HUNTSVILLE Ala. -- Getting a book published is a major accomplishment for anyone, but how about landing a three-book deal, all before graduating from college? An Alabama A&M University student from Huntsville did just that. His first book "Golden Skies" was released Tuesday.
It's 192 pages, painstakingly edited. Each chapter taking days or weeks to write. The book that almost wasn't published.
"99% get rejected. I got rejected 100 times before I got this publishing deal," said Juan Zapata, the author of "Golden Skies."
Zapata was born in Mexico and moved to Huntsville when he was four-years-old. He said he first got serious with his writing when his seventh grade English teacher at Monrovia Middle School told him that he had talent.
"I wasn't as terrible as I thought, and that I should keep going," said Zapata.
The 21-year-old started writing his book "Golden Skies" in February 2016 and finished it in July of that year. Then he said he received publishing rejections for months.
"Actually I broke a rule cause most authors, you're not supposed to contact a publisher after they rejected you," said Zapata.
But he did resubmit his book to Owl Hollow Press, and they signed him to a three-book deal. The first book takes place on another planet, it follows Malik, the son of a religious tyrant.
"In the beginning of the book, he tries to kill his dad, but he fails, and he gets sent to a religious conversion camp where he gets tortured," said Zapata, "He barely manages to escape, and that's where the book really takes off, it's him trying to free his hometown."
He said it's risky to involve religious themes, but it was important for him to show the characters courage and perseverance.
"The characters are like really personal, and I mean I guess in a sense they're your creation, they're your baby right," said Zapata. "So I want people to be able to see those characters and what they do and their interactions, so that keeps me going."
He said next he plans to keep on writing and would like to become a novelist, but he says he's not quite at the point of making a living out of this.
"If you sell a lot, yes, but from the get-go, no. I still have to keep my day job for now," Zapata said.
He is a senior criminal justice major at Alabama A&M University. He will graduate in December and plans to also pursue a career in law enforcement.
He has already finished the second book in the trilogy, and he's currently on chapter two in the last book in the series. He said he knows how it will end, but won't give it away. He is also working to get his book translated into Spanish so his parents can read his labor of love.
Golden Skies is available on Amazon, Zapata said he is working on having it sold in local stores.