Samuel Elliott, in conversation with acclaimed author Matt Reilly
Matthew Reilly, the forty-two-year-old best-selling author, is no different in person than he is on-stage addressing the sold-out auditorium of fans for his previous novel, The Great Zoo Of China. Candid and impassioned, he begins with answering the question playing upon every fans lips – why the return to some of his favourite characters with his new epic thriller, Four Legendary Kingdoms?
‘I was always planning to come back at some point.’ Confides Reilly. ‘The Jack West books, you get on a roll with them. But then, I had the idea for Great Zoo Of China for ages, and The Tournament was a very special, in between, stand-alone novel. But I wanted to start writing about Jack again, and I knew that it had to not only just be a Jack West Jnr adventure, it had to be mega-size and that’s why the scale of this one is really big.’
Four Legendary Kingdoms not only sees a return to Jack West Jnr but also Shane “Scarecrow” Schofield, with the pair pitted against one another in the brutal gladiatorial games at the centre of the plot. ‘I definitely wanted to bring back Jack and Scarecrow. But the premise of The Great Games came first. Once I had the concept, the idea was one of the kings will kidnap Jack West Jnr to be one of his champions, and this opened the door for the Scarecrow cross-over, with another king bringing in Scarecrow as theirs. Suddenly my two big heroes are not only in the same book, they're on a collision course.’
The author oftentimes blends a combination of science and history imbued and altered with his own creative flair. Four Legendary Kingdoms features the findings of Isaac Newtown, as he explains - ‘It’s me reading a little bit here, a little bit there.’
He is a writer vastly different to many of his contemporaries whom, by his own admission, does not pen a word until the entire novel is totally mapped out. This includes another trademark aspect of his body of work – detailed maps and diagrams.
‘I realise that a diagram will make the reader’s life easier. I find myself talking about the reader’s experience a lot. In Four Legendary Kingdoms my favourite invention for that is the wall maze. Having those pictures of that keeps the reader in this hugely complicated situation and in this scene. I don’t want them to come out of the story, I want them to enjoy it. I want them to be thrilled.’
Now that the writing process subject has been broached, Reilly addresses the broader nature of the rare and unusual job of a writer. His earnest and positive response, accompanied with a cheerful grin, finds him at odds with the typical mould of a dour and dry literary type.
‘It’s the most enjoyable job in the world. It’s fantastic. To me, the challenge is making the new book better than the last. I want to tell a rocket-fuelled fast paced story. So, what do I need to do, to tell that story?’
He even acknowledges the aforementioned literary types and their struggles. ‘A lot of the authors I’ve met, that sit down and look at the keyboard, at the blank screen and flex their fingers and say ‘What am I going to do today?’ – Most of them are miserable. I like what I do. I love getting to my computer each day. But I always prepare, I won’t get to that computer without knowing exactly what I’m working on that day. Especially when it’s a work of creativity like a book, or a screenplay or even a film.’ ’
His mentioning of more mediums of work segues into what he is presently up to. Recently, Reilly’s base of operations and home has been Los Angeles. He further fuelled the rumour mill two years ago at the launch of The Great Zoo Of China, alluding that he might be undertaking a film project and finally fulfilling the lifelong dream. Right off the cuff, he puts the speculation to rest.
‘Sony has optioned the rights to Great Zoo Of China. And in the last month, the Jack West Jnr series has been optioned by Fox. James Vanderbilt is attached.’
Vanderbilt’s a long-established, highly-respected Hollywood screenwriter who boasts a body of work that includes The Amazing Spiderman and its sequel, among many others.
‘Also I’ve adapted The Tournament into a screenplay. The producers asked me if I’d like to direct it, which I thought nobody would ever let me do that. We’re just on the hunt for a leading man now.’
As if that was not enough, Reilly also assures that he’s hard at work on the immediate follow-up to his latest novel, though remaining tantalisingly vague about any more information. ‘I get on a roll, so the next one will be – The Three Something Something, the title is hinted at in the Four Legendary Kingdoms as to what the three things might be.’
Whatever occupies his time, it’s clear that Matthew Reilly fans the world over will never be in shortage of fresh material to obsess over.
To check out Matt Reilly's new thriller, Four Legendary Kingdoms, click on the image below.
Samuel is twenty-seven-year-old Sydney-side author that divides my time between a uni degree, a job within the television industry and penning the first of my Milan Milton novel series. I've been published in MoviePilot, Blue Crow Magazine, Pure Slush, Vertigo and, The Independent, The Australian Times, FilmInk and The Southerly among others. His novel The Sisters of Satan was published in 2011 – , a horror novel that is still available internationally and has been translated into six languages. As of August 2016, his crime novel, Hoi Polloi is available in E-book format from Australian-based, Book Booster.