Michelle Spring was born Michelle Stanworth in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 1951. She was raised in Victoria on Vancouver Island and began reading Nancy Drew books at the age of six while she was ill with tuberculosis. While she was quarantined in the hospital, Stanworth’s father stole up the fire escape with food and books for her to read. When she was eight, she fainted from the pure excitement of reading a mystery, and was forbidden by her mother to read crime stories. However, as an adolescent, her interest in crime deepened with reading the works of authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Daphne Du Maurier, Shirley Jackson, Dashiell Hammett, and Patricia Highsmith.
In 1969, Spring moved to England, later becoming a professor of sociology at East Anglia University. In her career in the classroom, which spanned more than twenty-five years, she pioneered the somewhat radical investigation (at that time) into the inequity of teaching based on the gender of students. Her investigation revealed that elementary school teachers were more attached to their male students and were more concerned with them and their abilities than they were with their female students. She discussed the findings and implications of her research in a book on gender and schooling. She later authored feminist books about reproductive technologies and political implications, and coauthored an introductory sociology textbook. Spring has also lectured in the social and political sciences at Cambridge University.
While at East Anglia University, Spring had tried repeatedly to write a more serious book but was unable to get started. However, she was stalked by one of her students, who became violent, and soon after, even as she was about to give up the idea of writing, the first chapter of Every Breath You Take fairly wrote itself. Surprised that she was writing a detective novel, she came to understand her need to write about the traumatic stalking episode and her need to write stories as a means of coping with the violence in the world. She wrote Every Breath You Take using the name of Michelle Spring and was pressed by her publisher to write a series.