Saturday, April 5, 2014

Interview with Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project and INT giveaway of signed copy!

Dear Readers:
I'm beyond thrilled to have Graeme Simsion on my blog for an interview, as his novel The Rosie Project is my favorite read so far this year! As you all know, I used to have this blog exclusively for young adult reads, but recently opened it up to adult books. Boy, am I glad because I got to find absolute gems like this book!

The Rosie Project Goodreads Book Description: An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.

My Rating: 5 Couches!

My Review:  I won this book last year from Dubray Books, and I'm only sorry it's taken me this long to review it. After reading and reviewing a bunch of okay books, this one completely took me by surprise and blew me away in the best way possible.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion stars Don Tillman, a professor of genetics, who has difficulty relating to other people and appears to be somewhere on the autistic spectrum with OCD tendencies. This book is entirely in his perspective in first person and gives us a very entertaining as well as moving account in the head of someone like that. Don is striving to learn the skills to find the perfect woman and even comes up with a very detailed questionnaire to do so. But then he meets Rosie, his polar opposite, and she turns his very regimented world upside down. Can he figure out what he really wants and how/if he should change?

I loved this book from start to finish. We get the dry and very detailed account of how he sets up his day from the first pages. I've read some negative reviews that pan the book on this aspect, but these pages are vital to set up the character and reveal a very unique viewpoint that has rarely been attempted before. It was a risky move, but one that I believe completely pays off.

Don is such a great character-- and while he does have these strange quirks and difficulties relating to other people, it's fascinating to see him dissect each interaction and what he gets out of it. Sometimes he's completely wrong, and sometimes, he's way more perceptive than others around him who are clouded by their emotions. I love how Simsion makes him so likeable even when his behaviors come off negatively and even maliciously to others around him. Rosie is also wonderful and provides a great counterpoint to Don's rigidity. Side plots include his best friend Gene who is sex-crazed and has an "open" relationship with his wife.

I just couldn't see how realistically Don could change and how he and Rosie could have any interactions that would bring him together. But the way Simsion masterfully does this pulls the whole story together and it ends in the only way it can.

Overall, brilliantly written, unique, funny and equal parts moving (to the point this reader was bawling her eyes out at the end), and probably the best book I've read this year. A must read. Everyone should go out and buy it now.

About Graeme: 
GRAEME SIMSION is a former information technology and business consultant who decided to re-invent himself as a screenwriter. Somewhere along the way, he became a novelist instead. The Rosie Project is his first book. A sequel, The Rosie Effect, will be published later this year. Graeme lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Author Interview

1. I know this book started out as a screenplay. Can you tell us a little about the development of the story and how you decided to make it a book?
In 2007, I enrolled in a screenwriting program and decided I needed a story to work on – so I would get immediate practice in applying what I was learning. I settled on a story inspired by a good friend of mine who had struggled for many years to find a partner. I ‘workshopped’ it verbally with my partner over several days hiking in New Zealand, and by the time I began the screenwriting program, I had a solid outline. It was a drama, the love interest was a geeky Hungarian physicist named Klara, and it was called, pretentiously, The Face of God. I had a lot still to learn. 

I worked on the script for five years, and it changed hugely as I learned the craft. After two and a half years, I threw most of it away, keeping only the character of Don Tillman (though I changed his job from physicist to geneticist) and the jacket incident. I rewrote it with a much stronger female character (inventing Rosie was the toughest job), plus the father project subplot and new supporting characters.
In 2012, having found a producer but no money, I decided to re-imagine the story as a novel. There was a practical aspect to my decision: it’s easier to publish a novel than to fund a movie. But I had also had a good basis for fulfilling a lifetime ambition to write a novel. Novels are generally a better vehicle for dealing with a character’s inner world, and I found I was able to develop Don’s character more fully and also introduce observational humor that was not possible in the screenplay. 

2. I'm fascinated by your main character, Don Tillman. Can you tell us how you decided for him to be your main character and to write the book in first person?

Don was always the main character. The Rosie Project and its earlier incarnations have always been about Don and his world-view, and the story and supporting characters have been a vehicle for interrogating them. I believe that good stories grow out of character, and that ‘voice’ is critical to telling them well. Don gave me both of those elements. He’s a type of person familiar to many of us, but not well represented in literature, perhaps because there are not many Dons in the literary world. My previous life in information technology served me well here.
I decided to write in first person to make the most of Don’s voice, and to take advantage of the insight and humor that an unreliable narrator can bring. The reader has to do a little work – deciding how to interpret what Don says – but in doing so, he or she learns more of how Don’s mind works.
3. Your other characters were just as colorful. Did any of your characters surprise you-- who and which one?
Not really. I felt I was always in control of the main characters. Claudia gave me the most problems in portrayal: I saw her as a strong woman with conflicted feelings about Gene – someone who had signed up for an open marriage but had grown out of it. But some readers are always going to see a woman who tolerates infidelity as weak. It’s a difficult topic to play with – people have strong conditioned reactions which are less predictable than (say) their take on Don.
One minor character who developed without any effort from me was the Dean. She had a job to do in the book, but quietly took on a personality of her own and a slightly bigger role. Most of my readers have sympathy for the Dean, but I had one academic reader (who has Asperger’s Syndrome) who wrote me that he found her despicable.
4. If Don could become friends with someone from another book, movie or show, who would it be and why? 
Not Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory! Readers regularly say that reading The Rosie Project is like being in Sheldon’s head – there’s some truth in this, but they’re missing the differences (we need more aspies in literature so we start seeing beyond the similarities). And look what happened with the Apricot Ice Cream Disaster. Two rigid people need only a small point of difference to fall out. 
I’m going for Dr. David Huxley, Cary Grant’s character in Bringing Up Baby. They could happily talk shop – a paleontologist and a geneticist will find plenty of interest – and commiserate about their crazy partners. 
5. What authors have inspired you and in what way?
Many, many authors, at different times of my life. I sometimes go back to authors I loved even just a few year ago and find my tastes have moved on, but can’t deny their influence. Everyone my age has been influenced by Hemingway, directly or indirectly, just as every singer-songwriter has been influenced by Dylan. I read a lot of science fiction as a teenager, and in those days the high concept was king, with plot a close second. John Irving’s slightly heightened characters and situations probably influenced the tone of Rosie.  And I read many authors whose influence is probably not visible in my work. John Mortimer is probably as close to a role model as I’ve found – interspersing more serious fiction and memoir with his Rumpole of the Bailey series.
6. Can you tell my readers a little about the editing process and how having a different set of eyes helped you write this book?
I used to be a consultant and I learned a lot about giving and taking advice (in fact I supported myself through the screenwriting program by giving seminars on consulting skills). So I have a strong appreciation of the value of advice and collaboration. I had great input from my teachers and my writing group when Rosie was a screenplay, then from trusted readers and my editors at Text Publishing in Australia and Simon & Schuster in the US.
Outsiders are, in my experience, astute at pointing out problems that you can’t see yourself, but much less valuable in offering solutions (though they can contribute to a collaborative process). The typical editor’s comment says “This is not working – I suggest you do this.” The first part is helpful, the second generally not!
7. I hear you have a sequel to The Rosie Project coming out later this year. Can you tell us a little bit about it without giving anything away?
You hear right, though “later this year” applies to Australia. Publication dates in other countries have not been announced yet. Don’s life is not over at the end of The Rosie Project. In The Rosie Effect, Don faces a new set of challenges which he addresses in his unique way.
And now, wonderful readers, enter for the chance to win a signed copy of The Rosie Project -- this is an INTERNATIONAL giveaway! Thanks so much to Simon and Schuster for providing this chance, especially to those abroad. 
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  1. I think The Rose Project would make a good movie someday! Really interesting plot. I can't wait to read it! :D

  2. Sounds like a facinating book and one with a really interesting main protagonist! I am very interested in the "Rosie Project"

  3. Sounds like a fascinating book.

  4. I'm freaking out a little here! I've been trying to get this book since it came out, I asked my librarian and she just looked confused. AAAAHHH thank you so much for the giveaway! And international, at last :) I didn't know it was originally a screenplay, that's very interesting!

  5. I have wanted to read this book for months and months. I enjoyed the interview tremendously. It's always nice to gain more insight into the writing behind the characters, at for me.

  6. Great interview. I must read this before the next book comes out. It sounds like a very great book.

  7. I discovered this book on Goodreads and I thought it sounded brilliant! Thank you so much for this giveaway. Both the review and interview were very interesting and made me all the more pumped to read :D

  8. I love the idea of Don Tillman interacting with Cary Grant’s character in Bringing Up Baby.

  9. Sounds great, looking forward to reading it :)

  10. Sounds brilliant. Have been wanting to read it for a while!

  11. Great interview, Christina! I've had this book for awhile, but now I'm super motivated to actually READ it. *moves book to night stand*

    Jessica @ Rabid Reads

  12. I am so happy to hear a writer say that he was in control of his characters. OF COURSE a writer is in control. But most like to say, their characters do what they want and THEY are in control. That is so much rubbish. This author is honest.

  13. I've heard a lot about this book! The author worked on the novel for many years, so it must be really good. Great interview!


  14. I heard a lot about this book! The author worked on the novel for many years, so it must be really good. Great interview!

  15. I really loved this book - it was lovely and funny. Don was a great character in it and the story ended too soon. I am looking forward to the next book :-)

    I also recently reviewed this book on my blog ( ) if you would like to see what else I though :-)


  16. You have inspired me even more then ever, to read this book. Your interview is very thorough and inspiring.