Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
The lions didn’t roar nor didn’t the elephants trumpet to announce my birth. What a shame. If I was to chose my style of entrance into this world, then that would have been it.
I was born in a small village under the hills of Mt. Kenya where the land is a golden green, the trees iridescent with different kinds of fruits.
As one of the best soccer players in my country, I was awarded a soccer scholarship to the land of George Washington, a dream come true for a village boy like me.
It was in America that I stood on top of the Empire building in magical New York and looked down at the most powerful city on earth. Words formed in my mind, sentences, paragraphs, chapters and soon, the birth of this book. I have always loved stories because in the comfort of my room, a good story can transport me around the whole world: from the natural beaches of Africa to the Statue of Liberty in New York City; from the Rocky mountains of Denver to the Eiffel Tower in France; from the Taj Mahal in India to the Arabian desert. Books are my escape from the real world; words are the way I say the things that I want to say. Everybody has a story I believe; we fail the future generation by not telling them our stories.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
This coming of age novel ‘ A lion in America 1’ was inspired by some personal experiences and features a real native tribe under the hills of Mt. Kenya. (My tribe).
When I came to the United States, Americans asked me what my name was and I told them Robert. They looked at me in surprise and then asked me again. “Really? What’s your real name, I mean the African name?”
“How come you speak English so well? ”
For the first time in my life, I questioned my own identity and realized that there was something different about not only me but also my generation.
The 21st Century African has a first European name and a second African one. He speaks more than one language: for example, English, Swahili and the native tongue. While parents diligently try to teach the African customs and traditions, the 21st century African learns a whole lot more by watching the TV and reading western books.
A lion in America 1 blurb
Deep in the African jungle where even the bravest are afraid to venture, lies a truth that will propel James through his improbable American journey, if he can come out alive. James a village boy in Africa receives a scholarship to go and study in America and he becomes the envy of the whole village. His girlfriend Janny is however skeptical of what a long distance relationship can do to love. But when Janny vanishes from the village, James plunges into the belligerent forest at the risk of his life and his American dream. Love transcends all. ‘A Lion in America 1’ is a suspense story full of love, humor and adventure, where the answer to love’s dilemma lies with a perfect kiss at the top of the Empire Building in New York City.
How do you create your characters?
I cheat. I use real life people I have encountered since childhood and I change their names and keep their characters. Sometimes this happens subconsciously and it’s imperative for a writer to make sure that the characters portray their own qualities and not those of the author.
What inspires and what got your started in writing?
My little sister once told me, “Robert, you used to kill many people in your short stories.”
I looked at her in surprise. “You used to read my stories when we were kids?”
She laughed. “Used to sneak around and read them all the time. “
Well, there you have it. My bibliography. When I was a kid, I used to write stupid stories and hide them. They were fun to write and they allowed me to create my own world with my own kind of heroes.
Sometimes when am watching a movie, I hear something that triggers my mind. Allow me to be specific. Gladiator movie:Lucilla says: Is Rome worth one good man’s life? We believed it once. Make us believe it again. He was a soldier of Rome. Honor him.
I would quickly grab the remote and press pause and then sit there for a few minutes pondering the words, relishing and soaking them in. The same thing happens to me with music and books.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
Its good to have a writing schedule but I only write when am inspired.
In ancient times, our ancestors were guided by their innate connection to their spirit. Life was about deep listening and acting accordingly. They called it the teaching of the hollow bone and it goes like this.
If you find an old bone in the woods, it has been cleaned out by insects or animals and appears to be pristine. The insides are absolutely smooth. When you become a hollow bone, you have no ego, no doubts, no pride. Just humility. The spirit can now come straight to you and straight through you. You read a book clearly or type on a laptop without pause.
How do you become a hollow bone? For me, I go to the woods or a quiet park. I see the children and the dogs running: the couple taking a walk, the girl reading a book under a tree. Some people close their eyes to clear their minds, I don’t. I look at the serene scene around me and it clears my mind, I ground myself and breathe my spirit into my body. I listen with my heart. And then I write.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
I’m a free spirit. I put down my head down and write for hours without thought and when am done, I don’t remember what I have written. Free spirits are the kind of people you meet at the airport and when you ask them where they are going, the answer is usually something like this, “You know what? I haven’t decided yet.
Movies, news, books, songs, my surroundings, and personal experiences help to trigger thoughts and further ideas.
What do you like to read?
The books that resonate with me are those that I read as a teenager: Enid Blyton, Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Perretti, Daniel Steel, John Grisham, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Chinua Achebe amongst others. Lately and due to time factor, I have resorted to audio books while am driving.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
Marianne Williamson: A Return to Love…we are to do what there is a deep psychological and emotional imperative for us to do. Write because it makes you happy.
Anything else you’d like to share? www.robert-mwangi.com
Witchcraft in Africa
I was introduced to witchcraft at the age of 18 back in Africa. Just to be clear, as a boy born in a post colonial period, and brought up in a Christian life, I did not believe in witchcraft, but some of the older players in my soccer team had seen unimaginable things.
They had been forced to jump over graves the night before a big soccer game: soak their feet in bloody water, sleep naked amongst other things.
We were the youngest soccer team to qualify for the president’s cup semifinals and if we won then we would get to shake the president’s hand and represent the country against other countries. I was eighteen years old and the idea of being in a plane for the first time in my life tickled my fancy.
The night before the big game, we crowded into one of the rooms and listened to the older players’ advice. Some players sat on the floor and others on the bed: the light was dim. The team we were playing against had a witchdoctor on their payroll. There were a couple of things that would happen during the game, the older players warned.
First, the opponent players would try and run around us before the game to cast a spell, and then as soon as the game started, it would rain hard for ten minutes and then stop. “We can’t allow them to intimidate us!” the older players said.
That night in my bed with the lights off, I told my roommate. “I’m a Christian, I don’t believe in this stuff.”
“Just do what the older players say, for the sake of morale.” My roommate sounded just as scared as I was.
The following day, we arrived at the stadium and refused to walk in through the main entrance: our scout told us that he had seen chicken legs dangling over the gate. We entered the field through a dwarf door that was meant to be an emergency exit and the other team looked shaken by this. They thought that we were following advise from our witchdoctor. As soon as the game started, it began to rain hard and I was shocked by the accuracy of the prophecy. The opponent scored and then the rain stopped.
“Didn’t we tell you?” the older players said.
We tried to fight back and equalize but my legs just couldn’t move.
“I can’t move my legs!” I yelled as a look of disbelief clouded my face.
“Don’t give up Robert. It’s the witchcraft!”
We lost the game and many others due to witchcraft. Many years later, I look back and wonder if it had all been a psychological war. We believed it to be true then, we doubt it now.
Change: the definition of change is to make something different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone.
A river of change flows through Africa, dividing the people into two: those who have adapted the western ways and those who are struggling to rescue the culture. While my mum diligently tried to teach me the African ways, I learned a whole lot more from watching TV and reading western novels. One of the things that Karen Blixen (Out of Africa) fought for and achieved was the establishment of schools in African villages. And right before Karen left Africa, she stood on top of Ngong Hills and whispered a prayer: Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?
My generation and I define change in Africa and it’s through us that Karen Blixen’s name lives. We whisper her name through these times and thank her for everything that we are today.
A Lion in America 1 www.robert-mwangi.com is the story of my generation. When we were kids, we read Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens and Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain. What story do you want your kids to grow up reading? Its your responsibility as a writer to answer this question.
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