The prolific historical fiction writer was 70. She died of natural causes at her Richmond home, to which she had recently moved from Charlottesville, writes the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Ms Ripley was chosen by the Margaret Mitchell estate to write the multi-million-selling author's sequel. Though it received only moderate reviews on publication in 1991, it rose to No. 1 on The New York Times' list and became an international bestseller with millions of copies sold. CBS paid a record $8 million for the rights to make a miniseries based on the book.
Ms Ripley, who was separated from her husband, John Graham of Charlottesville, is survived by two daughters, Elizabeth Ripley and Merrill Ripley Geier, and a granddaughter, all of Richmond.