Vigdis Stokkelien grew up in a seafaring community rich in tradition in Kristianssand and had close contact with her grandparents and great-grandparents. She became a radio operator and journalist and was married to a captain in the merchant navy. She made her debut in 1967 with Dragsug (SS).
The high point of her oeuvre is the partly autobiographical novel trilogy comprising Lille-Gibraltar, 1972, Båten under solseilet, 1982, and Stjerneleden, 1984, which is characterised by the family's traditions, the situation during the war, and her own experiences of life as a naval officer and as a woman. Life at sea is a leitmotiv in her oeuvre, which includes about twenty books: novels, short stories, and plays. Recurring themes are also fear of war, atomic weapons, and ecological disasters.