The year is 1546. Europe lives in fear of the powerful Islamic empire to the East. Under its charismatic Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, it is an empire on the rise. It has defeated Christian fleets. It has conquered Christian cities. Then the Sultan sends out an invitation to every king in Europe: send forth your(…)
Matthew Reilly is the international bestselling author of over twelve novels.
In 2005, Matthew was the first author to participate in the Australian Government’s “Books Alive” initiative, for which he wrote the short novel Hell Island, featuring Shane Schofield. Over 200,000 copies of that work were given away for free in August of 2005.
Matthew’s books are published in over 20 languages and he has sold over 3.5 million books worldwide: over 1 million in Australia alone; over a million in the US; and over a million in the UK.
Walt Disney Pictures have optioned the movie rights to his children’s book, Hover Car Racer, while Ice Station was optioned by Paramount Pictures. ABC US Network Television has bought the rights to the Jack West Jr series of books (Seven Ancient Wonders, The Six Sacred Stones and The Five Greatest Warriors) for a TV series put together by ABC US Studios. The producer is the powerhouse Mark Gordon (Speed, Gray’s Anatomy) and the writer is Michael Seitzman (North Country).
Born in Sydney in 1974, Matthew Reilly was not always a big fan of reading. According to Matthew: “I actually disliked reading in my early high school years. I was given very dry old classics in Year 7 and it was only after I read To Kill A Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies in Year 10 that I realised reading could transport you to another world. Once I figured that out, I went out and found all the action novels I could!” Following this revelation (and inspired by Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park) Matthew soon began creating stories of his own. And so he set about writing his first novel, Contest, at 19 while still at university studying law. Following rejections from all the major publishers,
Matthew self-published Contest in 1996 printing 1000 copies. Copying the glossy covers of big international blockbusters, Matthew produced a big-budget-looking novel. He sold the book throughout metropolitan Sydney, one bookshop at a time. “I knew Contest had the goods,” Matthew has said, “and I just wanted to get it
noticed. I knew that publishers checked out book shops so that’s where I needed my book to be.”
Sure enough, in January 1997, Cate Paterson, commissioning editor for Pan Macmillan Australia’s mass-market fiction division, walked into Angus & Robertson’s Pitt Street Mall store in the Sydney CBD and bought a copy of Contest. She enjoyed it enormously and tracked Matthew down through his contact details in the front of the book. Cate was thrilled to find Matthew working on his next novel, Ice Station.
Based on Contest and the first few chapters of this new novel, Cate signed Matthew for a two-book deal with Pan Macmillan Australia.
Interestingly, those original self-published editions of Contest have now become much sought-after collectors’ items. One recently sold on Ebay for $1,200!
Published in late 1998, Ice Station sold in excess of 170,000 copies in Australia alone. At just 23 years of age, Matthew Reilly’s public debut was an instant hit, generating six reprints in its first two years and delivering a new style of action thriller to Australian readers. It had already been snapped up by major publishers in the US, UK and Germany as a manuscript.
Matthew Reilly: “Ice Station was a direct response to Hollywood action movies. I figured that when you make a movie, you are limited by your budget. Put simply, it costs big dollars to make big action scenes. But when you write a book, you can create the wildest and biggest action scenes you like and it doesn’t cost you a cent. The only limit is the limit of your imagination!” Matthew fulfilled his two-book deal in spectacular fashion. With Temple he created one of the most unique action-adventure stories ever told. The second book featured a double storyline – one running in the present, the other detailing an adventure during the Spanish conquest of the Incas in 1535. Shortly after its release, Temple doubled Ice Station’s sales in its trade paperback format and again was sold right around the world.
After the enormous success of Temple, Matthew knew he would have to spend some time making sure that his next book did not disappoint. To that end, he needed to tour the locations and settings he was planning for his next novel.
In order to keep his fans occupied while he worked hard on the new novel, in 2000, Pan Macmillan released an updated version of Matthew’s first self-published novel, Contest. Matthew reworked the original book with some new characters and more action. Yet again, Contest rocketed to the top of bestseller lists around Australia.
An interesting piece of trivia: Matthew rewrote the US edition of Contest, re-setting the story in the real New York Public Library (in the original edition, it is set in the fictitious New York State Library). Contest is Matthew Reilly’s only work of science fiction and features an intergalactic gladiatorial-style battle to the death. Doctor Steven Swain, the unwilling hero, is pulled into an adventure of survival as he is hunted relentlessly through the impenetrable labyrinth of the New York State Library. The rules are simple – seven contestants have entered the contest but only one will leave alive.
Few writers have a fan base as diverse as Matthew Reilly. From reluctant young readers to experienced readers, Matthew’s books appeal to people of all ages and all walks of life – from early teens to late eighties, men and women alike. It is not uncommon to find grandmothers with their grandsons at his book signings. As Matthew says, “my books are about escapism. And escapism is sexless and ageless. Everybody loves to dive into a book and escape the real world for a few hours – men, women, the old and the young.”
Matthew has a particular following among young adults and “reluctant readers”. Many parents credit him with introducing their teenagers to the joys of books and reading. The fast pace, good-versus-evil battles have encouraged many a teenager to further explore the literary world, and some schools have even set Contest as a Year 7 text. But it’s not just the young – many women have credited Matthew with reacquainting their husbands with reading books instead of car magazines!
Matthew still finds the time to spend on his hobbies and favourite sports. An avid cricket fan, he is usually at the Sydney Cricket Ground when Australia is playing. He played representative soccer and cricket at school and continues to play golf off a handicap of 6.
In April 2006, BRW magazine placed Matthew 44th on Australia’s 50 Highest Paid Entertainers list. With ambitions to take Hollywood by storm, Matthew is set to move higher up that list as his literary success grows through his novels, short fiction, screenplays and television ventures.
Photo credit: Peter Morris