Libby Harkness - Writer, Biographer, Ghostwriter, Memoir Writer



Professional History

New Zealand-born Libby Harkness has lived and worked as a journalist, editor, sub editor and writer in Australia for more than 40 years. After starting out as a news journalist, Libby moved to trade and professional publications covering a range of fields including travel, hospitality, retail, pharmacy, medical and pharmaceutical.

Libby wrote her first published books in the 1980s but came to public notice in the 1990s with the publication of her seminal work on adoption reunion, Looking for Lisa (Random House 1991) and the first book on cosmetic plastic surgery published in Australia, Skin Deep (Random House 1994) " a well-researched work that looked at all aspects of body alteration. Libby began ghostwriting memoirs about 25 years ago, filling what she saw as a growing demand in the market as more people wanted to tell their stories for publication or to document them for family posterity.

In 2013, Libby was on a panel at the first international conference of ghostwriters in Long Beach, California. She was one of only three international delegates. Although growing, the number of full-time ghostwriters world-wide is still very small. Many writers and journalists supplement their income from other sources by writing the occasional memoir but Libby is still one of the few full-time ghostwriters in Australia.

Behind the published stories of most celebrities, sports stars and actors is a ghostwriter, and while most remain invisible some in-demand writers like Libby do receive cover attribution.

Libby does not call herself a co-writer which could suggest that two people share the writing. Libby is the writer; she acts as a conduit for the story-teller"s (or author"s) voice giving the narrative structure, readability and "life".

If you would like to talk to Libby, she has compiled a helpful guide of things to consider before you make contact.


Libby's most recently completed work

The Elephant Room by Dawn Olley


"I was born in Batu Gajah, Malaya in 1950, just one of the mosquito-infested outposts in the Far East and Africa where my father served as a member of the British Colonial Police after the Second World War. My childhood in these often dangerous places was a happy one. I call that time in my life my sunshine years and memories of them envelop me like a protective blanket " the heat, the spice smells, the fragrance of frangipani, the taste of nasi goreng, the changing colours of chameleons, wide smiles in gentle dark faces, the sound of drums in the night echoing across the land and the monsoon rains beating on tin rooves. My sunshine years ended when I turned 12. The elephant walked into the room and the world became a darker place."

Dawn Olley"s sweeping memoir in three parts breaks open the taboo of incest as she leads the reader to an understanding of the lifelong impact of child sexual abuse. When she made a vow to speak out at every opportunity about "the elephant in the room", she began the long journey to build the strength and resilience to rise above the damage wrought by secrets and lies. Dawn, who moved to Australia from the UK in 1984, tackles a subject gradually being confronted by a society unwilling to talk about the predators hidden in plain sight like Dawn"s decorated war hero father. The reader is left with hope as Dawn shares her journey of healing, demonstrating her courage to refuse to be silenced, typified today by Grace Tame and others. As yet unpublished.


Published in 2020

Dr Claire’s Love Your Dog. This book about dogs is not just another book about dogs – it’s a book with a difference. It’s the complete guide to canine care told in the words of a practicing vet in a humorous, emotive and friendly way. Dr Claire Stevens shares everything she knows about dogs which started with the love her first dog as a child. It gives practical advice from getting a puppy to the end of a beloved dog’s life and will be an easy and informative read overlaid with the constant theme of the canine-human bond. The book will have the added bonus of a collection of heart-warming stories of hero dogs. Published by Woodslane in May 2020.



Game Girl. Fire and Fun on the world stage is the story of an internationally renowned event organiser. Among the many events Di Henry OAM has put together she is probably best known for her work in organising many Olympic Games torch relays, including the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and several Commonwealth baton relays. It’s a remarkable story of how one woman rose above a traumatic childhood to reach the pinnacle of her career and meet the Queen on several ocassions. The book is a candid, funny and entertaining story about a larger than life personality. Published by Austin McCauley in 2020.



Other recently published works

Life Sentence " a police officer’s battle with PTSD. How Simon Gillard’s dream job turned into a nightmare. From the moment two police officers walked into his primary school to give a talk, Simon Gillard knew he wanted to be a policeman. He began as a bright young probationary constable with a great sense of humour and passion for the job. But as his career began to build, so too did the number of cases he worked on, from high-profile murder investigations to paedophile rings, suicides " even to the investigation of a fellow officer. As the cases mounted, Simon started to suffer panic attacks, drink heavily and have unrelenting nightmares. He sought help but was encouraged to just "go back to work" and ended up making four attempts on his own life. He was later formally diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and invalided out of the force. In this powerful memoir, Simon reveals the details of the cases he worked on, how the police force operates, and how one man"s life can spiral so out of control. He is now working to create awareness about PTSD and has written this book with Libby Harkness to help other sufferers. Published by Penguin Random House May 2017.

Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant. – true tales and gossip from the galley. A rip-roaring account of one man’s years of flying around the world. Owen Beddall dishes the dirt in hilarious stories from the air and from the various ports the airline flies to. His acerbic wit, bold and brassy observations, and never-before revealed inside information on the workings of an international airline will give the reader a buckle-up your seat-belt journey. Globally released by Random House 2014.
Note: Owen Beddall died suddenly in Melbourne in May 2016. He was 41.



Everything to Live For. The story of Turia Pitt, the beautiful 25-year-old mining engineer who suffered catastrophic burns to 65 per cent of her body in a bush fire while competing in an ultramarathon in the remote Kimberley region in Western Australia. The story of Turia’s hours-long wait for help with the other survivors is traumatic; her heroic rescue by a young helicopter pilot is riveting; but its Turia’s survival against all odds that is most remarkable and her battle to live with her life-changing injuries is inspirational. A subsequent WA Government inquiry made damning findings of failure by the international organisers of the event. The company reached an out-of-court settlement with Turia in 2014. Everything to Live For was published by Random House in 2013.

The Widow, with Nola Duncan. A real life story of betrayal of love and trust; how one woman’s view of her long and happy marriage was shattered following the terrible discovery one year after her husband’s death - a cache of 741 love letters between her husband, a renowned scientist and his doctoral student, that had gone on for many years. Published by Random House in 2013.


Who’s in control of your brain? International business consultant and entrepreneur Julian Fairfield puts forward his theories about how our brain works in modern society. Julian’s provocative ideas will help people understand themselves and make sense of the cultures they live in and society as a whole. Julian"s book was published in multi-media platforms in 2017.

Privately published

The Promise – a father’s diary of loss and love. The Melbourne businessman, Patrick Tessier OAM, tells his story about the loss of his two-year-old son, Bailey, to a brain tumour in 2004. After Bailey’s death, Patrick set up the charitable foundation Bailey"s Day which to date has raised more than $3mil to train paediatric oncologists for the Monash Children"s Cancer Centre and to fund research into childhood brain cancers. Published privately in 2014.


Atlantic Awakening - the story of two young men who rowed across the North Atlantic from New York to Falmouth in the UK in a 22-foot wooden row boat in 2015. It took the men, Peter Fletcher and Tom Hudson 98 days and they became only the fifth pair to complete this dangerous feat since 1896 and only the third to do it the more difficult way, east to west. It’s a story of resilience, fear and immense challenge. While one man relates the story the other’s perspective comes from personal video diaries. Published by Peter Fletcher in 2019.


Attitude is free; it’s not all about me. The inspirational story of Hawk Vagg, a strapping Queensland sheep and cattle farmer who became a quadriplegic in 1998 at age 38 after a tractor accident. This is his moving, at times confronting and often humorous journey of Hawk’s determination to regain independence and provide for his young family from a wheelchair. Hawk became an outspoken activist and advocate for people with disabilities and is now a sought-after motivational speaker and lectures on workplace safety. Self-published in 2017.

Libby’s current commission

Through My Eyes " the fine line between love and death. When Sok Chua at the age of 22 married a charismatic British immigrant 17 years her senior, she thought she was the happiest woman alive. He was the love of her life. They had two children and Sok spent the next 17 years trying to make her beloved happy. Although her husband was never physically abusive, Sok had never heard of the terms coercive control or gas-lighting. In 2011, three weeks after finally telling him the marriage was over he attacked her, stabbing her 39 times. In a head-line making court case in Brisbane, her ex-husband was charged with attempted murder and will be deported to Britain after he completes his jail term. Sok is one of the few women in the world to have suffered such a horrendous attack by a partner and live to tell the story. In poignant self-reflection, Sok reveals the on-going physical and emotional trauma the attack has had on her life and that of her children. To be published in 2023.






Books Libby has authored and other work


Birth: Where & How NSW
and Birth: Where & How Vic
(Horan,Wall & Walker 1986 editions, Universal 1988 editions)

Looking for Lisa (Random House 1991)

Skin Deep (Doubleday 1994)

Everything You Need to Know About Cosmetic Surgery
(with Sandra Farren, Key Porter Books, Canada 1994)

The Australian Guide to Cosmetic Surgery
(Coulomb Communications 2004)

Among Libby's private commissions are some notable medically-associated works, including editing Babies for Ladies, the 1987 autobiography of Australia's pioneering obstetrician, the late Professor Bruce Mayes and, in 2006, writing the biography of Dr Toby Barton, grandson of Australia's first Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton. She has co-written two books with a leading Australian cosmetic surgeon, the first published in 2005 and the second in 2010. She was also commissioned to write the biography of Sydney actress, Barbara Joss, and her successful battle with breast cancer, My Left Breast (self-published by Joss in 1999). In 2008 Libby wrote My IVF Journey for a young Sydney woman, documenting her (eventually) successful struggle to become pregnant with a longed-for baby (published privately for family).

Some press review comments on Looking for Lisa :

"" I would like to congratulate you on a very fine piece of work" you articulate the experience of adoption with great compassion and sensitivity and encourage the reader to gain a very intimate insight into the pain and joy of relinquishment and contact""
R. Wilson, Department for Family and Community Services (SA)

" honest, blunt, and open insight into the lives of six relinquishing mothers who nursed their heartache in silence for so long." Canberra Times

""a journey into the turmoil and grief, as well as the relief and joy, that only adoption can bring." The Evening Post (NZ)

Some reviews on Skin Deep:

" nothing until you read Skin Deep, Australia's first consumer guide to cosmetic surgery." Vogue Australia

"...take a look at this very thorough, practical book. The book is completely non-judgemental." Slimming Magazine



  © Copyright 2013 Libby Harkness - Writer for Hire. All Rights Reserved. Sydney Australia.