The Writer’s Journey… Graeme Simsion: The Rosie Project

As I mentioned in my previous post, last week I attended an author talk with Graeme Simsion, the author of the best-selling novels: The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect.

While I have my dignity, I must confess that meeting Graeme Simsion sent me into something of a manic frenzy. I was uber-excited, although not quite to the level of Marcia Brady’s rapture when Davy Jones kissed her : “I can’t believe Davy Jones kissed me! I’ll never wash this cheek again.”

As you have probably gathered by now, I’ve really enjoyed the Rosie books and am almost frothing at the mouth telling everyone I meet to read them!

You could ask why meeting Graeme Simsion was such a rush. Yes, I loved the books but I have loved plenty of books. However, not all of the authors have bothered to talk locally in downtown Umina Beach, a place better known for its local caravan park and golden beach. While we live in a place of serene beauty, we are definitely off the beaten track when it comes to the author’s circuit. So, I was pretty impressed that he’d made the trip.

I walk in and spot Simsion at the desk signing books.

Any author encounter starts out pretty much the same. As I humbly approached Simsion with my books in hand, we make eye-contact. This is when you really get to size up what the author’s about. It’s also at this point, when you’re a bit in awe of their success that you’re tempted to start gushing. Tell them your entire life story and in this instance, tell him about every Don you’ve ever known and before you know it, you’re recommending starting a support group. I can assure you, that in my case I know an extensive list of Dons whose antics could’ve kept his pen poised ready to sign for many, many hours. However, I restrained myself and we got through the signing bit although I must admit that I did mention that I’m a writer and that I have a blog. I was just pleased that he didn’t ask me what I’d had published or how the stats on my blog were going. As a newly published author, he seems to understand that you don’t ask another writer such questions or he’d be at my book signing instead. After all, he knows just how long it can take for a writer to get where he is now.

Being a bit of a bold, intrepid admirer, I didn’t just ask him to sign the books. Rather, I went for the jugular, asking for a photo together. I’d heard it said on the X-Factor recently that the selfie is the new autograph. Anyway, when it comes to having my precious photo taken, I didn’t pull out your standard, garden-variety camera phone and go for the selfie. Oh no! Of course not! Nothing less than my Nikon SLR, which he noted was a serious camera…the photographic equivalent of Mick Dundee pulling out his knife in Crocodile Dundee. It might not have shown that I know how to write but at least my camera was impressive.

Anyway, as much as I love swanning around at literary events and having my photo taken with best-selling authors, I was there to learn. For me, writing is a serious business.

At this point, we all take to our seats for dinner and to hear what we’re all there for…the talk.

One of the things that struck me about Simsion’s journey as a writer is that he has been quite strategic, focused and methodical about how he was going to succeed. After all, he has run businesses and isn’t one of those writer’s you’d put in the dreamer category. While there were a few projects and attempts along the way, once he set his mind to it he enrolled in a screenwriting course at RMIT where The Rosie Project came to life. He decided submit it to the unpublished manuscript division of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and The Rosie Project won the 2012 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. Now, that’s a great way to get noticed! The manuscript was picked up by Text Publishing and he hasn’t looked back.

That is except to tell the story of his first author’s talk.

The Nullarbor Plain, South Australia viewed from the Indian Pacific Railway.

The Nullarbor Plain, South Australia viewed from the Indian Pacific Railway.

Simsion’s first author talk was held in a South Australian country town. He didn’t name the town but if you haven’t been through outback South Australia, you wouldn’t understand the meaning of isolation. South Australia is, after all, home to the sprawling and extremely isolated Nullarbor Plain colloquially known as the “Nullar-boring”. It includes the Nullarbor “town” of Cook which has a total population of 4 and it has a shop which only opens when the Indian-Pacific train is in town. Of course, Cook is hardly representative of South Australian towns. Beyond the capital Adelaide, there’s the Barossa Valley with its world class vineyards but why let a bit of truth get in the way of a good story? Let’s just say that Simsion’s launching pad was hardly New York.

Cook, South Australia. Image Wiki Commons.

Filled with all the excitement and anticipation of giving his first talk, Simsion arrived at the local library. Much to his disappointment, the local bookseller turned up with only 10 copies of his book. When he queried this, he said: “You’re new at this, are you?” As Simsion anxiously waited for the hoards to arrive, only 8 senior ladies turned up mostly to catch up on local gossip and take advantage of the free morning tea. As if things weren’t already looking dismal enough, the local librarian then told the crowd that they didn’t have to buy the book. They could borrow it from the library. Great! However, Simsion who says that the support of “the local bookshop” has been pivotal to his success, turned things around encouraging his recalcitrant audience to buy books as gifts and the copies quickly sold out.

From these humble beginnings, The Rosie Project has since topped the Independent Bookseller lists and plans are in motion for the movie. Simsion is now very much in demand and is currently touring the country with over 80 author talks ahead and the books are selling like hot cakes!

Just goes to show that taking a chance, persistence, honing your craft and strategic thinking can really make that difference. Yet, you’ve now heard the man, Don’t forget to start getting pally with the owner of your local bookshop. Take them coffee. Indeed, I’d even recommend dropping off some quality chocolates. That way once you’ve finally managed to get that manuscript out here and published, you’ll already be best friends for life.

However, in the meantime, I need to get “the book” finished, which after a pause in proceedings probably means hitting “restart”.


Watch out South Australia. I know where you are!

Have you been to any good author talks recently? Or perhaps, you’ve spoken at your own? Do tell!

xx Rowena

15 thoughts on “The Writer’s Journey… Graeme Simsion: The Rosie Project

  1. Kirt D Tisdale

    Love your writing style! The whole saga reminded me of my self published step mother. She’s 85 and doing the local rounds with her book and loving every minute of it. Thanks!!

  2. roweeee Post author

    Thank you very much for the encouragement Kirt and for visiting my blog. You step mother sounds like a character and I hope her book goes well. Hopefully, I will get my act together soon although sometimes, I can see myself launching out there in my 80s. I loved your work and look forward to seeing more of it. You might like some of the photos I’ve posted of Palm Beach in Sydney. There are a few sunset shots among them. We don’t usually get the sunsetting over the water on the East Coast but this is the still water side and the water turns the most magnificent orange. Breathtaking!
    Best wishes,

  3. Kirt D Tisdale

    Thanks Rowena! I did look at the Palm Beach photos….wow! Stunning!! Thanks for the compliments on my work!!

    P.S. my Step Mother is working on her second book and wants to do a third while she can. She was raised in Nazi Germany, married an American GI at the end of the war and moved to the US…she is a character!! So that said…you probably will still be writing into your 80’s after a number of very successful books!! Keep the Faith!! Thanks

  4. A Star on the Forehead

    This was a fun read and it is waking up in me that long lost dream of writing a book. I am now interested in looking for author’s talks to go to. Also the Rosie Project sounds so much fun I am definitely getting them! Many blessings! 🙂

  5. roweeee Post author

    You’re welcome. I loved those books and really read them as non-fiction.
    I have now been to a lot of author talks and they really do help…particularly when you can get along to a writer’s festival and choose from a range of authors. I like to go to workshops. They cost around $80.00 at the Sydney Writer’s Festival and you not only get to meet writing legends but also get their tips. They have made such a difference! xx Rowena

  6. whisperinggums

    Yes, I do enjoy author talks and get to them when I can. And yes, I have read The Rosie Project and enjoyed it a lot. Somehow though I’m not driven to reading the follow up. I’m not much of a series reader, being far more fickle than that! I know this character, now I want to read about a different one! I am though looking forward to the film version. I hope they do a good job of it.

  7. roweeee Post author

    I did enjoy the follow-up book but I did think carefully before buying it and I think I did so because of the dinner. There is one sentence in the second book, which gives you an outsider’s perspective of Rosie and it changes your perceptions of her altogether because we’ve only ever seen her through Don’s eyes. This could mean that the movie Rosie is what people who’ve only read book 1 expect.
    I don’t read series at all because I do tend to read shorter books so I can get them finished.
    However, I would happily read a book 3 here.
    I’ll head over and find your review xx Rowena

  8. whisperinggums

    Haha, Rowena, I can see you are well and truly hooked on Don and Rosie. I guess if the movie is only based on Book 1, it’s OK for Rosie to be the Rosie we know from that book? There could always be a second movie if the first one goes well?

  9. roweeee Post author

    It’s going to be very interesting to see how they portray Rosie in the film. I’m sure Graeme Simpsion is already thinking about a movie sequel.After all, when you’re on a good thing…

  10. roweeee Post author

    I think he worked in IT for many years and was highly successful and left that to do the script writing course in Melbourne, I think it was.

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