Ivan Doig was born in White Sulphur Springs, Montana to a family of homesteaders and ranch hands. After the death of his mother Berneta, on his sixth birthday, he was raised by his father Charles "Charlie" Doig and his grandmother Elizabeth "Bessie" Ringer. After several stints on ranches, they moved to Dupuyer, Pondera County, Montana in the north to herd sheep close to the Rocky Mountain Front.
After his graduation from Valier high school, Doig attended Northwestern University, where he received a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in journalism. He later earned a Ph.D. in American history at the University of Washington, writing his dissertation about John J. McGilvra (1827-1903). He now lives with his wife Carol Doig, née Muller, a university professor of English, in Seattle, Washington.
Before Ivan Doig became a novelist, he wrote for newspapers and magazines as a free-lancer and worked for the United States Forest Service.
Much of his fiction is set in the Montana country of his youth. His major theme is family life in the past, mixing personal memory and regional history. As the western landscape and people play an important role in his fiction, he has been hailed as the new dean of western literature, a worthy successor to Wallace Stegner.
His works includes both fictional and non-fictional writings. They can be divided into four groups:
News: A Consumer's Guide (1972) - a media textbook coauthored by Carol Doig
Streets We Have Come Down: Literature of the City (1975) - an anthology edited by Ivan Doig
Utopian America: Dreams and Realities (1976) - an anthology edited by Ivan Doig
This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind (1979) - memoirs based on the author's life with his father and grandmother (nominated for National Book Award)
Heart Earth (1993) - memoirs based on his mother's letters to her brother Wally
Winter Brothers: A Season at the Edge of America (1980) - an essayistic dialog with James G. Swan
The Sea Runners (1982) - an adventure novel about four Swedes escaping from New Archangel, today's Sitka, Alaska
English Creek (1984)
Dancing at the Rascal Fair (1987)
Ride with Me, Mariah Montana (1990)
Bucking the Sun: A Novel (1996)
Mountain Time: A Novel (1999)
Prairie Nocturne: A Novel (2003)
The Whistling Season: A Novel (2006)
The Eleventh Man: A Novel (2008)
The first three Montana novels form the so-called McCaskill trilogy, covering the first centennial of Montana's statehood from 1889 to 1989.