Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Why I Love Writing Romance

An interview with author and award winning blogger, Myne Whitman

Myne Whitman is the publisher and managing editor of NAIJA STORIES, a critique website for Nigerian writers. A former banker and NGO consultant, she is the author of best selling romance novel A Heart To Mend. Born and raised in Enugu, eastern Nigeria where she had her early education, she later moved to Edinburgh where she obtained an MA in public health research in 2007 before returning to writing, her first love, in 2009.  She is the 35th most networked person in the United States and this is no surprise because she loves blogging and face booking and twitting. Myne is a very friendly, caring and fun loving person, but she likes some “me time” too, especially when she’s writing. Although she now resides in Seattle with her husband, Myne still misses the Nigerian weather and some of our local fruits like mango and cashew. Myne has a thing for love and romance, her latest novel A Love Rekindled has love as its thematic focus. She tells us about it in this interview. And just in case you were wondering about her name, she is fully Nigerian, but with a pen name like hers, you could easily pass for Afro-American.

How did you start writing?

I’ve been writing since I was much younger, around twelve or thirteen but it was always more of a hobby. The career path I initially chose was in the health sciences and I have a Masters degree in Public Health which I got in 2007. All this while, I always wrote by the side and it was only in 2009 that I decided to go back fully to my love of writing.

Why did you choose the pen name Myne Whitman, Is Myne Whitman different from the real person?

The pen name was inspired by my real name. As a teenager, I read so many books and found out in the process that a lot of authors used pen names. That was when the idea to use a pen name started, and when I started writing again I decided to use one. There are two major reasons for this; first, I do most of my writing online and one has to be careful when on the internet. Also, I do still have a passion for health systems and I don’t want to conflate both aspects of my life. That said, there is no difference.

Tell us about your book "A love rekindled"

The major themes in the book are of forgiveness, and of tolerance, framed within love. In the book, Efe returns to Nigeria after years in the United States, dreaming of a happy, independent life. However, her nights become plagued by nightmares of Kevwe Mukoro, her ex-fiancĂ©. Long hours at work and drinking in nightclubs only provide temporary relief, and when she encounters another Mukoro, she knows it’s a matter of time before Kevwe is back in her life. Sparks fly when they finally meet again, but desire is no match for bitter memories of heartbreak. All these years, Efe believed she was rejected; now Kevwe claims he’d never stopped loving her. Stuck at a crossroads, Kevwe prefers to look to the future, with them together. Efe does not want to lose him, yet she needs the traumatic events of the past resolved before she can give in to rekindled love.

You like to write about love and romance, is there a reason for this choice of genre/style?

First and foremost I want to write stories of love and of finding oneself. I also felt that there were not 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 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. 

Do you have any rituals that help you write?

Not really. It does help though if I'm sitting down, either on my bed or at my writing desk. 

What is your daily routine like?

I try to write for at least a couple of hours every day. I usually write during the day time, but my muse can be quite strange, and has kept me awake all night in the past.

What would you rather do, sky diving or ice skating?

I have tried ice-skating and it involved a lot of falling on my bum. I'll like to go sky diving one of these days, all I have to do is jump off the plane, right? 

If you had to pick your favorite book of all times, what would it be?

 This is very hard to tell. I have read so many books and greatly enjoyed and benefited from a lot of them.

What is the best compliment you've ever received for a book you wrote?

One of my characters in A Love Rekindled, my second book, made me cry while writing it, and when some readers sent me feedback saying they cried at some points of the book too, I felt completely fulfilled. 

Myne's book A heart to mend

At last year’s garden city literary festival, I saw you freely chatting with fans and some of the participants and I thought "That's a very friendly person". Are you, or is it just part of being a celebrity?

I think I'm a very friendly person when the occasion calls for it. I do like some me-time too, especially when I'm writing. 

How did you arrive at your status as the 35th most networked person in the United States?

A lot of my publicity efforts have been using social media and blog and my Facebook page are my hubs. In August 2011, Western Union celebrated its 160th anniversary by launching of a hunt for the most networked person in the world. I was intrigued, and curious to know how connected I was, so I took the challenge. I found that I was 3rd most networked person among my Facebook friends and 35th in the United States.

You once wrote that women are better communicators than men, is this why in contemporary times; female Nigerian writers have been doing much better than their male counter parts?

You could say that. But really, the male writers are there too, including Helon Habila, Eghosa Imaseun, Tony Umez, among others. 

Since you live in the states, do you still eat African dishes?

Yes, I do. The food stuff are rare in the area where I live so I don't eat it that often though.

What is your favorite Nigerian dish?

I think it is Banga soup with pounded yam. 

What do you miss most about Nigeria?

It has to be my family. And I like that the weather is more stable and warm year round. I also miss some of our local fruits like mangoes and cashews, and I miss the vibrancy of the people.

Advice to young aspiring Nigerian Writers?

 They should keep writing till they complete a collection of shorts or a novel, and work at editing their manuscripts till opportunity comes knocking.
Three things Myne Whitman can't do without?

Books, conversation with friends, and relaxing music.

interview by Chidi Ugbe

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