Colleen McCullough, The Thorn Birds author, dies at 77
Australian author Colleen McCullough, whose best-selling novel The Thorn Birds became a hit TV series, has died at the age of 77.
The best-selling writer died in hospital on Norfolk Island on Thursday afternoon, publisher HarperCollins Australia confirmed.
McCullough had suffered poor health in recent years, losing her sight and suffering crippling arthritis.
However, she continued her writing through dictation.
Shona Martyn, of Harper Collins Australia, paid tribute to McCullough, citing her as "one of the first Australian writers to succeed on the world stage".
"Ever quick-witted and direct, we looked forward to her visits from Norfolk Island and the arrival of each new manuscript, delivered in hard copy, in custom-made maroon manuscript boxes inscribed with her name," said Martyn.
"The world is a less colourful place without Col."
Australian broadcaster Richard Glover tweeted: "RIP Colleen McCullough. I can't think of anyone who took such a miserable childhood and turned [it] into a life of such luminous achievement."
Author Tara Moss tweeted: "So sad to hear of the passing of Colleen McCullough. She was fierce, funny and so supportive of other writers. Irreplaceable. RIP Colleen."
McCullough wrote 25 novels throughout her career.
She penned her first book, Tim, while living in America. It was later made into a 1979 film starring Mel Gibson.
Her second novel, 1977's The Thorn Birds, became an international bestseller.
A story of forbidden love between a young woman and a priest in the Australian outback, the paperback rights sold for a then-record $1.9 million (£1.25m).
It was turned into a popular television mini-series in 1983, starring Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward.
Her last book, Bittersweet, was published in 2013.
McCullough was born in Wellington, New South Wales and spent most of her early life in Sydney.
Before turning to writing, she studied medicine both in Australia and overseas, establishing the neurophysiology department at the Royal North Shore hospital in Sydney.
She went on to spend 10 years as a researcher at Yale medical school in the US.
The author leaves behind husband Ric Robinson.
"Colleen McCullough's contribution to Australian writing - and to readers around the world - has been immense," said Martyn.
"We will miss her dearly."