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Inside My Hero’s Mind

David H. Rothman
David H. Rothman Author Interview

Drone Child follows a young electronics genius as he’s forced to fight as a sniper, drone pilot and pirate to keep his family alive. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

A Golden Globe judge suggested I write a script about a child soldier. I myself added the drone pilot and pirate angles and many others. Yes, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has a small coastline.

Drone Child isn’t just a commercial project. I’ve long been interested in human rights issues and even helped judge an international contest on that topic. My Jewish family lost distant relatives in the Holocaust, and in a blog post at, I’ve mentioned the similarities between Nazi war crimes and the atrocities in Africa. Not to mention the goals of certain neo-Nazis in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Along the way, with plenty of additional material to get inside my hero’s mind, the script also became a novel.

Lemba is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Lemba’s ideals reflect my own belief in freedom, opportunity, family, and community. He grew up in a poor but community-minded village where the elders viewed education as an escape from poverty.

That’s just one Congolese village. But it’s the worldview Lemba is familiar with, along with a belief in family. He sees his greedy, power-hungry captors as a threat to those ideals–which in turn makes him value and fight for the goals and philosophy of his fellow villagers all the more.

Two Congolese fact-checkers vetted and critiqued my book in manuscript, and I was pleased to see that they share Lemba’s worldview. They hope that local editions of the book will appear in French and Lingala.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Drone Child among other things explores the connection between war, family, technology, and morality.

Kidnapped for his brilliance, Lemba is forced to fly deadly drones and train other pilots to save his precious parents from a machete blade. But what will this mean for the victims of the violent thugs he must work for? Moral questions abound in Drone Child.

Another theme is the power of love of family. It permeates most everything Lemba does. “Family,” by the way, includes his twin sister. Josiane and Lemba protect each other and reinforce each other’s ambitions despite formidable obstacles.

Simply put, Drone Child shows how a loving and functional family can at least help children survive and thrive even in a dysfunctional society. Some important caveats! Far too many families are dysfunctional, no matter what the country. The operative word is “can”–the odds will still be scary. I don’t see strong families as a replacement for effective social programs or a peaceful society.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Right now I’m more focused on marketing Drone Child and refining the related film script. I care more about quality than about producing X number of works in a certain time.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Kidnapped for his brilliance, a 15-year-old electronics genius must fly deadly drones and fight as a sea-going pirate to keep his parents alive. Can he escape and also free his twin sister from the clutches of a major sex-trafficker?

Earlier he worked as a self-taught Internet expert in the mega-city of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while his songbird sister aspired to be a rumba star. But murderous gun-worshippers chloroformed him and whisked him away. Now he must fight for the wrong side.

The crazies know exactly where his parents and dog live. The leader of his captors, the thuggish Congolese Purification Army, is a seven-foot-tall whack-job handy with AK-47s and oversized machete blades.

Drone Child: A Novel of War, Family, and Survival offers a gripping, inspirational story for mature young adults and older readers. It’s told as Lemba Adula’s war memoir looking back on his life as a child soldier and pirate some 25 years earlier in the 2020s.

Lemba isn’t just smart–he’s witty and likable, and you’ll be rooting for him and his sister to overcome the scary odds.

Drone Child contains no explicit sex or explicit drug descriptions, and the violence is no different from what would be expected in a war novel.

This revised edition of the novel, originally published as No Taller than My Gun, includes a colorful new cover and discussion questions for book clubs, libraries, and schools–prepared with help from Karen Heilman, M.Ed., and the novel’s two Congolese fact-checks and critiquers.

One was Junior Boweya, a translator, software localization expert, and businessman. The other was Jean Felix Mwema Ngandu, a former Mandela Fellow and a leading civic activist in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Drone Child

Drone Child: A Novel of War, Family, and Survival by [David Rothman]

Drone Child by David H. Rothman is a thrilling novel set in the near future and is filled with adventure that will keep you on your toes at all times. The story follows a young fifteen-year-old electronics genius from the Congo. His twin sister is also a young genius in the fields of music and dance. In a time where the Congolese purification army is taking children from their families and turning them into child soldiers, it is time for Lemba and Josiane to leave for the city’s safety. However, the city is not any better so our protagonist is on the quest to save himself, his parents, and his sister.

“The problem with a war memoir is there’s no suspense. You already know I live. I need to tell you, too, that I not only survive, I thrive. Even less suspense.” These are the first few lines of this incredible novel. So aware of itself and simple yet so striking that the author has you hooked on his words from the very start of the book.

The author uses vivid imagery that creates an engrossing world and leads the reader on a phenomenal visual journey. Because this is all so foreign to me it felt exotic and I really enjoyed the details that immerses readers in the fascinating setting and the colorful culture. While this is a riveting thriller with many elements and captivating characters, the solid writing ensures readers always know what is going on and why. The easy storytelling lures you into this, at first, deceptively simple tale, that soon spirals into something much more complex and gripping.

Lemba is an intriguing character that I loved following because his slow evolution throughout this spellbinding story is methodical and absorbing. Making Lemba a character you will be rooting for throughout the novel, which is one of the ways readers get lost in his compelling journey. It is a journey that is sadly reflective of real child soldiers in Africa, and I appreciated how that level of social commentary permeates the story.

Drone Child: A Novel of War, Family, and Survival is a rousing military thriller that will appeal to readers looking for a compelling young adult novel with a unique voice.

Pages: 196 | ASIN: B09MH94XCC

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