Who is Myne Whitman? Why a name that sounds so European?
Nkem Akinsoto is Myne Whitman. It's a name I coined myself when I began to write seriously in secondary school. Most of the books I read were in English, and since I was writing in English too, I decided my pen name would be the same. So the pseudonym is a play on some words of my maiden name.
Who is your perfect reader?
Someone who can relate to the stories I write about, someone willing to give life and love a chance and who has an open mind and heart.
What is the last thing you read that made you laugh?
It has to be some of the blogs I come across in my rounds. I've not read a really funny book in a while.
Why did you write A Heart to Mend?
Well, I primarily wanted to tell an engaging romantic story about unconditional love set in contemporary Nigeria. In my childhood, I was inspired by romance stories where the protagonist undergoes a lot of trials and heartache but eventually comes out on top, but they seem to have trickled off. So when writing A Heart To Mend, I wanted to do something about the situation.
How long did it take to write the story?
I already had a short story I wrote a few years ago. Making it a novel and polishing it up took roughly a year.
What book do you wish that you wrote?
I've always wished I wrote romance novels and it now has started coming true. lol..
Is it writing you do fulltime? If not, how do you balance the other things?
Yes I am a full time writer. But I still have to balance being a wife, daughter, sibling and friend. I also volunteer some days of the week and go for writing workshops with my meet-up group.
Why did you start your blog? What’s the strangest comment you had on your blog?
Some members of my writing group had blogs where they shared excerpts of their work. They advised that I could start one to get more feedback on the story I was writing then, and to know when it's ready for the market. I began a small blog on the Nigeria Village Square before moving to the Myne Whitman Writes blog.I think the strangest comments has been the few where some anonymous either writes in a different language or asks for a riddle because their life depended on it. LOL...
You push your book with this enormous drive that some publishing houses will struggle to keep up with, how do you do it?
I don't really know, lol. One thing I did though is that while waiting after sending the book to the publishers, I shadowed some online publishers and book promoters. Also the publishing house I used, Authorhouse, has a very good marketing guide for their authors. I use that religiously to map out my strategies.
What are you scared of? I'm scared of losing people I love.
Have you ever imitated another writer’s style? Not consciously I think, but I have read so many books it may be possible to see an amalgamation of different styles. However I like to think my voice and style is unique.
Tell us your five favourite writers and why…
I love various authors and cannot really narrow it down but some names are; Mills and Boon authors, Barbara Cartland, Francine Rivers, Sidney Sheldon, Robert Ludlum, Leon Uris, John Grisham, and Michael Critchton. And in Africa; Pacesetters authors, African Writers Series, Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Cyprian Ekwensi, Chinua Achebe and more recently Chimamanda Adichie. These writers can weave a very good story.
Why romance? What are the challenges of writing ‘romance style’?
Romance because there is a dearth of romantic fiction in Nigeria. Sometimes you hear people wondering if there is even anything like love. I have seen stories of love and I wanted to contribute to the conversation. It is also a delight having to day dream about romantic love for a living. The challenge is finding a fresh story that makes the journey pleasurable and engaging for the readers. Putting together an emotional, character-driven conflict that provides tension and excitement, knowing that there is a fixed 'happy-ever-after' ending.
Isn't it limiting to be tagged a ‘romance writer’? Is that all you will do or we should expect something else in the future? I do not find it limiting at all, it is a choice I made. And I'm so happy I chose the title I did for my debut. An interview I had called it "The Heart Mender". I think that is wonderful! LOL...That will be my specialty and I hope to write several more books.
Why did you take the self-publishing route?
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 felt I could follow the route since I was now a fulltime writer and had more time to devote to it.I also knew that the majority of my audience would be Nigerians and it is no secret that the few publishing houses in the country are overwhelmed as it is.
What are you doing to make your book accessible to Africans?
There are plans to publish in Nigeria which I hope will come to fruition in this first quarter.
What inspires your writing?
I have to say it is my imagination. I fantasize a lot and being a book worm has not helped matters. I find inspiration from my life, people around me and it could be just a sentence in a newspaper or a line in a movie and my imagination just feeds on it. My brain just churns out these stories even when I am asleep.
What’s one thing that people don’t know about you?
My life is an open book. I am silent until you start reading me.
What is the hardest thing to write about?
Optimism I think. It's easy to be pessimistic in our current world environment. But writing about love and hope and redemption, that is more difficult to do and I struggle with it too.
What is the worth of a book?
As much as people are willing to spend their time and money to buy, read and talk about it. The way I see it, the expensive books gathering dust in libraries and bookstores are not of much worth to anyone.
How do you react to criticism?
I welcome criticism, just be gentle with me, LOL. Seriously though I like harsh critics, however I also want to know the way forward. I love discussions, two-way communication, and that is the way i prefer my criticisms to be.
Do you believe in romance? Do Africans believe in it? Some think romance is European, others that it misleads young folks or that it’s utopia; how do you perceive your book will be accepted with these in mind? I totally believe in romance, I refer to myself as a hopeless romantic in that there's no going back. But I think romance is hopeful, it wants to believe in love. Not in utopia, because I'm not an idealist, but in a world with a future. And no romance is not European. Love, and by extension romance, is universal. There is no misleading going on but a bringing to the fore. We know a lot of African marriages are either arranged or functional but we also know of those based on mutual love. Some of our grandparents even had those. That is what I want us to talk about and maybe we can have more of it.
What do you have to say about the Nigerian publishing scene?
I think it is in it's infancy. I don't think there are more than a handful if publishers in the literary fiction genre, most are in textbook or magazines. I think they need all the help they can get, from the government, from the private sector and from us the writers and poets. If the country wants everyone to read more, then we should put our money where our mouths are.
List five of your favourite blogs and why…
I have loads of blogs I enjoy, but the types I enjoy the most are the personal blogs, fiction and poetry blogs, entertainment round-ups, movie and book reviews and finally social commentators.
If you had the chance to write your epitaph, what would it read?
The Heart Mender! LOL...
Words to upcoming writers
I will say that they should keep at it. A writer 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.
What does it mean to be a writer?
I will like to quote another writer here. Petina Gappah said on her blog "A writer is a person who writes...You, at your computer or with your notebook, writing, and writing, revising and writing, and revising again." I will only add that you need to have a story and a voice to tell it in.
What should we expect from you in the nearest future? More stories.