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Paul Heffernan at his Tararu studio. Photo: GORDON PREECE

Tararu author fulfils lifelong passion

Wearing a polar bear suit is one technique Paul Heffernan has used to promote one of his whimsical books.
The former Auckland art teacher, school principal and restaurant owner has written and illustrated seven picture and chapter books at his Tararu home in two years.
The books include Robert the Polar Bear, Jingle Jangle Street, Sponge Cake Man, Ikky Sticky, The Impossible Tasks, The Last Dragon Family and Vikings, and Sailors and Sea Monsters.
Paul, or Mr Heff, told The Profile he’d always wanted to be an author and had ideas for stories dating back 30 years, but only put them into practice when he retired in 2009.
“When you’re out there in the real world you’re busy wanting to be the best school principal on the entire planet, you’ve got a family and you’ve got a mortgage so you haven’t got that luxury of retreating to a room to write,” he said.
“Then I had a restaurant in St Heliers for a while and because we had an apartment upstairs I started to write there and then I had a cottage in Huia.” “But the stories were stored away in boxes, I’ve got boxes full of story ideas and then my friend Bruce and Kathy my wife said ‘come on Heff you need to get cracking and write your stories because you’re going to shuffle off the planet soon mate’.”
Mr Heff said his books were inspired by British authors Roald Dahl and David Walliams and British illustrator Quentin Blake, and being an independent publisher meant he could decide on the content of each book.
“It’s very hard to get a publisher because they’ve got around 300 submissions coming across their desk each day and then it will take up to 18 months to do a book,” he said. “I haven’t got 18 months, I can get six books out in that time and that’s what I did and I want to shoot the stories out there and give people a chuckle.
“Robert the Polar Bear for instance has polar bear facts like polar bears like online shopping, and not many people know that, and I had one lady say ‘you can’t say that’, I said ‘yes I can, it’s my book therefore I can decide the content’.”
Mr Heff said his books were available at Carson’s Bookshop, on his website, local art galleries, the library and has also promoted his books at Moanataiari School.
“When you’re self-publishing it’s all up to you, you get your first initial rush of friends buying your book, then there’s a big drying off period because they’ve bought the book and then you need to advertise,” he said.
“I’ve done some advertising on Facebook and nothing happened there but I think my best market will be visiting schools.
“I’ve done that once or twice and that was highly successful, the pupils had a ball and we all had a rocking good time.
“Usually I wear a polar bear suit and that sets the scene to promote Robert the Polar Bear.”
Mr Heff said he planned to visit more schools in Thames and Auckland to promote his books and planned to publish a new book titled Roger Jolly the Pirate early next year.
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