Patent lawyer Joseph Reid finds success in debut novel, ‘Takeoff’
While most people are still snoozing, including his own family, Carmel Valley resident Joseph Reid’s creative juices are flowing.
“Basically, my routine is I get up at 4 and write until 8 a.m. I usually get my prime writing done early in the morning.”
It’s not that Reid has a specific affinity for pecking away at his computer as the sun rises. Rather, it’s the only time of day he has a free opportunity to write.
A lawyer at the international law firm of Perkins Coie LLP, the bulk of Reid’s days involve the mundane tasks involved with patent law. Perhaps that’s why Reid has fills his early mornings spinning a thrilling story packed with action, danger and intrigue.
Unbeknownst to casual observers in Reid’s orbit, the patent lawyer has been living a double life authoring the novel “Takeoff.” Published by Thomas & Mercer, the book has been a wild success since its debut on Amazon.com earlier this summer, picked as part of the Amazon First Reads series, landing at No. 1 in the the War/Military Fiction category and garnering Reid a burgeoning worldwide fanbase.
“It’s been a great run and a great ride,” says Reid, marveling at the success of his debut novel. “The reaction to the book has way exceeded my expectations.”
Both in stark juxtaposition to Reid’s day job and inspired by his intense work travel schedule, the plot for “Takeoff” focuses on an air marshal getting assigned to protect a teen pop star on a cross-country flight. As you may assume, things don’t quite go exactly as planned.
“They get ambushed, and he has to take her on the run to keep her safe,” explains Reid. “They have to figure out who’s trying to kill her.”
Reid notes that while some authors focus about writing about their hometowns — think: Stephen King and his penchant for spinning stories about rural Maine — Reid focuses not on the sunny shores of San Diego, but the fascinating minutiae of air travel.
“Because I’m on the go for work so much, I tried to think about someone who would be the same way,” he says.
Enter the hero of “Takeoff”: Seth Walker, a nerdy air marshal.
“The more I thought about airports,” Reid says, “there’s an awful lot of different elements they embody from the security to terror threats, storefronts and cargo.”
Exactly how a San Diego patent attorney became a published writer is a tale ripe for a novel itself.
Thanks to a transient childhood as a Navy brat and his father’s later career as management consultant, Reid found his family moving from place to place. He didn’t settle down until attending Notre Dame for law school and decamping for Carmel Valley with his wife 18 years ago, which is when he joined the ranks of Perkins Coie LLC, an international law firm based out of Seattle, working out of their North County offices overlooking I-5.
“I do plenty of writing for my job, but I never thought about becoming a quote-unquote writer until a decade ago,” he explains of his foray into the craft. “My wife and I were on a trip before my first daughter was born, and I was devouring a lot of books. I sort of sat around and thought of an idea for what could be a novel.”
Reid then took the dive and wrote his first novel, wrote a second, and attempted to learn as much as he could about the craft and the business along the way. However, Reid found it difficult to get published, a notoriously tough task.
“It was an awful long time of beating my head against the wall and saying, ‘I’d love to get published,’” says Reid of a frustrating six-year period of near-constant rejection. “It was the kind of thing where every birthday and Christmas, if I wished for one thing, that would be it.”
It wasn’t until Reid concocted the plot for “Takeoff” did he have a breakthrough.
“This one felt different,” he says. “It wrote faster.”
Through a freelance editor he was working with, Reid got in touch with a publisher and the rest, as they say, is history.
Reid is already plotting the appropriately titled “Takeoff” to be the first in a series — he recently turned in its follow-up to his publisher. As for whether he’ll pursue writing full-time, that’s another story, so to speak.
“It’s been a unique opportunity,” he says. “My day job is pretty consuming and balancing both can be tricky. I like my firm and what I do a lot, but we’ll see where it goes. I’ve only been out for a month, so I’m not making any long-term plans just yet.”
--Rob LeDonne is a freelance writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune and this newspaper
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