An English novelist and multi-genre author, she published her best-known work, Nights at the Circus, in 1984. Her other publications include Shadow Dance (novel), Burning Your Boats (short fiction), Unicorn (poetry), and Comic and Curious Cats (children's literature).
She was raised by her grandmother in Yorkshire and later studied literature at the University of Bristol.
Her life was plagued by health problems. She suffered from anorexia as a teenager and died of lung cancer in her early fifties.
She married and divorced Paul Carter before having a son with her second husband, Mark Pearce.
Shortly before she died, Carter had begun work on a sequel to Charlotte Bronte's famous novel, Jane Eyre.