Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Graeme Simsion - The Rosie Project

If any of you read my January Wish List post, you'll notice that one of the books I mentioned was The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Today, I was lucky enough to be able to listen to the former data modeller and now award-winning author as he spoke at Warwick University to aspiring writers and publishers.

Graeme was charming and witty as he explained his career progression. Starting out in database design, he went on to establish his own IT consultancy business. Already boasting a talent for effective writing, Graeme published the textbook Data Modelling Essentials in 2004 which is now in its third edition.

In a rather abrupt career change, he then tried his hand at screen-play writing and had minor successes with a few short productions. Meanwhile, he was constantly evolving the concept of what would become The Rosie Project. He describes the pinnacle of his career as being shortlisted for Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award (2012) which he won, leading to him becoming a published author with Penguin Books in the UK (and now also a screen-writer for the Sony adaptation of his novel).  

From listening to Graeme speak, it's no surprise that The Rosie Project is hailed for its hilarious and exuberant entertainment value as it captures human interaction:

The plot follows geneticist Don Tilman who has Asperger's syndrome and who, at thirty nine years old, has never had a second date . He thus devises The Wife Project, a scientific test designed to find him the perfect partner. What follows is a charming, funny tale of romance as Rosie enters Don's world.

Graeme explained the relationship between the initial plot concept written as a screen-play, and the consequent book form of The Rosie Project as he advised writers to consider the different medium through which their ideas might best be portrayed.

For me, as an aspiring editor it was interesting to understand the process of writing - one that is meticulous and progressive - from an author's perspective (The Rosie Project took five years to reach the print form it’s in now.)

Asked how much of an effect the editing and publishing process had on the final product that is The Rosie Project, Graeme explained that it was a matter of tweaking length and emphasis on particular plot sections rather than totally altering the shape of the novel. It seems that the editor-author relationship was one of perfecting the novel without stealing its integrity.

As a writer, Graeme represents the epitome of perseverance. He advocates the necessity of accepting criticism and advice from others while also demanding more from yourself.

Look out for the sequel to The Rosie Project, which Graeme says he's just submitted and which promises to be just as much of a success!

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