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By Jodi Murphy
Interview with Graeme Simsion, Author of The Rosie Project
Where have I been? Clueless, yes. Out of touch, always. I passed by The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion in book stores drawn by the bright red cover and eye-catching graphics. I’ve scrolled by it in the Kindle Store in their best sellers’ category, but I had no idea that the protagonist, Don Tillman, has Asperger’s Syndrome.
I’m a voracious reader and I couldn’t find anything in my favorite genre when looking for my next read, so I thought, hmmm, maybe I’ll give The Rosie Project a go. A love story! A quirky, charming love story—I was hooked. But so uplifting and happily surprising to discover the main character, Don, has Asperger’s. To enjoy a good book is one of the greatest pleasures in my life, but when I see such a positive representation of a character who has many of the characteristics of my Asperger son…that’s indescribable.
I need not be visibly odd. I could engage in the protocols that others followed and move undetected among them. And how could I be sure that other people were not doing the same—playing the game to be accepted but suspecting all the time that they were different.
Don Tillman, From The Rosie Project
What I appreciate most of all is that author Graeme Simsion treats Don with such respect. He’s different and has flaws, yes, but so does every character in the story. Don struggles, but so does everyone else. Graeme wrote a story that exemplifies my ideal dream for my son—that he find a way to share his true talents, find a community of friends and employers who appreciate him for who he is, and that he find true love.
Here’s the charming trailer for the novel…
Graeme Simsion has a few things to say about The Rosie Project:
People I worked with and taught. There are plenty of Dons out there. One close friend struggled for many years to find a partner, and he provided inspiration for my first version of the story but the character and story have changed a lot since then. There is no ‘real Don’!
How did you develop and dive into Don’s voice?
I channeled a close friend who has a background in information technology–a very technical background. In the early drafts I could hear his voice, but over time Don developed his own mannerisms. I borrowed habits like “greetings” and expressions like “human sponge mode” from other colleagues and friends.
Do you feel that this is a story of triumph for Don?
Absolutely. Don is the hero of the story in all senses. He sets out to do something that is a huge stretch and overcomes obstacles and his own limitations to achieve it—along the way learning some lessons about what he really needs. And he does this in a fundamentally decent way.
Do you have experience with Autistic people?
I did a physics degree, worked for thirty years in information technology and taught at several universities. In these areas, technical skills are given more weight than social skills. So I met many people who I’m sure would have been diagnosed as being on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum–had that diagnosis been common when they were younger. And I know a number of people with kids who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s or Autism.
Can you share a message of ‘Autimism’ (optimism about Autism) with the parents who have a loved one on the autism spectrum?
For most, if not all of the people I’ve known on the spectrum, things have gotten better as they got older. They escape school, they get through adolescence—which is tough for most of us anyway—and they find themselves in a bigger world where they can make their own choices about what they do, where they work, who they socialize with. They’re valued for their strengths, and their weaknesses are not on show so much. That work that parents and teachers and counselors did to help with social skills (for example) finally starts to pay off. Many of them they have found terrific partners—their Rosies, so to speak.
- Graeme Simsion Website
- The Rosie Project on Amazon
- Graeme Simsion on Facebook
- The Rosie Project on Simon & Schuster
Photography by James Penlidis
**Graeme Simsion is a former IT consultant and the author of two nonfiction books on database design who decided at the age of fifty to turn his hand to fiction. The Rosie Project is his first novel and his screen adaption has been optioned by Sony Pictures. Graeme lives in Australia with his wife, Anne, and their two children, and is currently working on a sequel to The Rosie Project.
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With a network of affiliates across the United States, the Autism Society is the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization. Their mission is to increase public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum, advocate for appropriate services for individuals across the lifespan, and provide the latest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy. Contact and join a local affiliate and get involved! To find the affiliate nearest to you, click on your state below.