Graeme Simsion, best-selling author of The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect, talks about his literary journey, as well as his insightful and endearing characterisation of Asperger Syndrome via hero, Don Tillman.
In association with Autism Asperger ACT, a not-for-profit offering advocacy, information and practical support to people in the autism community.
Author Talk: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Location: National Library of Australia
Speakers: Marie-Louise Ayres, Graeme Simsion
Marie-Louise Ayres: (unclear) advocacy role and we’re very pleased to be supporting this event which will raise funds for their important work. And I know that Autism Asperger ACT is delighted to have Graeme talk about his Asperger hero, Don Tillman, a wonderful model of engagement, humour, loyalty and dedication and I think a wonderful friend, he puts up with all his imperfect friends and their foibles and I think he understands that, in fact, all humans are under development all the time. Graeme’s first novel, The Rosie Project, started life as a screenplay before being adapted into a novel and going on to win the 2012 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. It has since been sold around the world to over 40 countries and optioned for a film by Sony Pictures. And thinking about those 40 countries, I don’t know, maybe I was living under a rock in 2012, but when I started to hear about The Rosie Project I thought oh ... it was in the international press and I thought gee, that sounds really interesting and I bought the book and I was a few pages in and I thought hold on, this is set at the University of Melbourne (all chuckling) and I hadn’t actually realised it was an Australian book ‘cause I think it went international so quickly. The very eagerly awaited sequel, The Rosie Effect, was published last year and has enjoyed praise from readers and critics alike, including me. So please welcome Graeme. Thanks, Graeme. (Audience applause)
Graeme Simsion: Greetings. At 9:34pm, a group of 18 arrived and the table that had remained reserved and unused for the entire evening was extended to accommodate them. Several were noticeably intoxicated. One woman aged in her mid‑20s was the focus of attention; I automatically estimated her body mass index, 26 (audience chuckling). Based on the volume and tone of her speech, I calculated her blood alcohol level as 0.1 grams per litre. She’s shorter in real life and a bit porkier. Jamie‑Paul, our bartending colleague was looking at the group. Who? Who do you think? He pointed to the loud woman. Who is she? You’re kidding me, right? I was not kidding but Jamie‑Paul offered no further explanation. A few minutes later, with the party seated, Wine Man approached me; they want the cocktail geek, I’m guessing that’s you. I walked to the table where I was greeted by a male with red hair, though not as dramatically red as Rosie’s, the group appeared to be made up entirely of people in their mid to late 20s. You’re the cocktail guy? Correct. I am employed to make cocktails. What would you like? You’re the guy with like a cocktail for every occasion, right? And you keep all the orders in your head, you’re that guy? There may be others with the same skills. He addressed the rest of the table, loudly, as the ambient noise was now significant. Okay, this guy, what’s your name? Don Tillman. Hello, Dan, said Loud Woman. What do you do when you’re not making cocktails? Numerous activities (audience chuckling). I’m employed as a professor of genetics. Loud Woman laughed again, loudly. Red Hair continued. Okay, Don is the king of cocktails. He’s memorised every cocktail on the planet and all you need to say is bourbon and vermouth and he’ll say martini. Manhattan (audience chuckling) or an American in Paris, boulevardier, Oppenheim, American Sweetheart or Man o’ War. Loud Woman laughed, loudly. He’s Rain Man; you know, Dustin Hoffman when he remembers all the cards, Dan’s the cocktail Rain Man. Rain Man, I’d seen the film, I did not identify in any way with Rain Main who was inarticulate, dependent and unemployable (audience chuckling). A society of Rain Men would be dysfunctional; a society of Don Tillmans would be efficient, safe and pleasant for all of us (audience laughing). A few members of the group laughed but I decided to ignore the comment, as I had ignored the error of my name. Loud Woman was intoxicated and would likely be embarrassed if she saw a video of herself later.
Red Hair continued, Don’s going to pick a cocktail to fit whatever you want, then he’s going to memorise everybody’s orders and come back and give them to the right people. Right, Don? As long as they don’t change seats; my memory does not handle faces as well as numbers. I looked at Red Hair. Do you wish to commence the process? Got anything with tequila and bourbon? I recommend a highland margarita, the name implies Scotch whisky but the use of bourbon is a documented option. Oh kaaaay, said Red Hair, as though I’d hit a home run to win the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, I was one‑eighteenth of the way to completing my task. I refocused on the drinks orders rather than on constructing a more detailed baseball analogy around this interesting number. (Audience chuckling) It could wait until my next meeting with Dave. Red Hair’s neighbour wanted something like a margarita but more like a long drink but not just a margarita on the rocks or a margarita with soda but something, you know, different, like to make it more unique. I recommended a paloma made with pink grapefruit juice and rimmed with smoked salt. Now, it was Loud Woman’s turn. I looked carefully but did not recognise her. This was not inconsistent with her being famous; I largely ignore popular culture. Even if she’d been a leading geneticist, I would not have expected to know her face. Okay, Rain Man Dan, make me a cocktail that expresses my personality. The suggestion was met with loud sounds of approval. Unfortunately, I was in no position to meet the requirements. I’m sorry; I don’t know anything about you. You’re kidding me, right? Wrong. I tried to think of some way of asking politely about her personality. What is your occupation? There was laughter from everyone except Loud Woman who seemed to be considering her answer. I can do that; I’m an actor and a singer and I’ll tell you something else, everybody thinks they know me but nobody truly does. Now, what’s my cocktail, Rain Man Dan, the mysterious chanteuse, perhaps? I was unfamiliar with any cocktail of that name which probably meant she’d invented it to impress her friends. My brain is highly efficient at cocktail searching based on ingredients but it’s also good at finding unusual patterns. The two occupations and the personal description combined to produce a match without conscious effort – a two‑faced cheater. (Audience laughing) I was about to announce my solution when I realised that there might be a problem, one that placed me in danger of violating my legal and moral duty as the holder of a New York State Liquor Authority Alcohol Training Awareness Program Certificate. I took remedial action. I recommend a virgin colada. What’s that supposed to mean, that I’m a virgin? Definitely not. (Audience laughing) Everybody laughed. I elaborated; it’s like a pina colada but non‑alcoholic. Non‑alcoholic, what’s that supposed to mean? The conversation was becoming unnecessarily complicated; it was easiest to get to the point. Are you pregnant? What? Pregnant women should not drink alcohol. If you’re only overweight, I can serve you an alcoholic cocktail (audience laughing loudly) but I require clarification.
So that’s The Rosie Effect and you’ve probably gathered that Don Tillman is back. Let me tell you, who’s got Asperger’s there? Yeah, I mean you read that thing and people say well, obviously, Don Tillman has Asperger’s. Who is behaving socially incompetently? Who is being unempathetic? Think about that a little bit because I think we’re very quick, sometimes, to label a person with Asperger’s as unempathetic, unsympathetic, socially incompetent and yet make the most enormous allowances for Neurotypicals. How many people here identify as being part of the Asperger’s community, Autism community? Oh, not as many as I thought. Just got a sprinkling of hands, but yet there have been times when I’ve spoken to groups and almost all the hands come up. And you know what? And I’m concerned tonight, too, with the group of people who do identify as being on the spectrum, I stand up here worried that I might say something insensitive, incorrect, inappropriate, hurtful. I don’t identify as being on the spectrum. I hope the irony strikes you; here I am, the Neurotypical, worrying about making a social gaff. And just take note of that line because it’s the most widely quoted line from The Rosie Effect – a society of Don Tillman’s would be safe, efficient and pleasant for all of us.
So thank you very much to AAACT, I’ve got to work that together, having got to triple A, AAACT; thank you also to the National Library and the Associated Bookshop and thank you to the University of Canberra. I won't name the many people who’ve helped make this happen; what a fantastic turnout. Let me tell you it was not always like this (audience chuckling). When The Rosie Project was first published at the beginning of 2013, let me just say my publicist did the best with the material available, being the book and me, and the best she could manage was a library in rural South Australia at three o’clock in the afternoon on a Wednesday (audience laughing). So I have turned up full of enthusiasm, walked in the door and just as you walked in tonight and you saw the table set up to sell the books, [10:00 unclear – rightio ?] and saw the local book seller and I introduced myself, I said tell me how many books did you bring? He said 10 (audience laughing). And I said 10, are you sure this is going to be enough? And he said you’re new to this, aren’t you? (Audience laughing) And my audience, such as it was, wheeled themselves in and (audience chuckling) headed straight past me for the tea and biscuits which were clearly the reason to be in the library on a Wednesday afternoon. And after a suitable amount of time had passed, the librarian walked up, she didn’t use these words but she might as well have, she said now, for the compulsory part of the afternoon (audience laughing). And she sat them down, my audience of 10 elderly women, and she said I’d like to welcome Graeme Simsion, he’s written a book called the Rosie Project and he’s going to talk about it. I’d also like to welcome our book seller, Harry. Now, she could have ... also, she could have easily said I want to welcome Harry, the small independent book seller struggling to make a living in a small country town, the hub of our culture, an important part of our commerce, struggling against the competition from the internet and the big chains, who’s probably dragged his kid out of school to run the shop while he comes down here to try to sell 10 books (audience chuckling). But she didn’t say any of that (male audience member laughing loudly). Yeah, she didn’t say any of that; what she said was Harry’s brought some books to sell but you don’t need to buy them from Harry, you can borrow them from the library (audience laughing). And Harry looked at me and I looked at Harry. So when I started my presentation I said I guess if you decide to read The Rosie Project, you’ll borrow it from the library but I want to put a scenario in your minds – at some stage in the next few months, I guarantee it, you will need to buy a gift for somebody and you know how hard it is to find something for male or female, young or old, uplifting, not too expensive, a story behind it; I said at that moment you will be so glad that you bought that stack of signed Rosie Projects at the library that day. And at the end, we had sold all 10 books (audience laughing and clapping) with three on back order and now, whenever I give a presentation, I tell that story for obvious reasons (audience laughing). Suffice to say, you’re never a prophet in your own land but the book is travelling very well overseas and you can imagine what it will be like for you if you got a gift from someone in Canada that had been signed by a well‑known Canadian author number one here and need I go on. No, (audience chuckling) probably not. So that’s probably sufficient for the commercial break. I now have essentially 25 minutes, who’s heard me speak before? Oh, god.
Audience member: I gave you one of my books, did you like it? It’s about employment, it’s orange (audience laughing).
Graeme Simsion: I have, indeed, read said orange book about employment. So the good news is that I don’t need to worry too much, with a couple of exceptions, about finding new material (chuckling). Just new audiences, that’s all you need. So what I thought I needed to do was to cover, not just what I’d done with The Rosie Effect but, I guess, how I became a writer, where I got the idea for The Rosie Project, how I went about writing it, what the response has been since, where I got the idea for The Rosie Effect, how that happened, what’s going on with the movie rights and so forth, all of which I’ve got to do in 24‑and‑a‑half minutes. So how do you do that? Oh, with a special emphasis on Asperger’s Autism. How do you do that? How do you cover so much material in such a short time? And the answer is this is what novelists and screenwriters have to do all the time - compress a story into 90 minutes or 400 pages and the way that we do it is we look for important scenes, we pick and choose. And which scenes do we pick and choose? We pick the turning points. We pick the moment where something important changes. We’ve all had those moments in our life; we’ve all picked up the phone at some stage, I guess, and realised after a few seconds that life will never be quite the same again; not always in a good way, sadly. And equally, we’ve all had those moments that we only realise in retrospect were tremendously important. We think you know little did I realise 30 years ago when he walked into that bar that today blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
So I’m eight years old, I’m at primary school, I’m sitting there and the teacher comes up to me and she says Graeme, remember I told you that your essay was the best essay I had read all year ... from a boy (audience laughing). It doesn’t change. She said well, as promised I have given it to the head teacher and she put it down in front of me and the head teacher had written in red: I will not read any essay beginning with the word I. And my teacher said to me well, Graeme, that is probably good advice, I suggest during as a pretty good idea to start an essay with. Well, if you were dramatizing that moment, what you would have seen me do is push away that essay, metaphorically pushing away 30 years of career as a writer. I could have been Philip Roth standing in front of you today (audience chuckling) but I’m not. Pushing it away and if you were still dramatizing that moment you would have seen me reach out and pull a book towards me and that book would be called You Will Go to the Moon. Of course, it didn’t really all happen on the same day but I did read that book because in the 1960s we all believed we’d go to the moon and the correct sort of job for a young boy to get into was the sciences.
Flash forward, we now find ourselves in Australia, you fade out in the face of that eight year old and fade in and realise it was the same person but now he’s 19. And it’s a sad face, why? We’ll see soon because we pull back the shot and we see the building he’s going into and it’s a big sign up saying Final Year Physics Exam Quantum Mechanics B and there would be a bunch of other people around, all male, about 60 people in all, all geeks. And trouble was my ... I had realised during that year that I was not going to realise my dream of being a theoretical physicist; the math was too hard. I’m not being modest here, the math’s too hard for most people but there was not going to be any Simsion boson, they weren’t going to make some movie about my life, it wasn’t going to happen. And I had thrown in the towel, given up, didn’t care anymore and as a result, I hadn’t done the study and now the chickens were coming home to roost ‘cause I hadn’t done the work. And I’m going into this exam knowing there would be 10 questions that I had to ace the exam; the only way I was going to pass my physics course was to ace this final exam. It wasn’t going to happen, 10 questions on ... requiring deep mathematical knowledge. Okay, you’re watching this scene, you’d see all of us file into the room, you’d see the exam papers opened and this look of horror, boor, boor, boor, boor, music, fall over the room. Zero in on the exam paper, there’s only one question and that question ... question one, what is the meaning of quantum mechanics? Three hours (audience laughing). And 59 people in that room who could not write an essay to save their lives (audience laughing). So the upshot was that I aced the Quantum Mechanics B exam and was not stu ... passed and was not stupid enough to stick around and push my luck.
So flash to I’ve now ended up where people, who failed physics and mathematics or weren’t good enough for careers in those fields, ended up in the 1970s: in information technology, data processing as we called it then. And let me tell you, if you think data processing people are geeks now, computer people are geeks now, you were not there in the 1970s. ‘Cause now you can go to college, to a university, do a standard course, get spat out of the end of the sausage machine like a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant. Back in those days there were no courses; they just said now, what sort of people ... we need people for computing, but what sort of people might have aptitude for computing? What people might be good with computers? Don’t know, maybe people who aren’t very good with people? (Audience laughing) So they hauled us together and settled into the job. And I said we were geeks, but there are geeks and there are geeks. And any IT people here? Let me just say systems programmers, okay? And one day I’m sitting at my desk and the systems programmer appears out of nowhere (audience laughing). Greetings, Graeme, (audience chuckling) I have decided to enrol in a Master of Business Administration degree. I said oh okay, can I ask why? Yes. (Planned short pause and audience laughing) Why? I have been stereotyped as a geek; I intend to acquire the knowledge necessary to overcome that stereotyping (audience laughing). Okay, well, good luck with it. Can I ask why you’re sharing this with me? Since you suffer from the same problem (audience laughing).
Wake up calls come no clearer than that one (audience laughing) and I duly enrolled in a Master of Business Administration degree, with him. And he said to me we work together, we should study together and we should time‑share study with physical fitness (audience laughing). So we embarked on a program of jogging (audience laughing) and he would have done all the pre‑reading, all the cross‑referenced reading, he would have digested ... did I mention he was a very, very smart guy? He would have digested it, summarised it and as we ran he would spit it out into my ear. Let me tell you, this was a good thing, not to mention getting fit, we were running six days a week, optimum. Well, I ... all good things come to an end; he decided the Master of Business Administration was not for him and dropped out. But we kept running because I had discovered this was a really nice guy that behind the somewhat forbidding façade he was a heck of a nice guy and he was the fount of knowledge on everything. He was the guy I first heard about the internet from. He was the guy I first heard about Wikipedia from. He was the guy I first heard about today’s topic will be remote access to sun work stations using the new security protocol (audience chuckling). We were going to hear about it (audience laughing). Today’s topic will be the evolutionary value of morning sickness. What? (Audience laughing) I read this very interesting paper. And he would have always read this very interesting paper and I just learnt so much jogging with this guy. One time we found ourselves, the two of us, in New York City at the same time, just overlapping one day and he said to me, we’re in New York City together; we should go out to dinner. I could go out to dinner with you in Melbourne. Mm, so we agreed. And then my client said to me, Graeme, we didn’t get a chance to cover some of the things they wanted to cover today. That’s fine. But here’s a deal for you, my husband and I will take you out to the best restaurant in New York City. Oh, no, no, you know, in exchange for picking your brains. No, no, I’m sorry but I’ve already got this deal going. And she said bring him along; there’s just one thing, you’ve got to wear a jacket. It was the '80s; I hadn’t seen my friend in a jacket, you know? I called him up, he ... do you have a ..? Of course, I’ve got a jacket. Alright, alright, alight, alright. So he turns up and he’s wearing this hiking jacket (audience laughing), his bushwalking jacket, and he proceeds to tell me how his jacket is superior to my jacket in every respect. It’s visible in low‑light, it’s waterproof, it’s got multiple pockets, dah, dah, dah. So we went to a cheap restaurant instead and you can guess who solved the client’s technical problem (all chuckling) for them.
So ... yeah, I was here to talk about me; I got distracted. Okay, so meantime, where was I? I was doing an MBA, so I finished the Master of Business Administration. As a result, I was able to throw off all traces of geekiness to become the smooth raconteur that you see in front of you tonight (audience laughing), able to sign books in any colour (audience laughing loudly and clapping) and I established a consultancy. Our Canberra manager, Phil Malcolm, is here tonight, but we peaked at about 60, 70 people, I was in my 40s and then, well, it’s a long story so I won't tell it all tonight. Suffice to say, that I decided that at the age of 50 to give it all away and to enrol in an undergraduate course in screenwriting, okay? And the first ... I had this idea in my head that I could be a screenwriter for all sorts of strange reasons. So I’ve turned up, first week, at university undergraduate course in screenwriting and the teacher says I want you to all go away and come back next week with a short story. A short story? Yes, a short story. A short story about an interesting character because good stories come out of a character. So I’ve gone away, I have not written fiction since I was about 14 years old at school; I am now 50 years old. So I thought what sort of interesting characters ..? You can see where I’m heading, can't you? Okay, so I wrote a story called The Jacket Incident (audience laughing). Inspired by real people and real life but just by that moment, really, that moment where he said my jacket is superior to yours in always, that was the moment I took and then took ... wove a completely different story around it and changed the character as well but still inspired by my jogging friend. I showed it to a friend of mine because, you know, not having written for that long I was very nervous about it. Sho ... friend read it and said not a bad story, he said, about a guy with Asperger’s (audience laughing). It never occurred to me (audience laughing). We didn’t have Asperger’s when I was a kid; we had the Radio Club, okay? (Audience laughing) And I was in the Radio Club, alright? (All laughing) Okay, so I took it to class, said this is the story of a man with Asperger’s. You know what? The end of the story, all they wanted to talk about, so you say this guy’s got Asperger’s, I don’t think he’d want to go out on a date, people with Asperger’s would rather stay home with the Xbox. You’re saying this guy’s got Asperger’s; he’s drinking. I don’t think Aspee’s drink. You’re saying this guy’s got Asperger’s? Is he wearing socks? What? I read that people with Asperger’s don’t like to wear socks. I think the story would be better if he’s not wearing socks or if he is wearing socks, we need to know how he overcame his fear of socks (audience chuckling). And at the end of the class the teacher said, Graeme, I think it’s obvious you need to do a lot more research on Asperger’s (audience laughing). And I thought it’s obvious that I shouldn’t mention that word again because what happened was as soon as I put that word on there that was all anybody was interested in; they were interested in Asperger’s. You know, I mean around the drinking, for example, I said ... you know, he said I don’t think people with Asperger’s drink. I said well, some people with Asperger’s would drink. Yeah, oh well, let’s make him a typical Asperger’s guy. I didn’t want to make him a typical Asperger’s person or a text book; I wanted to make him a real human being.
So long story short, I spent a lot of time expanding this story into what became first, The Klara Project and eventually, The Rosie Project. Everything changed along the way. The only two things that stayed, really, were Don Tillman’s personality, he changed jobs, and the jacket, it just stayed there right through to the end. But one of the things that was important was that, originally, I imagined it as a drama. We were going to learn about what is the meaning of quantum mechanics as we watched this drama because Don would be a physicist. Lucky, I changed that because Big Bang Theory and you know, we would have been even more on the same territory than we are now. But I got this ... oh, the other thing that changed, it was really important, was it became a comedy. And why did it become a comedy? Basically, because people laughed their heads off even when they weren’t supposed to (all chuckling) and my comedy teacher, later, Tim Ferguson, would say to me, Graeme, if you are gifted a character who creates comedy wherever they go, don’t waste them on drama. Comedy writers get paid double and for good reason. But comedy is also a way of opening people up; once we’re laughing, we’re receptive to a lot of things. And Tim from Doug Anthony All Stars was very strong on the idea that even with comedy ... comedy doesn’t stop you tackling really important topics ‘cause I wanted to tackle an important topic, I wanted us to feel for Don and his life; nor does it stop us having an emotional hit. His motto was make them laugh, make them cry, make them think. And Tim does ... I ... you’d hardly call it stand‑up because he’s got Multiple Sclerosis; Tim gets up on stage and he jokes about Multiple Sclerosis for 45 minutes and he makes you laugh, he makes you cry and he makes you think, so I really took that from Tim.
So I got a screen play. I got a producer who wanted to make it. And then she said, Graeme, we’ll never get the funding for this because the studios are so conservative. These days they want to do a re‑make, they want to do a sequel, they want to run with a really established writer or ideally, in most films you’ll see today, they want to adapt a bestselling novel; low risk. Cut to I’m now sitting at my computer, I’m now enrolled in a novel writing course (audience laughing) and I sit down and I write The Rosie Project, (clicks his tongue), a novel, (clicks his tongue). And then I do the thing that in the whole history of writing a story made the biggest difference: I write the first word and the first word is?
Graeme Simsion: It’s not: during, let me tell you that (all laughing). It’s I; we are first‑person and now, instead of imaging somebody up on the screen who we say weird guy, I’m doing my best to try to tell you how he functions or where he’s coming from; we’re in his head, we are seeing the world through his eyes. Every word except dialogue spoken by other people is his words. The comedy changes from being performance‑based, hardy, hardy, ha to being observation‑based. Because what does the observational comedian say? Oh, what’s this about? I mean what’s it about when you have to where a jacket to a restaurant? I mean what’s that about? And that’s Don Tillman, he’s doing that and he means it. So he’s exposing ... he’s putting a forensic eye on the quirks of the way that we do things and asking a very good question: why? Why are we doing these things? So I completed this sucker in four‑weeks flat plus the five years, if there’s any writers out there (all laughing) ... plus the five years I spent on the screenplay. Showed it to my wife who’s a writer, what do you think? Does it read like a real book? Showed it to my daughter. Well, it’s better than I thought it would be, Dad (audience laughing). Emailed it to my jogging friend. He texted me back from a plane to Las Vegas ‘cause you can do those sorts of things, this is the greatest novel I have ever read (all laughing). He said there are tears in my eyes. You should get the Nobel Prize (all chuckling). So I had no useful feedback at all (all laughing). I spent three weeks tidying it up and long story short, it won the Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. That brought publishers to my door. To put this in perspective: this was 2012, I started writing in February 2012, won the Premier’s Award in June 2012 and had a contract for publication with Text Publishing, my favourite publisher, in ... even then before they did the deal in 2012 and they offered ... in June, and they offered me an advance of 1.3 million dollars.
Audience member: No they didn’t (all laughing).
Graeme Simsion: No, they didn’t, (all laughing) she said and how true was that? (All laughing) Spoken like another writer (all laughing). No, they didn’t; they offered me an advance equal to three days of my day job ‘cause ... which I was still doing. But then the Germans stepped up in August, they offered a six‑figure sum in Euros and suddenly it was on. For a couple of weeks we had about 200 publishing houses around the world reading The Rosie Project ‘cause, you know, what were the Germans on about? And at the end of that month I was able to raise a glass and say goodbye to the day job. So what has happened since then is The Rosie Project has gone on, 40 countries, a couple of million copies and so on and film rights. It did go full circle, Sony Pictures came to me, wanted to option the film rights. Said we’ll get one of the best screen writers in Hollywood to adapt your book (audience laughing). So excuse me, mm‑hm. And my agent said that’s very sweet, Graeme, but this is Hollywood. Anyway, we talked about it, I got the gig, I’ve written the screenplay, my two drafts. It’s ... they’ve renewed the option as of February. Nothing’s guaranteed in Hollywood ‘til the cameras roll but if I had to make a bet I would bet at the moment in favour of it being made. And no, we haven’t made any casting decisions yet, but I believe they’re very close. So exciting stuff with that.
And then I was not going to write a sequel for all sorts of reasons, romantic comedies shouldn’t have sequels, blah, blah, blah. But you know what it was? It was people saying to me, oh you’ve got an unreasonable happy ending in The Rosie Project; someone like Don couldn’t make a successful relationship. And that bugged me because I’d seen plenty of people like Don and some probably far ... further along the spectrum than Don who have made very successful relationships so ... and I also felt that Don, you know, when you’re gifted a character who creates humour and so forth, I hadn’t used Don all I could. So for all of those reasons, I came back and decided to write The Rosie Effect. I normally talk a bit about the writing process, but you can ask me questions about that. I want to give you just a taste of what the response has been from the Asperger’s Autism community to, particularly, the first book because I ... before I published, I was tremendously concerned that I had not put something out there that caused distress. I didn’t mind people arguing about it, I didn’t mind people being vocal about what they disagreed with in the book or the portrayal of Asperger’s Syndrome because Don has got Asperger’s Syndrome, okay? How do I know? Because I had lunch with Tony Attwood and up ‘til then I was always saying look, I’m not a psychologist, I didn’t do any research on Asperger’s Syndrome, how would I know? And Tony Attwood said Graeme, Don, has Asperger’s (audience laughing). So it’s official but I got ... (audience laughing) ... so I got the manuscript out to a bunch of people who identified as having Asperger’s, who had it in the family, plus some support organisations, plus some people who were harder ... at the harder end of the Autism spectrum. I got nothing but positive responses but I have to say on the night of the launch, I’ve just finished the launch, I’m in a bookshop, you know, 50‑odd people, family and friends and that, and you know, done it, a big round of applause, and at that moment this guy just walks straight up to me and he says my name is Martin, I’ve got Asperger’s Syndrome and I have a problem with your book. (Audience laughing) And I said go on? (All chuckling) And he said page 33, line 17: (audience laughing) Don says he doesn’t want a partner who is mathematically illiterate; he said the word is innumerate, (audience laughing and clapping) Don Tillman would not make that mistake (audience laughing). And you know it was great because I was able to say to him, not, oh get over it or something like that, I was able to say no, I discussed that with my editor and someone in mathematics or science will actually use the term mathemat ... innumerate to mean can't count, can't do simple arithmetic; mathematically illiterate, can’t do Quantum Mechanics B and so on. He said excellent, I’ll take two copies (audience laughing), actually it was three. I lie, it was three copies. And I said why? And he said to show my friends what it’s like to have Asperger’s. So that’s been ... in all sorts of forms, that has been the most exciting and interesting feedback on it.