Student Voice


July 12, 2024

UWRF professor to release first novel in trilogy

March 13, 2024

UW-River Falls English professor Joseph Rein will release his upcoming sci-fi thriller novel, YOUtopia, this April. Rein originally planned to publish YOUtopia as a standalone novel, but was offered a deal that resulted in the book becoming a trilogy. 

Rein explained that he came up with the idea for YOUtopia around ten years ago, and started writing the novel in 2018. He finished what he described as a “decent draft” in 2021. Rein described his inspiration for the novel: “I had read a lot when I was an undergraduate about utopias. The idea was a perfect world…. [where] we're trying to figure out how we can live as a society where everyone is equal, individual, [and] perfect. 

“The new takes on [utopias] are really dark and [focus] on the problems that come when people try to [create a utopia]. So the novel came from the idea that a perfect world can only exist for one person, for the individual. Because, once I want something and you want something else, it's no longer perfect. So that's why it's titled YOUtopia.”

The main character of the novel is an FBI agent who is trying to solve a series of murders. “It's a book about people achieving the perfect world, but they're only achieving it by living out what their own mind fancies,” Rein said. “The dark side of it comes in because that's not good; that can't be the way we live.”

Rein mentioned writers’ block, and said, “With murder mysteries, there's always a ‘whodunnit’ element… because you need a reader to get to the ending and be surprised, but also be able to say, ‘That makes sense.’ It can't come completely out of the blue. Knowing that while you're writing the middle [of the novel] is the hardest part. You know your beginning, and you know your ending, but getting there and making sure you're making it interesting along the way, that's where you can get stuck.”

Writer's block can be difficult for writers to combat, but Rein is able to address it by leaving his computer and doing other things: going for long walks or bike rides, or doing house chores. “Sometimes I do my best writing when I'm doing a big stack of dishes and have my headphones on and can just think. You can let your mind roam, and sometimes answers come to you when you're not under the pressure of being at that keyboard.”

Rein described how he felt when he learned that the publishing company he is working with on YOUtopia, Evolved Publishing, out of Butler, WI, wanted not one book, but three. “Part of it was exciting, but knowing the amount of work that goes into writing a novel, it freaked me out a little bit,” he said. “I hadn't written any of the second book.” 

Rein worked on the first novel whenever he could, whether it was in between English classes or early in the morning before his four kids woke up. He wrote frequently during the summer, all while balancing his work, family, and social life. 

Rein described the process of submitting to publishers as “heartbreaking. It's really difficult nowadays whenever you get something published out there in the world. No matter how big or small, it's something to celebrate because there are so many people who are trying to do this, and you end up being one of a hundred, one of a thousand, one of however many submissions these [publishers] get…. You start to get self-doubt; is this good enough? 

“But it may be that you haven't found the right reader on the other end, the person that [the piece] resonates with. So it's a hunt for finding that.” Rein went on to say that submitting involves a lot of rejection and that writers have to steel themselves for it.

“In those moments when you do get some acceptance, I'd say that I remember most, if not all of them: where I was sitting, how I received it, and what I did…. It's just a sense of joy and accomplishment that is hard to match.”

Rein's first book is coming out in April 2024, his second book is coming out in Sept. 2024, and the third book is coming out in April 2025.