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John Heffernan


John Heffernan has written about thirty books for a range of audiences from early readers to young adults, in a range of genre that includes realistic fiction, fantasy, futuristic, and picture books. He also writes for junior readers under the pseudonym “Charlie Carter” (most notably, the Battle Boy series).

Where were you born?

I was born in Sydney, or at least that’s what my birth certificate insists. Of course, I would’ve preferred to have been born somewhere more exotic, like Euratania or Varrapache, mystical places of which you probably haven’t even heard. But those sorts of things only happen in storybooks apparently.

What other jobs have you had?

Good heavens, I’ve never had a real job. I’ve done things to keep starvation at bay: Scuba diving with piranha; teaching self defence to Bulgonian jungle mice; reading poetry to sheep; droving cattle in the wide outback where the kookaburras call and the whips go crack; and lecturing in psychometrics, (although I could be making that one up). But as for JOBS? The very word brings me out in a rash.

What themes are recurring in your work?

My books cover a range of themes: the power of imagination; the power of words; the importance of human connections like friendship and family; the need we have as humans to not just find ourselves, but to find where we belong as well; the way in which we treat each other at both personal and political levels; and the impact of big forces like war and natural disaster on our personal relationships. These are some of my themes. But mainly I just like to spin a good yarn.

What have been the highlights of your career?

Receiving awards is good; they boost your ego and your morale. But the best highlights unquestionably come from those readers who go out of their way tell you that your book has had a serious impact on them. That’s what really keeps me writing.

Where have your works been published?

I have published with several publishing houses: Scholastic, Omnibus, ABC Books, Lothian, Hachette, MacMillan.

What are you passionate about?

Passionate? Whoa. That word is a worry. I’m actually suspicious of people who claim to be passionate about something. But grabbing my readers and affecting them emotionally is something I feel very strongly about.

Haven’t I seen you before?

You certainly have. I’m the guy who stands on streets corners with his hand held out and his eyes downcast. I’m the boy who doesn’t understand, the girl whose head swirls with questions, the dog that watches, the woman at the window next door, the man up the street you think you know but don’t at all. Or at least I like to imagine I am.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I started life as a day dreaming kid, staring out the classroom window, always in trouble for being somewhere else. Now I do that for a job, and it doesn’t bring me out in rash. In fact it brings me immense pleasure. The overriding reason I talk to students, teachers and parents is to get across the wonderful sense of fulfillment that can come from this strange craft. I really do feel like the luckiest guy on the planet.


John Heffernan recently visited Hillcrest Christian College, and the local paper did a write up:

It was eyes front and backs straight for students at Hillcrest Christian College recently when author John Heffernan visited as part of his tour to launch his new book Through My Eyes: Naveed. To help celebrate, students were invited to enter a competition where winners had the opportunity to participate in a special ‘John Heffernan Boot Camp’.  Twelve students marched to the school’s Equestrian Centre to crawl in the dirt, carry the ‘wounded’ to hospital, struggle with a tyre across a bridge and climb fences all whilst being under fire from water bombs and water pistols.

John Heffernan later spoke with over 400 students about his book Naveed, the story of a young Afghan boy and his life during the war in Afghanistan.    The book is the third in the series Through My Eyes written specially for young readers by established Australian authors.

“Naveed is a very positive and uplifting story despite the setting,” John explained, “It’s in the midst of war that we glimpse the full power of the human spirit. I’ve tried to bring that out in my book.”

All the students involved in the visit agreed that the day was well worth the muddy clothes and sore muscles the next day.

“Running activities such as author visits and incorporating a more physical element such as the Boot Camp inspires our reluctant readers to engage more in literature,” adds Michelle Nye, Director of the Discovery Centre.

—M. Nye, Hillcrest Christian College, May 2014

John was amazing. The students loved him, English teachers loved him and he is now an honorary Haleian. His sessions we exciting, vibrant and honest. He varied his sessions according to the group and even did a special session with our boarder students because of his rural background.
He is such a nice guy as well –just fitted in perfectly with the Library staff. We had an awesome week.

—A. Ainsworth, Hale School, May 2014

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