Invisible Boys author Holden Sheppard has sold the film and television rights to his debut novel
WA author Holden Sheppard’s debut novel Invisible Boys is heading for the screen.
Just last week the Geraldton-raised author was awarded the Premier’s Prize for an Emerging Writer at The Western Australian Premier's Book Awards and last night announced the film and television rights to the novel had been auctioned off.
“I am really excited because it means a whole new audience is going to hear this story and meet these boys and hopefully hear the message of this book,” Sheppard said.
Invisible Boys follows three young men, Charlie, Hammer and Zeke, and is inspired by his own experiences growing up gay in Geraldton.
Published in 2018, the semi-autobiographical novel won the City of Fremantle TAG Hungerford Award, which is presented biannually to an emerging WA for their first full-length, unpublished work.
Last year Invisible Boys won the Kathleen Mitchell Award and was also shortlisted for a Victorian Premier’s literary award and the Readings Prize in 2020.
“It’s very exciting because usually you are told you have three months to sell a book and Invisible Boys has outlasted that usual time period because it has been out for nearly a year,” Sheppard said.
The adaption will be led by producer Tania Chambers (Kill Me Three Times) and director Nick Verso (Itch, Nowhere Boys).
While he fielded several offers for the screen rights, Sheppard said he believed Verso’s vision was “in line” with how he wanted the book to be adapted.
“He didn’t want to shy away from any of the grittier stories and he is gay himself so I knew he would understand where I am going with this particular story,” he said.
“That’s not to say a straight producer or director couldn’t have done a fantastic job as well, but this particular story is almost a dissident gay story and resisting a lot of the cultural stereotypes we have about gay people, so I really wanted to get someone within that world and who understands that world.
“He can break those stereotypes up with me and that is what we are aiming to do. These are very different kinds of gay boys and we want to show that there is room for all of us—the most stereotypical types of gay characters right through to the gay ones that we never see or hear from.”
While many novels are produced outside the places they were initially set, Sheppard is pushing for the film or series to be filmed in his hometown.
“I wanted it to be filmed in Geraldton and Nick agreed and said it would have to be filmed there otherwise it wouldn’t be the story that it is,” he said.
And while Sheppard is happy for others to take the starring roles, he would love to have a passing moment captured on screen.
“I would love a cameo as a guy in the background. Anyone who knows me will know, and anyone who doesn’t will just think it is a random extra,” he said.
While growing up gay in a country town was an incredibly difficult experience for Sheppard, he said he was hopeful sharing his story would help others.
“I never even thought I would write this book. When I started as a writer I was always going to write very safe fantasy novels and I never even wanted to go near the gay stuff because for most of my life I didn’t want to be known as a professional homosexual which is kind of hilarious now because it’s all I talk about,” he said.
“I really wanted to avoid it but now looking back, when I was 16, I never thought I would tell any-one what I was going through because it was so hard and traumatic and I didn’t even think I would get through it.
“The fact that I got through it and can now talk about it, I think this story is in a position to help a lot of people who are going through the same thing.”
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