Q: We have to ask — where did the inspiration for the Simpsons shirt come from? It was amusing to picture Jack in it for the length of the tale.
A: I live in Los Angeles these days and I've been to Universal Studios, and they've actually got a section, which is like Simpsons World. It's Springfield. So you can actually go to the Kwik-E Mart, there's Moe's Tavern, and there is a Krusty Burger. So when I was writing it, I had taken some visitors to Universal Studios, and I just love the Simpsons, and I was just surrounded by all this Simpsons paraphernalia, and just to show how galactically unprepared Jack is for the Great Games, I thought, 'I've got to really just put a T-shirt on him.' It's one of those T-shirts that we all have that you just wear at home. You never expect anyone else to see it. And in it's own way, like all the best little moments, it's a gift from Lily and it says World's Greatest Dad, but Jack's her adoptive father, and it was just a nice thing that was a double-banger — he's unprepared but it's also one of those gifts that your daughter gives you.
Q: You've said that the heart of Jack's story lies in his daughter Lily. Could you see her in her own adventure?
A: I think as I prepare to write the Three, the Two and the One, three more books in the series, I think while Jack would be the hero, I think there is now room for Lily to take charge in certain places.
Q: You've been fascinated by the labours of Hercules since childhood. What was it like to modernise them for this book?
A: I just always thought they were so inventive. The notion of Hercules defeating the Nemean Lion, which had this impenetrable pelt, and then taking the pelt and then using it as armour so that he could defeat the next monster — I just thought, 'That is what authors would call creating a twist.' You are using stuff that you find. I mean, MacGyver wasn't the first one to do that. But then I hit upon the notion, which in present day is more part of the zeitgeist, which is, what were these 12 labours? Maybe it wasn't an angry king sending Hercules to go do these things. Maybe they were games or something actually real, a test. And once I came upon that, I had my story.
Q: Royalty plays a big part in Four Legendary Kingdoms, and you met the Duchess of Cambridge in 2014. Was that encounter a bit of research?
A: That's exactly what it was, a golden piece of research for me to experience. I literally look at them and think, 'What are they thinking right now?' Everybody else there is going, 'Wow, I'm in the presence of Prince William and Princess Katherine.' What are they thinking? That's stuff I ponder.
Q: What makes Jack such a special character?
A: There's a nice part in [the new book] where he gets two new dogs and he just says, 'Everybody owns me these days.' I've always liked that Jack can save the world but when he gets home, nobody seems to care!
To hear more from Matthew Reilly about his novel and moving from Sydney to Los Angeles, pick up the latest issue of WHO on newsstands today.