Since the moment V.C. Andrews’ novel Flowers in the Attic made its literary debut in 1979, shocking readers everywhere with its gothic story of a group of children locked away in a mansion, it has not only become a classic but the subject of much debate with its disturbing content revolving around abuse, murder, and incestuous relationships (some mutual, some questionable).
Fast forward decades later to 2014, and you’ll find Flowers in the Attic reaching audiences once again, this time on Lifetime as a movie starring Heather Graham as Corrine, Ellen Burstyn as Olivia Foxworth/Grandmother, Kiernan Shipka as Cathy, and Mason Dye as Christopher. Love it or hate it, the film not only became a top trending subject on various social media networks during its premiere, but it also generated an impressive viewership of approximately six million—one of the best film debuts for the network since Steel Magnolias. Lifetime also recently announced its plans to develop the second story in the Dollanganger series, Petals on the Wind, into a movie—a move that will definitely cause a stir.
With so much fanfare and popularity surrounding the success of Flowers in the Attic, I spoke exclusively with the film’s screenwriter, Kayla Alpert, who definitely had her work cut out for her in bringing not only Flowers in the Attic but the upcoming Petals on the Wind to the small screen as well.
I asked Alpert about her thoughts on adapting V.C. Andrews’ stories for the screen, as well as the film’s success.
Flowers in the Attic is such a cult classic; how did you feel when you learned you were chosen to adapt it to the screen?
Kayla Alpert: “I was a huge fan of the book—and the entire series—as a tween, so I was extremely excited about taking on a new adaptation. My friend Lisa Hamilton-Daly was the executive at Lifetime who brought me in, and so I was also looking forward to working closely with her. And the producers, Michele Weiss and Merideth Finn, were also close friends, so it really felt like a unique opportunity to work with a team of amazing, smart women.”
How important was it for you to stay as close as possible to V.C. Andrews’ story and the source material?
KA: “I tried to stick as closely as possible to the original novel—there were some details, pieces of dialogue, and plot-points that were updated or excised, but that’s normal for any book-to-screen adaptation. The first movie, which I hadn’t seen, veered too far from the original book, much to many fans’ chagrin, so I was especially careful to include as many of the salient (and salacious!) details as possible. Essentially, I wanted to make a movie that fans of the book would appreciate—including me!”
Did you read any of her books prior to adapting Flowers in the Attic?
KA: “I read all the books in the Flowers in the Attic series back when they were originally published—I was around 12 years old. Don’t tell my mom.”
How much free rein were you allowed when writing Flowers in the Attic, and when did you start adapting the script for Petals on the Wind?
KA: “Lifetime gave me free rein and even encouraged me to tackle some of the more taboo topics in the book (abuse, incest, etc…) Because I was also sticking closely to the book, there weren’t any real conflicts about what to include in the movie. Speaking of being locked in small rooms, I started writing Petals very shortly after I’d finished Flowers as we were always optimistic that we would make the sequel but it wasn’t until early January that Lifetime officially announced that it was in development.”
Approximately six million people watched the movie, which was the talk of Twitter the night of its premiere. Were you surprised by the numbers? What were your expectations?
KA: “I wasn’t entirely surprised by the numbers. Of course, none of us (producers, network) wanted to jinx it but we knew just from the reaction to the teaser that people were excited to tune in. And of course, whenever I mentioned it in conversation, people—mostly women—had a huge reaction. Like screaming and falling to the floor…so my producers and I had some clue this was gonna be BIG.”
There’s a lot that happens in Flowers in the Attic that didn’t make it into the movie. Are there any scenes from the script you wish you could change now or wish you had added?
KA: “It’s always difficult to turn a 400-page book into a 90 minute movie, and of course, there are moments and scenes that would’ve been nice to have—maybe more of Cathy’s ballet or more of the Chris/Cathy relationship and their parenting of the twins—but we also had to pare it down to the more dramatic moments. But in general, I can’t say there’s one specific scene I missed.”
When approached to adapt V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic into a movie, were you aware of the possibility that the second book, Petals on the Wind, would be picked up as a film?
KA: “Lifetime had mentioned it and we were always optimistic that it was a possibility; it quickly became a reality once everyone saw the huge reaction from the fans.”
Unlike Flowers in the Attic, Petals on the Wind was not adapted into a movie before. That being said, what are some of the moments from Petals you look forward to writing?
KA: “Petals is an epic book. It takes place over ten years, dozens of locations and states, and a lot of crazy, crazy stuff—we’ll most likely have to take a few liberties with the story, especially in terms of the scope—but it’s more fun, less dark and claustrophobic than Flowers. I hope everyone will love it. No spoilers—you’ll have to tune in!”
Finally, what are your thoughts about the rest of the Dollanganger series (If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday) as movies? What would you like to see happen?
KA: “Well, I just finished the last scene of Petals yesterday…so I need to clean my desk before I even think about!”
Petals on the Wind will definitely be interesting considering the aftermath of events in Flowers in the Attic. And if you haven’t watched the Lifetime movie yet, SPOILER ALERT!
How will Chris, Carrie, and Cathy adapt to their new lives since escaping? Will Corrine get her just desserts? And whatever happened to Bad Grandma? These questions will generate some extensive and crazy outcomes, for sure. Undoubtedly, when Petals on the Wind debuts, it will have major soap opera twists and turns that will make you do a double take if Alpert sticks as closely to the book as she did with Flowers in the Attic.
One thing is for sure, it’s a good thing Petals on the Wind will be in the hands of a writer who is as passionate about Andrews’ books as many of its (mostly) nostalgic readers.
If you still need your Flower fix and want to re-live all the scandal and drama of Flowers in the Attic, be sure to check out Lifetime’s official site where you’ll find bios and exclusive material.
For more news and updates on the upcoming Petals on the Wind, check back here at YEC in the months ahead!
Be sure to visit, like, and follow:
Twitter: Kayla Alpert (@kaylaalpert), Flowers in the Attic @lifetimemovies using the hashtag #FlowersintheAttic. Plus, be sure to follow these cast members too: Dylan Bruce (@DylanBruce), Heather Graham (@imheathergraham), Mason Dye (@MasonDye_), Kiernan Shipka (@kiernanshipka).
Flowers in the Attic photos © 2013 Lifetime Network, an affiliate of A&E Networks. All Rights Reserved.
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