Wylene Dunbar was born in Sterling, Kansas, the daughter of a wheat farmer and an artist. After finishing high school, she attended Wichita State University where she graduated cum laude with a degree in mathematics and sufficient hours in philosophy to pursue graduate study. Three years later, she received a doctorate in philosophy from Vanderbilt University and returned to Kansas to write a novel, but she soon came to a realization: “I was twenty-four. I had nothing to say.”
Giving up any further thought of writing fiction, Dunbar accepted a position in the department of philosophy and religions at the University of Mississippi. She taught philosophy for several years before entering Ole Miss Law School, where she graduated first in her class.
After ten years working in a civil trial practice, Dunbar unexpectedly came full circle to the writing she had given up years before. She first wrote My Life with Corpses as a short story, using the pen name W. W. Michaud. The story was published in the South Dakota Review. She then wrote her first novel, Margaret Cape (Harcourt, 1997), which won critical praise and the 1998 Best Fiction Award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. In her second novel, My Life with Corpses (Harcourt, 2004), Dunbar returns to the subject and setting of her earlier short story.
An Oxford, Mississippi, resident for many years, Dunbar now lives in northern California.