Graeme Simsion – Author Interview

Graeme Simsion Photo


The Rosie Project has sold in excess of 2million copies and has been sold to over 40 countries. This success led to the rights being optioned by Sony and to the delight of many fans we will be able to see the lovable character of Don Tillman on the silver screen in the near future. His second novel The Rosie Effect is on a similar trajectory, so I was very fortunate to be able to have a quick chat with a very busy man and the hottest commodity in publishing at the moment.


Since you first wrote The Rosie Project as a screenplay was it always your vision to see it as a film?

I did when I was writing to the screenplay, but while writing the novel I didn’t at all, I put the visual out of my mind. I was much more concerned about Don’s internal world, what was happening in his mind. I wanted the language to express this.


I heard that you’re working on the script for the film did you refer to your original screenplay?

I’ve drafted two scripts for SONY that’s my contractual obligation. I redid the script with the book in mind.


JK Rowling said that most of the writing of a book was done in the mind, The Rosie Project took a six years to be written, was most of this thrashing out the plot?

Yes it was thrashing out the plot and the characters. For two and half years it was The Klara Project. I dumped Klara and introduced Rosie. So getting characters right was crucial as was developing plot twists.


Great characterization is central to The Rosie Project’s Success Can you give any advice on this topic for would be authors?

If you are trying to write comedy then the more time you spend on forming a good character then the less time you have to spend on the comedy. The character does the work for you. Every minute, hour you spend on forming your character is worth it and will come back in further down the track. I don’t use any tricks for characters, like list of their favourite hobbies etc. but the advice I give to young writers is try to look to your own experience. Even if that experience doesn’t seem relevant avoid second hand characters from Television or books. For example if you want to have a character who is the boss of a corporation don’t base it on Mr. Burns from The Simpsons. Develop your character first and write what they would do in that situation.


The books deal with a variety of relationship issues especially the differences between men and women and how they communicate is this through observation and is it a topic you wanted to explore?

 It’s very much through my observations. I try to give men and women similar strengths in the books. As I create a character their gender is not critical to the character, the dean of medicine is female and gay, but was originally written as a male character. Its not that I felt I had to do that, it just evolved.

I certainly regard men and women as equal, but as a writer and most novelists will tell you this, I find writing the other gender hard.


Will we be seeing future installments of Don Tillman’s adventures?

Well we know Rosie is pregnant so the outcome is obvious. I will revisit Don and explore some issues; I’ll set it seven years later, let the child grow. I’m working on another novel at the moment called “The candle”. My wife and I are also collaborating on a joint novel.


The Rosie Effect -Graeme Simsion

the Rosie Effect Being a big fan of the first book, “The Rosie Project’ I was really looking forward to reading the next installment in the life of the much loved protagonist, Don Tillman, albeit a little anxious. Unlike a series this is more like a sequel and I was concerned it would fall into the jaws of the sequel curse.

There was no need to worry, as I found The Rosie Effect to be just as delightful as The Rosie Project. Granted the book didn’t have the freshness or “surprise factor” as I had visited Don’s life before, but once again I became invested in Don’s life, and I laughed out loud and stayed up to the wee hours anticipating the ending.

This is not just a “How to “ book for those square pegs trying to fit into round holes, but it’s a unique novel that explores deeper issues such as judgment and individualism. What Simsion has done well is create characters around Don who have real-life problems and flaws. This emphasizes that we are all imperfect, and yet we are all the same, and what we all need is acceptance and friendship.

If you’re looking for something different from the first book, you won’t find it, but let me remind you of how you felt when you read the last word of The Rosie Project and you were disappointed that it had ended. If you are new to Graeme Simsion’s award winning book then grab both books at once and think of it as one book, and extend the joy. I can think of no better way to spend my day than with a smile on my face laughing at the predicaments and antics of Don Tillman.

Publisher: Text Publishing

Published: 2014

Chris Allen – Author Interview

Chris Allen photo2

Chris Allen is the writer of the spy thrillers Defender and Hunter, book one and two in the Intrepid series, which have recently been optioned for film and television.

Chris began his career in the Australian army rising through the ranks and serving as captain with the Australian Intelligence Corps. Chris then went on to join the Drug Operations Division of the Australian Federal Police. He returned to the Army in 1991 serving with the 3rd Battalion (Parachute), The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), and between 1994–95 was attached to British Airborne Forces, The Parachute Regiment (3PARA). He deployed to South East Asia, Africa and Central America. He was medically retired from the Army in 1996, having reached the rank of Major. Chris then worked for CARE International in East Timor leading security and logistics. Post 9/11 Chris provided counter terrorism advice for Australian government departments and agencies and diplomatic residences.

Allen’s expansive career, in a world we seldom see, is what gives his series an edge. I was fortunate to interview Chris and I hope you enjoy a more in-depth look into this new writer on the spy/ thriller scene.


Can you give the readers a synopsis of the Intrepid series?

I grew up watching spy shows during the cold war and all of that influenced me, so when I was looking at creating the series I wanted an international spy. I was looking for a vehicle where I could make up a new agency, but I like to ground every thing in reality, so I created a fictional agency within Interpol. The agency is called Intrepid, which stands for the Intelligence Recovery Protection Infiltration Division, a division of spies for Interpol. People like that it’s a spy agency that’s interests are international, not one single country like the CIA or Mossad. I say that there is: No name. No country. No borders. No limits.

When I was speaking about the films to the film producer who was interested in doing the books. He said he was ‘…already working with a Special Forces/airborne guy, like you…’, and he wanted to know if my stories were those kinds of stories. I said the characters personal histories are in the military and law enforcement, but the books aren’t soldiering stories. When I said they’re secret agents for Interpol he loved it!


The series was optioned last year?

Yes early 2013


Has it been green lighted?

At the moment he (The Producer) is doing all the pre-production ground work, getting funding together. I can’t say his name, as that’s part of the contract. He’s American, I met him in L.A and a number of people are getting behind it as a franchise, a number of films and a television series. He’s taking a long-term view of it. It’s a slow burn, we signed last year and it’ll be 3-5 years before anything gets to screen.

I’m excited about it.


Is there a certain actor you picture playing Alex Morgan?

The guy I always had in mind is the Australian actor Alex O’Loughlin (Hawaii 5-0), but by the time the series comes around I think he may be too old. Other than him I really like Sullivan Stapleton, but he may be too old as well, so maybe one of the Hemsworth’s. O’Loughlin was who I pictured when I was writing.



I see number three in the series is coming out soon?

Yes I’ve done it, it’s with my agent, who is overseas at the moment, and she is looking at various markets. I released the others through Momentum (Pan Macmillan’s digital imprint) in eBook and Print On Demand (POD) formats, and many readers have asked me where they can get a physical book without ordering online. So, what we are doing now is looking at how we can expand the availability of all the books. I have a long-term view for the series, so based on the reactions from readers so far I’m very encouraged. I’m starting work on the fourth book as we speak. It’s an exciting time.


Do you have a final number for the Intrepid series or are you thinking of a new series?

The ballpark number for the series is a dozen as I see the agency evolving, with new people, but Alex Morgan, my protagonist will always be there. I’ve invested so much of myself in Alex Morgan as the root character, but I have another idea that I’ve penned a significant amount of; it involves a new character and is more of a crime/ thriller, more gritty.


Where you influenced by any writers in the thriller genre?

Yes, the big one for me was Ian Fleming and the Bond books.


He came from a similar background

Yeah, he was a navy officer in the intelligence side of things and his brother, Peter, served with the Special Operations Executive. When I grew up it was pre-Swarznegger and, as far as action movies were concerned, the Bonds were it!, It was also pre-video, so when I first saw the Bond films on TV, you had to wait for them to be repeated by the TV stations. All I could do was try to find the books and back then they’d already had their run, so I found them in second hand stores like St Vincent De Paul. I still have all of them and I devoured them as a kid. I knew I wanted to write those kinds of stories.


So even back then you wanted to be a writer?

Yes I did, I tried a lot of things, I knew I wanted to go to the military; Fleming was a big influence and my family. Many members of my family have a military background, many had served in the Second World War. I had it all around me. Then I discovered Jack Higgins “The Eagle has Landed”, Fredrick Forsyth, Clive Cussler.


You have something in common with Clive Cussler; you both used your son’s names as your protagonist. How does your son feel about this?

He loves it. He is nearly five and quite a good reader, he can recognize his name, he would sit on my knee while I’d try to write and he’d spot his name. I told him I named the character after him. My new character in the next series is named after my other son.


In your books you were able to use your vast experience in special forces and law enforcement, but did you find you still needed to do some research?

 If there is something I need to check up on, I’ll talk to my mates. When I was writing Hunter I was writing a scene, which included drones, and that technology has come in since I left the military. I have some mates still serving whom I called up. I was stuck on a scene, so I texted two friends -“lunch at our place, we are going to talk drones”. There is a military abbreviation for acknowledge, ACK. and that was all I got back – “ACK”. They came and we sat for a couple hours.

If I want to check something or I’m unsure, I’m lucky to have these friends who are specialist military instructors, so I just tap them on the shoulder. In terms of research, I researched human trafficking for my latest novel, Avenger, and stats for gun smuggling for Defender. So, I suppose I balance the research side of things with experience and calling on friends.


I saw that you studied a business degree; do you think that has helped you as a writer, once you’ve had a physical product ready to market?

Most of what I did post military was as a senior executive for government and a lot of my objectivity is very much on achieving an end result. So, I do balance the creativity with my experience. I have a clear goal in mind. I have a global vision, I’m getting great feed back, and I have a long-term plan.


What about marketing how have you approached that?

I’m really lucky my wife Sarah is my secret weapon; she is a marketing specialist and social media advisor. When we were kicking it off Sarah grabbed the bull by the horns and pushed it in the direction I wanted it to go. It’s action adventure, but grounded in a real approach. Sarah’s catch cry for the books in the early days was ‘the old school action thriller has come of age’. Originally like many aspiring authors I got knock back after knock back from publishers. I got despondent but I thought I’m not letting it go and so we self -published, it did well and then it got noticed!


What medium did you use for self- publishing, straight to Amazon or CreateSpace?

CreateSpace, this way I got an eBook and a physical book. Sarah and I started researching in 2010 and I was really conscious I didn’t want a book that looked like it came off a photocopier. It’s a trap for those who are trying to self publish. We contacted a number of self -publishing companies, asked all of them to send us a copy of something they had done, and we ended up with eight books. The best product was from CreateSpace, it looked and felt like a book you’d buy in a store. We went with them and they were exceptional. After that Momentum noticed and signed me for two books.I re-edited and re-released Defender and wrote Hunter. One of the things a lot of authors don’t realize is when they sign a deal they sign a lot of right for several years. So, you have to be very conscious of what rights you are signing away.


I saw that you use a variety of social media including Pinterest. How have you found that helpful?

 Sarah said to give it a go. So I use it as an inspiration board to map out a story. I have one for each book. For Defender I put pictures of Africa, London, Sydney the places where the book is set, along with pictures of paratroopers and other things relevant to the stories. You end up with hundreds of pictures. It helps me map out. I’m a bit of a Pinterest nut now. Fans of the books follow me.


You use Twitter?

Yes, it’s great I love follow Friday and people reach out with private messages. It’s great to share your interests. Facebook is great too. I also got into LinkedIn, but it’s more professional. LinkedIn is good for verifying who you are.


You started a Thriller writers Association, are there many Thriller writers in Australia?

Yes lots, through social media I met up with Greg Barron, Luke Preston and Nathan Ferrugia. I thought there were all these groups evolving that were predominantly women, The Romance writers group, The Sisters in Crime group and the fellas were getting left out, so for just a bit of fun I put the group together. It’s called the Action Thriller Writers Association of Australia and what we want to be is non–gender specific, but from that group formed a sub group called Thriller Edge, which is our answer to Sisters in Crime. The eight of us are Tony Park, Greg Barron, Steve Worland, Scott Baker, Luke Preston, Nathan Ferrugia and Adrian d’Hage. Our object is to get people talking about Australian Writers and we want to go to schools to encourage young men to read.


Do you have any advice for any writers starting out?

The best advice I can give is if you really want to do it you have to dig in and be prepared to take disappointment and take it on the chin. You have to be serious about a long-term goal. Its a rare thing to be picked up straight away and its such a competitive market, but if you’re clever and you use self-publishing in a very targeted, very specific way, you can do really well. You need to get out there and promote.

I Am Pilgrim -Terry Hayes

I am Pilgrim

My life has shifted on its axis. I finally delved into Terry Hayes tome, I am Pilgrim and now everything must change. I have to clear out my bookshelf and put this fantastic novel on a shelf all by its self while I ponder everything I just read. So move over Ludlum, shove over Lehane, there’s a new boy on the block and he’s bad (I mean “bad” in the colloquial sense, as in “Damn Good”).

It’s a hefty novel, but that’s no deterrent, as I wish it were even longer. The novel centres on the protagonist Scott Murdoch? (The question mark becomes relevant once you’ve read the novel) who is an American spy, agent, deep, deep undercover operative etc. He is on a race to save the world from a biological attack and time is ticking, and in his spare time he solves a New York murder case –Ha, I love it!

Terry Hayes is a man who knows his craft. This may be his debut novel,but Google his biography and you’ll see he has serious cred. His plotting is very tight and complex; the writing is intelligent and suspenseful. I sat in the waiting room at Toyota while I had new tyres fitted, and my hands were tightly gripping the book as I read the final chapters.

Here’s a puzzle:

How long does it take Toyota to fit two new tyres?

Two hours.

At the end of the two hours I was at a pivotal point in the story, the Toyota man called my name. I put my hand up to silence the annoying man and resumed biting my nails and my eyes continued to rapidly scan the pages. I came to a suitable place to stop, raced home and finished the book.

Like any great book it is still lingering in my thoughts. Hayes has created a hero that we haven’t seen since Jason Bourne, and I hope to see a lot more of him.

This is a suspense novel that deals with sensitive and serious subjects and it is handle with respect, skilled observation and the critique of a good journalist. Hayes doesn’t dictate to the reader he is a masterful storyteller and the reader is taken on a thrilling journey.

NB: This is an adult novel, if considering for a teen reader note that it does contain some torture scenes, although it is not an overly graphic novel.

Catch a Q&A with Terry Hayes here:

We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

We Were Liars

Another brilliant novel has sailed across my desk – We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. This is a YA novel which stays with you long after the final page has been devoured. The story is told through the central character, Cadence. We follow her summers spent on a family island along with her friends /cousins –The Liars. As the liars hold a mirror to their family, they don’t always like what they see, and this has a disastrous effect.

The narrative of this novel is like a boat on the ocean, the reader is rocked by its undulations, of an idyll childhood spent on a private island near Martha’s Vineyard, to the fractures of this Kennedyesq family, which break, heal and break again. The reader is taken on an emotional journey, riding the ups and downs of the waves, which eventually crash to the shore with its stunning conclusion.

Lockhart’s writing is clear and concise but not devoid of description or poetry. It is her writing that first grabbed my attention. Here is an example of the main character describing her cousins and friend.



He is bounce, effort, and snark.


She is sugar, curiosity and rain.


He was contemplation and enthusiasm. Ambition and strong coffee.


The writing was taut and effortless, but it was the plot in the end that won me over. I had to know the secret, the mystery.

Do not go in search of other reviews if you are interested in reading this one, as spoilers will surely ruin the whole experience. I’ll leave the last word to the dust jacket.

“We Were Liars is a modern suspense that will leave you reeling. Read it. And if anyone asks you how it ends, just lie.”

Title: We Were Liars

Author: E. Lockhart

Published: 2014

Genre: YA/ Crossover

Author Interview -Sarah Rayner

Go to the Drinks With …Page and click on the Sarah Rayner tab to read the interview. Enjoy!  🙂

What Not to Write


There are a couple of things that I find annoying; people not using their blinkers, queue jumpers, noisy eaters in the cinema (really important stuff),these little, pesky things disrupt the flow of my day. But they also pop up in novels, not literally these problems, but other things that authors often do that jolt my reading experience out of the fantasy realm back into reality. An author once said if you want to know what not to write, think about the things you skim over as a reader. There are two things that without fail have me flipping through the pages faster than a Kardashian seeking publicity.

1. Dream sequences – I hate them, I never read them, I skim as quickly as I can to get back into the story. Writers often put them in as foreshadowing, some psychic warning, but they are always boring. I know when I have a dream and I want to tell someone, I start to tell the dream and I gradually I see his or her eyes glassing over. It’s not that I’m a bad storyteller, truly I’m not, it’s that dreams are only interesting to the dreamer. So writers, heed my warning, leave the dream sequence out.

2. Overly long descriptive paragraphs – In a genre fiction there is no need to do lengthy descriptive scenes, most readers do not care what the character is wearing, and what they ate for lunch. If it’s not important to the story or characterization leave it out. The one exception is when the writer has a gift with words and the description is so skillfully woven that it creates an emotional response from the reader. Writers like Ian McEwan, F Scott Fitzgerald or Martin Amis, even Earnest Hemingway fall into this category.

The Tragedy Paper

The Tragedy Paper

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan
Let me first start by saying; I love the cover of this book. It’s the perfect summation of the novel.
“Every year at an exclusive private boarding school in New York State, the graduating students uphold a historic tradition – they must swear an oath of secrecy and leave behind a “treasure” for each incoming senior. When Duncan Meade inherits the room and the secrets of Tim Macbeth, he uncovers evidence of a clandestine romance, and unravels the truth behind one of the biggest mysteries in the school’s history”

This is a simplistic summary, and it is a simple story, but it has rich characters and a captivating setting (who doesn’t love a boarding school setting). The main character, Tim, is an Albino, LaBan uses this to emphasize the teenage struggles of ‘do I, don’t I, fit in’. I don’t feel Laban was exploitative or insensitive, I feel she used this condition as an effective tool to express the feelings of many young people.
The “treasure” Tim leaves Duncan, is a set of audio CD’s telling his story of the previous year. Duncan discovers their lives are taking similar and often parallel paths. As Duncan plays the CD’s the story unfolds and we hear how Tim deals with his social inadequacies  at a new school, and as a teenager in love. Tim’s insecurity and self doubt ultimately leads to “the tragedy’. Duncan learns from Tim’s mistakes and discovers insight to himself and his own doubts are reassured through the therapeutic effect of Tim’s CD’s.

What I enjoyed most about the book, is the suspense that LaBan creates. The rhythm of the novel is like a ticking clock. The characters and the reader are hyper aware of time passing. This creates tension and a sense of urgency. We are left waiting for Tim’s words to reveal the secret, and wondering what the tragedy will be. As Duncan is continually drawn back to Tim’s CD’s, so are we. We are given clues throughout the book and can piece together a vague idea of the coming tragedy, but this, in no way, detracts from the book.

I really enjoyed this book, and LaBan’s writing. I found I was grabbing the book at every moment.

Published: 2013
Publisher: Corgi Books
Pages: 308

In Memory of Maya Angelou

I was saddened to hear the passing of one of my favourite poets today, Maya Angelou. In memory of her, I wish to share one of her poems that I love.

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Maya Angelou