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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Interview: Myne Whitman speaks


Myne Whitman is the author of a romance novel, A Heart to Mend. She is a Nigerian. She has a Master's Degree in Public Health Research. She presently lives in Seattle, USA with her family, where she writes full time. She is the founder and managing editor of a Nigerian portal of creative writings, Niajastories, a platform that showcases Nigerian aspiring writers to the reading and Internet world.

In this interview, Myne Whitman talks about herself, her book and the future of her writing career. She also speaks, inter alia, on the genre she writes in and her new book that will soon be hitting the shelf soon.  

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True Talk: In three sentences, introduce yourself like you would to a person who does not know who Myne Whitman is…


Myne Whitman: Myne Whitman is my pen name. I was born and raised in Enugu, Nigeria, where I spent most of my time, studying, reading and daydreaming or climbing trees and playing with the boys. I have a Master's degree in Public Health Research but have chosen my childhood dream of spinning stories.

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TT: What's the name behind Myne Whitman? Why Myne Whitman?


MW: I coined my first pen name when I began to write fiction seriously 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. As a published author, I chose to use this form of my name because it gives me some privacy, and also to meet the demands of my split career in public health and writing.

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TT: Your first book, A Heart to Mend, is a Romance novel. Why Romance of all genres?


MW: First and foremost I wanted to write a story of love and finding oneself. I also felt that there were not enough romance novels set in contemporary Nigeria, and that I could do something to change that. Therefore, a lot of these themes in A Heart to Mend are motivated by events or stories I've heard or read about in real life Nigeria of the last few years. The characters and issues dealt with in the book are therefore meant to be relevant for contemporary life and relationships. 

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.

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TT: It seems, from the personal blog you operate and the numerous interviews that you have granted, that Romance is the genre you would be exploring. How do you plan to break new grounds with the genre, since Nigerian literary scene is unfamiliar with it?


MW: The primary intention of promoting romance is to contribute the writing of the genre fiction as a whole in Nigerian literature. I grew up reading books of the Pacesetters fame, but they disappeared along the line. There has been a sort of renaissance in the writing and book publishing industry in Nigeria and I wanted to add my voice in a unique way. My plans include consistency, garnering publicity, and penetrating the book selling market as widely as possible.

 

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TT: It has always been the case with writers that boxes themselves within a particular theme (in your case Romance), that readers soon get tired of their writings. How do you intend to use your creativity to rescue yourself from this?


MW: I don't think you have it right at all. The fact is that popular fiction is named that for a reason. Readers love them, and cannot get enough of the works of such writers. I just need to name people like Danielle Steele, Karen Kingsbury or Francine Rivers, and you'll realize how wrong you are. These romance authors have been writing for decades, and are New York Times Best Selling Authors. Someone like Sidney Sheldon is dead, but someone writes in his stead because his millions of fans want more of his style of books. Back home in Nigeria, most of our classics including Buchi Emecheta, Helen Ovbiagele, and even Cyprian Ekwensi, wrote romance at one time or the other.

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TT: What are you currently working on to prove to your readers that A Heart To Mend was not just some flash in the pan?


MW: My next book, A Love Rekindled, is almost ready for release, and will hit the bookstores and shelves by the end of March 2011. It should be available in Nigeria by the middle of the year.

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TT: You were recently in Nigeria. Did that afford you the opportunity to create awareness for the book? How?


MW: I was in Nigeria between November 2010, and January 2011, and indeed I was able to raise awareness about my writing. Beyond my writing, I hope I was also able to generate excitement for the popular fiction revolution which is my ultimate dream. I attended and facilitated a session at the Garden City Literary Festival Port Harcourt, where I met Wole Soyinka, Sefi Atta, Adaobi Nwaubani, Helon Habila, among other authors and writers. The session I promoted was for publishers and how they can better harness the social media in order to reach more readers. It was a successful outing, and I enjoyed it.

I was also invited, or a part of several readings and writer's meet-ups in Lagos, Abuja, Asaba, and Enugu. In addition, I was a guest on a couple of radio shows, and had several articles and features in National newspapers.

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TT: When writers are spurned by conventional publishers, Self-Publishing becomes the comfortable alternative. In your case, what circumstances pushed you to self-publishing your book?


MW: 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 had been discouraged earlier on in my writing when I tried to pursue it after my first degree. I was rejected by the very few publishers we had in Nigeria in those days. So this time after several similar letters from publishers and agents, I decided on self publishing since I had my full time to dedicate to it.

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TT: True Talk got to know who Myne Whitman is online. It seems you are everywhere in the cyberspace. To what extent has the Internet influenced your writing and the book?


MW: The fact is that the world has come to terms with the internet age and brought with it more opportunities to publish. So, other less conventional means of getting a book to an audience are beginning to take root - talk about eBooks, kindles and Nooks and other such technology. The internet, and all the resources available online have also been very useful for me as I have been polishing my craft, and improving my writing.

Having a blog, (which won several awards including Blog of the Year at the Nigerian Blog Awards 2010) really helped me in my writing, especially with the feedback and critique I get from my readers. My blog was part of the reason I decided to publish. I had such a loyal following that I wanted to give them a chance to read the complete story. Most of them had been following it on my blog and were very supportive. It was through the support of fellow bloggers that I did my first blog tour and all the publicity that came with that. After that I joined Facebook and Twitter and the following has been growing since.

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TT: As a blogger and a writer, can you really differentiate blogging from writing? Do you think a blogger has the creativity-confidence to be called a writer?


MW: There are different kinds of bloggers as you know. Anyone writing down a recap of their day on their blog may not be called a writer, or even want to be known as one. However, in my blog rounds, I have seen articles written by bloggers, and which contain analysis that rivals that in NEXT, and even the New York Times. I have also seen fiction and talent that I would buy any day if it were collected in a book. So again, it depends on the blogger. I wasn't the first blogger to turn to a writer/author. We also had the likes of Jumoke Verissimo and Joy Bewaji who had the boldness to go beyond scribbling online. Cassava Republic Press also published "Everyday for the Thief" by Teju Cole from the writings he had on his blog.

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TT: Will you ever stop writing?


MW: I doubt that a lot. Even as I plan to branch into publishing others, I know I will continue writing.

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TT: Give us a brief about your writing activities.


MW: I write full time so it takes up most of my day. I get my morning duties done, and then I write maybe until noon. I take a break, have brunch and come back. I do some social networking and publicity for my writings and for Naija Stories, and then I get back to writing until evening.

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TT: Please, give a sentence to the blog.


MW: I believe this blog is doing a great job, and I hope for the day True Talk becomes a site that people will come to for the latest news in Nigerian literature.

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TT: Thank you, Myne.


MW: Thank you, Joseph.

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7 comments:

  1. Im so proud of Myne! She is Ah-mazingly talented!

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  2. @Sisi Yemmie. You are right; she just so talented and also a lovely darling; very hospitable and always ready to mentor.
    Thanks for dropping by, Sisi Yemmie. Hope to see you here soon...

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  3. Bennie Efemena Ben-IririMay 19, 2011 at 4:28 PM

    Brilliant material and style...will definitely visit your site from time to time

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  4. @Bennie. I'm encouraged by your comment. I will also continue to work harder to make every of your visit a worthwhile and refreshing one. Thanks so much for visiting the blog.

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  6. I agree that Myna is oh so talented. There's another great interview with her on the AuthorHouse website. If you like this one then you can also check out that one: http://www.authorhouseauthors.com/myne_whitman.php

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  7. @Martha. Thank you so much, Martha, I am really very grateful and humbled by your comment. I have even more happy that I was able to be of some help to you. And thank you so much more for recommending this blog to your friend. I am greatly humbled by this. Thank you, Marhta

    @Robert. Thanks for dropping by and commenting on this post. I am off to your interview on Myne. You should have my comment on it. Hope TrueTalk sees you around soon.

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