Leah Fleming was the pen name of best-selling novelist Helene Wiggin. She was an English author of historical fiction and romantic novels. Under the name Leah Fleming, she published more than 20 books.
Born to Scottish parents Helene Wiggin grew up in Bolton, Greater Manchester. She graduated from Leeds University in the swinging sixties and taught in primary schools and Adult literacy classes.
In university, Helene Wiggin was attracted to romantic and racy novels set in specific times and places. Later she discovered poets like Wilfred Owen and Emily Dickinson, as well as novelists like Susan Hill, Margaret Drabble, John Fowles, and Virginia Woolf.
Some of her earliest page-turners were Enid Blyton's The Secret Island and The Enchanted Wood, which sparked her imagination and inspired her to create her own lands at the top of the Faraway Tree.
After emigrating to Yorkshire with a husband, three sons, and a daughter, she found herself catering in market stalls and cafes, doing stress management and counseling in the NHS.
As she said, Leah Fleming has gone down the traditional publishing route for over 25 years. Fleming was a writer who was always drawn to stories with a sense of drama and crisis.
"Writing historical stories requires much research, composting time so characters can emerge, and finding lots of period detail. I know the sort of journey I’m making, but how to get there is like walking through mist with twists and turns in the road to take me off course or not. I guess I am both plotter and a pantster as I muddle my way through to a satisfactory conclusion. To know everything in advance would not induce me to finish," the novelist said.
With her work widely translated, in 2012, she was awarded the prestigious Premio Roma prize for foreign literature for the Italian translation of her novel The Captain’s Daughter (2011).
In recent years Leah Fleming wrote from an old farmhouse in the Yorkshire Dales and an olive grove in Crete.
Her latest novel, The Rose Villa, was published on September 1, 2022, and is set on the French Riviera against the backdrop of the first and second world wars.
A keen singer throughout her life, she was also a member of the Lichfield Cathedral special choir.
Helene, who was 79 years old when she died, had lived in Langcliffe for most of her life.
Photo credit: Twitter @LeahleFleming