Novelist Goolrick will share his stories at the Iowa City Book Festival

BY ELLE WIGNALL | JULY 12, 2012 6:30 AM

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"I want people to feel like they're sitting down with the person telling a story,"New York Times bestseller author Robert Goolrick said. "I love a novel that sounds like you're being told a story as opposed to reading a story, so I work very hard to try to make the novels as hearable as possible."

At noon Saturday in the Seamans Center lobby, fans of Goolrick's best-selling novel The Reliable Wife and his new novel Heading Out to Wonderful will have the opportunity to listen to his storytelling firsthand in the fourth-annual Iowa City Book Festival.

After being fired from his job in advertising, he said, he needed to find something to do with the rest of his life.

He had written novels in his 20s and 30s but didn't make a career out of it.

Goolrick published a memoir called The End of the World As We Know It as well as his first novel, A Reliable Wife.

"I think that it's important to find the voice that suits the story," he said. "In advertising, you get to be a very chameleon-like writer. I think that helped me a lot."

Goolrick, who grew up in a small Virginia town, said he moved back to be around the people he was writing about.

"Brownsburg is a real town, but highly fictionalized, but I hope holds true to the way the people are," he said. "It also is a portrait of Virginia the way it was when I was child. It has a lot to do with the nostalgia from my childhood."

Brownsburg and the people in it serve as inspiration for his works, he said.

Goolrick's latest novel, Heading Out to Wonderful, is about a man named Charlie Beale who shows up in a small Virginia town in 1948 with only two suitcases. One suitcase holds his worldly possessions and butcher knife set, and the other is full of cash.

"Heading Out to Wonderful is based on a true story. Twenty-five years ago, a friend of mine in another country told me the story of something that happened to him as a child," Goolrick said. "When he was done, I thought, 'This is the best story I've ever heard.' I really, really wanted to get this story out and tell it."

Heading Out to Wonderful works with themes of place and passion, the loss of innocence, and tragedy.

"It's a gorgeously written book," said Paul Ingram, the Prairie Lights book buyer. "It's kind of a complicated love story."

While Goolrick has never been to Iowa City, he said he is excited about meeting readers and other writers on the trip.

The Iowa City Book Festival is an excellent place to do that networking, said Festival Director Festival Director Kristi Bontrager.

"Authors love to come to Iowa City," she said. "This is a great place to talk about books and reading and writing."

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