Graeme Simpsion, author of the best-selling romantic comedy The Rosie Project, came to Castlemaine Library last Thursday evening to give a talk. I was there to sell books for Stoneman’s Bookroom, and though I wasn’t unduly grumpy about getting home at 8.45 pm, there were other places I’d rather be on a cold winter’s night after a day at work. Such as on the couch.
As it turned out, it was a funny and entertaining evening, and Graeme himself was a delightful speaker. Plus, he was up-front and eager to sell books – meeting and greeting happily, and even producing a selection of pens in different colours to do the signing – so I was kept gratifyingly busy in my official salesperson role.
The Rosie Project was originally a screenplay, and one of Graeme’s inspirations for the story was the wisecracking ‘screwball’ comedies of the 1930s. Movies like Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story and His Girl Friday – battles of the sexes, where male and female were equally matched and fiercely intelligent – and the sparkling dialogue was so fast-paced that it resembled table-tennis on speed. I love those films and spent (or wasted, depending on your viewpoint) many an hour with Bill Collins and his classic movies. My favourite is The Lady Eve, with Henry Fonda as naive herpetologist millionaire and Barbara Stanwyck as an alluring lady card-sharp. There’s something so appealing about a gorgeous yet clueless male! Simpsion absolutely got that, because his Asperger’s-y hero Don is, whilst socially inept and hopeless with women, a karate expert and fitness fanatic – thus totally buff. He’s a fabulous cook as well.
Graeme told us that having finished the screenplay (which won major awards) he tried to get funding for the film. But with no success. He asked a producer friend if a novel of The Rosie Project would help sell the movie. The answer was yes. And so in an amazingly short time (did he really say 7 weeks?) he had a polished draft. And (this story is nothing but fast-paced) in next to no time, he had a published novel that is selling like hot cakes in Australia, is published or about to be published in a number of other countries as well – and a movie deal with Sony in the US. As Graeme chortled a number of times, he’s living the dream.
Which was really endearing. The chortling, I mean. He’s had a fantastic run with the deals and money and the prizes and the success, but he’s so happy and thrilled about them all that I’d have to say I felt happy and thrilled for him too. And Rosie is a lovely book. It’s genuinely heart-warming and sweet-natured and, as Robyn Annear said when she introduced him, it’s a genre-bender. A romantic comedy with brains, heart and soul. I can’t wait for the movie. I just wish they could bring back Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck.