She was born in Kent. She studied at Queen's College London and Durham University. Until recently, she was a professor of writing at the Department of English Studies at Strathclyde University Glasgow, now retired.
Areas of academic research: Scottish writers and Scottish literature.
She has conducted extensive study tours in Iceland, Greenland, Labrador and the United States. She lived for eight years in Shetland Islands, the mother of two children.
Before becoming a professor in Glasgow in 2003, she worked in a variety of jobs in different locations. Some of her experiences were later used in her books:
• Islanders participate in archaeological excavations on Shetland Island in Baba Stor.
• Published two books on gardens after her work as a horticultural in Galloway.