Geraldton-born, award-winning author Holden Sheppard on exploring freedom in second novel

Jessica MoroneyGeraldton Guardian
Holden Sheppard is releasing his second book, which is set in the Mid West.
Camera IconHolden Sheppard is releasing his second book, which is set in the Mid West. Credit: Supplied

Award-winning author Holden Sheppard continues to use his upbringing in Geraldton as inspiration in his work, and looks forward to visiting his home town for the Big Sky Readers and Writers Festival.

The Geraldton born-and-bred writer this week releases his second book, The Brink, after his debut novel, The Invisible Boys, garnered critical and commercial success in 2019.

He told the Geraldton Guardian why his writing still has its roots in his hometown and surrounds.

The Brink is about a group of youth on a thrilling journey of self-discovery during leavers celebrations in Jurien Bay. Sheppard said each character was a fragment of his own identity.

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“I’ve been the shy guy, I’ve been the good Catholic school boy, and it was not reflective of who I was on the inside. The guy I was on the inside wasn’t that well behaved, wasn’t that well mannered, I didn’t want to be good all the time and I was homosexual,” he said.

The person he’d crafted growing up in Geraldton was completely not who he truly was, he said.

“It’s basically me telling the world how I came out of my shell and how I survived that experience.”

Sheppard moved to Perth to take on a creative writing degree at university when he was 20. He said The Brink was ultimately linked to his personal journey of working out where he fit in the world.

“The person, persona and the identity that you’ve built up and crafted to be accepted and survive high school. Suddenly you’re faced with wondering who you really are,” he said.

“Now that I’m not performing for anyone, who am I really?”

The author explained Leonardo as the shy character that wanted to be able to stand up for himself, Kaiya as the A+ student who wanted to let loose for once and Mason was the typical handsome jock who was secretly in love with his best friend.

“All of the characters have a true self that if it was revealed would break apart who the world thinks they are,” he said.

The Brink took eight years to write and publish, and Sheppard said writing wasn’t an easy thing to do and took a long time.

“When I think of advice for anyone who wants to make a career as a writer or an artist, it’s not something you can quickly churn out in a few months,” he said.

Sheppard said he was concerned about how people would respond to his books being based in the Mid West.

“Everyone has responded really well to it,” he said.

“I’m really grateful to be embraced by the Geraldton readers.”

The raw book takes readers on an emotional journey discussing themes of panic disorders, masculinity, sexuality, identity, mental health and addiction, but Sheppard said he wouldn’t bleed on to the page.

“The reality is I’m really happy when I write. I’ve gone through a lot of trauma in my life, but I don’t write about it until it feels like more of a scar than a wound,” he said

Sheppard will visit Geraldton to meet, greet and sign his new book at Big Sky Readers and Writers Festival from September 29 to October 2. The Brink is out now.

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