The author of bestselling The Rosie Project is back with The Rosie Effect. Find out why the new title took so long to decide on and why Don Tillman is his favourite fictional character.
Until a year ago, forty-one-year-old geneticist Don Tillman had never had a second date. Until he met Rosie, 'the world's most incompatible woman'. Now, living in New York City, they have survived ten months and ten days of marriage. But though Rosie has taught him the joys of unscheduled sex and spontaneous meal planning, life is still not plain sailing for Don. Not least with the sudden arrival of his best friend Gene, serial philanderer, who takes up residence on their sofa. Then Rosie drops the mother of all bombshells. And soon Don must face her hormonally induced irrational behaviour as he prepares for the biggest challenge of his previously ordered life - at the same time as dodging deportation, prosecution and professional disgrace. Is Don Tillman ready to become the man he always dreamed of being? Or will he revert to his old ways and risk losing Rosie forever?
Sum up your novel in three words.
Don Tillman’s back.
Where did the initial idea come from?
A good friend’s experiences inspired The Rosie Project – the first book – but the story changed beyond recognition between conception and birth. The stimulus for The Rosie Effect was a dinner celebrating the pregnancy of one of my writing friends.
How was the title chosen?
With some pain. I had half a dozen publishers around the world, all with requirements and the power to object. And to propose their own suggestions – some good, some not so much. My US publishers, Simon & Schuster, wanted Rosie in the title, and in the end I spent a weekend plugging in words after The Rosie. Effect felt right the moment I thought of it. Like The Butterfly Effect – one small change leading to a huge impact, plus the scientific origin. My publishers – all of them – liked it too. Hallelujah. This year’s Australian of the year is Rosie Batty, a courageous advocate for action on domestic violence, and the papers headlined the announcement "The Rosie Effect". It was nice to be connected, even in a peripheral way, to the work she’s doing.
What’s your writing routine?
I don’t have one. I write (and plan and edit) when I can. Just as I did when I was self-employed doing training seminars and had to fit writing around the demands of "real" work. These days, book events, festivals and interviews (like this one) are the new day job I have to work around.
Which book do you wish you’d written?
Gödel Escher Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. It would have capped my computing career off nicely, and made an intelligent contribution to the field. There are some other good contenders of similar ilk, including Dawkins’ Selfish Gene and Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee, but the Hofstader’s Pulitzer is the clincher. Fiction? Ulysses.
What’s your favourite word in the English language?
Serendipity. I'm fascinated by unusual connections but we need a dash of luck to facilitate them. And it's a cool word in itself.
Who’s your favourite fictional character?
Don Tillman, of course. I feel I’ve been gifted him – and one should be very grateful for a character who generates (relatively) effortless comedy.
What was your favourite book as a child?
Time for the Stars by Robert Heinlein. Great premise, totally inhabitable. I grew into more adult science fiction later, but those juvenile novels were the path to fiction for a science nerd.
Which book are you recommending to everyone at the moment?
Medea’s Curse, by my wife, Anne Buist. Of course. But, nepotism aside, I’m still encouraging people who never read science to read at least a couple of books on the origins and history of the universe and the human species. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson is a great choice. One science book. Okay?
What do books and reading mean to you?
They’re fundamental. Non-fiction has informed my profession, my opinions, the way I live. Fiction is, even more than music, my most important cultural experience. I’ve probably spent more time reading than at any other activity except sleeping. And often it’s a tough choice between the two.