Adopted into a Pentecostal Christian family, she grew up in the mill-town of Accrington, Lancashire. Her father, John William Winterson, was a factory worker, and her mother, Constance Winterson, was a housewife. Both parents wanted Winterson to be a missionary.
Books (aside from religious texts) were scarce in her home, and her parents did not much approve of her reading. Despite this disapproval and her erratic schooling, she fell in love with words.
Winterson left home at sixteen, after realising that she was a lesbian and falling in love with a girl.
She later went on to read English at St Catherine's College, Oxford.
Before becoming a writer, Winterson worked in theatres, a mental hospital, a funeral parlour, and a publishing house. She has since won many coveted prizes for her writing, and in 2006 was awarded an OBE for services to literature.
Winterson lives in Gloucestershire, but also spends time in her restored eighteenth century flat in East London, which is situated above her own organic food shop, Verde's.
Winterson's first novel, the semi-autobiographical Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, was published in 1985.
In 1985 she also published Boating for Beginners, a book she says was written in six weeks, merely for money.
In 1986 she published a fitness book, now out of print, called Fit for The Future; The Guide For Women Who Want To Live Well. Apparently, when she wrote it, Winterson was considering setting up a fitness studio in Covent Garden and training the stars!
In 1987 she released The Passion, and at this point was able to write full-time.
In 1995 Winterson published a book of essays on art, writing and gender, called Art Objects.
In 2003 she published her first children's book, The King of Capri, a beautifully illustrated picture book, originally written for her Godchild.
2004 saw the publication of Lighthousekeeping.
In 2006 Winterson returned to children's literature with a book for 9-11 year olds: Tanglewreck.
2007 saw The Stone Gods published, and 2009 The Battle of the Sun and The Lion, The Unicorn and Me: The Donkey's Christmas Story.
In 1990, Winterson dramatised her first novel for BBC Television, turning Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit into an award-winning mini-series.
In 1994 she also wrote a film for the BBC: Great Moments in Aviation (released as Shades of Fear in the USA).
In 2002 Winterson collaborated with the Royal National Theatre in London, adapting The.Powerbook for the stage. The production also toured to the Theatre de Chaillot, Paris.