Thriller Writer Matthew Reilly
It's a windy, rainy day in Sydney when thriller writer Matthew Reilly pulls over to talk about heading north to the heat for the Tropical Writers Festival.
It was one of the few gigs he undertook since his wife, Natalie, died last December, which we don't mention as he gave a heart-rending interview in June to The Australian.
Today, we are concentrating on Matthew, the writer, and his craft.
Matthew famously nabbed his first publishing deal by self-publishing in 1996 when he was 19, presenting his name on the science fiction novel, Contest, in really large lettering on the front cover as he concluded all best-selling authors do.
It was picked up by a Pan Macmillan publisher, who saw it in a bookshop and Matthew was signed up before he produced his first thriller, Ice Station, while still at university.
It was a time before the true rise of the internet and internet publishers.
"There were more independent booksellers," Matthew says, reminiscing.
"I used to go into bookshops and ask to see the manager, and say, 'I'm Matthew Reilly and I've just written a book', and two thirds of them would put it on theshelves."
It must seem like a dream world away for today's struggling authors.
"Now Dymocks, Borders and Angus & Robertson are gone but if it were today, I'd go straight to Amazon," Matthew says.
"The problem is trying to get the word out."
"I would just ring up the local newspaper and say I'm a local author, otherwise you're at the mercy of browsers."
Had Matthew not been a writer, there is a distinct possibility he might have been a barrister as he studied law, but perhaps he would have enjoyed the performance element of standing up in court the most.
"I think maybe I would be something in entertainment, maybe a presenter on TV," he says.
Veering from the typical image of a shy, retiring author, Matthew says he always liked public speaking and was a debater at school.
When he was 17, he was building miniature sets for Star Wars figures, and had his heart set on being a movie director.
But he realised that if he wrote books, he could be the producer, director and overall creator of the biggest worlds he could imagine.
Matthew's books are larger than life, fast-paced thrillers with outlandish plots that demand their heroes do nothing less than save the world.
Naturally, one of the most frequent questions he is asked is why he writes them and where he finds his inspiration.
"I was born in 1974 and when I was eight or nine, I used to watch Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark," Matthew explains.
"By the time it got to the '80s, I was watching Bruce Willis in action movies.
"I loved teen action, where the pace is faster and defined by big action."
Even now, Reilly's home is indicative of his passions and inspirations.
"My office is full of movie posters and things that inspire me," he says.
"Even my screensaver is of Indiana Jones."
Matthew's fans will already know he also has a DeLorean car like the one driven by Marty McFly in Back to the Future and a life-size replica of Hans Solo from Star Wars in carbonate.
He is a true movie fan and deliberately makes his books cinematic, writing for a movie-going audience, and using movie language.
He is also a fan of sequels.
"I loved Lethal Weapon II and think it was the best one because you learn more about the characters."
He defends the characters in his books, saying that despite the big action, they are of great importance.
"It's a real mistake to think there is no development of character because it's action," he says.
"People don't come to love the story, they come to love the characters."
Scarecrow is the hero in his series that began with Ice Station, and Matthew believes he is liked by readers because of his flaws as much as his attributes.
Matthew admits Scarecrow is a kind of alter ego.
"Absolutely, he is the idealised version of me."
"Back in Ice Station, he wears the reflective glasses and we knew he wasn't indestructible."
"He doubts himself, he suffers loss, and we see how he deals with it."
His most recent book in the series, Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves, which he has described as his most violent, follows Scarecrow trying to save the world from total destruction.
Like most writers, Matthew is a big reader, and he reads widely.
"On my bedside table, there are a couple of dozen books, from books about the fall of the Romans to science books and newspapers," he says.
If it's going to be fiction, however, it had better be something that instantly grabs his attention.
"If it doesn't grab me in the first 50 pages, I put it down," he says.
The best thing about being a full-time writer beyond the creative control of living on his royalties, is an easy one: not having to set his alarm in the morning.
"I wake up when I wake up," he says.
"I love not having to get up early."
Matthew writes a book every two years and is currently taking a break, tossing around ideas, and planning.
"I'm not at my keyboard yet," he says.
"I stir for a coffee and make notes and gaze out the window."
His planned future writing may stray into other genres.
"I might do something more historical, where you go into a different time and trespass on another world," he says.
"It will still be fast and thrilling."
"I don't see myself doing something slower."
>> Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves, by Matthew Reilly
(Pan Macmillan Australia, RRP $24.99)
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Back to the Future : Matthew Reilly with his DeLorean. Pic by Peter Morris