Best-selling author Matthew Reilly.
Best-selling author Matthew Reilly. contributed

Author's self-belief achieved the life of Reilly

Matthew Reilly is one of Australia's best-selling authors with a die-hard following who have helped him amass book sales of more than eight million in 20 languages, and right now he admits he's never been more productive.

It's a far cry from the days when he self-published his first book, Contest, in 1996. Every publisher had rejected his action novel, so Reilly personally visited book stores in Sydney asking them to stock it.

He admits it was his own faith in his novel that gave him such belief in his work.

"Knowing what I know now, what I did was the longest of long shots," Reilly said. "It's not like firing a gun and hitting a bullseye ... what I did was like sitting on a running horse backwards and firing at the target behind me without looking.

"I was 21 at the time, wrote it at 19, and I had no idea that it could possibly fail. I knew it was going to succeed, and that a publisher would see it if it was in stores.

"One publisher saw it. Yes, one. She's still my publisher to this day. That's insane, it's a 1000-1 shot and betting $8000 on it, which is what it cost me to publish. It's possibly still my greatest story to date."

Reilly has released 15 books, and his new novel is the long-awaited fifth in the Jack West series that began back in 2005 with Seven Ancient Wonders.

The Three Secret Cities continues the story of the Australian adventurer, and Reilly already has the storyline for the final two books in the series, plus has a new stand-alone novel out early next year.

Since moving to LA in 2015, Reilly admits he's never been more productive, while at the same time having several of his books being looked at by TV and film studios.

"LA suits me, it was the right time to move. There were too many memories for me in Sydney, and it was just the tonic. It's big, so big, and I've made friends in the movie business who love stories as much as I do," Reilly said.

"Leaving Sydney and being in LA, I lost a lot of those little incidental lunches or dinners with friends, and coffee dates with family. You don't get that in a new city, and it's made me more productive. I've thrown myself into research and writing. I've written three books, three pilot scripts, three feature film scripts and I've never been more creative. I'm enjoying it, the move has really been good for me."

Reilly has always approached each book in his Scarecrow and Jack West series with one simple goal, and it's something he still sticks to.

"I've always held myself to the standard that the new book, whatever it is, has to be better than the last in some way. My belief is that the audience is getting smarter. When you do a book every two years, they've been watching Game of Thrones or Westworld in the meantime, and I am that audience, I read the same books, I watch the same shows. So I ask myself how am I going to make this one better?


Best-selling author Matthew Reilly's latest book is The Three Secret Cities.
Best-selling author Matthew Reilly's latest book is The Three Secret Cities.

"Three Secret Cities was just designed to be out-of-control crazy, where Jack West has disrupted this world and they are coming back at him, throwing everything they have."

With many nods to Greek mythology, Reilly remains inspired by the movie he saw as an eight-year old, when Indiana Jones changed his life.

"There are two scenes in Raiders (of the Lost Ark) that are my touchstones, my point of reference. They are the opening scenes with the booby traps, and the truck chase. I remember sitting in the cinema watching the screen, in complete awe. As I'm writing action scenes with Jack West, I'm imagining my own John Williams soundtrack as this action comes to life. The challenge is always to build a better 'mousetrap' with each book."

Fans can look forward to a new time travel novel early next year, then in 2020 the sixth Jack West book, and the final one in 2022 which Reilly already has sketched out. He is also working on TV and film adaptations of his bestsellers Ice Station and The Great Zoo of China, and admits he still has another book in his best-selling Scarecrow series.

"Seven Ancient Wonders, the first Jack West book, was designed for me to see if I could do an Indiana Jones-style romp with an Aussie hero," Reilly said. "I enjoyed it so much I thought six and five would go together. Then there was a seven-year gap between five and four. Once I came up with the idea for four, that was the plan for three, two and one. I was creating this world that would take me to the final book, which will have 'one' in the title of course.

"Three Secret Cities creates the villains that will go to the end. I have the ideas for the last two books, and the villains have been set up for the big finish. I'm aiming for 2020 for the next Jack West, and then a 2022 release for the final book ... unless I get so inspired writing the next book it is conceivable I might write the last book quicker.

"It sometimes tears your brain apart planning so far ahead."

Matthew Reilly's The Three Secret Cities is out October 30.