Dr. Francis grew up on a cattle Ranch in Northern California, near Lincoln, California. At the age of six, she taught herself how to ride, so she could help her family round up the cattle at 5 a.m. When not riding her horses bareback, Dr. Francis was an avid reader. She attended Oakmont High School in Roseville, California.
Dr. Francis attended the University of California, Davis where she received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing. She continued her education in creative writing by getting her Master of Arts at Iowa State University. Finally, she received her Philosophical Doctorate at Ball State University in literature and literary theory. Her Ph.D. thesis focused on pre-civil war era women novelists (1858-1865) and their portrayal of women. She then linked that to British post-colonial theory of controlling native populations in their colonies.