Published in April 2014

What's It About?


After his parents’ unexpected move to the small village of Rooksbourne, Tom Allenby acquires a mysterious stone giving him powers over natural elements. He is soon under attack from enlarged animals, vicious plants and dead birds brought back to life.  The more he tries to find out what is happening, the more dangerous his life becomes as he is plunged into an incredible adventure.
With new friends Amber – an older girl with a mystery of her own to solve- and Kyle – a lonely boy eager for excitement- Tom has to battle powerful forces to try and stop a threat to the whole world while seeking the truth behind the village.
Mixing adventure, fantasy and mystery Elemental is the exciting and incident packed first story in the Heart of the World books.
Join Tom Allenby at the start of an amazing journey in the most fresh and imaginative children’s fantasy series in years!

Background Notes (Spoiler Warning!)

Best read after you've read the book!

  • I started the first version of the book in 2003 and completed it in 2005. It was longer than the published version and had quite a different plot.

  • Since then there have been four completed versions, each one with variations to the plot.

  • To show how different they were the original versions didn’t include Kyle Marshall, Lord Pennington, Mrs Brackley, Ravensthorpe or Izzy. Tom was only 11 and had a younger brother.

  • In the later version Tom’s age was increased to 12 and then 13 so he was only two years younger than Amber and Jake. I didn’t think 15 year olds would really want to talk to 11 year olds!

  • The Earthstone is based on a real stone called Snowflake Obisidian which you can see and even buy at the Natural History Musuem in London.

  • In the first version, Tom’s father was a construction manager who moved the family to the village because he was in charge of building a large shopping complex which the residents did not agree with.

  • There were also topiary hedge figures that moved around when nobody was looking. The mystery began when the Allenby’s neighbour was attacked by one of these which had started to come to life because of the elemental power in the area.

  • The name Rooksbourne comes from a real place called Ravensbourne which I liked the name of when I saw it on a notice board in a train station. I changed it to Rook which sounds more mysterious and then used the Raven bit to name the big estate in the book.

  • The house which the Allenbys move into is based on a real house in a village where I stayed several times back in the 1980s. It was built by an architect so contains a lot of unusual features.

  • The village itself is similar to the one described in the book except there were no woods and no large estate nearby.

  • The book had to be changed several times due to advances in technology; when it was first written not many people had a mobile phone and smartphones didn’t exist! 

  • While completing Elemental I also wrote story lines for several sequels. 

  • The book’s title has changed several times. It was going to be called Heart of the World but then I thought that would be a better name for the series. It was also called The Green Boy for a while.

Living Things

The second novel in the Heart of the World series


“Have you ever looked at the bark of a tree and thought you saw a face then looked back again and the face isn’t there? Maybe it is there. Maybe trees are alive in ways we don’t understand, watching, waiting…”


Tom Allenby’s second incredible adventure is now available to buy- see home page for details. This page includes some information and extra material about the book.

Spoiler Warning!!

Best to read the book first before looking further down this page!


An introduction to Living Things by John C


If you stare at the bark of an old tree in a certain light it’s easy to imagine a face staring back at you and as we know trees can live for hundreds of years so you wonder what have they seen. This was the starting point for Living Things, the second novel in the Heart of the World series. 

There have been a number of fantasy stories involving trees coming to life in various ways but I noticed a tendency for the idea of moving, walking or talking trees was quite prevalent. I wanted to suggest something more subtle than that, a dangerous force or energy that is somehow in the trees. I feel the idea of a root suddenly emerging from the ground or the suggestion of a branch reaching out is more potent than having trees walking about too much.


The other main focus of the book is Tom’s discovery of someone else his age who seems to share the same powers. This seemed an interesting area to explore as while Tom has some experience of elemental energy he is still very much a novice without any guide as to what he could or should do. He has to make his own decisions, a tough call for someone who is a few months away from being 14.


Though this is the second book, the plot is actually the last one I came up with while writing Elemental and planning the other books. I originally imagined it slotting in as the third book but decided the content was more suited to the second book in the series.

One of the biggest pieces of feedback I received for Elemental was that though marketed as a children’s novel it was better suited for young adults. I’ve always struggled with the idea of neatly bracketing books together especially as children’s reading ages and interest in fiction vary at differing times. Nonetheless I am marketing this book for a slightly older age group though hopefully people of many different ages can enjoy it.

It is traditional to trumpet a new work in an ongoing series as being darker than its predecessor and I would certainly say that the issues raised by this book may be more challenging. Having focussed on personal loss and relationships in the first novel, Living Things is about responsibility, conflict, bullying and friendship. And, of course, trees!



Deleted Scenes

Here are some scenes that are either earlier versions or else were cut from the finished book.  Just click on the link below (opens into a PDF document)


Living Things Deleted Scenes



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