By CASEY CHAFFIN
T.J. Reid is not going to be the next J.K. Rowling. He knows that. But what’s the harm in trying anyway?
Reid self-published his first novel—A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Apocalypse — last year. It was a project he’s been mulling since his days at McNary, when the book that turned out to be a tongue-in-cheek “lampooning” of the post-apocalyptic genre was still taking itself seriously. The book describes the adventures of Leith Evergreen on her quest to save her mother and stave off the apocalypse.
“It wasn’t always a comedy in my mind. I actually started a draft a long time ago, when I was a teenager – I’d be horrified to read it now,” Reid said. “I was writing it and even then I thought this is really bad, I need a different way to approach this. It’s a story I want to tell … and then it kind of just clicked: I like writing funny things, why not make it a comedy?”
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Apocalypse emerged in the year following Reid’s graduation from Brigham Young University with a degree in history. Four years of dry historical research had turned him on to trying to find the funny in the mundane and incorporate that into his essays.
After four years of research writing, Reid wanted to do something different.
“When you write something that is about after the end of the world, you don’t really have to do much research about the world as it is,” he said.
Since graduating from BYU with a history degree, Reid has explored a few career paths, but hasn’t yet settled on a good fit.
“I am not very good at enforcing rules, and that’s also one of the reasons I wanted to make [the book] a comedy, because there’s so many literary rules. I didn’t really want to adhere to those all the time. If there’s an instance where using wrong grammar or punctuation or something would make it funnier, I’d do it even if it was breaking the rules.”
Reid would like to write professionally, but acknowledges the difficulty of making a career as a novelist.
“I would love to make writing a career, but I don’t expect it to happen. I’d be thrilled if it happened and I look for opportunities to advance that. Before I self-published I was looking at agents and stuff like that, and that’s something I continue to be doing,” Reid said, “It’s my dream, but I’m also a realist.”
Right now, he’s working for a temp agency, trying to find a job that’s the right fit. He hopes to find a career that allows time for writing on the side. He’s working on a sequel to A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Apocalypse, and ultimately imagines a trilogy.
Reid’s goal in writing novels is to provide a moment of escapism in a world that feels on the verge of apocalypse.
“In today’s climate, with all the uncertainty—climate change, and talk of politics everywhere—it’s important to get into something lighthearted. I hope my book is a bit of escapism for people. The best escapism is the stuff that makes people laugh,” Reid said.
But there’s something in the writing process for Reid, too. Fiction writing is an outlet for a self-proclaimed introvert who sometimes struggles to find the right words in person-to-person interactions. Fiction is Reid’s way of expressing the person he’d like to be.
“I’m much better at expressing myself in writing than I am through speaking. I stutter a lot, I get nervous talking to people, and I have a hard time coming up with jokes on the spot,” Reid said.
He added: “In a way I envy those characters because they have someone writing for them.”