Myne Whitman is a Nigeria author, blogger, founder & managing editor of Naijastories.com, a critique website for aspiring Nigerian writers. The author recently wrote her second book which is already making waves, it was selected to the second round of the ‘Amazon Breakthrough Novel “Award out of 5,000 other books. Not only is she beautiful, talented and creative but she also finds time to volunteer as a “English as a Second Language” (ESL) tutor for a local charity. Even though Myne holds a Masters in Public Health research, she has chosen to follow her childhood dream of spinning stories. In this exclusive interview with Gist Express, the hardworking author talks about her latest novel “A Love Rekindled”, why she uses Myne Whitman as a pen name and More!
Gist Express: Tell us about yourself?
Myne: 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. After a few years in Edinburgh, Scotland, I now live with my husband in Seattle, USA. I critique with the Seattle Eastside Writers Meet-up and I’m also a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association.
The Pacific Northwest of America is a great place to live in the summer but during the drizzling winter rains, I find myself dreaming of long, hot, Nigerian days and the red palm oil of Banga Soup. A self-confessed adrenaline junkie, I love theme park rides and my wildest ride yet would be the Simpsons at Universal studios, Hollywood. Or maybe it was that reverse bungee jump I did in Scotland, hmm…lol.
In addition to writing popular fiction to get people reading, I am passionate about using the internet and social media to promote the book industry and literacy levels in Nigeria. To this end, I facilitated a session, “Social Media and the Book Publishing Industry”, for the Publisher’s Forum at the 2010 Garden City Literary Festival, Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Gist Express: Why the use of a “pen name”?
Myne: 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. Also, it sparked the creative side of me that I could make up a name for myself to use whenever I liked. 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.
Gist Express: How did you get started -writing and then publishing?
Myne: I started writing when I was still in primary school. I started reading a lot around that time too, so one could say it was a natural progression. I wrote children’s adventures because I read more books like that. In my secondary school, I stopped writing for a bit but during my years in University, I restarted writing and got people to read my books and they loved it.
This time around too, I started sending out queries to a few literary agents and publishers when I had the chapter one to three ready and continued doing this up till chapter ten. At the same time, I was reading other author’s comments and ideas on other ways of publishing. In the end I decided to try the self-publishing route. Author house is seen as one of the best in the market and they have not disappointed me in any way.
Gist Express: How many books have you written/published?
Myne: I have written two books, A Heart to Mend and A Love Rekindled. For now, only A Heart To Mend is in the market. A Love Rekindled will be published in March 2011
Gist Express: Tell us a little about your new novel- “A love rekindled”
Myne: Ten years ago, Efe Sagay dreams of winning the United States Visa Lottery, until she meets Kevwe Mukoro in University. Kevwe is happy to remain in Nigeria; only he wants Efe by his side. Over time, Efe finds true love with Kevwe, and promises to marry him. Their dreams unravel when Efe wins an American Visa, and fresh violence erupts between their warring ethnic groups. Now, Efe is back in Nigeria, and she knows it’s a matter of time before Kevwe returns to her life. They finally meet again, but renewed desire is no match for bitter memories of heartbreak. Efe wants the traumatic events of the past resolved before she gives in to rekindled love.
Gist Express: Where can your books be purchased?
Myne: My books can be found for sale in most of the bookstores in the major cities across Nigeria. They are in Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan, Ife, Ondo, Owerri, Asaba, Onitsha, Enugu, Nsukka, Maiduguri, Kaduna and Minna. Some named bookstores include Silverbird Galleria, The Hub @ the Palms, TerraKulture, Quintessence Ikoyi, The Booksellers, Pen and Pages, Book Konsult Owerri, UniLag Bookstore, UI bookshop and OAU Bookstore.
In the US and UK, all the bookstores including, Waterstones, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Blackwells, WHSmith, etc, stock it on a pre-order basis. You can also purchase online from Amazon.com. Those that want an autographed copy can get it from my website, www.mynewhitman.com
Gist Express: What challenges have you faced as a writer?
Myne: My books are romance in the suspense category, some may call it romantic fiction. It is challenging to write especially in the settings I chose. The stories are set in different cities in Nigeria and abroad, some of which I have not lived in for more than a few weeks at a stretch. So I have to focus on getting the characters well rounded, as well as the location. I’m a novice in the industry. Creative writing is not child’s play as I realized when I compared some of my short stories and scripts with what was already available. The excuse that I did not study English or Literature could not suffice.
To prepare, I took some free online courses and workshops for Creative Writing and Fiction from the University of Utah, MIT, Open University UK and Suite 101. I’m still taking these trainings and they’re an on-going project. I also became a member of a writing meetup group in my area which includes traditionally and self published authors and gifted writers and editors. The members have been of great help in the course of my writing.
Another challenge for me as a writer using social networking is that of distraction, thereby reducing the amount of time I have to write. Personally, Facebook has proved the most addictive. I find that sometimes while updating my pages, I may stray into something else entirely and so on, thereby wasting precious amounts of time that could have been put to better use. There was a day I took a break from writing and as usual, the first point of call was Facebook. The site was down, and I kept refreshing it for almost five minutes before it dawned what I was doing. I laughed at myself, left a message on Twitter about my addiction and went to check some other things. I had to really think that day but it is what it is. at the end of the day, I have to find a way to balance the two by making sure that my internet use is mostly purposeful and in a way that is linked to my writing, and also set out a specific time for my writing itself without any distractions.
Gist Express: Do you have any new projects in the works?
Myne: Yes I do. I have started plotting my next novel with a tentative title of “The Storm is Over”. It will be ready for publication next year.
Gist Express: What advice do you have for other young aspiring writers?
Myne: One of the most important is being able to outline your goals. What is your plan towards achieving this dream or vision? Once you know this, then a lot of discipline and perseverance is necessary to achieve them. So I will say that you should keep at it. A lot of aspiring writers are actually very talented and just have to continue polishing their craft till opportunity knocks. A writer thus has to persevere, have a story they want to share and push till it’s in a forms others can understand and appreciate. I wish everyone the best.
To learn more about Myne Whitman visit her website