What is the best thing that I love about my work? Two things! The creative process at every stage: planning, drafting, editing. And then the responses of people who I’ve managed to connect with through my writing. It’s a privilege – and a joy – to be able to contribute to the pool of creative / artistic work that I’ve taken so much from over my lifetime.
What is my idea of perfect happiness? I don’t have such an idea, and if I did, I’m not sure I would pursue it as a goal, or at least not as the highest goal. I think more in terms of a life well lived, and recognise that there will be times of frustration, sadness, fear, anger – the negative emotions as well as the positive. Happiness is transitory, and all the better for that. Much of mine comes from good conversation with great people over a glass of wine…
What is my greatest fear? Losing my partner or kids.
What is the trait that I most deplore in myself? Deplore is too strong a word; I’m not that much of a self-hater, and if there was something I truly deplored, I’d have done something about it. I drink too much; I talk too much; I spend too much time on Twitter.
Which living persons in my profession do i most admire? That’s easier to answer than it was a year ago, because I can now count my role model, Bob Dylan, as ‘in my profession’, given his Nobel Prize for Literature. I admire his work ethic over a long period, his dedication to his craft through creative highs and lows and his knowledge of and respect for those whose shoulders he stands on.
Beyond that – I’m constantly asked about favourite writers and favourite books and I’m never comfortable responding. Different authors have appealed to me and informed me at different times in my life and for different reasons – storytelling, characterisation, originality, humour—but I just don’t think of them in any sort of order of merit. These days, I don’t follow specific authors as I once did—I read a lot of new writers and I admire the work more than the creator!
What is my greatest extravagance? Good wine. No competition.
On what occasion would I lie? From The Best of Adam Sharp: “Lenny Bruce laid some further advice on my twelve-year-old self: Never confess. Even if your wife catches you in flagrante, deny everything. That, he implies, is the social contract.”
What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work? Day after day, on book tour, getting up at some ungodly hour of the morning to get to the airport and then waiting two hours at the gate for my flight—with crap coffee—because some junior publicist is making sure she won’t get into trouble because I missed my flight. You did ask.
When and where was I the happiest, in my work? Solving a problem with a book-in-progress in a way that seems like it was always meant to be—perhaps using an existing character as the agent for some necessary plot twist and in the process bringing that character to greater life and underlining the book’s deeper themes.
If I could, what would I change about myself? Fix my kidneys. I damaged them running a marathon in 2010 and, while I’m OK for the time being, I’d rather be going into old age from a better baseline. You were hoping for something more psychological, weren’t you? But health is a really nice thing to have as a basis for the rest.
What is my greatest achievement in work? I think my best artistic achievement is my most recently published book The Best of Adam Sharp, but overall, I’d have to say The Rosie Project, my debut novel, which is the best seller that allowed me to give up my day job—and publish more books.
What do the words ‘The Financial Freedom to Create’ mean to me? Not as much as you might think. It’s great that I’ve been able to give up my day job in management / technology, but that was still creative work and I fitted the writing around it. I think more in terms of having enough money to be able to live the life I want to live—and material possessions are not at the top of that list. If I hadn’t had a bestseller, I’d still be writing, still doing the day job, being creative and having a pretty good life.
Where would I most like to live? Fitzroy (suburb of Melbourne), Australia. Where I live now and plan to live. If it wasn’t my first choice, I’d be working on a move or have moved already. It’s not an unreasonable choice: Melbourne is regularly rated amongst the most liveable cities in the world, and Fitzroy is a suburb with many of the strengths of (say) New York and little of the downside.
What is my most treasured possession? Tough one. I like stuff, but could lose it all tomorrow and life would go on (I’d be far more concerned about a health crisis for me or my family members.) I’m the current custodian of the family Bible which goes back to the mid-1800s and was used in our marriage ceremony, so maybe I’d grab that if the house was burning. That said, I haven’t picked it up in years.
What is my most marked characteristic? I just asked my wife and she said largesse, which is very nice but probably translates as financial irresponsibility. I guess I have an abundance mentality—an optimistic outlook.
What is my most inspirational location, in my city? Some people get their inspiration from locations. I’m not one of them. But my best place to get ideas would be jogging to and from the Victoria Market, a big retail market where I often go early in the morning to buy the making for the evening meal, in the manner of my character Don Tillman.
What is my favourite place to eat and drink, in my city? A few years ago, when I was taking evening classes in writing and my wife was also working hard, we decided we should have a weekly ‘date night’. We discovered that a new tapas bar was opening on the exact night that we’d planned our first such date, just around the corner, so it seemed ordained. We went there every week for a couple of years and got to know the owners well. We still eat and drink there often. Añada Bar – Gertrude St, Fitzroy.
What books influenced my life and how? There was a book on career planning (title long forgotten) that I read years ago, with a final chapter offering a contrary view – ‘winging it’. It was the first time I’d heard the term, and the author described how it could be a deliberate strategy… I’ve followed it ever since.
The Unkindest Cut by Joe Queenan inspired me to make a low budget film which led to studying screenwriting and then to writing my first novel.
The Plague by Albert Camus and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovic, by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, both read at fifteen, influenced my approach to life.
Who are my favorite writers? There was a question a bit like that earlier (though now I’m allowed dead ones, right?). Same answer: I just don’t think in terms of favourites. But I can say that at various times of my life I read (almost) everything by (in rough chronological order) Enid Blyton, Capt W.E. Johns, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov (OK, not everything here), Vonnegut, Hemingway, Henry Miller, Douglas Hofstadter, John Irving, John Mortimer, Philip Roth, Joanne Harris, Nick Hornby (I’ve surely missed many) but then I stopped following individual authors. (Recent exception: Murakami). One result of this is that white males now provide well less than half my reading.
You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day? Dylan. Maybe some Leonard Cohen. Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 and his Ninth Symphony to go out on.
Who is my hero or heroine in fiction? Dr Rieux in Camus’ The Plague – finding the courage to know and do what is right without religion or expectation of reward.
Who are my heroes and heroines in real life? Hero is a big word. I’ve nominated Dylan as a professional role model, a specific kind of ‘hero’. But I’m not alone in thinking that ‘ordinary people’ who put their lives or wellbeing on the line in order to fulfil what they believe are their moral obligations and who cannot expect any great level of recognition or reward are the ‘true heroes’. One thinks immediately of war – something I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid, but my father served in WW2 and my grandfather in WW1. Nothing that I or our ‘sporting heroes’ have done compares with that.
Which movie would i recommend to see once in a lifetime? Same Time Next Year.
What role plays art in my life and work? Well, I create a form of art, in my novels. And I’m thinking almost constantly about writing. I read, I love music, especially popular music, I go to galleries. It’s intrinsic to my life.
Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime? I’m sure I’m not the first to answer ‘my wife’ or ‘my husband’. But my wife, Anne Buist, is my collaborator, first reader, last reader and now co-author (we’re just finishing Two Steps Forward, together.) And she didn’t blink when I gave up my (relatively) secure day job to write.
Whom would I like to work with in 2017? Ben Taylor – director of the British TV series Catastrophe and Toni Collette, producer and actor best known for Sixth Sense, About a Boy and United States of Tara. They’re down to work on movie versions of, respectively, The Rosie Project and The Best of Adam Sharp – and I’m the screenwriter. Nothing’s guaranteed with movies, so I’m hoping both with come to fruition.
Which people in my profession would i love to meet in 2017? I actually get to meet a lot of writers at festivals, and enjoy hanging out with the less-famous ones as much as the icons. But there’s a bunch I’d love to buy a drink for because they’ve been kind enough to endorse my books and are interesting people – and a couple who owe me one for endorsing theirs! So (in no order and missing quite a few) Matthew Quick, Ayelet Waldman, John Boyne, Matthew Haig, Marian Keyes, Toni Jordan, Benjamin Ludwig, Kristin Hannah, Adriana Trigiani, David Hunt, John Elder Robison and the anonymous Hendrik Groen. And Bob Dylan of course.
What project, in 2017, am I looking forward to work on? All of them. Movie versions of The Rosie Project, The Best of Adam Sharp and Two Steps Forward – all in development. A third book in the Don Tillman series. A couple of short film scripts.
Where can you see me or my work in 2017? Bookshops everywhere! And I tour regularly. I keep a list of tour dates at www.graemesimsion.com
What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? By the time I published my first book, I was older than my father was when he retired—and he’s never worked again. He’s still living and sharp at 91—I hope to be still writing at that age. Or doing something else interesting!
Which creative heroes should Peter invite to tell their story? Obviously my wife, Anne Buist, also a writer who became a novelist while managing a demanding career as a professor of psychiatry.
For similar reasons, ask my friend Tania Chandler who has published two novels after a mid-life start as an author. For me, her ‘hero’ status comes from doing what so many try but few achieve: learning and establishing herself in a new profession while juggling child care and a job.
For me, the heroes in this profession are those who have overcome obstacles to get there –and I have a particular affinity with those who started late and had to manage / sacrifice other careers, time with family etc. Just checking on authors who published their first book after the age of 40 will turn up plenty!
How can you contact me? Readers can find me via my website www.graemesimsion.com which includes contact details for my publishers around the world who can pass on any enquiries.
My books are listed at: https://www.amazon.com/simsion/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Asimsion