Jodi Thomas is a fifth-generation Texan, whose grandmother was born in Texas in a covered wagon. She grew up in Amarillo, Texas and moved to Lubbock to attend Texas Tech University. She has a Master's degree in Family Studies.
Thomas married Tom Koumalats and spent several years travelling while he served in the United States Army. The couple then returned to Amarillo and had two sons. Both husband and wife became teachers, and for the next fifteen years Thomas taught family living at Amarillo High School.
In 1984, worried that teacher salaries would be insufficient to save for her children's college education, Thomas began writing. Her first published work was an article for the Oklahoma Daily about the Llano Cemetery in Amarillo. She also sold many short stories for children, most averaging about 244 words. By 1988, Thomas had begun writing in earnest after work. When she sold her first book, publishers suggested that her surname, Koumalats, was too ethnic. As a compromise, she took her husband's first name as her pen name.
Thomas's first novel, Beneath the Texas Sky, met with critical success. It won a Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Western Romance and was designated a National Press Women Novel of the Year. By 1991, Thomas was able to quit teaching to become a full-time writer. She has won three Romance Writers of America RITA Awards,–the highest award given to romance novelists– in 1992, 1995, and 2006. Her third win, for The Texan's Reward, led to her immediate induction into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. Thomas has been nominated for RITAs several other times. Her novels have been translated into at least six languages. Several of her novels have appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List or the USAToday Bestseller List.
In 2003, Thomas became the writer-in-residence at West Texas A&M University. She was only the second writer-in-residence to be appointed.
Thomas began writing historical romances in the early 1980s because she was dissatisfied with the ones she had read. In many cases, the romances she picked up contained historical errors or relationships that she thought were implausible. Her own novels draw on family stories of living in Texas, as well as months of research for each. The majority of her novels are set in Texas, and many contain the word "Texas" or "Texan" in the title.
Although most of her novels are historical or conteporary romances, with Widows of Wichita County Thomas branched into mainstream women's fiction.