Olive Ann Burns was born July 17, 1924, on a farm in Banks County, Georgia, and attended school in Commerce, Georgia. She received a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1946. Between 1947 and 1957, Burns wrote for the Sunday magazine of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. In 1956 she married the magazine's editor, Andrew H. Sparks. From 1960 to 1967 Burns wrote under the pseudonym Amy Larkin for the advice column "Ask Amy." In 1975, after being diagnosed with cancer, Burns began her best-known work, Cold Sassy Tree (1984). An entertaining story about a family living in rural Georgia around the turn of the century, it is loosely based on stories told to Burns by her own family members. Burns explained that her previous experience as a journalist was helpful to her in writing the novel, but that she never intended for it to be published. Three years into her writing Burns had recovered from the cancer but was determined to finish the novel. It would take several more years to complete. Cold Sassy Tree was so successful that Burns began a sequel when her cancer returned. In the final days of her life, she left instructions for the completion of the book. Leaving Cold Sassy was published according to her wishes. Burns died in July 1990.