Image Nations - Promoting African Literature.
We continue the series we started. Today, I interview the author of A Heart to Mend, a romance novel, that has been published to much acclaim and this is a great achievement if one takes into consideration the dearth of that literary genre on the continent. Myne Whitman, the author of this fresh novel, managed to 'squeeze' some time out of her busy schedule, which included a recent 'showing' at the LA Book Fair, to answer certain questions for us.
Can you tell us something about yourself (place of birth, school and anything in between)?
I am a Nigerian blogger, writer and poet. I am also the author of A Heart to Mend, my first novel. I live in Seattle with my husband and write full time. I write mostly romance and love poems though recently I have been trying my pen at literary short stories....
Why a Pseudonym?
I use Myne Whitman for several reasons including for privacy due to the romance which I write and because the use of pen names is very common in that genre. I also like the choice which the use of pen names confers on people in the arts (I could give you several writers, singers and painters who used and continue to use pseudonyms). Finally, I'll prefer to keep my real name for personal and future professional use only. So I make it clear that Myne is a pseudonym and what my real names are. After that however, I prefer the persona of Myne Whitman to remain in the author limelight while I take the back seat. I am not into writing for fame or to propagate my name, I just want people to enjoy my writing and the stories I tell. I do not want them to be bothered by my own history, wondering if they know me or why I write what I do. Let's just say I'll like to keep that element of privacy around my real personality.
What particularly motivated you to write a romance novel? And what motivates you to write in general?
First and foremost I wanted to write a story of love and finding oneself. Again, I have always been intrigued by the principle of unconditional love. When I started reading the Mills and Boon Romance novels as a young adult, their stories had a big influence on me and my writing. My imagined and written stories changed from adventures to romance. So now that I decided on full time writing, I was moved to go back to that genre. I also felt that there were not enough romance novels set in contemporary Nigeria, and that I could do something to change that.
Generally, I write to tell the stories in my head. I don't talk much but my imagination is wild and feeds on the many things I observe. Therefore, a lot of these themes in my writings are motivated by events or stories I've heard or read about in real life. The characters and issues dealt with in my books will be relevant for contemporary life and relationships.
Which books did you find yourself reading whilst growing up and which are you currently reading?
I read very widely and will almost read any fiction that gets into my hands as far as I have enough time. I read all genres though romance and women's fiction will have a big place in my heart. Right now, I'm reading Keeper of Secrets by Anjuelle Floyd and Aireganian Dream by Dupe Olorunjo.
Which writers have influenced your writing?
I look up to almost all authors and writers because I know how much work goes into writing. I love various authors and cannot really narrow it down but the names that stick are; Mills and Boon novels, Barbara Cartland, Francine Rivers, Sidney Sheldon, Robert Ludlum, Leon Uris, John Grisham, and Michael Crichton. And in Africa; Pacesetters, African Writers Series, Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Cyprian Ekwensi, Chinua Achebe and more recently Chimamanda Adichie and Jude Dibia.
Do you intend to keep writing into this niche market or you would diversify into other sub-genres?
My vision is to remain in this niche and become the foremost brand in it and if possible publish other people in the romance genre.
What do you intend to achieve with your writing?
I just want people to read my stories and enjoy them. Romance novels are all about love, in its various manifestations, between a man and a woman. As so many songs say, love is truly beautiful and it does make the world go around. When one strips basic human behavior to its barest form, you find that we're all looking for love in one way or another. So I want to bring some hope and light hearted pleasure to those who read my books.
Which writing style are you comfortable with and which do you find challenging?
I prefer writing novels, popular fiction, light and enjoyable. It is more challenging to write literary fiction. I would describe my style 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.
How easy or difficult was it for yo to self-publish and promote your novel?
Publishing A Heart to Mend was the easy part, promoting it on the other hand has been a lot of hardwork and time. The internet and the social media networking sites have made it less of an uphill climb. I have also met a lot of lovely people along the way.
Tell us something about your book, A Heart to Mend.
Set in Lagos, Nigeria, A Heart to Mend narrates a love story and a journey of self-discovery. Gladys Eborah moves to Lagos from a deprived single-parent home in Enugu, to seek a job. She lives with a formerly estranged aunt who wants to be forgiven and so has the uneasy role of the bridge between both families. A new job and good friends gradually transition Gladys into an independent young woman and then she meets and begins to fall for handsome Edward Bestman. Edward is very wealthy, and believes money can buy everything. Though physically attracted to Gladys, he is not ready to give his heart. To make matters worse, Gladys is implicated in a plot to take over his business empire. Readers have to find out who these people are that want to betray him and destroy their happiness. And will Edward trust Gladys enough to give love a chance?
You really are ubiquitous on the net, how did you do this?
Blame it on social networking and good friends. Once you know how to connect all these media together, your job is so much easier. You just leave the rest to word of mouth.
You keep blogs and a website for writers. How do you combine all these?
I think they are all complementary to each other. A writer has to polish their work first of all in order to make it readable to those that will work on the manuscript. So editing the stories we get on Naija Stories is like target practice for me as I work on my own writing. Writing on the blogs also expands my network and gets me good feedback as I write.
How did you feel when you saw your name on the cover of the book?
It was a very emotional period, lol. I just held the books and kept staring at it. Then I opened it to be sure it was my work inside. I couldn't believe it. And then of course I read it cover to cover.
Your novel has been well-received. Have people questioned your choice of sub-genre, romance, taking how most Africans tend to play ostriches?
Yes they have, some about the romance and others feel I might be restricting myself. But I have a vision I'm working with. Also, my books will not be the first romance novels, other authors like Helen Ovbiagele and others already blazed the trail.
Has being published changed your life?
Definitely. Myne Whitman has almost become a household name. I'm busier than when I worked in a bank or an office.
What do you do apart from writing?
I am also a wife, daughter and friend. I volunteer as an ESL tutor at the Bellevue Hoeplink charity twice a week.
Any work in progress?
I'm working on a romantic fiction manuscript titled Ghost of the Past. In it, Efe is a young girl who is separated from Kevwe, her former fiancé, by a series of traumatic events, and now wants the past resolved before she can accept his love again.
Thank you for your time
Thanks for the opportunity