Graeme Simsion Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Graeme Simsion
Photograph: James Penlidis

Graeme Simsion

An interview with Graeme Simsion

Graeme Simsion discusses The Rosie Effect, the sequel to his very successful debut The Rosie Project, and how the books reflect his own life.

How was writing the sequel different than writing The Rosie Project? Do you feel as though you've changed as an author?

Two things made writing The Rosie Effect much easier (which is not to say easy!). First, I already had my central characters in place. Don's voice and Rosie's character were the two biggest challenges in writing The Rosie Project. Second, I was experienced. The Rosie Project was my first novel, and it's always tough doing something for the first time, whether it's making a complicated dish or overhauling an engine. The second time, you know what you're doing.

I've improved as an author and I'm more confident in what I'm doing, but I haven't changed in any qualitative way. Yet.

Did you feel any pressure returning to these characters, knowing that they had amassed such a loyal readership? What were you most worried about?

Not for long. I wrote a couple of chapters to ensure I still had Don's voice and was confident that my readers would stay with him as long as he remained true to himself. I was a little worried that readers who were looking for another romance/romantic comedy would not be so comfortable with a "honeymoon is over" domestic relationship. And I wanted to take those readers with me on the journey.

You appear to be very familiar with New York City. What are your favorite things to do when you're in town? Any favorite museums or restaurants?

I've visited New York many times, going back to the 1980s, and lived there for six months in 2010. Like Don, I enjoy the Museum of Natural History. And we routinely visit the Met and MoMA. My wife and I are both keen diners, so we hit the restaurants and bars—and not just the upscale ones. We usually have a pizza at Arturo's, try to get a table at Momofuku Ko, got to a few Mexican restaurants (Suenos in Chelsea is a good choice at happy hour), maybe a steak at Strip House, plus a few tapas bars—especially around West Nineteenth Street in the Flatiron district, where Don's fictional bar is located (it's a cross between Boqueria and Flatiron Lounge, with the addition of the incompetent manager). And we try to catch some stand-up: the Comedy Cellar is full of tourists, but still good.

Don is not quite an unreliable narrator, but he misses social cues that the reader does not. Talk a little more about this narrative device. Do you ever find it limiting?

On the contrary, it's a very effective device for conveying Don's character at the same time as telling the story. And it's one of the key sources of comedy: the disconnect between what Don describes and what we think is really happening. I don't feel a desire to take over as narrator and insert my own direct observations into the text. I know that for some readers, the fact that the story is told exclusively from Don's point of view is disconcerting. I think the majority of relationship stories are told from a female point of view—this is certainly true of the chick lit genre. Someone accustomed to having the woman on the page at all times is going to miss Rosie!

Don, Dave, George, and Gene form quite the boys club. Do you have a similarly close group of guy friends?

I have a two or three such groups, but many of our social activities involve our (female) partners as well. There's a bunch of guys from my previous profession (business/IT consulting) who get together regularly for a long lunch; and even though I don't know these guys so well, a lot of important things get shared. Men (of my age and nationality at least) are often prepared to disclose more in an all-male setting.

It's a Wonderful Life figures prominently in the end of the novel. Can you identify with George Bailey? What would your world be like without you in it?

Not really! I'm not nearly as saintly, and I'm sure there are a few people who think the world would be a better place without me. But in addition to my family role, I'm proud of having run a business that gave a start or otherwise played an important part in the careers and lives of many people who worked in it.

Do you think Gene has grown or reformed at all since the first book? Do you see a future for him and his children? What about him and Lydia?

We see Gene in a bit more depth in the second book. I think it's more a case of understanding him better than any significant change. Many/most people have such a strong reaction to infidelity that it's hard to see past it. I think he's always wanted to help Don; he's always wanted to be liked; and he's wanted to play around. These aims have not always been compatible. I think he'll stay in touch with his children, but geography and new relationships will get in the way of him being a close parent. If he's able to make an impression as a professor in New York, I think he'll stay. As for Lydia, it's perhaps a bit soon—but I got together with my partner only a little while after a breakup and we've been together twenty-five years. It's dangerous to make predictions about love.

Dave has a lot of trouble standing his ground. Have you ever been in a tough situation that you felt was difficult to confront?

Many, many times. I think my background as a consultant (and perhaps my life before that) inclines me to look for win-win solutions or compromises rather than putting too high a value on holding my position per se. You only have to spend an hour browsing Twitter to see the downside of standing your ground. I still try to confront the issue but not in a confrontational way!

In which direction do you think Rosie will take her career? Talk about a time when you and your wife had to support each other in pursuit of a career goal.

I think Rosie will end up as a researcher rather than a clinician. She's not that much of a people person, and perhaps not a great listener! My wife and I have had lots of opportunities to support each other—in particular in our writing careers, which are second careers for both of us. When my wife won a big research grant to study postnatal depression, I'd just sold my business, and took over as primary carer for our kids. My wife was fantastic about me going back to college to study writing, and she is my sounding board for everything I write. And I do the same for her.

Will there be another book about Rosie and Don? Can you give us any hints?

Give me a few years. Let's take another look at the family when Hudson is about seven, and see if he's following in anyone's footsteps. And what his parents think about that. And, remember, as the late Syd Field would say, without conflict you have no drama, and without drama you have no story...

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

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