Joan Dugdale was born in the Orkney Islands during the Second World War and came to Australia in 1946. She grew up in Drummoyne but in 1968 went to live in Melbourne where she worked for the ABC as a producer, initially with the Religious Broadcasts Department and subsequently for the ill-fated public access station 3ZZ. This sister station to the then 2 Double J was licensed by the Whitlam Government and closed by the Fraser Government in 1976. The drama of that experience prompted Joan's first book, Radio Power: A History of 3ZZ, which was highly commended in the Fellowship of Australian Writers awards in 1998.
After 3ZZ's demise, Joan and her husband set up a subsistence organic farm in Western Victoria, where they lived for eight years. City Bitten, Country Shy, a novel for young teens, grew out of the trials and joys of farming by the book.
In 1985, the family moved to Sydney and Struggle of Memory, a novel set in Queensland around the time of the first world war, was published in 1991. It was shortlisted for the Marjorie Barnard Award and was awarded Best Book of the Year by the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies.
The Gripping Beast, a novel inspired by her birthplace north of Scotland, was highly commended in the Banjo Awards, shortlisted for the inaugural Nita Kibble Award and won the Braille Book of the Year in 1994.
Joan's novel, The Descendant, was published in 1996, the year she and her family moved to Hurlstone Park from the Central Coast.
Joan has been writer-in-residence at the Launceston Campus of the University of Tasmania and at Central Queensland University at Rockhampton. Between times, Joan has had three children, worked as a public servant, a community worker, a bookshop manager, and an Information Officer for the Australian Council of Churches. For the past two years she has been studying for a Diploma of Herbal Medicine and graduated in February, 2000.