DAVID HARTNESS is a freelance writer and English teacher working in an international setting. 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.
David, how did you discover indieBRAG?
I discovered indieBRAG through researching other blogs and awards to enter. indieBRAG was linked on another site, but I can’t honestly remember which one.
Please tell me about your story.
Amani’s River is a Historical Fiction novel that follows 10 year old Aderito through the turmoil of the Mozambican Civil War. The novel follows a five year span, and much of this time Aderito is a child soldier, desperately trying to escape the violence, but is held back by his captors. Amani’s River is a story of triumph. It is about a child over coming amazing odds to be a descent adult. The story is as much about the civil war, and educating people on that piece of history, as it is about the use of child soldiers.
How did the idea of your story come to you?
I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique for three years. I learned about the war through many contacts. It was a story that I felt the world didn’t know, and needed to understand that the war effected 5 million people, physically and emotionally and lasted 16 years. It was also one of the most violent wars, yet people had no idea the war even happened. I needed to tell the story, for the Mozambicans. On a side note, I decided to use the subject of child soldiers, because it is a global issue that is relevant today. I wanted people to be emotionally attached to the main characters, in hopes that the story would make profound differences in others’ lives, and perhaps help the 250,000 current child soldiers fighting around the world.
Could you please share an excerpt?
Happiness escaped, and fear entered. The peacefulness of the day’s events passed, and the harsh reality of the world away from the river came flooding in, and I could think of nothing else but the dark sounds of the guns ringing throughout the valley and the fear the people must have felt.
The children waited for half an hour before, without any preconceived idea or warning, they started to tear up the hill as if they had a hunch that the men with guns had left. Time to scope
out the damage and make sure that the families were okay. Victoria grabbed my hand and pulled me along. During the shooting and after, my feet and entire body went numb; and when she grabbed me by the hand, my legs didn’t walk. But once the recognition and shock left, the only thing I could think of was my family. I felt that the children understood the dangers, and yet they still ran up the hill.
Even though I just met them, I felt protected, and so I ran beside them. My feet began to pound in a strange rhythmic bold pattern. There were deranged emotions that I had never felt. There was this sense of fear that hovered around me. I think it was fear for my life as well as my families. Yet covering the fear was this strange sense of heroism sweeping into the village with my friends ready to fight and willing to sacrifice my life for a greater purpose.
We reached the edge of the road just before entering the village. The other children hid behind a line of bushes to scope out the land. I stood erect, wondering what they were doing. Would I have to continue our epic deed by myself? Let us see what has happened, how we can help. Confusion started, and thoughts raced through my mind when reality struck, and Victoria yanked me by the hand with enough force to knock me to my knees. I think they may have been smarter, willing to cower behind a bush to ensure security. In the act of war, a hero that stands to live another day is better than a foolish man who runs into a battle blinded by his own sense of epic being.
We sat behind a bush, trembling with fear as we saw an average pickup truck turn a corner and head toward us. The driver had his hand dangling from the truck. The man gazed in our direction as if he saw the once-brave kids trembling behind the bushes, but he did nothing. In the back of the truck were men, each with AK-47s in one hand and a machete in the other. Some men had their weapons drawn in the air while others satisfied their anger with yelling and screaming. One man sat on the cab of the truck while another had one leg in and one out, sitting on the tailgate. One person looked over, but he didn’t see us, but the mask he wore was that of darkness.
The man’s eyes squinted in the falling sun, and his face squished together. In his right hand, he held the gun tight, and I could see his veins bulge out from his forearm. As the truck passed, my eyes glued on the man. The man raised his AK-47 and pointed it in our direction. The man held it there for a second. Could he see us? I looked at his dark eyes and saw his right eye wink at the gang and me. Trepidation made my body wobble, and I fell backward to land on the rocky path. My mouth widened, and my chest and stomach ached of pain. My body shook as I saw the man show off a half smile. The smile was mischievous, one that resonated in my memory for many days to come. The man lowered the gun and did nothing. I watched as the car turned another corner and sped up toward the setting sun. We stayed in that spot, watching the truck get smaller and smaller until it vanished.
What can you tell me about the Mozambican War that is portrayed in your story?
The Mozambican war was violent, and destroyed many homes and life. I also hope that readers get the part, that even with the destruction of the war; Mozambique has risen to be a success story for Africa. It is peaceful now, but many lives were destroyed for the democracy to become a part of their culture.
What is the relationship like between Aderito and Victoria?
Aderito comes to Homoine, Mozambique at the age of 10 and befriends Victoria. They are both captured together and try and escape the compound together.
Who designed your book cover?
I designed it as far as I could take it with my knowledge of Photoshop, and then a professional polished it up a bit and made it more presentable.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
Amani means peace in Swahili. I felt it was a powerful word to name a child during the time of war. The wish for peace, when all you see is destruction. The hope for a brighter and better world.
What are you working on next?
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.
Do you stick with just one genre?
I like Historical Fiction, but I am more interested in a good story that can change people’s way of thinking and perhaps make profound changes in our world.
Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?
I like to write on the patio. I map out the entire story, including the characters and setting. Then each day I like to go through one specific scene and really work through the details of the scene. Once I feel that I have story done, I then spend several days/weeks/months editing. I like to finish the entire story, before I start editing. I find if I spend too many days on a single chapter, I lose interest in the story.
Is there a favorite food or drink you like to enjoy while writing?
I large cup of coffee to start, and usually water for the rest of the day.
When you’re stuck on a scene in your story, what do you do?
Leave it. I simply walk away. I go play basketball, take a nap, and spend time with my son. I do anything but write. I find that when I clear my mind, and come back to the issue, often times, the solution is easier.
Is there a particular hobby you enjoy when you’re not writing?
I am an avid basketball player/watcher. I also enjoy photography, although my SLR camera broke. I also like white water rafting.
Where can readers buy your book?
Readers can buy the book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or on my website . There are also links to various bookstores that sell copies of the book.
A Message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview David Hartness who is the author of, Amani’s River, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Amani’s River, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.