I went to the pre-publication launch cocktail party, I’ve read the book and now I’ve got the answers to some of my burning questions concerning Graeme Simsion’s fabulous and hilarious novel, ‘The Rosie Project.’
Q&A with Graeme Simsion
How difficult was it to translate The Rosie Project from a screenplay into the novel we can read today?
Dead easy. It took me four weeks to write the first draft and just three further weeks to get the manuscript into shape for submission. This was the version that won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript and got me a publication contract. All the hard work had been done in the screenwriting. I just needed to add Don’s inner thoughts, which, though they weren’t on the screenplay page, were firmly in my head.
Did you do much research into Aspergers/ spend time with people with the syndrome?
I spent thirty years working in information technology and also did a stint in academia – as both a lecturer and researcher. I met a lot of people like Don, though few had been diagnosed with Asperger’s. I did read a couple of books on the subject, but the ‘field work’ was much more useful.
Do you see any of your own personal qualities in Don?
Of course, of course! (As Don might say). I think most of us – particularly men, and particularly men involved in technical professions – have a bit of Don in them. Sometimes quite a bit. And inevitably when you write a character, you unconsciously put something of yourself into him or her.
You mentioned Don was based on people you’ve met in your career. Who or what was the inspiration behind Rosie?
I didn’t have anyone I knew consciously in mind when I created Rosie – I was trying to manufacture a character who was opposite to Don yet had a motivation for being attracted to him (and vice versa). On reflection, there’s a bit of an ex-girlfriend, a bit of a current friend and a bit of my daughter (minus the profanities) in her.
Are the names of the characters in your novels important?
Good question! Yes, I think hard on them. Claudia was originally Lorraine – my editor didn’t like Lorraine, and we kicked a lot of names around. We had to change Carmen to Bianca so we didn’t have two ‘C’s. Dave the baseball fan was originally Dan, which I preferred, but we didn’t want confusion with Don. Gene was suggested by a friend, and it just seemed right, even though in the early draft he was a physicist, not a geneticist. And Don… it’s always been Don. I note that the Asperger’s character in Mozart and the Whale is also Don…
Who would you like to play the role of Don if the book was adapted into a film? – I already know what cocktail he would be!
Pass. Seriously I hate to answer that question because people who haven’t read the book will then have a picture of a character who they may already have views about – “I hated Owen Wilson in Meet the Fokkers / Steve Carrell in Forty Year Old Virgin / Ewan McGregor in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Woody Allen in Manhattan (just kidding). Above all, someone funny – this is meant to be a laugh-out-loud comedy.
Have you received any negative reactions to your presentation of Aspergers?
No, but I figure it’s just a matter of time. I hoped it would promote discussion, and discussion means differences in opinion. But so far, overwhelmingly, the response from the Asperger’s / Autism community had been positive. Don is a hero – a big change from many of the portrayals of unusual characters as no more than vehicles for the real hero’s learning.
Can you give us a hint on what you’ll be tackling in your next novel?
I’m working on a sequel. Marriage for Don is going to be at least as challenging as courtship. As it is for most of us!
Follow Don and Graeme on Twitter! @ProfDonTillman @GraemeSimsion
P.S. I would also like to thank Graeme for being kind enough to answer my questions.