Chan was born in England in 1954. As her father was in the Royal Air Force, her family moved frequently. Before training to become a teacher, she worked in stores, banks, and restaurants. Chan completed graduated from university with a degree in English and literature in 1980. She married her husband, Henry Chan, in 1982.
Chan taught English for ten years in high schools before moving to Dundas, Ontario in Canada with her husband in 1990. Her first book, a series of short stories titled Golden Girl and Other Stories, was published in 1994. The book was shortlisted for the Mr. Christie's Book Award. A companion collection, Glory Days and Other Stories, was also nominated for the Christie award and was shortlisted for 1996 Governor General's Literary Award. Chan transitioned to writing novels in 2001, beginning with the publication of The Carved Box, a historical fantasy novel set in World War II.
Chan continues to reside in Dundas, Ontario. On October 27, 2006, Chan competed on the television show Jeopardy!, finishing in last place.
- Golden Girl and Other Stories (1994)
- Glory Days and Other Stories (1996)
- The Carved Box (2001)
- A Foreign Field (2002)
- The Turning (2005)
- The Disappearance (2017)