Congratulations, you just published your debut novel, how long did this take you to put this together?
Thanks Ahaoma and for this opportunity too. It took me just under a year though I started with a short story I already had.
I just went through your profile and discovered that you grew up in Enugu which coincidentally is where Achebe and Chimamanda Adichie grew up; will you say there is a connection with the coal city and literature?
I would describe it as coincidence; I'm sure there are other talented writers in other parts of the country as well. But the fact that Enugu is an academic city where education is encouraged could have something to do with this.
Take us back to those days while you were growing up in Enugu and briefly tell us about your family, your background, schools you went to and why your name sounds very western?
I grew up during the 1980's and remember as a child studying a lot, reading everything I could lay my hands on, and then trying to play as much as possible. I attended Ekulu Primary School and Queens School in Enugu, and Loretto Science School and Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Anambra. I am from Asaba, Delta State and that is where my parents live now. I also lived and worked in Abuja for a few years.Myne Whitman is a name I coined myself when I began to write seriously while still in secondary school. 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. So the pseudonym is a play on the transliterated words of my maiden name, Nkem Okotcha.
While growing up, which authors will you say influenced you and opened up that interest in
I look up to almost all authors and writers especially now I know the amount of work that goes into writing a full novel. Various authors influenced me including Mills and Boons, Pacesetters, and African Writers Series authors. In Nigeria a few names are; Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Cyprian Ekwensi, Chinua Achebe and more recently Chimamanda Adichie and Jude Dibia. Others are Barbara Cartland, Francine Rivers, Sidney Sheldon, Robert Ludlum, John Grisham, and Micheal Critchton.
Chimamanda takes Achebe as a role model, which author will you say stands out to you to say is your
Buchi Emecheta. I loved her books and identified strongly with her voice and her characters.
Many Nigerians are of the opinion that the advent of Nollywood and home videos is really affecting the reading culture in the country, how will you react to that?
I don't think that Nollywood is the problem. I think that a bigger issue affecting the reading culture in Nigeria is that people are brought up to read more out of necessity than as a way of relaxing. The problem is that there aren't many books published for reading pleasure in Nigeria; perhaps this is because publishers believe they may not make as much money from publishing such books. But I think that they should take a risk and publish more of such books - they may be pleasantly surprised as demand grows.
One of the complaints that older generation authors make about young generation authors is the fact that they are in a hurry to go to press thereby bring out works that are below standard. The younger generation authors in turn blame the older generation authors of not helping out when their assistance is needed? Did you experience this and what help did you get while you were trying to stand on your feet?
The issues you bring up are very valid. Usually, what would happen is that in the community authors, you would have the more experienced authors would be around to act informally as mentors for younger authors who just started publishing a few years after them, and who they can related to. I observe that in the 80s and 90s, there was a break in the publication of literature by Nigerian authors, so the younger authors that are coming up now do not really connect with the older established authors who in any case are quite few in number. In my case, was fortunate to have the help of my husband who provided suggestions as to how the story plots might be developed, and who also helped me proof read the work. I also had the support of my local writers group who provided different perspectives on the storyline, especially from the viewpoint of a non-Nigerian.
A Heart To Mend is certainly a romance story laddered with emotion, how much of your personal experiences is reflected in the story?
Not that much o! Thankfully, my life has been relatively drama free. But much of what I have written is based on personal observations, what I have read, and a very extensive imagination.
I have just read a blog on the book and already the suspense is building, how were you able to weave that together?
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 the naija blogsville members especially those who have stood the test of time and made it the community it is today.
We have seen Chimmamda playing around with a style and language whereby she uses the Igbo language and give it a measure of interpretation, did you implore that the kind of style A Heart to Mend has?
I think that every author has their own different style; in my story, I have aimed for a simple approach where I describe each character vividly enough that the reader feels what the character is feeling. I have also tried to paint a detailed picture of the story setting so that the reader feels that they are present with the characters as the story unfolds.
You set the storyline obviously in Enugu and Lagos and the book is not yet on sale in Nigeria which plans do you have for some Nigerians that will want to grab their copies here in Nigeria, are you talking to some local publishers here?
I have considered talking to local publishers, but I am still fleshing out the details of how that will work. Another alternative I'm exploring is shipping copies of the book out to Nigeria. But I'm looking to have the book available for sale in Nigeria by February next year.
Every writer looks forward to winning laurels both at home and abroad, which of these awards would you hope to win in future?
I would be glad to receive any award, whether given at home or abroad, as I consider awards a positive recognition of the work that I have done.
Female authors are fast out sourcing male writers, what would you think is responsible for this trend?
I haven't observed this myself, but if it is true, then perhaps it's because women are better communicators than men, especially when it comes to saying what they are feeling.
Chimamanda Adichie started a creative workshop that has become an annual thing, are we hoping to see you start up something of that nature for younger writers?
What I would like to do would be to create a medium - possibly online - where up and coming young authors get the opportunity to showcase their work and have it reviewed by other more experienced authors.
How do you feel that your book got published some few days to Christmas and how will you celebrate
I am very excited and look forward to this being the beginning of greater things in the New Year.
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