Books

Author of The Rosie Project realises dreams at 50

If there is one thing to take away from writer Graeme Simsion it's you know that thing you've always wanted to do? Take up tennis, learn a foreign language, write a book? Do it. Just do it.

Do it. Just do it.

Graeme Simsion did. Having spent the early part of adulthood raising kids and paying off the mortgage, he decided, at age 50, to enrol in a screenwriting course at Melbourne's RMIT, where he produced a screenplay called The Rosie Project, which became an international bestseller. Now there's a sequel, plus the movie rights are sold, and if that weren't enough, there was Graeme yesterday, addressing a rapt audience of booklovers at the Martin Luther King Jr. auditorium at Santa Monica Public Library in Los Angeles.

"I had not written a word of fiction between leaving high school and turning 50," Graeme told the crowd, "and I would have been happy to see my novel on a bookshelf in a small bookstore somewhere. Everything has exceeded my expectations. It is all gravy."

The Weekly caught up with Graeme on day one of a 10-city, 10-day tour of the US, where he’s promoting the Rosie sequel, called The Rosie Effect.

He was only just off the plane, and had barely had time to acclimatise (it's freezing in LA) plus the audience was entirely American, yet he wasn’t at all nervous about being able to make them laugh.

"I have heard that Americans don't do satire, that they don't understand our comedy," he said, "but I've seen no evidence of it. When I do a reading in Australia, I can tell you when the audience will laugh, and Americans laugh at exactly the same moments."

Graeme's books have enjoyed magnificent success in the US market, with more than half a million copies of The Rosie Project sold (the sequel has only been out for two weeks, but it's doing well, too.)

For those who haven't read the books, the idea is this: a slightly odd, occasionally rude professor called Don decides to get married, because statistically, married people live longer. In order to find the perfect partner, Don devises a questionnaire. Then along comes Rosie, who ticks none of the boxes. You can guess the rest, and it's all delightful.

This being LA, the audience was keen to know who might star in the movie (the rights were taken by Sony, 18 months ago.) Graeme said he wouldn't mind seeing somebody "cast against type, such as Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind."

He was allowed to write the first draft of the screenplay – in fact, he'd already written it, before he wrote the novel – but he isn't at all precious about any changes that might be made.

"If you think they (the film makers) are not going to change anything, you're kidding yourself," he said.

Graeme isn't the only literary type in his own family: his wife, Anne Buist, has written 10 books of erotic fiction, which are so steamy they are rated 'likely to offend most adult readers.'

"I have to tell you, it's pretty weird, reading what your partner writes in that regard," he said, "and our kids (now young adults, studying at Melbourne) won't have a bar of it."

Anne's first novel, Medea's Curse, about a missing baby, is due out soon.

In the meantime, Graeme is making a good living "and I am able to say, we don't need to go to work for money. We can write full-time. We can afford it. And that's because we came to this late. So I do recommend giving things a go. I am living the life I wanted to live. I can hardly believe it sometimes, but I am."