DAVID HARTNESS is an award winning author and freelance writer. An avid traveler, inspired by many cultures, David enjoys using this subject in his blog "A Small Perspective."
Raised on Vashon, a small island in Puget Sound, Washington, David learned the values of life and hard work to pursue his ambitions. This led him to travel internationally, serving a small school in Ebukolo, Kenya. While in Kenya, he lived in a mud hut with no running water or electricity. Mr. Hartness had ambitions to make lasting change while in Kenya but ended up learning more from the experience than he gave back.
He later served in the U.S. Peace Corps as an education volunteer stationed in Namaacha, Mozambique. Upon leaving service, David continued his education, receiving an MBA from Walden University, and currently enrolled in a DBA program.
Amani's River is David's ﬁrst full-length novel.
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What events or works inspired the story of Aderito?
Several events inspired the wok of Aderito. First and for most the Mozambican civil war, was an even that I needed to tell. Second, many news stories have come out about child soldiers, and I felt the need to tell their story. There are currently 250,000 children serving in wars around the world, and I wanted to give them a voice. I wanted to tell a story about the war that ended in 1992, but a story that was still relevant in today’s world. As a result, Aderito was born.
You didn't pull any punches in Amani's River. Was it hard putting Aderito through so much turmoil?
It was very hard. There were many moments that I had to stop writing, or editing and walk away for a few minutes to clear my head. What was harder, was hearing the countless stories of child soldiers during the war, from people who lived through the experience. A little piece of their life was told through the eyes of Aderito.
Tell us about your day job.
Well, I am an author, but I also wok in the education sector. I work for an NGO, and just moved to the DC/Maryland area.
This is your first novel length work. Can we expect more from you in the future?
I have actually just started my next novel. This novel will deal with bullying. I worked with the National Burn Foundation while working at Waskowitz Outdoor School, and I remember the pain they had and the stories they shared. I wanted my next character to deal with these issues, and deal with severe bullying at school. I then wanted to bring in another character who is blind, and who is able to understand the inner beauty in everyone, and is not consumed by the physical presence of others. The story was inspired by the Burn Foundation, but also a Mark Twain quote, “kindness is a language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” It is a work in progress, but I think very few novels dive into this subject matter and bring these two complex characters together to face their fears and issues. It would be an honor to bring this to the literary community.
Growing up, I had to censor my darker works for the sanity of my teachers and family. Are you worried about your son reading this work, or has he already?
I am worried about it, but he will read it soon. I am starting to become okay with it, because it is a story about an event that took place. As long as I am there to talk him though some of the scenes, things should be okay.
You were an education volunteer in the Peace Corps. Do you still teach?
Yes, I still teach, but these days I am working for Non-government organizations.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Never give up. You may enter a very complex and competitive market, but you have a story to tell, so go and tell it. Don’t be afraid of what people may say.
How accurate is the history in Amani’s River?
Amani’s River is accurate, in terms of dates and events. Everything that happened in the book did happen to someone during the war. Most of the events happened, but the characters are fictional. However, child soldiers were real, what they forced them to do, was real, and the horrific events that they lived through were real.
Why did you decide to have the main character come from the USA?
The novel was made for a US market. I thought by taking the fictional character from the US, giving a real and plausible reason for moving to Mozambique; this would resonate to the audience. Violence, in a war or domestically, can afflict anyone. I wanted to shock, make people think and resonate with the character, and I felt this character would do the best job.
Anything else we should know?
Amani’s River is an a Historical Fiction novel based on the Mozambican civil war, which follows Aderito through the brutal violence that forced him into the rebel movement only to become a child, soldier. Based on historical facts, but told through the eyes of a fictional character, allows the reader to see the travesty of war.
The unique story is based on the real-life events of the civil war, but unlike other war novels, Amani’s River tells the story as is, and spares nothing when describing the atrocities of being a child soldier. Also, Amani’s River is as relevant today as it was during the 1990’s because there are roughly 250,000 child soldiers currently serving rebel and government armies around the world.
Armies around the world have found using child soldiers to be cost effective because they eat less and are vulnerable enough to not question authority. Given the relevance of today, Amani’s River is an important novel to read to shed light on an important issue. Developing countries need to come together to put an end to the atrocities that children face every day.
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