Janelle McCulloch - author of Beyond the Rock

Author Q&As

Tell us about your book – what inspired you to write it?

There is nothing more compelling than a great literary mystery, especially for a journalist who loves books. I’d always been fascinated by the story of Picnic at Hanging Rock, and when I discovered that its Australian author, Joan Lindsay, was even more enigmatic, it was the beginning of a five-year-long biography that led me to some extraordinary people – and some extraordinary Australian stories. In the end, Joan Lindsay was arguably more enthralling than her famous novel, and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to write her life story.


Which book would you want to read again for the first time?

The Life and Destiny of Isak Dinesen – so very sad; always makes me cry. Caroline Zoob’s book about Virginia Woolf is beautiful and brilliant, too – especially her exquisite embroidered garden plans of the Woolf’s garden.


Which author/s living or dead would you like to have dinner with?

Diana Athill, the Duchess of Devonshire (Deborah Mitford), and Nikki Gemmell – all are wonderful, witty, wordsmiths with a great gift for storytelling.


What’s in your reading pile now?

Books about Christian Dior (for a new project), and garden books.


We know you are a talented writer, do you have any hidden talents?

I come from a frugal family of adventurous travellers and we seem to be able to travel well – and all over the world – for not much money. But you don’t really need ‘talent’ to find beautiful boutique hotels under $150; just takes a lot of research! When I retire from writing, I want to do something in travel; anything rather than sitting at a desk.


Can you tell us what you are working on now?

A biography of Christian Dior (in the initial stages), and research for two garden books. The ‘research’ (the loose term for visiting glorious gardens) is always the best part of garden books, I think!