Harper introduced Jones's work to Toni Morrison. Morrison was an editor at Random House at the time and was so impressed after reading Jones's manuscript once wrote, "that no novel about any black woman could ever be the same after this". In 1975, Jones published her first novel Corregidora at the age of 26. That same year she was a visiting lecturer at the University of Michigan, which hired her the following year as an assistant professor. She left her faculty position in 1983 and moved to Europe, where she wrote and published Die Vogelfaengerin (The Birdwatcher) in Germany and a poetry collection, Xarque and Other Poems. Jones's 1998 novel The Healing was a finalist for the National Book Award, although the media attention surrounding her novel's release focused more on the controversy in her personal life than on the work itself. Her papers are currently housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University. Jones currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky, where she continues to write.
Jones has described herself as an improvisor, and her work bears out that statement: like a jazz or blues musician, Jones plays upon a specific set of themes, varying them and exploring their possible permutations. Though her fiction has been called “Gothic” in its exploration of madness, violence, and sexuality, musical metaphors might make for a more apt categorization.