Billie Letts was born Billie Dean Gipson in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 30, 1938. She received a bachelor's degree in English and education from Southeast Missouri State University and a master's in behavioral studies from Southeastern Oklahoma State University. She taught English in grade school before moving to the college level. Her last position was at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
Her first novel, Where the Heart Is, was published in 1995. It received the 1996 Oklahoma Books Award, the Walker Percy Award, and was an Oprah Book Club selection. It was adapted into a movie starring Natalie Portman and Ashley Judd in 2000. Her other works included Shoot the Moon and The Honk and Holler Opening Soon. She died from pneumonia on August 2, 2014 at the age of 76.