‘The one with the sex in it’: The Matthew Reilly book his buddies love
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Each week, Benjamin Law asks public figures to discuss the subjects we’re told to keep private by getting them to roll a die. The numbers they land on are the topics they’re given. This week, he talks to Matthew Reilly. The 49-year-old author has sold more than 7½ million books worldwide; his latest is Mr Einstein’s Secretary. He also recently co-wrote and directed the Netflix film Interceptor.
“Writing is good for my mental health. It’s like making your own jigsaw puzzle.”Credit: Getty Images
If you could travel back in a time machine and give a younger Matthew Reilly the sex education he deserved, what would you teach him? Don’t get hung up on sex; society gets very hung up on sex. My books have all manner of outrageous violence and I’ve never had a single complaint. As soon as I put a sex scene in a book [Scarecrow, in 2003] there were complaints.
What’s the secret to writing a good sex scene? Full disclosure: the sex scene in Scarecrow was two lines. The Tournament has very explicit sex scenes in it. When I wrote them, I didn’t want them to be flowery; I wanted them to be clear. “Explicit” is probably the best word. Recently, all my buddies were sitting around at the golf club and one of them said, “Matt, my favourite book of yours is The Tournament.” Another one said, “Yeah, me, too – the one with the sex in it. I loved that one!” I should’ve started writing sex scenes 20 books ago …
You’ve been candid before about losing your first wife, Natalie, to suicide [in 2011]. Do you have any advice for other people navigating sex and romance after a loss like that? When I was in the first few months of grieving, someone told me about a guy who’d lost his wife, then found love again and remarried. At that point in my life, I thought it would be impossible; I thought it would never happen. But it did. And I have, 12 years later, remarried. You go through this horrific grieving process, but there can be light and love at the end of it. You never forget that first life partner you had, but you can find happiness again. There’s a moment where you wake up one day and say to yourself, “You know, I wouldn’t mind some companionship again.” That took over a year or so for me.
What attracted you to your second wife, Kate, when you first met her? [The pair married six months ago.] She pulls no punches. She calls a spade a spade. She’s a bright, joyful person – very intelligent and a good golfer, too.
Are you aware of what she finds attractive in you? No! [Laughs] But I’m a little different to most guys: I like to think that I’m a considerate and empathetic person. And I want her to succeed in everything she wants to do.
What’s sexy about your work and what’s not sexy? Writing novels is strange. For 95 per cent of the time, I’m in a room by myself tapping on a keyboard. Then, for five per cent of the time, I’m expected to be very extroverted, do interviews, go on TV and give speeches in front of several thousand people. The non-sexy part of it, I suppose, is the dozen times I reread my new book. What’s sexy is when you turn up for a book signing and there’s
a line that goes for 500 metres: you feel like a rock star.
What do you believe in? My father would be very disappointed as he’s very Catholic, but I’m not religious. My Jesuit educators were excellent – they really did teach honestly and openly about religion – but unfortunately for them, I went to a Catholic school … and it taught me not to be Catholic.
The opposite of faith is doubt. How do you overcome yours in the writing process? I overcame the doubt in writing quite a few years ago. More recent doubt came with the movie Interceptor. When you write a screenplay, then direct the movie, there are countless times when you’re saying to yourself, “Oh my god, am I the only one who thinks this is any good? Is this going to be a disaster?” You think, “Well, I wish I had another $10 million for this visual effect, but I don’t. Are people gonna think my movie sucks?” That doubt was ultimately assuaged when Netflix tested the movie with audiences and they said they loved it.
Who do you idolise? Michael Crichton, who wrote Jurassic Park, wrote and directed Westworld and The Great Train Robbery, and created the TV show ER. I want to write novels, write and direct feature films, and I’d love to do TV as well. So Michael Crichton is the guy I idolise.
How is writing bad for your health? Once I went to the doctor and was told I had a vitamin D deficiency. Not enough sunlight. If I write for two days, I try to get out on the golf course. It’s also sedentary, so I make sure I go to the gym.
How is writing good for your health? It is absolutely good for my mental health. It’s like making your own jigsaw puzzle. There’s no greater mental exercise than planning a novel and writing it, or writing a screenplay and directing it as a film. People like to do crosswords to keep themselves mentally sharp. I don’t have that problem; every day is a puzzle of my own making that I’m trying to solve.
When it comes to your body, what are you happy – and unhappy – about? About 15 years ago, I decided to go and see a trainer and get a nutrition plan. I lost 10 kilograms. I went from 83 kilos to 73 kilos and have stayed at that weight ever since. Ten kilos is 10 kilos, but I could show you photos of myself carrying more than 80 kilos and I look like a different guy. What do I not like? I can pump iron all I like, but I’m never going to look like Chris Hemsworth. I wish I had that kind of body. But the world needs Chris Hemsworths and Matthew Reillys.
Hear Matthew Reilly discuss his writing life with Jason Steger on Good Weekend Talks.
To read more from Good Weekend magazine, visit our page at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Brisbane Times.
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