Graeme Simsion is the author of The Rosie Project, published by Simon & Schuster. Simsion has worked as a screen writer, playwright, and film producer. In 2006, he received a Ph.D. in data modeling from the University of Melbourne and co-founded the wine distribution company Pinot Now. Born in New Zealand, Simsion lives in Australia with his wife and two children.
What inspired you to write The Rosie Project?
Graeme Simsion: I believe good stories come from characters. I originally studied physics, worked for many years in information technology, and then did a Ph.D. in a science faculty. So, I met a lot of people who were better with things and ideas than with people and emotions. I was particularly inspired by a good friend who struggled to find a partner. It seemed to me that characters like Don had seldom been described with much depth of understanding, and I had the background to do it.
More broadly, I’d always wanted to write a novel but didn’t believe I was capable of it. I originally envisioned (and wrote) my story as a screenplay, then realized that a novel would give me an opportunity to explore Don’s thinking. With the story and characters clear in my mind, the task of writing a novel was not quite so daunting.
Both you and Don Tillman work in very logic-based fields — data modeling and genetics, respectively. Did this make shaping his character and his environment a little easier?
GS: Much easier! I was writing about my world and the way of thinking that is necessary to function in it. Don, of course, uses this way of thinking in the social world as well. To get inside his head, I would put on my “technician” hat and apply the mindset and language that I would use for solving a computer problem to whatever social situation Don was in.
What do you hope readers take away from your debut title?
GS: My comedy mentor, Tim Ferguson, taught me to “make ’em laugh, make ’em cry, make ’em think.” They’re great goals, and I would hope that readers will respond with laughter, but will also engage emotionally and take away something to think about, as well as the good feelings. There are ideas in the book about the definition and acceptance of difference and about the ideals we create for ourselves.
Were books an important part of your childhood? If so, what book had the greatest impact on you as a child?
GS: Books were fundamental to my childhood. To tell the truth, they were probably more important than friends in giving me fulfillment and shaping who I am. Different books had impacts at different ages — the Noddy books taught me to enjoy reading and the Secret Seven books were probably my first introduction to real storytelling. A nod to Enid Blyton. My family had a set of encyclopedias that I read over and over. So, a nod to the encyclopedia salesman too!
Are you working on anything now?
GS: I always have more than one project underway. I’m working on the screenplay for The Rosie Project and also on a sequel, and I have several short stories at various stages of development. And two more novels on the back-burner.
When you travel, do you stop at bookstores? Any particular indies make a lasting impression?
GS: Do I stop at bookstores?! I go out of my way to visit bookstores and travel specifically to visit them. Indie bookstores in particular have been the great supporters of, and groundbreakers for, The Rosie Project in Australia, and I see the same pattern emerging in the USA. I don’t want to pick one ahead of others; so many have done so much to support my book, through personal recommendation, promotions, and events. The great thing about indie bookstores is that each has its own character — be it through stock, style (one in Australia has a gourmet chocolate shop), or personalities.
What books are on your nightstand right now?
GS: I’m on the road, and I don’t check bags, so I’m not carrying much. Despite the weight, I read print editions, even when I’m traveling. So in my bag is Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace, The Story of English in 100 Words by David Crystal, and The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. It’s not much, because right now I’m writing the draft of my Rosie Project sequel and I don’t read much while I’m drafting.
If you were a bookseller for a day, what book would you want to put in every customer’s hand? (Besides your own, of course!)
GS: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. My background is in science, and I believe that many people miss out on the wonder of it because of bad teaching or writing. Most of the popular science books are deserving of “emperor’s new clothes” exposure — they’re just not understandable in any genuine way by the layperson. Bryson writes as clearly as anyone for the non-specialist and gives a good sampling of a wide field. I’d be saying “instead of another crime thriller, have a look at something different. Just this once.” And if they enjoyed it, I’d be pointing them to books in the areas they found most fascinating — Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee, for example.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three titles would you want to have with you?
GS: My Rosie Project protagonist, Don Tillman, would start with Practical Boat Construction and Identification of Edible Plants. In slightly the same vein, I’m going to choose long books that will take a long time to read and bear rereading: The Complete Works of Shakespeare and the biggest poetry anthology you can find me, because both have depths I haven’t plumbed — and to accompany them and read in its own right, The Oxford English Dictionary (which I own, a big volume with tiny print and an accompanying magnifying glass).
The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion (Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9781476729084) Publication date: October 1, 2013
Learn more about Graeme Simsion at graemesimsion.com.
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