Kate Holden is the author of In My Skin, a searingly honest and wonderfully written account of a life on the streets, on drugs and on the skids.
What made you decide to write so frankly about your experiences as a heroin addict and a prostitute?
I was aware of the amazing opportunity I was experiencing, in terms of working in a brothel and meeting people in a uniquely intimate way; it seemed like a gold mine for a writer. And then I felt very strongly that most people only receive distorted and negative media images of heroin addicts and prostitutes, and someone should write a more realistic depiction.
Was it difficult to make the decision to introduce yourself to the literary world by writing about that time in your life?
Don’t all writers like to talk about themselves? While I might have liked to begin with a novel, my own story seemed to be brimming in me, and the enthusiasm I had for writing it led the book almost to write itself.
Where do you stand on the prostitution debate? Do you think it’s empowering or exploitative (or neither)?
I think it’s simplistic to talk of ‘prostitution’ without distinguishing between the different types and situations. I cannot think of many things worse than forced or coerced prostitution, which too frequently occurs in the illegal brothels and on the street, but a safe and willing prostitute can have either a positive or negative experience, depending on her attitude and situation. I don’t believe prostitution itself is inherently exploitative, but it can be. I found my own experience, ultimately, empowering.
How do you think your experiences have affected the person you are today?
I am much less fearful of people. Having seen powerful men naked and needy, and humbled women proud, I understand, I think, that people are mostly good, if sometimes weak. Once I’d confronted the fact that there was darkness inside me I didn’t recognise, I also found new ways to be proud of myself. In a way, I’m more confident in the world, and at the same time, strangely, somehow more idealistic.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m devouring Christos Tsiolkos’ Dead Europe, which is savage, compelling, and exquisitely disturbing. It’s the novel I wish I had written.
As a former bookseller yourself, what would you say to a customer who asked you why they should read your book?
Hah! If I had a customer with me (and it always depends on who the customer is), I’d say it’s a good read if you want an excursion into a darker side of Australian urban life, and that the author does a nice turn in the use of semi-colons.
What is your life like now? What are you working on?
At the moment I’m completing a Master’s degree in creative writing, for which I’m working on a novel set in England, trying to reconcile my interest in British folklore, ghosts, erotica, and the legacy of British culture in Australia. I live in Melbourne and have a social life that involves a lot of coffee.