She graduated from Carleton College in 1974 with a BA in Biology. She married James Wrede in 1976; they divorced in 1991. She obtained an MBA from University of Minnesota in 1977. She finished her first book in 1978, working as an accountant and financial analyst in the meantime. In January 1980 she was a founding member of The Scribblies who also included Pamela Dean, Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Steven Brust, and Nate Bucklin. Kara Dalkey joined two years later. Patricia left the group in 1985. She sold her first book to Ace in April 1980 and it was published in 1982. In the fall of 1980, she met Lillian Stewart Carl who introduced her to Lois McMaster Bujold. In 1985, shortly before her fifth book was published, she became a full-time writer. She is a member of the Liavek shared-world anthology.
She is a vegetarian and lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her three cats. She has no children of her own, but has four nieces and four nephews (three in Alabama, three in Illinois, and two in Maine).
The actual chronological order of the books is Caught in Crystal, The Raven Ring, Shadow Magic, Daughter of Witches, and The Harp of Imach Thyssel. The last three are set in the same time period but different nations while the first two are space widely apart chronologically and happen well before the events of the last three. A timeline and short world history at the end of Shadows over Lyra ties everything together and answers a lot of questions.
The omnibus edition of Shadow Magic is a revised one; the writing is significantly different from that in the original, and reflects her greater experience as a writer. It seems that Patricia Wrede rewrote the story for the omnibus, but this is not actually noted anywhere in the book itself.
The authors tell these stories from the first-person perspectives of cousins Kate and Cecelia (and, in the third book, two additional characters), who recount their adventures in magic and polite society. These works are unusual in modern fiction in being epistolary novels, written using the style of the letter game.
At the beginning of the first book, Katherine Talgarth ("Kate") and her beautiful younger sister Georgina have been taken by their unmarried Aunt Charlotte Rushton from Rushton (in Essex) to London to experience part of the Season. Kate and Georgy's parents, George Talgarth and Celia Rushton, have both died at least five years before. Kate's favorite cousin, Cecelia Rushton ("Cecy"), has been left at home with her brother Oliver and their father, the antiquarian Arthur Rushton, at Rushton Manor. Oliver and Cecy's mother died when Cecy was quite young. Their father's other sister, Aunt Elizabeth Rushton, who never married, lives with them at Rushton Manor.
Book of Enchantments is a short story collection. The final story, "Utensile Strength", features the Frying Pan of Doom and characters from the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. An earlier story "The Princess, the Cat, and the Unicorn" is also set in the Enchanted Forest. "The Sword-Seller" is set in the Witch World universe created by Andre Norton, while "Rikiki and the Wizard" is set in the Liavek universe. "Stronger than Time", "Cruel Sisters" and "The Lorelei" give alternate versions of, or approaches to fairy tales or folk stories. "The Seven Towers" is a stand-alone fiction novel.
Snow White and Rose Red is also a fairytale fantasy, being a retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale "Snow White and Rose Red" (not "Snow White") set in Elizabethan England and including elements of the Thomas the Rhymer ballad as well.