Frequently Asked Questions

Holden answers some of his most frequently asked questions from readers. 

 

Q: Is Invisible Boys based on your own life? 

A: Yes and no. Invisible Boys is fictional - all the events and characters are made up. This isn't a memoir. However, it is drawn from my own life experience: I grew up homosexual in Geraldton, Western Australia and the journeys of the three boys are drawn very much from the emotional truth of my own life. 

Q: Which of the main characters are you most like? 

A: Zeke, Charlie and Hammer are all aspects of my own self. I was most like Zeke when I was in high school - quiet and shy and anxious and super repressed. After I left home I became a punk like Charlie - outspoken and obsessed with rock music. And as an adult, I'm confident like Hammer and enjoy the gym and playing footy. So I'm all three. 

Q: Will there be a sequel to Invisible Boys?

Probably, yes. I have a clear idea for what happens next, and I am hoping to write it soon. 

Q: I loved Invisible Boys - how can I help support it? 

A: Leaving a positive review on Goodreads is the best way to help support Invisible Boys and let more potential readers know about it. Also consider leaving reviews on other websites, especially if you purchased it digitally. You can also share your thoughts in a review on social media or just let your mates know about the book if you think they'd be interested - word of mouth really helps books find new readers. 

Q: Is there an audiobook version of Invisible Boys

A: Not yet, but I hope there will be in the future. Stay tuned!

Q: I think Invisible Boys would be amazing on the screen. Is there going to be a film or TV adaptation? 

A: Yes! The film and TV rights for Invisible Boys have been optioned by director Nick Verso (Nowhere Boys, Itch, Boys in the Trees) and producer Tania Chambers OAM (Kill Me Three Times, A Few Less Men). Read more in this article from Inside Film here

Q: Is Invisible Boys available overseas? 

A: It sure is - on Kindle and also you can order paperbacks via Amazon to overseas territories. It is available for purchase in the USA in both digital and paperback form via Amazon

Q: Can I book you for events or public appearances? 

A: Yes, of course. I love delivering author talks, appearing on panels at writers' festivals, doing live storytelling, holding in-conversation style events, delivering workshops, giving guest lectures, being an MC and much more. I do frequent appearances at libraries and schools in particular. Contact me via the email form on my Contact page to enquire about my availability and appearance fees. 

Q: I'm from the media - can we interview you? 

A: Yes, absolutely. Please contact me via the email form on my Contact page, and my publicist or I will be in contact to set this up with you. 

Q: I'm a reader - can I send you fan mail or is that weird? 

A: You can totally send me fan mail - it absolutely makes my day to hear from readers. Contact me via the email form on my Contact page. I can't always respond quickly, but I always do my best to respond. 

Q: I loved Invisible Boys and I'd like to read more of your work. What else have you had published? 

A: Check out the Other Works page for my other published stories. The most notable of these is my gay-themed novella 'Poster Boy', which won the 2018 Novella Project competition and was published in Griffith Review

Q: I'm a teacher or librarian. Is this book appropriate for my school library or my high school classroom? 

A: Yes! Invisible Boys is in many high school libraries across Australia already and several schools have bought copies for their students. It's even been used as a text to study in examinations, and I've done plenty of author talks and workshops in high schools and have more planned for the future. The book has some graphic content in terms of sex, swearing and violence, plus themes of suicide, so it is pitched at young adults aged 14 and over. The general recommendation would be that it is for older teens e.g. Year 9 and beyond. 

My publisher Fremantle Press has done up some excellent teaching notes to assist teachers with studying the book in the high school English classroom. 

Q: I am struggling with my sexuality or I know someone who is. Where can I go for help?

Like the boys in my book, I struggled to come to terms with being homosexual, which is the term I use to describe myself. Like many other out and proud men, I am living proof that it gets better: I now have a loving (and hot) husband and we've been together for more than 12 years. The most important thing I learned in coming to terms with my sexuality is that I am okay just as I am: I can't change which sex I'm attracted to, and that's okay. Personally, I really struggled with the feeling that being "gay" would make me less of a man. However, once I accepted that I was attracted to guys, I felt much more confident, proud and masculine. There is no one way to be homosexual, and there is no one way to be a bloke - you are the author of your own story and your own identity.

This is especially important for young men who are attracted to men, but don't necessarily identify as homosexual or gay. The road to finding a concrete identity can sometimes be tougher for bisexual men who are attracted to both men and women. Also, believe it or not, there are lots of guys out there who identify as straight and are primarily interested in women (sometimes even married in a heterosexual relationship) but also are occasionally or incidentally interested in sex with men. This is a lot more common than people think. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of sexuality, just know you are normal and fine just the way you are, and worrying about about your sexuality won't change it. (I know, it's easier said than done - but trust me on this.)

If you or someone you know is struggling, I strongly recommend reaching out for help. I reached out to a mental health service when I was at my lowest point and wanting to take my own life - and it helped me get better. I recommend the legends at Lifeline, who run a free and anonymous crisis counselling service over the phone and via instant chat. Personally, I used a text-based messaging option when I reached out and it was a lot easier for me to ask for help that way rather than in person or over the phone. I would also recommend QLife if you want to speak to someone who specialises in LGBT+ issues, although for what it's worth, I know Lifeline is very accepting and welcoming of everyone and anyone.

Good luck. LGBT+ people have historically been extraordinarily resilient in the face of enormous hardship: we struggle, but we're strong. You're tougher than you know, and just know I'm cheering you on, and wanting you to find your way. It gets better. Big love.  

Q: I'm a writer. Can I send you my book manuscript/TV show script/collection of Hungarian spoken word song cycles? 

No, please don't send me your manuscripts. I will not read them. I get these requests often - sometimes multiple times a day - and as much as I'd love to help, I'm afraid I just don't have the time for this, so my blanket rule is that I can't read any manuscripts. I also don't want someone sending me a manuscript idea that is too close to something I'm planning on writing myself (I have about 20 projects in mind currently) and then thinking I nicked their idea! It makes me feel bad to have to keep saying no, so it's better not to send these to me at all.

Q: But how can I get feedback on my writing? Don't writers help other writers?

Yes, writers are great at helping each other out. I wouldn't be where I am without the mentorship, advice and guidance of fellow writers. Plenty of writers and editors do offer to read manuscripts and provide feedback, but they do charge for it as this is a request for their time and they will expect to be paid for their work as it takes them away from writing their own books. The Australian Society of Authors has an amazing range of mentors - I've used them twice - and you can find their list of mentors here. WritingWA also has a Literati database of West Australian writers here who may be available and looking for new projects to take on - including mentorships - and these can sometimes be a bit more bespoke/cheaper than the ASA mentorships. 

For more informal arrangements - or if you're poor, as many of us writers are - consider joining a writer's centre or writing group. Lots of these will offer feedback and critiques for free. Also, once you make friends with fellow authors, they may be more than happy to read your manuscript - or part of it - for free, though they might want you to do the same for them in return. 

Q: In that case, what advice can you give me about how to get started with my own writing? 

The best advice I can give you when you're starting out as a writer is to read a lot in your genre, so you learn more from what other writers in that area. This will also help you understand the expectations of that genre and help you identify the gaps in what's being published at the moment (i.e. the niche your book might be able to fill for readers).

 

The second thing is to start writing - now. Lots of budding writers - including myself - spend a really long time on planning and making notes but often being too scared to take the plunge and start writing. Just start. You can spend years, even decades, making notes and planning, but you won't get any closer to your dreams of having a book published if you don't just start writing it. There's never a perfect time that a writer is 'ready' to start that first draft. Start now. Don't delay it.

 

And when you do start writing, give yourself permission to write a terrible first draft - let it be absolute horseshit - and this will free your headspace creatively. The first draft is you just shovelling the sand into the sand pit; the second draft is where you will build a proper sandcastle. Or to paraphrase Stephen King's words, the first draft is the writer telling himself the story; the second draft is telling the story to the reader. 

In terms of resources, join your local writer's centre - these are a great way to connect with the local writing scene and tap into a community of fellow writers. It's hard to get proper encouragement from non-writer friends and family - they don't always 'get' it. Fellow writers will understand the ups and downs and can offer helpful advice. You can also find a strong writer's community on Twitter and other social media. 

When you're ready, consider taking workshops or longer courses to hone your writing skills. And getting a manuscript appraisal or mentorship is a great way to help develop a full-length book draft. 

Lastly, read Stephen King's book On Writing. You won't regret it. 

Q: I see you have a literary agent. Can I send you my manuscript for you to forward on to her? 

A: My literary agent is Gaby Naher of Left Bank Literary, however I can't act as a broker for your manuscript. If you want to pitch to Left Bank Literary, see their submission guidelines on their website for how to go about this. 

If you're wanting to learn more about how to query agents, check out New York literary agent Janet Reid's blog which is a total gold mine. Also check out Janet's Query Shark blog, where she deconstructs authors' query letters for them and helps make them better. 

Q: What are you writing next and when can I read it? 

A: I've recently finished my second novel, though I need to do an edit, and the first draft of my third novel. I'll update this website when there is news on either book, but publishing is a slow-moving industry, so I wouldn't expect either project to be published before late 2021. Follow me on the socials to keep up to date with what's coming out next. 

© 2020 by HOLDEN SHEPPARD.

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