Carole Lanham now drops by the forest to tell us how V.C. Andrews Flowers in the Attic had a large impact on her writing. Check it out below.
Born in St.Louis, Mo., Carole Lanham has published twenty-four short stories and one novella since she began writing full time in 2004. Seven of her stories have received honorable mentions in Year’s Best volumes, one story was short-listed for the Million Writer’s Prize, and one was chosen as a Notable Story of the Year in 2008 for the Million Writer’s Prize.She has won two writing contests and two of her stories made the Preliminary Ballot for the Bram Stoker award for Outstanding Achievement in a Short Story. She is also a monthly contributor at Storyteller’s Unplugged.
Be sure to pay Carole a visit at: http://carolelanham.com/
Poisoned Powdered Sugar
Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, what makest thou?
If you recognize this quote at all, it may be because you read it in the Bible. Or, like me, you may recognize it because it’s the opening words in Flowers in the Attic, the endlessly alluring everyone-at-your school-is-reading-it, gothic horror tale that (back in the day) featured the giant head of a girl looking out of a little window on a glossy black cover. It was a guilty pleasure that few of my teenage friends opted to miss, and the series it spawned was like The Hunger Games or Twilight of the 1970s and 80s. When I first discovered it, I was still living in a bright-eyed cable-less world where flip-flops were the only kind of thongs girls wore and MASH was the raciest thing on TV. Flowers in the Attic was easily the most spellbinding bit of entertainment to ever come my way.
And why not? The book had everything a girl could want. The characters were beautiful as Dresden dolls (whatever those were, but gosh they sounded pretty!) and there was a mysterious mansion with a nasty grandmother, and an awful, terrible, horrible attic. Almost all of the love in the story was forbidden and the book ended with a doozy of a cliffhanger. Add to this the deliciously moody and poetic titles of the other installments in the series, Petals in the Wind, If There be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, and it’s no wonder my friends and I had to have them all.
Due to the delectable nature of things, I was forced to keep that giant head in the little window turned facedown and concealed under layers of Tigerbeat on my nightstand, that’s just how good that book was! To this day, it’s still banned in some places. Still selling on Amazon too – 85 million books in print. Whatever your own feelings about Flowers in the Attic may be, there’s no denying the fact that it’s impact with young readers has proven enduring.
December 19, 2011 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of author VC Andrew’s death and this got me thinking. Given my affinity for Flowers as a kid, it seems strange to me that I’ve never given any thought to how that story shaped my own writing. Until now. Sure, I’d like to claim meatier, more groundbreaking influences like Slaughterhouse-Five or 1984, but the truth is, there’s just something supremely frightening to me about a mother who would lock her own children in an attic. It’s so simple. So devastating. That Corrine Dollanganger could be persuaded to place the family she loves under lock and key and eventually forget about them altogether was horrifying enough. The deadly doughnuts that followed were so troubling to me as a teenager, they permanently shaped my concept of horror forever. I mean, I love a good alien abduction, and the miserable repression of a dystopian society can be loads of good fun, but Big Brother has nothing on a loving mother who would mix arsenic with powdered sugar and feed it to her Dresden doll children. It’s both heartbreaking and terrifying at the same time.
But okay, while we’re on the subject, I feel compelled to admit the truth: In the years since I first read Flowers in the Attic, I’ve given into the temptation to lock up a child or two myself. I strapped a helpless kid in a guillotine once too, and I’ve knowingly fed mints that may or may not be magical and/or hallucinogenic to a few trusting young souls. What’s more, I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s the secretive plotting that goes hand in hand with these things, you see. Secrets are particularly tantalizing to me. I’m a nut for regret. Like the attic turned unholy dormitory in VC Andrew’s book, there’s more than a few disquieting secrets hiding out in the dark, dusty corners of my brain. In the interest of keeping things tidy, I’ve collected up some of the ones that refuse to lay flat and put them together in The Whisper Jar for safekeeping.
Luckily, no secret is too large to fit in my jar of black secrets. The farm girl with a quenchless thirst for her brother’s blood went in with a highly satisfying POP, I must say. Similarly, the kid strapped to the guillotine followed without any real fuss (rusty blade and all), so I decided to toss in a fistful of those special pink and green mints as well. Given the fact that more is always more when it comes to savory secrets, I scurried around scooping up naughty books to be dropped in one by one, then grabbed hold of a pair of daring children known for their dangerous and questionable reading habits, carried them by their curls over to my trusty jar of whispery secrets, and… bombs away!
After I screwed on the lid, things got amazingly quiet around here, at least for a little while.
Most people don’t like to reveal the contents of their Whisper Jar but then, we’ve already established the fact that I sustained permanent damage from consuming poisoned powdered sugar at an early age. For this reason, I’ll gladly share every wiggling thing that’s tucked away in mine. If your idea of terror involves intimate secrets about dubious yearnings, desperate deeds, good intentions gone wildly wrong, or true love betrayed, please visit me at one of the links below and take a peek inside The Whisper Jar. In the meantime, for the sake of your own sanity, beware of grandmother’s bearing silver trays of tempting Hostess Donettes.
The people of Highcross have found a handy way to lighten their hearts; they whisper their secrets into an empty jar and screw the cap on tight. Locked away on the dusty shelves of the Jar House, a town’s worth of black thoughts have been lined up in rows that become longer with the years. When the jars are accidentally shattered, the streets are flooded with everyone’s darkest deeds. No one is safe.
In this collection of award-winning short stories by Carole Lanham, a dangerous friendship forms around a love of books, a student learns more than she was ever meant to learn in school, a boy struggles to deal with his sister’s murderous affections, and the door to a mysterious room unbolts to reveal a terrible truth.
Open The Whisper Jar with great care. You just might find your own secrets hidden in there.