Best-selling Australian author Graeme Simsion was kind enough to sign his second book, The Rosie Effect, for me last night.
It was the second time I’d met Simsion. The first was last year at the Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival, where we were both speakers. I had heard him speak, and was buying a copy of his hit debut novel, The Rosie Project, when a voice at my shoulder asked: “Would you like me to sign that for you?”
Of course I would. Then he asked: “What colour pen would you like me to use?” I said I didn’t care. He looked at me and declared: “I think you’d like PINK.” It looked more red to me…but I thought it was funny anyway!
Yesterday, I went along to hear him speak again, in my home town of Brisbane. I was a guest of MGallery Hotels, who have launched a literary project in collaboration with Melbourne’s The Wheeler Centre, the home of the Victorian Writers Centre.
Selected Australian writers will be invited to stay at MGallery Collection hotels for three nights, and in return will be asked to create an exclusive short story inspired by their stay. The MGallery Literary Collection of short stories will be published and released exclusively for all nine MGallery hotels in Australia.
New Zealand-born Simsion, who is now based in Melbourne, talked about his two books, reading from both to illustrate certain points, and about the reaction of readers to his hero, Don Tillman. He’s now working on a new novel, as well as tackling the task of turning The Rosie Project into a Hollywood screenplay for Sony Pictures (the name Alec Baldwin was mentioned a couple of times – but not for the character of Don). The book actually began life as a screenplay, and won the Australian Writers Guild/Inscription Award for Best Romantic Comedy before being adapted into a novel. And Rosie, it turns out, began life as Clara.
The Rosie Project went on to win the 2012 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript, the 2014 Australian Book Industry Award for Best General Fiction Book, and was Australian Book of the Year for 2014. It has now been published in 40 countries.
Don Tillman is an unlikely hero. A professor of genetics, he approaches the task of finding love scientifically. There are reasons why he’s never had a second date, many of which become clear as he designs his 16-page questionnaire to help find him the perfect woman. And clearer as the reader gets to know his quirks and his voice. The book is written in first-person – which I’m not often a fan of – and it really works. It’s funny and heart-warming, and when Rosie comes into Don’s life, it changes forever. The Rosie Effect is what happens next…and I’m looking forward to reading it, even with the warning from Simsion that not everyone who liked the first book enjoyed the second.
What an interesting few hours it was, in large part too because of the relaxed and intelligent interviewing style of Nick Earls, sometimes offering another writer’s perspective on things.
And I couldn’t let the occasion pass without this time grabbing a photo with Graeme.
Other MGallery hotels across Australia – in Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Palm Cove in north Queensland – will hold similar events with other authors throughout the year.