After the critical and commercial success of Invisible Boys (Fremantle Press), our favourite WA author is back with a timely exploration of dangerous youth in his new novel, The Brink.

Holden Sheppard, author, mentor, and avid footy fan has just released his second novel The Brink. In a heady, tense, and viscerally confronting manner, Sheppard dives straight into the world of the freedom of youth.

The Brink (The Text Publishing Company) is a thrilling story about a group of friends, fresh out of high school and intent on discovering who they are and what they are made of. 

Heading to the coast after finishing school, the teenagers find themselves stranded in a remote town, where they’re warned by the locals not to cause trouble. But when a tragedy occurs, the teens are confronted with a high level of accountability they never saw coming. 

Not afraid to broach the tough subjects, Sheppard’s work culminates in a part Euphoria, part Sex Education, part The Beach, and part Lord of the Flies tale of the dangerous freedom that can only be found on the cusp of adulthood.

We caught up with Holden to chat about a few of his favourite things, among them, WWE Smackdown and a cosy night in watching a movie with his husband.

holden sheppard

Happy: Hey holden, what are you up to today?

Holden: Today I’ve been unpacking boxes of my new book THE BRINK which have been couriered to my house for me to sign and then ship back to a book retailer. There are hundreds of copies sitting on the patio table I yanked into our living room (we don’t have a dining table inside usually) and the whole table is covered in book stacks, so it’s gonna keep me busy for most of the arvo. Then I’ll be doing some emails, going for a walk, and then probably sitting down with a cuppa to read the manuscript from an emerging writer I’m currently mentoring. Rockstar life, ay? 

Happy: Tell us about your neighborhood, what do you love/not love about where you live?

Holden: I live in a newish, working-class (read: bogan) suburb near the coast in Perth’s far north, about 42 kilometres from the city. I go for a lot of walks around my neighbourhood especially when it’s sunny, and I love that everything’s pretty new even if it’s a bit rough around the edges in parts (like me). Some areas are still under construction so I get to watch as new buildings and roads are constructed which I love cos I’ve always been a bit of a town planning/construction geek. I don’t love that I live so far away from the CBD, so it often prohibits me going too far south for events on the weekends because it’s just not worth the commute. My mates mock me because I sometimes take a backpack if I’m going to Perth’s southern suburbs like Fremantle or Rockingham. It’s a day trip, man!

Happy: Describe your average work day.

Holden: Even though my writing gig is basically full-time these days, I do a few hours of casual labouring work in a lumber yard each week, too. So, on the days when I’m labouring, it’s lumber yard from pre-dawn until midday or so, then smash a feed at home because I’m starving after lifting heavy stuff all day, and then I spend my arvo in my home office tackling emails and admin or taking meetings, phone calls or doing media. On the days I don’t have the day job, I hit the gym for a couple of hours first thing in the morning, grab a takeaway coffee, spend the mid-morning until early arvo writing or editing my novels or other works, and then the arvo is admin and email time. I almost universally knock off by 6pm every day and keep the evenings free to spend time with my husband and then tackle my social media notifications for the day, but during busy times I end up having to work into the night. And of course, when I’m in a promo cycle for a new book, almost all author events are at night, so that makes for a few months of chaos.  

Happy: What about your ultimate day?

Holden: During footy season, Saturdays are my favourite day of the week, and that’s pretty much my ultimate day. I wake up and go to footy training (I play AFL 9s socially with Perth Hornets Football Club), smash brekky with some of the boys from footy, then grab a Gatorade and come home to chill with my husband and watch WWE Smackdown with him. In the arvo, I’ll crack a few bourbons in front of whatever AFL game is on TV, then my husband and I get a cheat meal for tea and watch a movie. It’s super low key but I’m a bit of a hermit and more introverted than most people realise, so this is my idea of heaven.

Happy: If we paid you $500,000 for this interview what would you do with the money?

Holden: Hookers and blow, baby! Nah, I’d defo splurge on all the big boy’s toys I’ve always wanted but never been able to afford because the writer life means you’re always living really frugally. I’d get some mods done to my ute, buy a dirt bike or quad bike, and buy a jet ski. I’d get some ink for sure. Probably travel to Europe with my husband and maybe hit up places like Japan and Canada. And whatever was left over I’d probably do something boring like a house deposit. I’d love a house on a few hectares somewhere. 

Happy: What did you read or watch growing up that fuelled your passion for storytelling?

Holden: When I was young, it was books by Enid Blyton (the Malory Towers boarding school series), Emily Rodda (the Teen Power Inc series), the Cairo Jim series by Geoffrey McSkimming, and the Usborne Puzzle Adventure series, the Tintin comics by Hergé and Pokémon – I loved the Pokémon anime and went on to write lots of Pokémon fanfiction. Once I was a teenager, I was obsessed with the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, the Tomorrow Series by John Marsden, and JJ Abrams’ spy thriller TV series Alias

the brink

Happy: Which book are you currently reading?

Holden: I just started The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald because I’ve somehow never read it even though it’s a classic.  

Happy: Which book did you last read that opened your eyes and mind to a new perspective? 

Holden: I recently finished The Hush by Sara Foster, which is a dystopian thriller but also timely social commentary about a world where women’s control of their own bodies and pregnancies are taken away by the government. It was eye-opening, and prescient given it was published last year. I also read The Boy from the Mish by Gary Lonesborough a while back and it was a real insight into the experience of growing up both gay and Aboriginal.

Happy: If you had a first date book list, what would it be? 

Holden: If he’s read and liked The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, I reckon we’ll get along like a house on fire.