Leila Meacham, the author who published her first bestselling novel at the age of 70, has died at 83, the San Antonio Express-News reports.
The cause of death was pneumonia related to pancreatic cancer, according to her husband.
Meacham, a Louisiana native, worked as an English teacher for decades before her novel Roses hit the New York Times bestseller chart in 2010. A reviewer for Kirkus called the historical romance “a suitably long and intermittently engaging descendant of such Southern-fried epics as Gone With the Wind and Giant—just the thing for genre fans with time to spare.”
In a 2010 interview, Meacham told BookPage that the novel took five years to write.
“I persevered because I felt like I promised God I would complete this book,” she said. “Just as sure as I’m talking to you, I was assured from the get-go, you write the book and I’ll take care of the rest.”
Meacham’s admirers paid tribute to her on social media. Writer Jackie K. Cooper tweeted, “I learned today of the death of author Leila Meacham. She’d been valiantly fighting cancer for the past two years. I became aware of Leila through her novel ROSES, one of my favorite all time books.”
And author Max L. Knight wrote, “So very sad to learn that novelist Leila Meacham passed away this past Sunday. She was such a gifted storyteller.”
So very sad to learn that novelist Leila Meacham passed away this past Sunday. She was such a gifted storyteller. If you haven’t yet discovered her books, I highly recommend “Roses” and “Somerset” set in East Texas, and her WWII spy novel “Dragonfly.”— Max L. Knight (@knightml_author) September 23, 2021
Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.