Jan Cox Speas was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, and attended the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina. Near the end of World War II, she met and married John Speas, who had just returned from service in Europe.
The couple had two children. After several years of travelling, the family settled in Greensboro. Jan began writing short stories for popular magazines such as Ladies Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, and McCall’s. Her debut novel, Bride of the McHugh, was published in 1954. She wrote two more historical novels, My Lord Monleigh (1956), and My Love, My Enemy (1961), before going to graduate school at UNC-Greensboro in 1962. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree supervised by Randall Jarrell, with a thesis/novel called The Growing Season, published in book form in 1963. She went on to teach creative writing and English and American literature and poetry at Guilford College in Greensboro.
All her books were republished in paperback in the 1970s by Avon and enjoyed a resurgence of popularity.