Thursday, January 19, 2017

Who Wrote This?

by Giselle Renarde

When the "What Are You Reading?" topic comes up, I usually I tell you about a book I'm enjoying. Today I'm going to tell you about a book I abandoned, which is much more fun.

Last year I might have mentioned reading V.C. Andrews for the first time and being shocked. I might also have told you about being in the younger cohort of a Grade 5/6 split. That wasn't last year--that was closer to the heyday of V.C. Andrews' fame. All the Grade 6 girls were reading Flowers in the Attic. They went through V.C. Andrews books like you wouldn't believe.

So last year, when I picked up an old V.C. Andrews and found it culminated in incestuous child rape, I couldn't believe this is what the kids in my class were reading back in the day.

That said, when I spotted another V.C. Andrews novel in the library, I didn't exactly walk on by.

Something got me curious, though. The dedication to this book reads: For Gene Andrews, who so wanted to keep his sister's work alive.

That's a weird dedication.

So I read the fine print on the copyright page and found this:

Following the death of Virginia Andrews, the Andrews family worked with a carefully selected writer to organize and complete Virginia Andrews's stories and to create additional novels, of which this is one, inspired by her storytelling genius.

Things that make you go hmmm, am I right?

Maybe this is all common knowledge. V.C. Andrews died in 1986. But it's news to me because apparently I'm 30 years behind the times.

I gave this book a chance (it's called Sage's Eyes, if you're curious) because the blurb seemed intriguing. I hate giving up on a book, so I worked my way through half of it before deciding life's too short. This novel is repetitive as fuck and focuses on minutia that might possibly be interesting to preteens but not to adult readers. The characters are supposed to be contemporary teenagers but they all talk like it's the 50s--the 1850s. heh

Anyway, tastes vary. I don't want to yuck anyone's yum. But it did get me thinking about author estate planning and literary wills.

As an author, do you care what's written in your name after you die? Do you want someone else to pick up where you left off? Complete your works in progress? Do you want your devoted readers picking up a book by someone else and thinking it's by you?

Maybe you don't care. After all, you'll be dead. But if you're beginning to wonder what measures you should be taking now to protect your interests after your death, have a listen to this episode of The Creative Penn: What Happens When An Author Dies. Estate Planning With Kathryn Goldman.

It's a start.

Giselle Renarde is an award-winning queer Canadian writer. Nominated Toronto’s Best Author in NOW Magazine’s 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards, her fiction has appeared in nearly 200 short story anthologies, including prestigious collections like Best Lesbian Romance, Best Women’s Erotica, and the Lambda Award-winning collection Take Me There, edited by Tristan Taormino. Giselle's juicy novels include Anonymous, In Shadow, Seven Kisses, and The Other Side of Ruth.


  1. "As an author, do you care what's written in your name after you die? Do you want someone else to pick up where you left off?"

    Hell, no! What a horrible thought!

    I do sometimes wonder how all my writing friends will even know if I die, though. And what will happen to my stories. I've left the rights to my younger brother, who's also the creative type. But he doesn't really approve of my chosen genre at all. (He told me once, "I don't want to get turned on when I read.")


    Oh, and I also hate giving up on a book. Sometimes, though, there's just no choice.

  2. The posthumous career of V. C. Andrews inspired me to a palindrome, long ago:

    Andrews? NA. Answer? DNA.
    [Rather than using a ghostwriter to turn the late V. C. Andrews into a ghost writer, a publisher considers solving the problem of her nonavailability through cloning.]

  3. No sense in wasting time on a shit book. If I'm not into it by 50 pages, I'll put it down. There are plenty of great books out there, too many to read, in fact.

  4. OMG, Giselle, I had no idea. Years ago, I watched the movie version of Flowers in the Attic, and I could see why its gothic atmosphere would appeal to teenagers who feel mistreated and misunderstood. (I never read the book, so I don't know if I would have hung in to the end.) I suspect the legality of a ghostwriter writing under a dead writer's name could be challenged in court, but then, I'm not a lawyer. This story is as melodramatic as anything V.C. Andrews actually wrote.

  5. I imagine that a writer's literary executor, or whatever the term is for the person to whom you will the rights to handle your work, could do whatever they wanted with your writing and writerly name unless you'd specified some limitations. I know that often in the past the publishers retained the rights to everything about the work, and series like the Nancy Drew books were originally commissioned for one writer to create, and eventually "ghost-written" by a series of other writers. Just because it's hard to get actual ghosts to keep on writing.

    1. I obviously need to amend my will!

      Of course, this sort of continuation is only an issue for commercially successful authors. So I guess I am safe!

  6. Carolyn Keen was the pen name of the Nancy Drew author. I wonder how many Of those there have been.

  7. If you're so inclined, I loved this essay in The Believer a few years back on VC Andrews:

    It's freaking weird to think about what was going on with Andrews books. They used to be sold in grocery stores when I was growing up. I'd stand in the aisle next to the paperback spinner while my mom shopped and skim/read them. They were all about incest and horrific child abuse. It never occurred to me then to wonder what they were doing in grocery stores, why they were such bestsellers.

    I think the books are really creepy, but I also think it speaks to David Lynch's view of America. Someone was buying those books and loving them—lots of someones. Apparently, there was a need for a view of that underbelly, and that makes sense to me given the way I grew up. The ideas in those books weren't foreign to me, not by any stretch, not even when I was young. And that says something.

    I know I've responded more to VC Andrews than to what you said about wills and creative property, but that's apparently the part that got me...

  8. Not exactly the same thing, but have you ever come across Return to Wuthering Heights by Nicola Thorne. I loved it!


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