By Tessa Conte (http://critiquethiswip.blogspot.com/)
Tessa: Today we’re going to talk to fellow romance writer and published novelist, Myne Whitman. Myne, why don’t we start with you telling us a little about yourself?
Myne: 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. I am currently working on my next novel, also a romance manuscript. I blog at Myne Whitman Writes and I am on Twitter and Facebook.
Tessa: Do you use a pen name when you write?
Myne: I do use a pen name, which I have been using since I completed my first story while in high school. For me, it is a way of channeling my creativity and retaining my privacy at the same time. I reserve my real name for official and professional stuff.
Tessa: That’s more or less what I do, too. Would you recommend the use of a pen name to other writers?
Myne: I think every writer should choose whatever works for them.
Tessa: So you said you’ve had your pen name since high school. How long have you been writing?
Myne: I have been writing from about 12 years old but I started completing and saving my manuscripts from maybe 20. I started with Children’s adventure mysteries and then later moved on to romance.
Tessa: That’s quite a switch in genre, there. What’s your favourite genre? To write, that is?
Myne: That would be romance or better put, romantic suspense. I just like writing about love and all the obstacles a relationship may have to surmount in order to get to that happily ever after, lol. It makes me happy to write, so it’s easier to guess that my readers will love it too.
Tessa: Ah, so it wasn’t that much of a switch. You’ve moved from childrens’ adventure mysteries to adult adventures. *grins* Love is a great adventure, after all. What about reading? Do you write what you read or are your reading tastes different?
Myne: The same as I write actually, I used to like just romance but now I’ll prefer if there’s something thrown in. I also enjoy some psychological thrillers and a little horror.
Tessa: I love it when you get books that combine romance and suspense or even thrillers! Shame I’m no good at writing them *giggles*. So. Writing. When you’re writing, Myne, how do you come up with your characters?
Myne: They come to me, lol. Really. For instance in A Heart to Mend, I was walking along the road one day – running an errand for my parents – when the main male character came to me. I think it was a glimpse of a man in the backseat of a car that triggered it. When I now have this character, I fantasize their background and what they could get up to if they were real persons.
Tessa: Hehe, my characters do that, too. I see something, hear something, and before I know it someone’s there clamouring for my attention. Which of your characters do you relate to most?
Myne: Funny thing is, it’s my male protagonist in A Heart to Mend. He is a man that though kind and loyal is emotionally unavailable and wants to protect his heart at all costs.
Tessa: I tend to relate better to my male characters, too. Strange, isn’t it, how real they can seem? I often spend weeks agonizing over my characters’ names, because they start complaining to me if I leave them with one that doesn’t fit. How important is the naming of your characters for you? Do you spend a lot of time on that?
Myne: I think this is very important. My plotting usually determines the names of my characters, knowing what they look like and what they will get up to. The background is also very important. I like to make my stories very real and I have found that in real life, where we come from may determine our names. I recently changed the names of some characters in my WIP and then had to change a lot about the story because their personalities changed.
Tessa: Ha! I do that too - change the names if they no longer fit, that is. What about ideas in general? What inspires you? Is there something in particular that gives you ideas?
Myne: They come from all over. Mostly real life, an amalgamation of some of my experiences. TV, books and movies have also come in handy, I might have this idea and then see how it is handled in this TV series or movie or something. Or I have this character running around in my mind and then I come across the perfect scenario to try her out in. Then at times, I have these very funny dreams, where I dream up whole stories or at least scenes an even character backgrounds.
Tessa: That’s so cool, I never remember my dreams! No fair. So what do you do once a character or an idea is right there in your head? Do you plot out your stories or are you a pantser?
Myne: I am usually a plotter. I try to have an outline of all the chapters to include in a manuscript, but after that, it’s freewheeling all the way for the scenes or what could happen.
Tessa: Do you have any particular projects you’re working on right now?
Myne: I have my work in progress, a romantic suspense novel which I hope to complete the second draft this summer. The working title is Ghost of the past. I also produce a Chain story blog, where I edit and review contributions for the Cupid’s Risk Series, www.cupidsrisk.blogspot.com , something like written weekly webisodes. The complete eBook is now ready and can be downloaded free from the website. I also manage a story sharing site at www.naijastories.com, a social networking community for Nigerian writers.
Tessa: So you have more than one project going?
Myne: I have a few going on at once. Like, it was while finishing up A Heart to Mend, that I started on my current WIP. I have started on another two now. They’re in very infant stages though.
Tessa: Where you born there? In Nigeria, I mean?
Myne: Yes I was born in Nigeria and spent most of my growing up years there. I first moved to the United Kingdom four years ago and over here to the United States in the Spring of 2009.
Tessa: Are you very involved in the Nigerian writers’ community, then? Wasn’t the first African Nobel Laureate for Literature from Nigeria? Is the literary community in Nigeria well recognized?
Myne: I am very involved in the writing community, especially since I started writing full time and had my book published. The literary community is just rejuvenating again after some years of a slump due to some wider economic problems. Wole Soyinka won the Nobel Laureate in the hey days, now some younger authors are leading the renaissance with Chimamanda Adichie in the forefront. My novel, A Heart to mend has also made great inroads, being the first novel in the romance genre in recent years.
Tessa: As far as I know the official language of Nigeria is English. Do you also speak or even write in one of the other recognized languages - Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, I think they’re called?
Myne: You’re correct, English is the official language of Nigeria. I speak Igbo, which you have listed and also learnt to write it. However, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to use it since English is the most widely used. Most writers in Nigeria therefore write in English.
Tessa: Do you use critique partners, groups or beta readers to help you with your story?
Myne: Yes I do. I find them very helpful. I belong to a writing meet-up group, where we meet about 2 or 3 times a month to critique our WIP. They’re awesome. My blog followers act as my beta readers, I use drafts from my WIP as giveaways on condition that they send back thoughts, edits, whatever they can. It worked really well for A Heart to Mend. My husband is my co-plotter, editor and reviewer. He knows the story almost as well as I do and plot discussions with him will usually see me through some blocks.
Tessa: The internet and blogs in particular are becoming indispensable for writers, aren’t they? It’s so great to be able to get feedback from all over the world. Even better, you have family you can rely on for feedback. How do you respond to their comments, or rather, their criticism? And how would your husband answer that question for you? ; )
Myne: I love the internet. Honestly I love being read and that is the opportunity I appreciate most of all from blogs. Whatever comes after that is a bonus for me. I want to learn and get better and this is the perfect way. Not all criticism is positive of course but one has to learn how to handle it. I try to accept most criticism in good faith and if a particular comment raises issues I do not understand, I usually ask further questions. It does help that I can discuss these comments and feedback with my husband who is more patient than I am.
Tessa: Now I know you’re also part of the illustrious community of Published Authors. Where and when were you published?
A Heart to Mend
Myne: I was published in December 2009 via Authorhouse. My novel is titled, A Heart to mend. It is available internationally through Amazon and in bookstores across the USA, UK and Europe. It is also being marketed in Nigeria. Chapter one of A Heart to Mend, is free to read and comment on Freado.com.
Tessa: When you’re writing, do you have anything that “gets you in the zone”? What’s your writing environment like?
Myne: My writing environment is pretty basic. My desk and my laptop and I’m good to go. I usually blog a bit before I start writing, something about reading all that different styles and stories. Sometimes I also like to listen to slow ballads while I write some emotional or love scenes.
Tessa: So you have specific writing songs? A writing playlist, even?
Myne: Do I really have one? LOL…OK I call it the Toni Braxton Playlist. I didn’t actually collect it myself. I have these radio stations or playlists on Pandora where you use a musician or a song to find similar ones, ad infinitum.
Tessa: Do you use writing exercises to keep the writing muscles limber?
Myne: Not a lot. I did earlier when I first started writing seriously. Now I prefer to focus on my WIP.
Tessa: So do you participate in Blogfests?
Myne: Yes, I have taken part in quite a few blogfests. I have only written a new scene for one fest, most times I use scenes from my WIP, or a draft for a scene that is not yet finished. I enjoy Blogfests not only because of the writing involved but the feedback you get from fellow writers.
Tessa: What’s your favourite part of being a writer?
Myne: I love travelling into the minds of these new characters I’m creating. I imagine them and there they are, lol. I love the experience of falling in love through them all over again. I love when readers come back to me saying, I love this character, I hate the other one, can we find out more about the other one? And so on.
Tessa: It’s great when you can evoke emotions in your readers, isn’t it? What about the bad parts? Is there something you don’t like about being a writer?
Myne: It can be emotionally draining especially when you are writing about human relationships. Also it takes a lot of time and effort to get a story to a stage where others can appreciate it. Such research can become tedious after some time.
Tessa: Do you get hit with writers’ block?
Myne: What writer doesn’t? I am actually going through one right now. I haven’t written in a couple of days and I feel so tense.
Tessa: I know the feeling. For me, everything sort of bottles up, nothing wants to show its face on paper - it can be so frustrating....On that note, most of us have some sort of day-job we have to deal with along with the writing. How does that work for you?
Myne: I actually write full time, but when I am not writing, I volunteer part time to a charity. I teach English as a second language to non-English speaking immigrants. It’s a nice way to keep my grammar shiny too.
Tessa: Do you have any favourite writers? Particular books, movies or songs?
Myne: I read a lot and have so many authors I love. They include several Mills and Boons writers, Barbara Cartland, Francine Rivers, Sidney Sheldon, Robert Ludlum, Leon Uris, John Grisham, and Micheal Critchton. And in Africa; the Pacestters writers, African Writers Series, Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Cyprian Ekwensi, Chinua Achebe and more recently Chimamanda Adichie and Jude Dibia.
Tessa: That’s a great mixture. I’ll have to check out the African writers, I admit I’m not familiar with those at all. Do you have a favourite line from your own books you’d like to share with us?
Myne: This is a line from A Heart to Mend, Edward’s thoughts to himself on page 47.
“Life was much better this way; you wanted something, you went after it and you got it, if you became tired of it, or it became tired of you, you let it go.”
Tessa: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers?
Myne: To the aspiring writers, I will say that you should keep at it. A lot of upcoming writers are actually very talented and just have to continue polishing their craft till opportunity knocks. I wish everyone the best. To my fans and readers, I love you all and say a great big THANK YOU! Thank you too to Critique-This-WIP for this opportunity.
Tessa: You’re most welcome, thank you for granting us this interview. It’s been great talking to you.