David Goodwillie has lived more lives than I’ve had hot meals. My poor tied to the cooker, Mum might disagree with that statement but being the kind, supportive lady that she is she will allow it, for artistic reasons, to highlight the point that David Goodwillie’s life has been more complex and more layered than a creamy Devil’s Food Cake.
Life began in the land of pain au chocolat, but before he was able to grasp the difference between “vous” et “nous” he was whisked off to London where he spent the next 7 years of his life cultivating an English way of life. Now, this is where the world suddenly gets very, very small. As far as I knew before this interview, I had only met David twice, once when I went to an Xmas party of his and later on when I photographed him for Purple magazine. Apparently though he and I have hung out a whole lot more than either of us can remember! And no it is not from blackout drunk, forget entire nights kind of hangouts, we found out that we actually went to the same kindergarten in London! The odds of this happening are phenomenally low. The school is tiny, quintessentially English and rather snobby. Naturally though once this was discovered we immediately cut to the most obvious topic of choice, for descendants of said school, and enquired if either one had been taught by a certain “Candle in the Wind” Princess, who worked there before being whisked away to the Palace for the rest of her short life. David alas missed out on that honor, leaving me to trump the conversation with tales of how she taught me to make paper aeroplanes. To this day I’m still the go to for these home made toys. So whilst the memory of who he hung out with at 3 years old might have vanished down a grey matter crack, what he does recall is that he loved living in England very much and most likely would have stayed there too if his liberal Mum had not decided to leave his conservative Dad to run off with another woman! But these things happen and so the family was shipped back to the motherland… to the great United States of America and life
continued on. David’s high school days were a humongous white bland experience that he hated, but interestingly enough is now going thru a novel worthy hush, hush scandal. That dragon, it appears, has been awoken….From there he escaped the bland confines of the east coast and followed his love of Paul Newman and baseball to Kenyon College, Ohio. Whilst most of his fellow students were there to study the serious art of writing, he was not yet aware of his love for the craft and instead studied history but always with a secret eye on what them there writers were doing.. However, one week after graduating, with no thoughts of writing or history he found himself trying out for the Cincinnati Reds, ultimately ending up being drafted by the Newark Buffalos !!?? Casual, casual as you do, sounds like your average post university experience!? At the end of the day though baseball proved it was not going to bring in his bread and butter, so he packed his bags and headed back east to take his own chunk out of the Big Apple. For the next decade David swam in the shark infested hustlers ocean of NYC, first off giving Miss Marple a run for her money as a private investigator and an investigative journalist, before deciding he wanted to be a permanent fixture on someone’s hit list and exposed the Mafia’s activities in the garment trucking industry in a ground breaking article for Blackbook magazine. After that brush with the underworld, he became an expert at Sotheby’s auction house and was the man responsible for the $22 million sale of the privately owned baseball collection of Barry Halpers. Around his late twenties he started an internet company which did pretty well but, as is wont to happen, a voice, which had been quietly whispering to him, began shouting at him and he couldn’t ignore it any longer. He wanted to write. He had to write. If he ever wanted to sleep again then goddam it he had to put pen to paper, and figure out how the hell to write. So he sold his shares of the company to his partner, which gave him enough money to spend a year just writing and rented a room at the Chelsea hotel to write in. But write about what? He felt he didn’t know how to write a novel, so
he followed the age old advice and decided to write about what he knew……himself ! So at the grand old age of 30 David sat down amongst the ghosts of crazies past and started to write his memoirs. A year later with his bag 10lbs heavier, he had a book, but no idea what to do with it. He didn’t know anyone in the industry, he didn’t know how it worked. The only thing he knew was there was this bar in the lower east side where literary agents hung out after work. (Man do I love this part of the story, it’s so New York, so goddam ballsy..) With this in mind, David picked up his stack of papers and went down to said bar to try and find an agent for his book. Upon walking in though his nerves failed him and he headed to the bar for a drink. He sat down, hung his head in his hands, plonked the manuscript down beside him and ordered a whiskey. A few minutes later this woman came up to the bar to order herself a drink. She saw David, his whiskey and his manuscript and asked what he was doing. He told her the story of what he planned to do. She smiled and then admitted that she was one of those agents. She said she would read the first 10 pages, but that he should not expect to hear back from her. The next day she called him and asked him out to lunch… The rest is history. They found a publisher and in 2006 his memoirs, aptly titled “ Seemed like a good idea at the time” found its place on the shelves of every book store. Since then his follow up book, “American Subversive” joined the upper echelons of the NY Times must reads and another is most likely on its way there as he puts the finishing touches to his next book that is a reaction to the apathy of his generation thru the eyes of a love story.
So ladies and gents, take note of this here epic story of David Goodwillie. Life is not a straight shoot. It’s a wibbly wobbly, around in circles, up and down some mountains adventure. It’s about having a set of balls large enough to follow your dreams no matter how friggin terrifying that may be.
It’s about grabbing your pink tutu and taking a dance with a little danger whilst kicking some dirt in the face of the fears that hold you back…Go on… let’s do it like David’s, Rhodes Scholar, grandfather did, who as the fastest man in the world back then, was chosen as one of only two Americans to race in the Chariots of Fire movie, and run along the beach, wind in your hair, determination at your feet and sing as loud as you can, “…na na na na naaaa na, na naa na na nada, na aaaa na na na naa, na, nanananana.” as you dance thru the beautiful crazy journey known as your life…
Who is David Goodwillie?
Probably the last person on earth you’d think would be a literary novelist.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Centerfielder for the New York Mets.
How did you get to be where you are?
By trying a lot of other (mostly absurdist) stuff I had no affinity for. For instance, my first job in New York: I was–I kid you not–a licensed-in-three-states private investigator chasing the Italian mafia around the sweatshops of Chinatown for the world’s largest Investigative agency. Alas, I could never find anyone.
If you could go back in time and give your 16-year-old self some advice what would it be?
Read the classics, not the Cliffs Notes.
If the cupboard in your bedroom would lead you to another world what would your Narnia look like?
There’d be fewer “values voters” and climate change deniers. There’d be more swim-up Black Jack tables and leg room in Coach.
By day you are? A procrastinator …. By night you are also a procrastinator?
What was one of your favorite past projects…
I had some damn good science project submissions between Fifth and Eight grade, but I think I’ll go with my two books.
What are you working on now. and what do you dream of happening in the future…
I’m finishing a 600 page love story (an opus!) about a woman with a dark past. Just the perfect length novel for our ADD-addled age. What could possibly go wrong?
What song do you love that you keep secret cause its too embarrassing to say publicly you like it?
Much of Neil Diamond’s back catalog.
Which version of “ Space Oddity” do you prefer… Bowie or Smashing Pumpkins?
Oh, come on Franny!
Are you a morning person or night person?
Any advice for peeps just starting out?
Be a morning person.
Is there a quote or mantra you live by?
“Nobody ever knew how to talk about anything.” – Alison Espach, “The Adults”