Vivian Jeanette Kaplan was born in Shanghai, where her parents were married. As her family originated in Vienna, her mother tongue is German. When she was two years old, her parents arrived in Canada, settling in Toronto. She graduated from the University of Toronto, where she studied English, French, and Spanish. She is married and has three sons.
For a number of years the family owned and ran a lakeside lodge in Muskoka, north of Toronto. For twenty years she had her own business, Vivian Kaplan Oriental Interiors, an import-export firm with interior design showrooms specializing in decor from the Far East. She is the author of the book Ten Green Bottles, which tells her own true family saga.