AFRIGENIC INTERVIEW

"Using a Pseudonym, Myne Whitman in her Self published debut novel, A Heart to Mend, presents the gripping tale of a young woman finding her feet in the world and how her life intersects with that of the wealthy egoist she meets. The novel details how we can be affected by events from our past and how it may limit our opportunities in the present especially in the area of love and relationships."



AG: In the blog and literary world, you are known as Myne Whitman, tell us about Myne Whitman and why the choice as a pen name?
Myne: Myne Whitman is a pen name I coined while still in secondary school and is a play on the transliterated words of my maiden name. Personality-wise, I am quiet and laid-back but do like a good loud debate sometimes. In three words, I will describe myself as friendly, caring and fun-loving. I have been a teacher,NGO consultant, banker, skate-hire attendant, researcher and government worker. After a postgrad degree and a few years in Edinburgh, Scotland, I now live in the United States



AG: Now please tell us about you (real name, background, transitions between growing up and becoming a writer?
Myne: My name is Nkem Akinsoto, and I am a Nigerian. I grew up during the 1980’s and remember as a child studying a lot, reading everything I could lay my hands on, and then trying to play the rest of the time. I attended Ekulu Primary School and Queens School in Enugu, and Loretto Science School and Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Anambra. I am from Asaba, Delta State and that is where my parents live now. I also lived and worked in Abuja for a few years. I decided to become a full time writer and blogger after I moved to the USA. My debut novel, A Heart to Mend, was published through AuthorHouse.

AG: What was it like growing up in Enugu?
Myne: Enugu is mostly an academic city. My mother was a school teacher and I grew up in a family where I was surrounded by books, and that's how I developed my love for reading. I had to study a lot, but ended up playing the rest of the time.

AG: how did you initially become interested in writing, did you want to be a writer from early on?
Myne: I was first a reader. The earliest novel I recall writing was of children’s adventures while I was in secondary school. It was a mixture of the sort of stories I read from Enid Blyton and my own experiences as a new student and travelling to my hometown for the Christmas breaks with my family. At that time, I wanted to be either a doctor, or an architect. I also felt I could make a good fashion designer or author because of the creative talent I noticed I had. The last two were things I felt that it was more things to do as a hobby.

AG; How would you describe your style of writing and what inspires this style of yours?
Myne:I would describe it as direct and simple. I prefer using short sentences and lots of dialogue to tell a story. I like to think that this style is tailored to the situations I'm writing about and will carry my audience on the fluid journey of reading my books. This what a some reviewers had to say about A Heart to Mend. I hope to build on this in future books.

"A HEART TO MEND" narrates the relationship between Gladys and Edward and offers a unique reading experience. Direct and action packed, the masterful use of emotion and suspense will keep readers totally engrossed and guessing till the end."

"The author has used a writing style that is simple and direct, with lots of descriptive detail. On the one hand, this allows the reader to follow the narrative with ease, while at the same time immersing them in the story..."

AG: What was the reaction of your family, to your choice of career?
Myne: They are very supportive. My husband is also a writer and we actually work together on some projects. My parents and the rest of my family were not too surprised. They are just happy for me.

AG: What do you enjoy the most about writing, any downsides?
Myne: I love and enjoy it because it enable me to exercise fully my imaginative and creative side. It is also challenging to write especially because I want to make my stories as real and grounded as possible. 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 meet up group in my area which includes traditionally and self published authors and gifted writers and editors.

AG: In a nutshell, what is A Heart to Mend all about?

Myne: In the book, Gladys is a young woman, newly arrived in Lagos and from a deprived background. She had been estranged from her aunt and is a bit cynical of rich people. While still working on her new relationship with her Aunt Isioma, she meets Edward, a wealthy egoist who is surprising kindhearted. She is smitten by his physical looks and his interest in her though she continues to feel he's out of her reach. Edward is highly attracted to her physically but as time goes on, he realizes he may have set up his heart for a fall. He is from a shadowed past and has been deeply scarred by events that happened when he was younger. They are able to surmount this and all other obstacles before them including differing views on premarital sex, social class and contrary advice from friends. Gladys and Edward decide to trust their hearts with each other and begin to prepare for their wedding. This main story line runs through the subplot of growing friendships, family reunions, the Nigerian stock market, business intrigues and a vendetta.

The novel details how we can be affected by events from our past and how it may limit our opportunities in the present especially in the area of love and relationships. Gladys obsesses over the divide between her and Edward, while he had barricaded his heart and was not letting anyone in, man or woman. The lesson is that none of us is perfect but we should be able to keep our heart open for that (sometimes one) person who has enough masking tape to cover our imperfections and make an ideal couple.

AG: Who edited and when did you finish writing A Heart to mend?
Myne: I finished writing AHTM around September and October last year 2009. My husband is a talented writer and he was the professional editor for my debut novel, A Heart to Mend. He has been with me every step of the way, proof-reading, discussing plot, critiquing, cheering me on.

AG: How well has society accepted it?
Myne: I got overwhelming response to the Gladys and Edward story which is now a Heart to Mend on my blog and again when I decided to go ahead and publish. Since the book debuted, the response has also been very good. I really did not expect it to be so well received. A few bloggers — once they knew my book was out, wanted to run interviews. It was the publicity that got the attention of some publishers in Nigeria and an offer for it to be marketed there. It has really been very well received.

I want to point out at this point that apart from the commercial success, there’s that deep satisfaction of knowing your creative work is out there making and contributing to conversation.

AG: People tend to relate literature with academics, what to you think can be done to make them see it in an entertaining light?
Myne: This is true especially in Africa and Nigeria. My book has been published internationally so that helps a bit. When people see that other people are buying and reading the book for fun, it motivates them to see what it is all about. And stories should be more accessible, they should be more entertaining, they should engage the reader by painting and describing scenarios that they can relate to so that they end up wanting to read the novel. I think there's also something to be said about the writing stars we have right now and making authors more accessible to their readers. Take my blog for instance, people can sample my writing style and my personality and it connects them to my stories.

AG: any role models?
Myne: I enjoy and appreciate almost all authors and writers because I know how much work that goes into writing. I love various authors and cannot really narrow it down but the names that stick are; Mills and Boons, Barbara Cartland, Francine Rivers, Sidney Sheldon, Robert Ludlum, Leon Uris, John Grisham, and Micheal Critchton. And in Africa; Pacesetters, African Writers Series, Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Cyprian Ekwensi and Chinua Achebe.

However I look up to most Nigerian female authors out there. They motivate me a lot by themselves and through their work.

AG; Where do you see your self in future, any upcoming projects?
Myne: Yes I have a couple of books I hope to follow this one. Both are already in the short story phase and I intend to have them ready, one for each of the next two years. I hope to have published more books in the next five years and still remain in the midst of my readers and fans. Right now, they can connect with me through the social media, Facebook and Twitter. I also manage a story sharing site called, www. naijastories.com to encourage reading and writing.

AG: Any message for your fans and aspiring writers?
Myne: To the aspiring writers, I will say that you should keep at it. A lot of wannabe writers are actually very talented and just have to continue polishing their craft till opportunity knocks. It was Petina Gappah who 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."

All 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 you and everyone the best.

To my fans and readers, I love you all and say a great big THANK YOU! Thank you too African Genes for this opportunity.

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