Hi, Myne. Please tell us about yourself – a brief biography.
I was born at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital Enugu, Nigeria and I grew up in that city till my middle secondary school. I attended Ekulu Primary School, Queens School Enugu, Special Science School Agulu and Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka. I 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. My mother was a school teacher and my father worked for the electoral commission, so the love of reading and education came from them and from the environment of Enugu, which is a part an academic and civil service city.
Sometimes I come across as quiet but I do like a good loud debate too. In three words, I will describe myself as friendly, caring and fun-loving. I realized early on through books that it was possible to be whoever and do whatever you wanted to do. I learnt to stretch my wings even further when I first left the country. I have a degree in Applied Biology and a master’s in Public Health Research. I have been a teacher, NGO consultant, banker, skate-hire attendant, and researcher and have worked for the government both in Nigeria and Scotland.
Have you always wanted to write?
Let’s just say that as far back as I can tell, the stories in my head were already bursting to be let go, and since I wasn’t a big talker, it made sense to write them down.
When did you begin writing?
I began telling my stories from about 10 years old. I was becoming too big to be allowed to go play with the boys, but too young to do much of anything else. So whenever my mum allowed me some free time from studying, I found myself scribbling my adventurous imaginations on the backs of my notebooks. I started completing and saving my manuscripts when I was maybe 20 or so.
What inspired you to write your first novel: A Heart to Mend?
First and foremost I wanted to tell a story of love and 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 therefore 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.
Are your books based on people you know, or events in your own life?
LOL…let me say here that none of my characters is based on me or anyone I know in particular but on a cumulative of my experience. In A Heart to Mend, the hearts being mended are those of my characters, Edward and Gladys. They’re just people of my imaginings, though since I try to make my stories as real as possible, they also share our fears and hopes, our victories and our pain. Some people say they seem free from some of the usual constraints we real persons face, but if you look closely, you may even recognize one or more of them. For these readers who identify with any of my books and the themes/characters in it, I hope their hearts will be mended, and their loves rekindled too.
What books have most influenced you?
The bible is the single book that has made me who I am today. Other books may have had an impact too including the loads of Mills and Boons I’d read, Alex Haley’s Roots, Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people, Rich Dad, Poor Dad by R. Kiyosaki, Buchi Emecheta’s The Bride Price, and Dale Carnegie’s How to make friends and influence people.
How did you make the decision to quit your day job and become a writer?
Can I say I have some attitude about that word – writer. Aren’t we all writers really, in the basic sense of it? To your question, I did not quit my day job for writing but for something bigger. The choice was to start another day job, or do something I was more passionate about. I decided to do the latter, and the rest is history.
Your first novel,A Heart to Mend received positive reviews both internationally and in Nigeria. What would you say most contributed to its success?
Can I be big-headed and say people just connected with the story? LOL. Hmmm…I think it was the freshness of the story, and the organic way in which it grew. So there was not an Orange Prize telling people this was a good book, AHTM was a story a lot of the initial readers had watched germinate on my blog, and so they embraced it, and promoted it like their own.
What’s the blurb for A Love Rekindled?
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 sparks fly when they meet again. But renewed desire is no match for bitter memories of heartbreak. Can they overcome the traumatic past and rekindle their love?
What might your readers like about A Love Rekindled, how different is it to A Heart to Mend?
One thing unique about ALR is that it goes back to the nineties, and to the main character’s experiences while in university. A lot of people will definitely love that nostalgic feeling of revisiting their university days. As for how different both books are, readers will have to decide.
Myne Whitman’s new book – A Love Rekindled is out now. It is available in Lagos bookshops, at…AMAZON and everywhere good books are sold. You can read an excerpt from the link on the right sidebar.
Coming up in part two: Myne reveals why she chose the self publishing route, her favourite Nigerian author, the writer she would most like to collaborate with, and her plans for the future.
©Adura Ojo. March 2011