Carlota O’Neill was born in Madrid to Mexican diplomat Enrique O’Neill Acosta and Andalucian writer and pianist Regina de Lamo Ximénez. She grew up in a middle-class family with a love of culture, through which she developed her own passion for writing. She published her first novel in 1924 and was a prolific writer throughout her life, producing plays, journalism, fiction, memoirs, and creative writing.
When her family moved to Barcelona she met Teniente Virgilio Leret Ruiz; they had two children, Mariela and Carlota ‘Lotti’, and were married in 1929. During Spain’s Second Republic (1931-1936), she was involved in the communist theatre group ‘Nosotros’; she also founded the magazine Nosotras and collaborated in the magazine Estampa. In 1936 when Virgilio was sent to Melilla, Spanish Morocco, in his capacity as Captain of the Republican Army, she and the children accompanied him. During uprising which began the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), which started in Morocco, Virgilio and Carlota were both captured by Nationalists. He was assassinated during the first days of the war, whilst Carlota was detained and imprisoned. She was sentenced to five years in the Victoria Grande prison in Melilla, and was released in March 1940.
After her release from prison she returned to mainland Spain to fight for custody of her children. During this time she continued writing under the pseudonym Laura de Noves and published both journalism and romance novels in order to make her living. Once she had gained custody of her children, she left Spain for exile. In 1953 she settled in Mexico, where she continued her writing career, publishing plays, journalism, criticism, and novels. Her experience of prison and the years following her release are documented in two autobiographical texts: Una mujer en la guerra de España (first published in Mexico 1964) and Los muertos también hablan. In 2003 these were published in Spain by Oberon, brought together for the first time.