Q&A with Robert Goolrick, Author: Heading Out to Wonderful

One True Thing: Love can make you crazy.

Posted Sep 04, 2012

Robert Goolrick’s debut novel, A Reliable Wife, spent 32 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List and his second effort doesn’t disappoint. "A Reliable Wife is a novel about how good things can happen, through grace, even to people who are deeply flawed morally," Goolrick explains. "Heading Out To Wonderful is the flip side of that. It’s a book about how bad things can happen even to good people." Here’s more from this powerful writer:

Jennifer Haupt: I love the title of your new book, where does it come from?

Robert Goolrick: I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it came from an interview in the New York Times with the singer Bill Withers. It leapt off the page and it seemed so right, so perfect for this book.

JH: You’ve said that you started A Reliable Wifewith the final scene, which I won’t spoil for readers but it is lush and lovely in every way! Where did you begin Heading Out to Wonderful?

RG: Heading Out to Wonderful started twenty-five years ago, when I first heard a true story about the only crime that had ever been committed on the small Greek island where I was living. The story had already become a kind of local legend, and people were eager to talk about it. But, most importantly, I knew some of the people who had been involved in the actual story, and I first heard it from a friend who was a butcher who had been a small boy when it all took place. He was Sam, in the book.

JH: What role does faith, if any, play in your work?

RG: I believe the only thing that matters in life is goodness and the hope for redemption. It is, essentially, all I write about. It isn’t so much faith that moves me, but grace, and the way it visits us in the course of any life, and the use we out it to when it comes.

The first line of Heading Out To Wonderful is, “The thing is, all memory is fiction,” so, for me, the line between the two is not quite as distinct as it might appear.

JH: You’ve written a memoir as well as two novels. Did the memoir inform the fiction, vice versa, or neither?

RG: I felt that if I were going to try to write truthful fictions that had obvious thematic links to events that had informed my life, I owed it to myself to try to write truthfully and honestly about those events. The first line of Heading Out To Wonderful is, “The thing is, all memory is fiction,” so, for me, the line between the two is not quite as distinct as it might appear.

 JH: What’s the One True Thing you learned from Charlie Beale?

RG: Love can make you crazy.

JH: What’s next for you?

RG: I’m at work on a new novel about the summer of 1969, and about the cultural convergence of two extraordinary events that happened that summer – the Manson murders, which took place on August 15th of that year, and the festival at Woodstock, which started four days later. It is about how the most brilliant and the most brutal acts of my generation took place in the same week.

In addition to A Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick is the author of the acclaimed memoir The End of the World as We Know It. He lives in a small Virginia town.