by Pens with Cojones - Mayowa
Below you’ll find an interview with the wonderful Myne Whitman, author of A Heart to Mend. This interview was especially great for me because Myne has accomplished and continues to accomplish many things I still struggle with and this is an opportunity for me (and hopefully for you) to learn how it’s done.
Q: Tell us about A Heart To Mend.
A Heart to Mend is a combination of the story of finding one’s self and falling in love. Gladys has spent most of her life in a suburb of Enugu brought up in a deprived single parent household after losing her father as a young girl. In the novel, she moves to Lagos to seek a job and moves in with an estranged aunt where she has the uneasy role of the bridge between both families. Her new friendships and career achievements gradually transition Gladys into an independent young woman. Soon, she begins to fall for wealthy Edward Bestman who, though physically attracted to her, is emotionally unavailable. Edward is very wealthy, but he is haunted by the past of his illegitimate birth and other secrets he will not share.
Edward is highly attracted to Gladys physically but as time goes on, he realizes he may also have set up his heart for a fall. He is from a shadowed past and has been deeply scarred by events that happened when he was younger. As the story progress, we follow Gladys and Edward as find themselves and decide to trust their hearts with each other. The themes of premarital sex, social class mobility, and romantic ups and downs that mark a budding love are fully explored. In a sub-plot, some unnamed people are about to take over Edward’s business empire and Gladys is implicated. This heightens the suspense in the novel because you want to find out who these people are that want to betray the couple and destroy their happiness.
A HEART TO MEND will bring tears to the eyes and cheers at the end especially for those who have experienced the search for a career or tumultuous family and emotional relationships. Readers will be pleasantly surprised by the description of Lagos, the Nigerian stock market, and other business intrigues.
Q: How did the story come to you? How long did it take to write?
The idea for the story actually came to me some time ago, and I wrote a short story about it that was more of an outline for a longer work. That was a few years ago but I never had the time and didn’t think I was in the right mental place to complete it until last year. It was summer 2009. I had just moved to the United States and I was in love for the first time in my life. I decided to dust up the story and try my hand at full time writing. I finished the story in one month. It took me another five months to finish three drafts of the novel and complete the editing.
Q: What is your writing style?
I refer to my style of writing as very simple and direct. 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. There isn’t a lot of beating around the bush – you see the plot taking place and you are able to follow the characters, get in tune with the characters and you start to feel as though you know them personally as you identify with them.
Q: You almost have two audiences, readers who live in or have been to Nigeria, and readers who haven’t. How do you balance your writing for the two? How do you balance how much of Nigerian life to describe? How much dialect to use etc?
I do have two audiences as I realized when I decided to publish my book through Authorhouse and knew it would be available world wide. Before then, I had shared excerpts on my blog which then was predominantly followed by the first group of people who had either been or were from Nigeria. What I did then was to join a writing group in my area made of mostly non-Nigerians. This helped make the balancing act easier. So I compared the feedback I got from both my blog and writing group and tried to find a middle ground that worked for me.
Q: Do you write any other genres?
For now, I want to remain in the romance genre. I think it is a neglected one in Nigeria and Africa and general as are other genres. Most African writers are of literary fiction and I wanted to expand out horizons a little. I believe that this will increase the number of people interested in reading contemporary books and novels about African life.
Q: What are you reading now? Who are your favorite authors?
Right now, I am reading two books. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseni and Keeper of Secrets by Anjuelle Floyd. I would read almost anything you put before me as long as it is fiction, however, my favorite genres are romance and thrillers. I do love various authors and cannot really narrow it down but I admire some Mills and Boons authors, Barbara Cartland, Francine Rivers, Johanna Lindsey, Sidney Sheldon, Robert Ludlum, Leon Uris, John Grisham, and Micheal Crichton. And in Africa; some Pacesetters and African Writers Series authors including, Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Cyprian Ekwensi, and Chinua Achebe. More recently, I have enjoyed books by Chimamanda Adichie, Sefi Atta and Jude Dibia.
Q: What are you working on now, besides promoting A Heart to Mend?
I am working on another romance novel now in it’s second manuscript draft. The working title is Ghost of the Past and it is also set in Nigeria. It spans about ten years and references some important historical events so I have had to do some goodly amount of research.
Q: How can we purchase A Heart To Mend?
A Heart to Mend is available everywhere books are sold especially online. It is available on Amazon, and other online retailers like Books-a-million, Target, etc. It can be ordered from physical stores like Barnes and Noble, Borders, in the US and Blackwells, WHSmith and Waterstones in the United Kingdom. It is available from Kalahari.net in South Africa and is also on sale in Nigeria both online from Walahi.com and from their book stores and others in several cities across the country.
[UPDATE]: You can snag a signed copy of A Heart To Mend at GoodReads. You can also win a free ebook and a $10 Amazon gift card at Myne Whitman Writes.
Q: What made you decide to self publish?
I decided to self publish because I really wanted to tell a contemporary Nigerian story. I had shopped around for a few months for a traditional publisher in the United States but most replies stated that they would prefer a romance set in this country. There are not many publishers in Nigeria and the few there, are a bit resource constrained. So I began to research self-publishing. I read some good testimonies about the process and how it can be successful if one is willing to dedicate some time to it. I felt I could follow the route since I was a full time writer and I already had an audience through my blog. Also I read about other authors who had done the same and what their experiences had been like with different companies.
Q: What is your marketing strategy? Blog tours? Readings? What portion of your marketing strategy has shown the most benefit? Reviews? Radio?
My publicity has mostly been online through my blog, Facebook and Twitter. There was also this site I found, Freado.com through which I was able to share the first chapter of my book with my readers for free. It had in-built publicity platforms like auto-twitter, email campaign, etc. I had one blog tour soon after my novel hit the shelves and one reading/book signing last month in New York while there on vacation. There have been several interviews both in print and on radio, usually through the contacts I make on my blog and those that find me through other reviews or features they saw elsewhere.
It is difficult to know which particular strategy has been the best because in this regard, Authorhouse is just like many other publishers. Reports and royalty payments come quarterly and so, it’s hard to see exactly what the sales trends are and what dots to join. So I just keep doing the best I can. Sometimes I use the book tracker on Amazon but that is not really reliable.
Q: The average self-published book sells less than a hundred copies. Have you crossed that threshold?
LOL…yes I have. I didn’t think I would, when we went to press I had under 100 followers on my blog and I hoped about half of them will buy the book and a few other friends. I think that initial low expectation has helped me put things in perspective.
Q: Do you think self-publishing is financially viable? Were there any unexpected costs? Any regrets?
I think it is. I have just about re-couped my initial investment and this is just the first year. There were no unexpected costs and no regrets at all. According to Authorhouse, I was among their best selling authors last quarter and they are willing to invest in my next book. However, I haven’t decided yet and would rather keep my options open for now.
SOURCE - Mayowa is a Nigerian Novelist and blogger, and encourages authors to Write, Publish and Live with Cojones.