For a young writer, Stephanie Johnson is surprisingly well published in the genres of the novel, short fiction, and poetry, and her dramatic works have been extensively produced on stage, over radio, in film, and on television. She is a reviewer and commentator on the arts, as well as being a drawing card at literary festivals, where she performs with flair and vigor. Johnson spent much of the 1980s living in Australia, a setting for her first and third novels. The second novel, The Heart's Wild Surf, explores the Pacific and Fijian antecedents of Johnson's New Zealand family.
Johnson, university-educated in history and drama, has a sharp satiric eye and a mordant wit, yet she shows sympathy for the human condition, in particular for derelicts, misfits, and for the innocence of youth, soon to meet the corruption of adult life. Basing her two historical novels on thorough research, she uses realism with post-modern touches, and a leavening of magic realism to create present and—in The Whistler—imaginative evocations of future dystopias.