Circumspect: Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Myne Whitman?
Myne Whitman (M.W.): I am a Nigerian writer/blogger. Myne Whitman is a name I coined myself when I began to write seriously while in secondary school. The pseudonym is a play on the transliterated words of my maiden name, Nkem Okotcha. Most of the books I read were in English, and since I was writing in English too, I decided my name would be the same.
Personality-wise, I am quiet and laid-back, but do like a good, loud debate sometimes. In three words, I will describe myself as friendly, caring and fun-loving. I have been a teacher, NGO consultant, banker, skate-hire attendant, researcher and Scottish government worker. After a postgraduate degree and a few years in Edinburgh, Scotland, I now live in the United States with my husband.
Circumspect: Did you ever envision yourself as an author/writer/blogger? Where did the interest come from?
M.W.: I have been writing for a very long time, ever since I was a child and always dreamed of holding a book in my hands with my name on the cover as the author. I decided to start the Myne Whitman Writes blog because of several factors. Some of the members of my writing group had blogs where they shared excerpts of their work. They advised that I could start one to get more feedback on the story I was writing then, and to know when it's ready for the market. I also got great feedback from readers of my poetry blog on my favorite online forum (Nigeria Village Square).
When it came time for me to go for a larger audience I was motivated by two Nigerian writing bloggers - Favoured girl and Flourishing Florida. Their blogs gave me an idea of what I wanted to do. Blogging has been amazing especially in my chosen niche and I got overwhelming response to the Gladys and Edward story - which is now A Heart To Mend- which added to my decision to self publish. I'm happy I have been able to establish my blog as a story and writing site and have opened it up to other budding writers. I want to also salute all blogsville members especially those who have stood the test of time and made it the community it is.
Circumspect: About your debut novel - A Heart to Mend - where did the concept come from?
M.W.: I have always wanted to write an engrossing story and from when I was old enough to think about love, the concept of it being unconditional has interested me. The book is about two people, Edward and Gladys, who meet and are [in love] almost immediately, but have difficulty in resolving their feelings for each other, especially because of Edward’s past. Just when they have finally got around to declaring their love for each other, a crisis arises that tests that love to its limits. I also felt that there were not enough romance novels set in contemporary Nigeria, and that I could do something to redress that. That was how A Heart to Mend was born.
Circumspect: How did you come up with the title?
M.W.: It was an iterative process. I wanted something which reflected one of the main themes of the book - in this case, that they surmounted the obstacles to their love. The manuscript therefore started out as "Not the End of the Road" but as the story progressed and Edward emerged as the focal character, the final title framed his difficulty in committing to a relationship. I still wanted something positive and I felt that “A Heart to Mend” satisfied all counts.
Circumspect: As someone who self-published, can you tell us about the process? Was it hard? What resources did you use?
M.W.: A Heart to Mend is a genre novel or category romance in the suspense line; some may call it romantic fiction. I decided to self publish because I heard some good stories about the process and how it can be successful if you apply yourself. I also decided on the route since I had my full time to dedicate to it and wasn't out purely for commercial success.
To prepare, I took some free online courses and workshops for Creative Writing and Fiction from the University of Utah, MIT, Open University UK and Suite 101. I'm still taking these trainings and they're an on-going project. I also became a member of a writing meet up group in my area which includes traditionally and self published authors and gifted writers and editors. The members were a great help in the course of writing A Heart to Mend.
Finally my blogger page and the NVS forum where I shared excerpts helped a lot. One particular blogger did a good job as a critic, and I had several bloggers act as [a] focal group for the story. Most important though is my husband who is a talented writer too; he helped edit and proof-read the manuscript before we went to the publishers. Author House has several good things about them and that's why I chose them and they have met those so far.
Circumspect: How would you describe your writing style and how do you find the inspiration to write?
M.W.: I would describe it as direct and simple. I prefer using short sentences and lots of dialogue to tell a story. I like to think that this style is tailored to the situations I'm writing about and will carry my audience on the fluid journey of reading my books. I find inspiration from my life, people around me and stories you read in the news or books. It could be just a sentence in a newspaper or a line in a movie and my imagination just feeds on it.
Circumspect: Who are your key literary influences? Any favorite authors?
M.W.: I look up to almost all authors and writers because I know how much work goes into writing. I have also read very widely, but some authors that come to mind are Barbara Cartland, Francine Rivers, Sidney Sheldon, Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Cyprian Ekwensi, and more recently Chimamanda Adichie and Jude Dibia. Of all them I identify most strongly with Buchi Emecheta’s books and characters.
Circumspect: What's your opinion on Africans "taking back their voice" through literature and art?
M.W.: I think it is a very welcome development and can only be positive. It limits the “dangers of a single story” like Chimamanda Adichie pointed out in one of her talks. The more we tell our stories the more versatile Africa is seen to be and the fuller and truer the picture of what our contemporary life is like. Somehow related to this is the surge in the number of African bloggers over the past few years. I think this expands the young African's scope of writing and offers phenomenal scope for us. Writers can see more writing by other Africans that we can relate to, and it also provides a platform to receive constructive criticism that improves our writing.
Circumspect: As a Nigerian living in the U.S. what is your hope for the development of Nigeria and the African continent as a whole?
M.W.: Like most Africans living outside the continent, I hope that my country will become a better place. A country, a continent where things like healthcare, education, and basic amenities like clean water and sanitation are available and accessible to the majority of people right there within the country. Sometimes I think hope is the wrong word, I KNOW we have the capability and resources to achieve these things and so maybe that's a better word. And also, though there seem to be negative reports every day, there is corresponding good news that makes me think this development may come sooner rather than later.
Circumspect: Now that A Heart to Mend is published, what's next?
M.W.: I definitely plan on writing more books. A sequel is not on the books right now but who knows what will happen? LOL. I am currently working on another romantic suspense manuscript and a couple of short stories, one of which I hope will be published before the end of the coming year.
At the end of all this, I wish to still remain in the midst of my readers and fans. Coordinating the Blogsville Interactive Story has shown me so much talent and given me some ideas. I'm still playing with those thoughts for now and will broach them with the necessary people in due time.
Circumspect: Any words of advice for up and coming African writers, bloggers, and authors?
M.W.: I will say that they should keep at it. It was Petina Gappah who said on her blog “A writer is a person who writes...You, at your computer or with your notebook, writing, and writing, revising and writing, and revising again.” A writer thus has to persevere, have a story they want to share and push till it's in a form others can understand and appreciate. I wish everyone the best.
For more information about Myne and her book, check out her website and her blog. Connect with her via facebook and twitter. Read a sample of A Heart To Mend. Like what you see? Get copies of her first novel in paperback and e-format!
Photo Credit: Myne Whitman