Who was Alexandra Ripley?
Alexandra Ripley was a prominent American writer. She was best known for her novel “Scarlet”, the sequel to the famous novel “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Michel. After serving in the advertising department of “Life” magazine, she did various types of jobs before taking her writing assignment of ghostwriting papers for neurosurgeons. This romantic and historic writer authored many best-selling novels before she wrote the “Scarlet” which eventually topped the British best seller list. Despite a number of negative opinions from literary critics, this book received huge commercial success. Warner Books won the rights to publish this novel for $4.94 million. The success of the novel was so immense that it sold eight million copies in five years. This novel was translated into 18 languages. Later, an eight hour television mini-series which was based on this novel was broadcast on CBS television. She wrote her first novel “Who’s That Lady in the President’s Bed?” under the pseudonym of B.K. Ripley. She dedicated her first historical novel “Charleston” which was a best seller, to a loan officer who had lent her money to pay her rent. Some of her novels that earned her critical acclaim include “New Orleans Legacy” and “From Fields of God”.
Childhood & Early Life
Born as Alexandra Braid, Alexandra Ripley’s father Alexander was an insurance salesman. Her mother was Elizabeth Braid. Born and brought up in Charleston, South Carolina, she was encouraged about activities like knitting and playing piano since her childhood days.
Her family discouraged her about reading as they believed that it would be difficult to find a suitable husband for her. She attended Ashley Hall finishing school in Charleston to learn about correct deportment.
After receiving a United Daughters of the Confederacy scholarship, she studied Russian at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. She completed her graduation from there in 1955.
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After finishing her study, she worked in the advertising department of “Life” magazine in New York City. Later, she worked for Air France in Washington DC.
For a brief period, she worked as a tour guide. After that, she served as a travel agent. For a short period, she even worked as underwear buyer. After that, she took up her first writing assignment of ghostwriting papers for neurosurgeons.
She also worked as a reader in a publishing house of New York and was gradually promoted to the post of publicity director of that house. She shifted to Virginia around 1970.
Her first novel “Who’s the Lady in the President’s Bed?” appeared in 1972. In 1981, her first historical novel “Charleston” was published.
In 1984, her next book “On Leaving Charleston” appeared. In 1985, she published “The Time Returns”. In the next year, she got the offer of writing a sequel to the novel “Gone with the Wind”.
The book “Gone with the Wind” was authored by Margaret Mitchell. Mitchell’s two nephews and their lawyer approached Ripley to create the sequel of this novel.
Though condemned by the critics for not matching the quality and class of Margaret Michel’s novel, the sequel ‘Scarlett’ which was published in 1991, became a huge hit within three days of its release. It topped the British best seller lists and in five years, around eight million copies of this book were sold.
She published her novel “The Time Returns” in 1985. This book represents the story of Lorenzo de Medici and Ginevra de Pazzi who endeavor to preserve the honor and glory of 15th century Florence.
Her novel “Scarlett” is a sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind”. It was published in 1991 and a television mini-series based on the story of this book was also broadcast in 1994. Featuring on the “New York Times” bestseller list, this book represents the story of a woman namely Scarlett O’Hara.
Her historical fiction “A Love Divine” was published in 1997. The story of this novel is based on the character of Joseph of Arimethea, the one in whose tomb Jesus Christ was buried.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1958, she married Leonard Ripley. After their marriage, they lived in Florence, Italy for some time. Then they shifted to New York. They had two daughters. They got divorced in 1963.
In 1981, she married John Graham, a professor of rhetoric.
She passed away at her home in Richmond at the age of 70. She was survived by her two daughters - Elizabeth Lyon Ripley and Merill Ripley Geier.
This celebrated novelist read the novel “Gone with the Wind” for the first time at the age of 12. After reading this book, she was so enthralled that she copied the first 350 pages out longhand to get the feel of Margaret Mitchell, the writer of the book in her wrist.