So I got the chance to chat with Juan Zapata, the writer behind Golden Skies, a science-fiction thrill ride hitting shelves on June 12th. Come get inside his head with me and find out more about his debut novel.
Hey Juan, thanks for taking the time to talk. For those who aren’t familiar with you or your work could you give us a little background on who you are and what you write?
My name is Juan Zapata. I’m a senior at Alabama A&M majoring in Criminal Justice. I lucked out and got a full ride because of my ACT score, not because I’m brilliant. I was born in Mexico and was brought to the U.S. when I was four. I write science fiction, which is funny because I read more fantasy than anything else. My debut novel, Golden Skies, releases June 12th. It’s about a guy named Malik who is trying to free his hometown from his religious, tyrannical father. There’s jetpacks, guns with no recoil, and these cool gloves that shoot energy shields out and blow people through walls. It’s on another planet with 32-hour days, nine days a week – you get the gist.
Sounds like a good time to me. Though, I don’t know how much more coffee and Red Bull I could drink to add another eight hours to the day! With your book releasing soon, what is one thing that you’ve taken away from the editing and publishing process?
One thing I’ve definitely learned is strategic waiting. For example – my publisher, Owl Hollow Press, told me to shush about my cover when I saw it 3 weeks before everyone else. The reason for that is they wanted to hype people up with teasers. Shortly after this, my publisher said to keep my university from officially announcing my novel until pre-orders were available. It was hard to contain my own constant fidgeting and excitement, but I listened, and it’s turned out great. Patience and timing is definitely key when it comes to marketing.
And two of the most difficult things to have so kudos on being able to contain the excitement. If you had to pick someone to play the main character in a film adaptation who would it be?
Hmm. I think Mahesh Jadu would be a good Malik Zzoha. The actor played in the Marco Polo TV series. He looks amazing.
Good pick. So regarding the writing process and how it differs for every writer, can you give us a look into your writing routine?
My writing routine is chronological. I can’t for the life of me start in the middle or the end and work backward or anything like that. I have to feel like I have a solid base under my feet to build on, to get the context of the characters’ emotions and thoughts. To that end, I write a chapter at a time, and then edit that chapter as close to high quality as possible before continuing to the next.
Make sense. One block at a time, right? Now your novel is set to be part of a trilogy. At what point did you know it was going to be more than one novel?
I knew it was going to be a trilogy because the protagonist is meant to reach a specific point in terms of personal achievement. I originally – back in the early, prehistoric drafts – had the end result as the start with the protagonist reminiscing about the past, but I thought it spoiled things too much. I finally knew it would be a trilogy and not a series once I fleshed out the villain for book 2 and his plans.
That revelation must have made planning much easier. Religion plays a factor in Golden Skies, and whether factually based or fictionalized, writing about religion can be a difficult task. How did you go about that part of the process?
I had to be extremely careful to not offend anyone. I really just had to put in enough characteristics into these fictional religions to keep them from being a mirror image of an earthly one as that would be problematic. One can interpret what they will through symbolism, but I couldn’t make it overt. Owl Hollow Press helped me make Golden Skies enjoyable to anyone from any belief system and I definitely thank them for it.
So, assuming you had to hide out on one planet in our solar system, which one would you pick? Gas giants are an acceptable answer!
I pick Neptune because it looks really, really cool. The deep blue of it makes me extremely curious. Like a bug to a lamp.
Alright, next fun question, if you could travel to any period in time where would you go and why?
I would pick the height of the Roman Empire because it would be ******* amazing. I’d probably be a legionnaire or something. Or a politician in the Senate – the lifestyle would be intriguing to say the least.
At this stage of your writing career, what is something that you’ve learned that you wish you knew when you first started out?
I wish I knew about active voice versus passive voice. Like really knew. Showing versus telling as well, staying away from certain words such as “I felt, I saw” (kind of debated, but my mentor rubbed off on me), and incorporating actions to move dialogue forward rather than relying too much on tags.
Understandable. I think for every writer nailing down the craft is an ever evolving process. Do you have a tradition for when you finish a project or have a piece accepted for publication?
I usually just treat myself to a nice dinner and a day of doing nothing but relaxing. Resting on laurels is always nice haha.
Any projects currently in the works?
Right now, I’m just cleaning up (self-editing) Ethereal Horizon (book 2 in The New Order Trilogy) and starting to write the third one. I want to be ahead of schedule to always have breathing room.
A good goal to have. Well, good luck on the revisions. Kill those darlings! Before we wrap-up, rapid fire time. First thing that pops into your head. Ready? Set. Go!
Not a bad set of choices! Thanks for stopping by and hanging out for a bit, was definitely a good chat. If people want to find out more about you or checkout Golden Skies where should they head?
They can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Zapatathe1
or like my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Zapatathe1/?ref=bookmarks
Or they can visit my website here: