In 1986 Ripley was chosen to write a sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize–winning classic, Gone With the Wind (1936), by Mitchell’s estate. In 1988 Warner Books successfully bid $4,940,000 for the publishing rights.
Writer. Ripley was born in Charleston on January 8, 1934, the daughter of Alexander and Elizabeth Braid. After graduating from Ashley Hall, she attended Vassar College on a United Daughters of the Confederacy scholarship. After receiving a B.A. in Russian in 1955, Ripley worked a succession of jobs, living in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Florence, Italy. In 1963 she returned to Charleston, where she held various positions from travel agent to tour guide to ghost writer. She returned to New York and began working in publishing and then moved to Virginia in the early 1970s to pursue a writing career. Ripley published her first historical novel, Charleston, in 1981 while working at a bookstore. She followed with a sequel, On Leaving Charleston (1984), and then two more works of historical fiction, The Time Returns (1985) and New Orleans Legacy (1987), the latter of which became a Literary Guild alternative and a Reader’s Digest Condensed Book selection.
In 1986 Ripley was chosen to write a sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize–winning classic, Gone With the Wind (1936), by Mitchell’s estate. In 1988 Warner Books successfully bid $4,940,000 for the publishing rights. On September 25, 1991, Scarlett: The Sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind appeared in bookstores. It spent sixteen weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, selling two million copies by the end of the year. The book follows Scarlett O’Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler as she makes her way from Charleston to Savannah, Georgia, and finally to Ireland, where she restores her ancestral estate, raises her daughter, joins an insurrectionist movement, and marries an English earl before finally reuniting with Rhett Butler. Despite the heady sales figures and intense, if brief, popularity of Scarlett, reviewers uniformly panned the book. Ripley shrugged off the criticism, however, and continued to write after the hoopla over Scarlett subsided. She published two more historical novels, From Fields of Gold (1994) and A Love Divine (1996), which were both well received.
Ripley was married to Leonard Ripley from 1958 until their divorce in 1963. In 1981 she married John Graham, a rhetoric professor at the University of Virginia. Ripley had two daughters from her first marriage. She died at her home in Richmond, Virginia, on January 10, 2004.