A native of Charleston, South Carolina, and born on January 8, 1934, Ripley grew up an only child. Her mother worked in hospital administration and then owned a shop while her father was an insurance salesman. For her education, Ripley went to Ashley Hall, a prestigious finishing school before attending Vassar College where she earned her bachelor's degree in Russian in 1955. From college Ripley ventured into the work force at Life
magazine in the advertising department. She later settled down in marriage, having two daughters, yet by 1963 found herself divorced and back in Charleston.
Moving from one job to another, Ripley settled into ghostwriting for neurosurgeons. Her success and the writing knowledge she gained encouraged her to move to New York City where she read manuscripts for a publishing house. After being promoted to publicity director, Ripley feared she would become stuck in that profession and that she would never write full-time. Turning in her resignation, Ripley headed back home to publish a novel.
Her first attempts didn't attract much attention, and it wasn't until 1981 when she was working at a bookstore that Ripley garnered respect. Her book Charleston
and its sequel enabled Ripley to begin gaining recognition and readership. Her historical romantic novels brought her to the attention of Margaret Mitchell's nephews. They wanted Ripley to write a sequel to Gone With the Wind
. A daunting task, Ripley agreed to write the book called Scarlet
. With criticism and fanfare, Scarlet
saw publication on September 25, 1991. A few years later, Scarlet
appeared as a television mini-series. As for Ripley, she continued to write novels that earned positive reviews. This writer then died at age 70 on January 10, 2004.
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