Author J.A. Hayes gazes at the full moon, grinning. Although he’s studying history at UA Online, he writes about the future. About humanity’s first contact with life beyond Earth.
“I could never find fiction books that interested me,” he said. “I feel like when you read sci-fi as a sci-fi author, you inadvertently copy. So I read nonfiction … I watch Neil deGrasse Tyson talk about the stars.”
His first novel, “A World Between Two,” is a story about one human’s choice: Leave Earth behind, or watch it be destroyed. In it, Hayes employs the seldom-seen second-person perspective, which uses pronouns like “you” to turn the reader into the main character — an inventive choice he admits may not be for everyone. Nevertheless, he wanted to make sure people had the chance to read it, so he self-published online to ensure the book would debut on a special date.
“The book is dedicated to my sister, who passed away last year in April, and to my mom, who passed away in 2012,” Hayes said. “My sister’s birthday was February 7th, so I knew I wanted to release it in February.”
Through loss and life changes, including a move to Arizona, Hayes has been dedicated to publishing his novel. But he’s also been devoted to earning his degree. After moving to a new state all on his own, he had to come up with new ways to write, work and study at the same time.
“I started at a small school,” Hayes said. “But being out here in Arizona for the first time by myself … I knew I was going to have to work full time, and I didn’t know if that would work with the regular class schedule. So I started looking at online school.”
Hayes was studying History with a minor in Philosophy until UA Online launched a new program called Africana Studies, which prepares future leaders of a global and diverse economy.
“You can do it whenever you need to,” he said about his UA Online classes. “And if you need help, you can still go to main campus and get that help.
“The best thing about it is you really can learn at your own pace. Sometimes, when you’re on campus, you get caught in this go, go, go mentality, and you don’t really look back. But online … you can rewind a lecture. You can do it at your own pace, whenever you need to, and in the comfort of your own home.”
Hayes used this flexibility to keep writing. He’s currently working on two short stories and a sequel to his debut. The working title is “Three Worlds Below,” and he hopes to release it next June to honor his mother.
“When you’re doing something like this, you just want the world to read your work,” he said. “I don’t have to be the next J.K. Rowling to be happy. Just by having the book out there and letting people read it, I feel like I’m honoring my sister, my mom and my living loved ones.”