Jane Varley was born in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1965. She has lived in north-central Idaho, southwest Virginia, and northern North Dakota, including a year and a half in the Turtle Mountains, on the border of Manitoba. She returned to the Midwest to take a job at Muskingum College, located in rural Muskingum County in southeast Ohio. The county is home to The Wilds, one of the world's largest wildlife conservation centers, with 10,000 acres of open-range habitat for hundreds of rare and endangered animal species from around the globe. Jane is a professor of English at Muskingum, a liberal arts college. Her husband Gary Atkins works in college admissions, and they have one child, a daughter named Iris.