Tuesday, October 11, 2011

[Interview] Myne Whitman

Myne Whitman was born in Enugu, Nigeria.

She has a Master’s degree in Public Health Research and is the author of two romantic suspense novels, A Heart to Mend (Authorhouse, 2009) and A Love Rekindled (CreateSpace, 2011), which are both set in Nigeria.

In this interview, Myne Whitman talks about her concerns as a writer:

When did you start writing?

I've been writing for a very long time, well, since I was about 11 or so. Unfortunately, most of those scribbles were lost when we moved cities. I started writing seriously around my third year in university, took a break for work and further studies and, now, writing is my full time career.

The decision to send my work out into the world matured in 2009 after I had been writing again for about six months full time. I had joined a writing group, started a blog, and people seemed to like what I had to write about.

I researched available options of publishing, and gave traditional publishing a try for a few months. The rejections I received had a common thread. While most agents liked my writing, they didn't think it suited them, and there were a couple that suggested I change some fundamental parts of my story. I found that idea abhorrent, and further research yielded some resources on self-publishing.

When I had satisfied myself that I understood what self-publishing entailed and was ready to face the challenge, I decided to go with Authorhouse to design, print and distribute my books. On the editorial angle, I drafted my manuscript several times, working with feedback from my writing group, beta readers on my blog, and finally an editor, to make sure it was ready for a mass audience.

How would you describe your writing?

My writing is romantic fiction.

It has been described as a marriage of literary and pulp fiction.

I write about the romantic experiences of the hero and heroine in my story, and frame them in a background of realistic day-to-day life of their setting. My stories are set in Nigeria where I grew up and lived for most of my life. My language is simple and direct, accented by the tones of local people in the Nigerian setting but adapted for an international audience.

My target audience is international ... anyone who has ever loved or felt emotions as they interacted with other people. I decided on romantic fiction because romance is universal ... most people will experience relationships more than anything else in their lifetime.

When I started A Heart to Mend as an 18 years old, I had at the back of my mind, not only the loads of Mills & Boon romances, but also the Pacesetters and African Writers Series I had devoured as a teenager. I was motivated to write stories that featured people like me, and that people like me could identify with.

When I went back to the story, I was living in the US, and in rewriting it, I made it a story in which I could share my background and world view with those that were different from me. For everyone who reads it, if there is one thing to take away, I want it to be the universality of what makes us human ... the experiences, the emotions, and the aspirations of life and love.

In the writing you are doing, which authors influenced you most?

The authors that I take as my role models include Nora Roberts, Danielle Steele, Buchi Emecheta, Cyprian Ekwensi and Helen Ovbiagele, among others. I love these authors because of their writing (their works drew emotions out of me, they made me think, and they also educated and informed me) and because of what they've been able to achieve (they are prolific, and their stories are accessible to a wide audience, the stories are those that a large number of people can relate to).

Have your own personal experiences influenced your writing in any way?

Mostly because my stories are set in locations that I've either lived in or visited.

Also, I write on themes that are universal, and I've personally felt some of the emotions I describe in my books. That said, nothing in my books are autobiographical.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

First and foremost, I want to tell a good story, one that will hook the reader into it and take them on a journey. I want my readers to enjoy my books, and I also hope that I will make them feel (laugh, cry, and think) while they read. Also, because I am self published, I'm concerned about how to ensure that my books are of very good quality.

I believe in my stories, and I believe in the message I want to pass through them so my biggest challenge is how to get my books to as large an audience as possible. I deal with that by investing a good amount of time in promotion. I also utilize the strategy of giving away free books in order to build a following.

My first book, A Heart to Mend, stayed at #1 on the AmazonUK Kindle store for romantic suspense (free) for over two weeks, with almost 20,000 copies downloaded. It was a very good feeling to know that even half of that number will read the story and it would fit into how they make sense of the world around them.

Do you write everyday?

I do not write everyday, not that I wouldn't like to though.

I write when I feel like it, and usually I would've been thinking about the story and so it comes easily to my fingers as I type (I used to write long hand, but I now write directly to MS Word on my laptop).

When I have start thinking about what to write, or whether it makes sense, then I stop.

How many books have you written so far?

I have written two books so far:

A Heart to Mend was published through Authorhouse in December 2009. It tells about the coming of age of a young woman, Gladys, who falls in love with Edward, a wealthy businessman. They become romantically linked but emotional issues from Edward's past make it hard for him to fully trust Gladys. Their relationship is further complicated when she becomes embroiled in a plot to take over his business.

A Love Rekindled was published through Createspace in March 2011. Efe is an independent woman who returns to Nigeria ready to face the future, after years in the United States. However, it is the past that she first has to confront when her former fiance, Kevwe, comes back into her life claiming he's never stopped loving her. He has to unravel the mystery of their broken engagement before she is willing to rekindle their love.

How would you describe A Love Rekindled?

A Love Rekindled is my latest book, and it took about a year to write and edit. It was first published in the United States.

I moved from Authorhouse to CreateSpace for my second book because I found that the latter's services were more affordable. The next advantage was that they worked directly with Amazon.com which my first book had shown me was my biggest market.

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into A Love Rekindled?

I enjoy telling stories and giving free reign to my imagination. I think this is because I'm recreating the world through my characters, and breathing life into them in such a way that readers will be emotionally invested in what happens to them.

For me, the most difficult part of writing is the editing process. The primary reason being that I do not have a formal background in Writing, English, Communication or Literature. Taking several free online courses and joining writing groups have been very helpful in increasing my strength in these areas. I have also tried to improve my knowledge of the publishing industry in terms of branding, publicity and marketing.

What sets A Love Rekindled apart from other things you've written?

A Love Rekindled differs from A Heart to Mend in that it spans a longer period of time. Readers will be transported to the years at the turn of the millenium and to the days of first love and loss.

The two books are similar in that they are set in Nigeria and are about people dealing with issues of love, family, and personal development.

The book I'm working on now is about a woman who has just clocked the big 30 and has to determine whether marriage is the next step in her life as everyone one around her expects. Being seduced by a local lothario during a vacation to Nigeria does not make this decision any easier.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

I think it is too early to conclude, but I'll like to be counted among those that revived the writing of popular and commercial fiction in Africa.

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1 comment:

Kiru Taye said...

Myne, it's interesting to know that you started A Heart to Mend at 18. I guess the years refined it.

A nice interview. Thanks for sharing it.

Cheers,
Kiru