Book Smart

Joey Goebel was 24 when he decided he was going to write his version of the Great American Novel. Democrat John Kerry had just lost the 2004 presidential election to Republican George W. Bush, “and I thought, man, I need to write a political novel.” More than three years later, he gave readers “Commonwealth,” the third of his four books, which attempts to dramatize the American class struggle. Set in recognizable sections of Evansville, Henderson, Ky., and portions of Owensboro, Ky., this MacAdam/Cage publication describes an epic drama about the 11th wealthiest family in the country, a female punk rocker, professional wrestling, flea markets, a political race, and a closely held secret.

We won’t spoil the surprise for those who intend to read the book. But we will tell you that Goebel, 33, a married father of one son who lives in Henderson, has won two European writing awards, was a finalist for the Kentucky Literature Award, was featured in Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, and was long-listed for the first Dylan Thomas Literary Prize in Wales in 2006, one of the biggest literary prizes in the world. Yet he’s still more likely to be recognized for his writing talents in Germany, Romania, Austria, and France than he is here in the Tri-State area.

Goebel says that’s largely because people in Europe are more eager to listen to writers talk about writing. “Truthfully, literature is alive and well in Europe, and you’re always guaranteed a decent audience at these readings,” he says.

In Romania, Goebel received the 2009 Ovid Prize that was awarded by the Romanian Writers Union to “a young writer of today who will surely become a classic of tomorrow’s world literature.” One reading was for his wife, Micah, and about 200 young Romanian women who had read his first book, “The Anomalies.” The panel discussion was for the Romanian version of Elle magazine.

“This was bizarre for a guy from Kentucky who didn’t have many girlfriends growing up,” he says about the audience of women, many of whom posed questions in English. “Romania was cool because I had never been to a former communist country, excluding East Germany. It was just wild to be there. I had never set foot in something as exotic as the Black Sea. I’m more used to the Ohio River.”

Goebel received a bachelor’s degree in English from Brescia University, Owensboro, Ky., and an MFA in creative writing from Spalding University in Louisville. He writes what he describes as literary fiction. While commercial fiction is driven by plot, action, or character, he says literary fiction is driven by ideas. “It’s not only meant to entertain the reader,” Goebel says. “It’s always meant to provoke thought.” And often, it does. Goebel was in Germany on a book tour when a young reader — referring to all four of his novels — told him that she loved his books because they showed her it was OK to be different, and that “about made me cry,” he says. For a published author who spends nights awake developing his plot lines, who knows the demands of extensive research, and understands that believable characters are key to a successful book, “comments like that make it all worthwhile,” he says.

For more information about Joey Goebel, visit His books can be purchased through 

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