, Eleanor H. Porter.

What’s worse to me, though, is when an author like Nicholas Sparks writes a sweet story (“The Notebook”), and then pens an abysmal sequel (“The Wedding”).  For me, if the same author writes the sequel, it’s hard to separate the two.  Still, it doesn’t diminish the original book for me–I don’t let it.

I watched “The Wizard of Oz” last night.  Still a delight!  I hadn’t watched it since I was a kid, and I picked up on the allegorical nature of the film I didn’t back then.  To me, brains, heart and courage were something only a “wizard” (i.e. God) could give a person.  Glinda was Dorothy’s guardian angel.  The “yellow brick road” was the road paved with gold that led to Heaven (i.e. the Emerald City).  The poppies were drugs that caused them to lose ambition and the snow that refreshed them represented manna.

I tried watching “Oz:  The Great and Powerful”, but gave up about halfway through.  Such a disappointment it was, but one cannot help but compare it to the original, which was as bright as this one was dark.  Had it been a retelling and not a prequel (though the premise had potential), I might have at least finished it.

It’s been years since I read the book by L. Frank Baum, but I don’t recall there being a Good Witch of the South.  I just wrote a story about her and Dorothy’s granddaughter for a short story contest.  The theme was “alien” and what it means to us, so I made Dorothy’s granddaughter an illegal alien in the land of Oz.  Aliens from outer space was too obvious.

The biggest project I’m working on now in relation to this topic is a set of fractured fairy tales juxtaposed with Biblical allegories (i.e. “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” represent the Twelve Tribes of Israel).

This is what “Writer’s Digest” had to say about writing a sequel to someone else’s book:  http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/questions-and-quandaries/legal-questions/updated-can-you-write-the-sequel-to-someone-elses-book

Looks like I’ll have to publish my sequel, simply titled, “Audrina”, for free on a V.C. fanfiction site.  (That was how the author of “Fifty Shades of Gray” got started; the story was developed from a “Twilight” fanfiction series and published on fanfiction websites.)

Are there any sequels (or prequels) you’d like to read or even write yourself?

Flowers in the Attic: A Young Girl’s Inspiration

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I don’t picture myself blogging too many movie reviews, but since I grew up with “Flowers in the Attic” (the book and the movie), I just felt compelled to put in my few cents about the most recent celluloid adaptation, which was much truer to the book, but lacked all the creepiness of its lackluster predecessor.

Lifetime’s production had a cheap look to it, and though the children were hidden away in the attic for three years, it looked and felt more like three months.  I wouldn’t recommend watching it for any reason other than curiosity.

V.C. Andrews was one of the greatest inspirations for my own writing.  My book, Because of Mindy Wiley, is V. C. Andrews meets Mormonism meets Peyton Place.  I’d written a sequel to My Sweet Audrina many years ago as a fan fiction piece, and I don’t know what ever happened to it.  Many of my early writings have been lost, though I am considering redoing the project, which I would simply post on my blog as “fan fiction.”  But then, why work on that when I can post original content?

I know with certainty Audrina Revisited would be better than the novels Andrew Neiderman has written under V.C.’s name.  The Logan series was the last that still felt like it had been written by Ms. Andrews.  However, with the exception of the prequel, they had a rushed feel to them.

My advice:  Don’t waste your time after the Logan series.