Author Justin A. Reynolds, Visits Liberty
On Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, author Justin A. Reynolds came to Liberty to talk about his life and to promote his novel, Opposite of Always. Over the course of the day, Reynolds shared his story with students and classes who came to listen.
February 10, 2020
Ever since he was 5 or 6 years old, author Justin A. Reynolds knew he wanted to become a writer. While it was a life-long dream, he wasn’t sure if it would ever come true. Reynolds’s journey to becoming a writer was a long one, filled with numerous 9-5 jobs, some that both paid well and that he exceeded at, but none that fulfilled him.
“Every good thing requires almost a little bit of struggle, finding your footing is finding your footing. But the rewards once you do are priceless,” stated Reynolds. “I’m talking about the type of success that makes you feel like a better person, that makes you a better contributing member of society, of your community.”
He knew that the typical job structure wasn’t meant for him and he felt that working like that didn’t feed his soul in the way he needed. A few days after being named the NASA intern of the year as an engineering student, Reynolds quit— to the displeasure of his parents —to join a creative writing program in pursuit of becoming an author.
“I wasn’t a person who was meant to work a 9-5 job. It made me feel restricted in a way I can’t even really explain. I’ve had lots of 9-5 jobs and they’ve all been devastating internally in some way, I knew that I needed to live an artistic lifestyle,” said Reynolds. “…The art was the thing that fueled me and it was the thing that made me excited to get up in the morning and it was the thing I was thinking about when I went to sleep.”
But, bit by bit, Reynolds used every spare moment he had during the mornings, nights, and in-between jobs writing on little slips of paper when inspiration hit. Despite his reservations about sharing his book with the youth, his journey brought him there anyway.
Reynolds’s inspiration for the novel’s premise came from the film Groundhog Day wherein the main character relives the same exact day over and over again. Like Groundhog Day, Opposite of Always focuses on the main character, Jack King, who is forced to relive the same 4 months over and over with the goal of trying to save a girl named Kate.
“So, you live for four months and at the end of those four months, the person that you love dies and then you’re reset back to the moment in time where you first met them at a party four months before… Except they don’t know that you’re time-traveling,” explained Reynolds.
The first line that came to his head from the book was, “People like to say they’re someone [to] everyone,” and this is true for Reynolds too. People like to believe that someday they will all find someone that truly understands them in a way that nobody else does, a soulmate of sorts. Kate’s character is inspired by a young woman Reynolds met during his time as a nurse working in oncology and hematology, studies of cancer and blood diseases.
The patient suffered from sickle-cell anemia, a disease that affects the shape of the red blood cells and therefore the oxygen available to the body, and was considered a hard patient to get through to. Taking up the challenge, Reynolds brought her books, movie recommendations, and visited her daily. He was eventually able to break through her shell before she passed and they became friends, and therefore he was someone for her too.
“Empathy is their pain in your heart, it’s sympathy in action,” said Reynolds. “I think it’s important to make meaningful deep interpersonal connections with other people. Why else are we here? It’s easy to not even pay attention to the people walking by. What if we slowed down, just a little bit, to smile at somebody we don’t know?”
Along with the patient he’d taken care of for months, his motivation for writing the book came with the loss of two other important people in his life. Reynolds’s aunt, who had been like a mother to him, and his best friend, who was healthy one day and gone the next. He was so driven by emotion from all of these events that he finished the book in only four months. Reynolds wanted to share with his audience the importance of making the most of the time with people and not taking that time for granted.
“A lot of things that I thought I understood about the world [and] a lot of the things that I had been taught by my family didn’t hold up to me anymore. I was confused and upset,” said Reynolds. “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
Reynolds wasn’t sure at first how he would feel if the book did become a success. Opposite of Always was like therapy for him and he didn’t think he’d be able to talk about it with other people.
“All those people that I talk about were joyful people, they celebrated life, so it’s not an examination of death, it’s a celebration of life and what we get to do while we have the time,” exclaimed Reynolds.
After Reynolds’s book, Opposite of Always, his career took a huge turn. He is now currently writing 5-6 different books, some including Early Departures, the sequel to Opposite of Always, which is a compilation of things he wishes he had said to his best friend, and a Spiderman graphic novel with Marvel featuring Miles Morales. He also has a movie deal with Paramount Pictures for Opposite of Always. Opposite of Always is also being translated into multiple languages.
Reynolds’s writing process has changed since he became a full-time author. He now wakes up every morning and writes three pages to get rid of all the bad writing for the day. This, along with his specific music playlists for each book, help get him in the mindset to write and finish the required work for that day.
“Being successful is being lucky enough to find the thing that makes you feel better, that you’re excited about, that makes you a better human being, then do that, who cares about whatever else,” said Reynolds.