We were utterly enthralled by Matthew Ryan Davies's "The Broken Wave," making it our choice for February's Fiction Book of the Month. Davies's gripping narrative kept us turning the pages until the very end.
Intrigued to learn more about the author and his captivating creation, we had the pleasure of interviewing Matthew Ryan Davies. In our quick conversation, he discussed his writing journey, the inspiration behind "The Broken Wave," and exclusive insights into his latest literary masterpiece.
- Can you describe your new book ‘The Broken Wave’ (your elevator pitch)?
[MD] Sure! The Broken Wave is about an American author called Drew who flies to Australia for the funeral of a childhood friend, Tom, that’s taking place in the real-life Victorian seaside town of Queenscliff.
Drew lived in Queenscliff as a 12-year-old, and that’s when he became great mates with Tom. But a traumatic event cut short their time together and he returned to the States.
That was in 1992. Now it’s 2018 and Drew is back in Queenscliff.
He’s come for Tom’s funeral but, really, he’s there to finally deal with this trauma that been haunting him for so long and to try to work out whether it has any connection to Tom’s death.
- We have read your Author Notes at the end of The Broken Wave, but for the benefit of our readers who haven’t read your book yet, can you tell us what inspired you to write this book and why Queenscliff?
[MD] I had the idea for the book in 2007. I’d flown to New Zealand for a wedding and, while I was there, caught up with my childhood friend, Tom. We’d spent a year together as 12-year-olds, living in the same place overseas where our dads had both been posted for work.
I saw Tom a few times in the years that followed but we hadn’t stayed in regular contact. We never lived in the same country together again. But by 2007 we were both married, and had two kids each. And this trip New Zealand was the first time I’d met Tom’s son, David. David remined me of Tom as a kid—the way he moved, the way he spoke, his personality. And meeting him made me realise how much I’d missed my boyhood friendship with Tom.
That’s when I had the idea for The Broken Wave—a story about a man who, at the wake of his childhood friend’s funeral, meets his friend’s son for the first time. The meeting brings back memories of a shared childhood and something traumatic that happened back then to bond them forever.
I chose Queenscliff for the book’s setting, first, for its military history. I knew that Drew’s American stepfather had been in the Gulf War (which took place the year before part of the book is set—in 1992), so it was plausible that he might be posted to Australia in a military capacity.
When I googled the locations of American military bases in Australia, I found there were a couple in the Northern Territory (at Pine Gap and Darwin) and a couple in Western Australia (Exmouth and Kojarena). None of those locations appealed to me as a setting for my story, and they were so far away from where I live in Melbourne. Then I thought of Swan Island—an island off the coast of Queenscliff where secret military business goes on. Given its activities are not shared with the public, I thought it was credible that a weapons specialist from the US might be brought over to consult or train there.
I was already pretty familiar with Queenscliff, plus it’s within driving distance from my house. It’s a beautiful place, so it’s very easy to spend time there.
Sorry—that was a very long answer!
- Do you have a favourite place/spot in Queenscliff that we should go to?
[MD] Yes! The Queenscliff Pier at sun-up is beautiful. At that time of morning, you’ll find it lined with anglers fishing for squid. The sunrise itself is magnificent, and it’s so peaceful with the waves gently lapping up against the shore and the white lighthouse blinking in the distance. It’s worth getting up early for!
- The subject is pretty tough and the details of the ending left me horrified for a while, was it hard to write that?
[MD] Emotionally, it was difficult, but I actually wrote it pretty quickly. I knew I had to write it at some point and one day I sat down and decided I would do it that day. I wrote it in one sitting and the published version didn’t change much from what I wrote that day.
I didn’t know the specifics of what had happened to Tom and Drew as kids until I was midway through wiring the manuscript. I knew it was bad, and that it had something to do with Drew’s stepdad, but I didn’t have any details in my mind.
- You are very involved with non-for-profit health organisations such as Beyond Blue and the Cancer Council. Can you talk to us more about this passion of yours?
[MD] In my day job I’m a freelance writer an editor. And, yes, I work almost exclusively with the health sector and many of the organisations are not-for-profits. Working with Beyond Blue and editing the report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System in 2020 inspired me to write my previous book, Things We Bury, because I wanted to shine a light on mental health in rural communities, especially as it affects older men. Mental health and childhood trauma continue to be dominant themes in my novels.
- What’s your favourite snack/drink while reading or writing?
[MD] I drink copious amounts of tea when I write (probably because boiling the kettle forces me to get up from my desk) and tend to eat junk food—easy-to-grab snacks like chocolate and chips. Whatever keeps me going!
- We heard that your first fiction book ‘Things We Bury’ – Which is another amazing novel - has been optioned for a TV series. Is this happening soon? Can you share with us any details?
[MD] Nothing is confirmed on that front yet. It’s hard to get a book published, but it’s even harder to get a TV series made. The producer behind the project, Anna Barnes, is very passionate about the story and is working on getting it funded as a six- or eight-part series for pay TV. Here’s hoping it happens. I would love to see Things We Bury adapted for the screen.
- Back to The Broken Wave; if this was to become a movie, who would you choose to play Tom’s character? And why?
[MD] That’s a hard question because he needs to be an Aussie boy around age 12 at the time of shooting. I’m sure there are lots of boys who would be perfect, but I don’t know any.
- Now if your life was to become a movie, who would you choose to play your character?
[MD] That’s another really tough one. I’ve honestly never thought about it. Maybe Angus McLaren? My daughter was a big fan of the TV show ‘H₂O: Just Add Water’ as a young girl, which Angus was in. I never watched him in ‘Packed to the Rafters’ though.
Don't let "The Broken Wave" slip away from your reading radar. Add it to your to-be-read list and prepare to be transported by Matthew Ryan Davies's captivating storytelling. As an Australian author, Davies offers a unique perspective and his talent shines through in every page.
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About the Author
Matthew Ryan Davies is an author, freelance copywriter and editor from Melbourne. He has ghostwritten seven nonfiction titles, written features for Australian magazines, published more than 100 articles online and written scripts for television commercials and documentaries.
Matthew works mostly in the health sphere, editing university textbooks for medical and nursing students and writing for healthcare organisations such as Beyond Blue, Cancer Council Victoria and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
Matthew is the author of This Thing of Darkness (Scholastic, 2018), a contemporary young adult novel about guilt, grief, love and forgiveness set in modern-day Melbourne. As a manuscript, This Thing of Darkness was highly commended in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.
Things We Bury (2022) was Matthew's first book for the adult market. It has been optioned for a TV series. The Broken Wave (2023) is Matthew's second general fiction novel. The story was inspired by a real-life friendship from Matthew's childhood.
Matthew served as an Emerging Writers’ Festival board member for five years, with a two-year stint as the festival’s chair. He lives in Melbourne with his wife and two grown children.