CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Finding comfort through creativity, Alfred "A.J." Hill Jr. thrives in his favorite room in the house — his bedroom.
That is where the 16-year-old Chesterfield musician fine-tunes his skills on the saxophone and drums.
“When I’m listening to music, I’m in my own vibe. In my own world and I’m just like I’m on Cloud 9,” Hill Jr. said. “I love it. I love it a lot."
Aside from music, the James River High School student is fascinated with model cars, the solar system, and Minecraft.
His bedroom also offers an escape from the pain.
“I didn’t get treated that well in school,” he said. “It was hard to fit in sometimes with the other kids.”
Growing up, the soft-spoken 10th grade student was the frequent target of insults.
“It was very hard so I got bullied for that because I would stand out and act more different than the other guys,” he said.
The abuse cut deep.
“People always find the opportunity where they can you know pick on a kid they think that doesn’t have a lot of self-esteem. But he does. He does,” mother Pamela Hill said.
Pamela and Greg Hill ached for their son A.J, who they said did not have a mean bone in his body.
“I still have to give him the love and nourishment but I want him to make good decisions. Me and my wife support him,” father Greg Hill said.
During the pandemic, at-home learning gave A.J. time to pour his heart and soul into his two favorite passions of writing and doodling.
“I discovered (writing) when I was seven years old,” he said. “I would do my character sketches or free write about scripts and stuff.”
Hour after hour he created stories complete with his artwork. He never stopped.
“If an image pops into my head in the middle of the night I just have to run down here and draw a sketch of it,” he said.
He thought others might like to read his tales featuring Arlo the teen sleuth. After many redrafts and fine-tuning A.J. became a published author.
His first book, Middle School Mystery Pool Party Disaster hit shelves last August.
“It really brought me joy to see people enjoy my story because I’ve never gotten that reaction,” he said.
The literary accomplishment has fueled A.J.’s confidence in and out of class.
“It's like filled with emotion,” he said. “I’m going to cry because I would never think that I would hold something that I wrote and published.”
Mom and dad could not be prouder.
“He has accomplished so much in his life,” Pamela said. “I look forward to all the great things coming his way.”
The young author is even recruiting big sister Izetta to handle his marketing.
“We all keep hard copy books in our room,” Izetta said. “I have one. My mom has one. Just to realize this is where we started and to know now where we are, it is amazing.”
Riding the wave of success Alfred is already working on a sequel.
“It is hard to do a sequel when your first book is amazing,” A.J said with a laugh.
Alfred "A.J" Hill, Jr. is a young man who turned the other cheek while being insulted now takes great joy turning his own page.
“I would say keep finding the courage in yourself because the harder you fall the greater the opportunities would come up,” he said. “It will pay off. Bullies never win.”
Middle School Mystery Pool Party Disaster is sold on Amazon for $7.99. The sequel will hit shelves and online in the spring.
You can also watch Greg McQuade's "Heroes Among Us" reports Thursdays on CBS 6 News at 6 p.m.
Find unique, award-winning stories every day on CBS 6 News:
Mondays: CBS 6 Gives
Tuesdays: CBS 6 Problem Solvers Investigations
Wednesdays: Wayne's World
🙋♀️ Thursdays: Heroes Among Us
Thursdays: Beyond the Roster
Fridays: I Have a Story