Simon Higgins is an author of historical, crime and speculative fiction
 Photo: Simon Higgins and his wife Jenny Wang 
Simon Higgins is a former police officer, prosecutor and private investigator specialising in murder cases. A history and reading buff, his international publishing career spans 25 years, 15 novels, and several foreign language editions. Simon has been an Australian Government Ambassador for Asia Literacy and an Endeavour Award Recipient, plus the first westerner to write and program an interactive Visual Novel published in both Chinese and English.

A long-term martial arts enthusiast, he has been a guest student at the Shaolin Temple in Henan, China, and holds a black belt in the samurai art of Iaido. In 2008 on a mountaintop near Kyoto, Japan, watched by a Japanese prince, he competed for Australia in the Great Taikai, the sword art's world championships, placing 5th in his Dangai Class event.

Simon has also authored short stories, plays and screenplays for internationally-awarded films and animated TV shows, mentored emerging authors, and appeared at numerous writers' festivals. He's taught creative writing, intercultural empathy and critical thinking in schools and universities around the world, and currently lives in southern China, where he lectures tertiary students and writes for television.
 Photo: Simon in Africa 
Simon Higgins was born in England, and raised in Nigeria, Africa, then in South Australia. His earliest childhood memories are of red, cracked earth and huge lizards he chased as a toddler. Simon’s father was a Major in the British army and as a result his parents had lived in many parts of the world including India, Africa, Cyprus and South East Asia. The family was a mix of Irish, French and English stock, and many of Simon’s ancestors were professional soldiers. Following a DNA test in 2018, Simon learned that he also had Scandinavian and Asian genes. He sometimes refers to himself as ‘a cultural tossed salad’.

Both parents spoke a smattering of languages and Simon cites his mother as responsible for cultivating his love of reading at an early age. By the time he was 10, Simon was ploughing through full-length novels written for adults and hefty non-fiction books. In middle school he entered and won a poetry contest patronized by celebrated musician Jose Feliciano.

While in early high school he wrote two full length novels, both historical, one of which he maintains ‘had real promise.’ The other however, he admits was ‘a beyond awful rip-off of the tackiest kind. It was a clumsy attempt to clone Conan the Barbarian -but in Scotland!’
Simon left school eager to 'find his niche'. He drummed for a heavy metal band, learned to play guitar and sang vocals, and developed a long term interest in song writing. But he soon realized that he didn’t have the dedication a serious muso needs. Of his time in Adelaide-based band ‘Haze’ he concedes, ‘We might not have been good, but at least we were loud.’ Drawn to traditional Asian culture, Simon began training in various martial arts: Jujitsu, then competitive Judo, and later Karate. Kendo, Iaido, Tai Chi and Kung Fu were to follow.

Fascinated by anthropology and archaeology, he studied translated ancient historical texts including the I-Ching from China and The Book of the Dead from Egypt. Living what he now calls ‘career path chaos theory’ Simon drifted through a wide array of jobs: assistant camel handler and costumed monster in a circus’s sideshow, laboratory assistant, retail salesman, construction site labourer, factory hand, marketing manager, and even mobile DJ.

Simon first went to Asia in his early 20s, visiting Japan, China, and the Philippines, on a journey of cultural exploration he later pronounced 'life changing'. On returning home he wrote: ‘Again I had the same experience I’d had in childhood when first reading about traditional Asian life, clothing, castles and customs – inexplicably, much of it felt familiar.’
 Photo: Simon winning a Jujitsu contest 
 Photo: First Class Constable Higgins checking forensics  
In his late 20s, Simon felt ‘a genetic pull’ towards a career in uniform, but not in the military. Seeking both real adventure and a meaningful way to personally challenge himself, he joined the South Australian Police Force, and went on to serve in it for 8.5 years.

Simon worked in patrols, solo enquiries, as a cell guard, station officer, breath analysis squad member and prosecutor, attaining the rank of Senior Constable. He received two commendations, for excellence in trial work and for initiative during a car theft and high speed chase incident. In 1994 he resigned to accept a job offer from Barristers hired to defend homicide charges. Licensed 'private eye' Simon worked on several infamous cases.

But finally weary of all the ‘dark energy’ in his professional world, Simon began seeking escape and fresh inspiration through reading and writing, just as he had in childhood. While working on his very last murder case, he wrote the young adult serial killer thriller Doctor Id.

Doctor Id was published in 1998 by Random House. It won a Children’s Book Council of Australia Notable Book of the Year Award, was published in Italian alongside novelizations of Alfred Hitchcock films, and was even serialised in Japan with dramatic manga artwork.
From there on, Simon recalls, 'The flood gates were open'. Two crime fiction sequels to Doctor Id followed, the siege drama Cybercage and the psychological thriller The Stalking Zone. Simon also penned the sea adventure Thunderfish, the strikingly unique tale of an orphaned billionaire reinventing herself as the 21st century’s Captain Nemo. The novel became an Australian bestseller, earned Simon another Notable Book Award, and even attracted the interest of 2 Hollywood film studios, though ultimately, no movie was made.

Thunderfish spawned two sequels of its own. Under No Flag tackled marine-based environmental terrorism and was shortlisted for a Ned Kelly Crime Fiction Award. To prepare for writing the finale of the trilogy, In the Jaws of the Sea, Simon studied submarine survival technology with help from friends in the Royal Australian Navy, and undertook several advanced SCUBA courses, obtaining Shipwreck Diving and Deep Diving licenses.

After moving from Adelaide to northern New South Wales, Simon imagined a post-disaster Australia, plunged back into medievalism by a global climate apocalypse with catastrophic flooding. So was born his year 2000 novel Beyond the Shaking Time. Ironically, the book's radical climate-change dystopian context was seen at the time as 'a science fiction trope'.
Ultimately returning to his childhood inclination to write historical adventures, Simon 'tested the water’ by penning an epic set in historical Asia. In 2007 it won the Fellowship of Australian Writers Literary Award for Unpublished Manuscript. That emboldened Simon to write the young adult novel: Tomodachi: The Edge of the World, about the son of an English lord shipwrecked in Shogun-era Japan and befriended by displaced samurai youngsters.

utilized Simon's knowledge of Iaido, the medieval art of duelling with a katana (samurai sword), training in which Simon had invested 7 years, earning a black belt awarded by masters from the All Japan Iaido Federation. The book became a Readers Cup Finalist Book in three states of Australia, and was purchased in class sets by numerous schools in every state as their Australian National Curriculum Shogun Era Japan novel.

Simon began visiting schools to talk about his work and demonstrate Iaido in traditional Japanese costume. He eventually found himself touring not only middle and high schools, but also colleges and universities in England, Australia, China, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, where one of his Creative Writing Class students was a young Malaysian prince.
 Photo: Simon finally finding his niche 
After returning to Japan for more sword training and research, Simon wrote Moonshadow: Eye of the Beast in 2008, drawing heavily on historical spy craft and folklore. As before, the novel's duelling sequences were true to history and practical swordsmanship. Another Australian bestseller, it was shortlisted for an Aurealis Fantasy Award and also published in the United States, England, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Turkey and Indonesia.

popularity saw Simon invited to talk about his work –and even demonstrate swordplay – on Australia’s highest rating Children’s TV show, Saturday Disney. That same year he co-hosted the Aurealis Awards before an audience that included Her Excellency the Governor of Queensland and, despite an injury, won 5th place in the Iaido World Titles in Kyoto, Japan, before His Imperial Highness, the late Prince Munenori Kaya. Two sequels followed, Moonshadow: The Wrath of Silver Wolf and Moonshadow: The Twilight War.
In 2010 Simon became an Ambassador for Asia Literacy for the Australian government. In 2012, after visiting the Shaolin Temple in Henan, his interest in China's historical culture intensified, and in 2013 he gratefully received an Australian Government Endeavour Executive Fellowship to study Screenwriting for Film & TV Animation in China. He was even invited by Prime Minister Julia Gillard to attend a dinner being held for her in Beijing!

After committing to a long stay in China, Simon was appointed a 'Foreign Expert', a designation that dates back to Marco Polo, and began working with Crane Animation of Guilin. As that company's writing team coach and creative director of their flagship series Cocoa and Little Love, Simon helped launch what has become a cultural icon in East Asia.

Having now surpassed 500 episodes, the animated show with its zany humour and wholesome traditional values plays on all CCTV Chinese government channels, plus over 1000 other TV stations across China. Adorable twins Cocoa and Little Love and their talking animal friends are also watched on planes, buses, subway and bullet trains, and even giant Times Square-style digital screens mounted on skyscrapers in every Chinese supercity. 'All writers fantasize about a huge audience,' Simon told Chinese journalists in 2015, 'but I never imagined that up to a 5th of the human race might one day be laughing at my gags.'
 Photo: Simon and Jenny with the cast of his musical Kingdom of the Green Crystal 
Mid 2016 Simon collaborated with Chinese gaming company Lava Entertainment to create a Visual Novel, 'a game you read, a book you play', a digital 'choose your own adventure'. The result, Darkspear, a dystopian conspiracy thriller, made Simon the first known westerner to write and co-program a Visual Novel published in both Chinese and English. The VN even contained a working test engine, designed by Simon, which can measure 'psychic intuition'.

Further settling into the 'creative industries' life of China, Simon partnered in 2019 with a veteran Chinese composer to produce the musical Kingdom of the Green Crystal, a high-tech Wizard of Oz style pantomime with a powerful environmental message. Featuring acrobats, puppets, animatronics and cutting edge laser effects, the show is still playing to full houses.
2019 also saw Simon honoured with the Golden Silkball Friendship Award by the government of Guangxi, his 'home province' (population 50 million) for 'cultural contributions enriching society'. He was even invited, in his capacity as a Foreign Expert, to The Great Hall of the People in Beijing as a dinner guest of the Vice-Premier of China!

In 2020 Simon scripted a psychological thriller as a vehicle for talented up-and-coming Australian actor Jay Jay Jegatheva Jegathesan. His chilling performance took on two forms; as an entry in the World Monologue Games (the global Olympics of Acting) and as an independent short film. Soul Catcher and Catch and Release have, between them, as of 2023, garnered 83 Official Selections and 21 Awards at film festivals all over the world.

Simon currently divides his working time between writing that next novel, doing online school talks, lecturing at a prominent Guilin university, and contributing to TV scripts and other visual projects. Maintaining his martial arts skills and gym training fills in the gaps.
Click here for a library of fun, fascinating videos including Simon’s adventures in China.

From Simon's China Diary:

'While developing traditional Chinese characters for Dragons of Dusk and Dawn I relived many experiences spanning a decade spent in China. One very special research mission I had the privilege of undertaking stood out: in late 2012, I stayed on the grounds of the Shaolin Temple, Henan Province, in the SongXian Mountains. That was a lifelong goal fulfilled!
There are 2 main birthplaces of kung fu, Shaolin and Wudan, and the former is home to warrior monks who follow a tradition over a millennium old. Their day begins with a pre-dawn run, heading 3 kilometres west of the monastery to a mountain where the group charges up 1000 stone steps to a lonely shrine. Then they tear back down on their hands and feet, just part of the daily rigorous body conditioning these disciples undertake. Simply had to try it. Well, a little of it! My descent lasted...50 metres. They do it all - and very fast!
Dedicated martial artists from all over the world arrive to train at the Shaolin Temple. It’s a bit like walking onto the set of the classic Bruce Lee movie Enter the Dragon, only everybody is for real. I had the honour of eating with and interviewing young warrior monks, and seeing them perform their jaw-dropping traditional skills in a public show. I was even invited to join them up on stage, accepting a challenge (kind of ‘Shaolin Idol’) to try and mimic a set of increasingly fast, difficult, and unfamiliar moves led one-on-one by a warrior monk.

I was paired with a young master of the ‘snake’ style of Shaolin Kung Fu. Was I able to keep up with him? Yes, narrowly, even down to the final shoulder roll -on the concrete stage! Did my wife have to ferry me to a traditional massage expert for bone-cracking and realignment after we left the temple grounds? You bet! A week at Shaolin...a month in recovery, lol.

None of which diminished my love of Chinese martial arts! I've really enjoyed training in Yong Chun Gung Fu (aka Wing Chun Kung Fu in the west) and Shaolin Long Fist, which features many moves I first encountered in Shotokan Karate and Jujitsu training during my youth. When it comes to weapons, my favourites remain the Shuāngjiégùn (Nunchakus to most westerners) and the graceful Jian sword that featured in dynastic Chinese fencing.'
     Photo: Simon on stage with a warrior monk     
     Photo: Interviewing junior monks outdoors     
    Photo: Simon in Tang Dynasty armour with Jian    
Click here to watch ‘Kunoichi’, featuring Simon in Japan, plus other fascinating videos.
From Simon's Japan Diary:

'It was only possible to write the Tomodachi and Moonshadow books off the back of a tonne of research, most of it in Japan. One phase involved visiting historical spy bases in Iga-Ueno (a mountain city, once the home village of the Iga Ninja Shadow Clan) and the rice paddy-encircled village of Konan, in the heart of Koga Ninja country. I learned how to throw shuriken and interviewed proud ninja descendants. But the most exacting part was pursuing the Way of the Sword as a serious student, from dojo training in Australia to competitions, a gold medal, and finally, to the legendary Great Taikai itself, an event under royal patronage.
To be ready for that, I had to comprehensively learn both samurai skills and etiquette.
 Photo: In a ninja safe house, Konan, Japan 
 Photo: At the Kyoto Taikai, Japan, 2008 
Once a year, during the Japanese Golden Week holiday, this great "gathering" is held at the Hachimangu Shrine. That stands on a 1200-year old worship site inside a forest of giant bamboo, on a mountaintop overlooking the ancient city of Kyoto. The Taikai is effectively the world titles of the art of Iaido, and the two-day event begins with waves of competitors taking cable cars up the side of the mountain to the first stage of the shrine, where everyone must don traditional clothing -and swords!

Then, as incense burns and the great drums beckon from above, a real prince and a Shinto priest, along with the masters of the various schools of the samurai sword, lead the colourful procession of gathered ‘Iaidoka’ up the final stretch of the mountain. The heart of the shrine is nestled in beautiful landscaped gardens, where a demonstration platform and the competition hall itself await. But first the prince, then the competitors, receive a special blessing from the priest and a tiny cup of blessed sake as part of the ancient greeting ritual.

When the contest begins, the challenge is to perform sword moves called waza -not unlike the kata of other martial arts- before a panel of exacting judges who know precisely how even the tiniest of movements should look. Each waza ends with the "scary bit": the sheathing of one's katana at high speed without ever looking at it, doing that whole final move by feel and memory alone. Is it dangerous? Oh yes. Did I personally ever pierce my hand or lose a finger? Never. For which I credit my patient, excellent teachers, not myself.'
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