Ever thought about publishing your own book, maybe a fashion book? If so, then you will really enjoy Myne Whitman aka Nkem Akinsoto our LadybrilleNigeria Personality of the Month. Myne Whitman is the author of ‘A Heart to Mend,’ her first novel, which captures in a concise and sweet manner, modern day Nigerian romance.
Every character in ‘A Heart to Mend’ is probably one you can relate to, know personally. Whitman’s ‘A Heart to Mend’ explores modern day Nigerian romantic relationship delving into tough themes like inter-ethnic dating and marriage, pre-marital sex, social class and emotional unavailability, all set against the backdrop of turbulent times in Nigeria’s financial industry/Nigeria Stock Exchange Market.
In our interview, our personality of the month discusses, the writing process for all LadybrilleNigeria future authors and later dishes out delicious servings of her romantic novel. Enjoy and be sure to support and purchase Myne Whitman’s impressive work.
Myne Whitman Discusses The Writing Process
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Myne Whitman, first, let me congratulate you on publishing your first book. Also, I must say extra kudos for being confident to delve into the financial world. I loved it! Before we get into the many themes running through your novel, let’s get into the writing process and how our audience who might want to self-publish their fashion or similar related books might do so.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: The first question that typically comes to mind is ideas on what to write. How do our LadybrilleNigeria writers get ideas on what to write?
Myne Whitman: I find inspiration from real life. From my own life, from the people around me, and stories I read in the news or books. It could be just a sentence in a newspaper or a line in a movie and my creativity just feeds on it.
A lot of the themes handled in ‘A Heart to Mend’ were inspired in the same way. People have asked so I have to say that none of my characters is based on me, or anyone I know in particular. They’re just people of my imagination but based on a cumulative of my experience. So while may seem free from some of the usual constraints we real persons face, they also share our fears and hopes, our victories and our pain. If you look closely, you may even recognize one or more of them.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: I certainly did. I saw many persons in my life in the book and myself too. Okay. We (now) have an idea for our novels. (T)he obvious next step is to write. What are some of the challenges you went through in writing ‘A Heart to Mend?’
Myne Whitman: ‘A Heart to Mend’ is a romance in the suspense category- some may call it a romantic thriller. It was challenging to write especially with the plot I chose. The story is set in Lagos, where I’ve lived for only a few weeks at a stretch. I’m also a novice in the stock market industry, which forms the backdrop. So not only did I have to update myself, I had to bring these settings to life for those who have never experienced them.
Again, creative writing is not a 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 that includes traditionally and self-published authors and gifted writers and editors.
Finally, I believe in creating characters that I can identify with strongly enough to feel what they feel when they are going through emotional turmoil, and convey some of this feeling in my work where it shows through to the audience. This can be quite tough and emotionally draining but it is worth it in the end.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: I agree on the emotionally draining part but it is indeed worth it because you make the characters truly come alive.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: I am a writer at heart and write literally every day, non-fictional and fictional works. I find I can have many drafts before I settle with the final thing. How many drafts did you come up with before the final draft for ‘A Heart to Mend’?
Myne Whitman: I had quite a few drafts and drafts of drafts especially during the critique period. I had to rethink, rework and rewrite to get a believable story that flowed well. That said, I edit a lot while writing so that at the end it’s minimal. Still, I appreciate fresh eyes to help me proof and then I force myself to move to the next project.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: What about the revision process for you? There were places in the book, for example, that I felt you could have given us more explanation especially when you dabbled in Nigeria’s financial sector. How did you determine the angles to approach your story?
Myne Whitman: The revision process was quite tedious. Luckily I had the plot outline so I knew where the story was going and how I wanted it to end. I also knew the themes I wanted to focus on which included: social class, intermarriage, family estrangement, and contemporary relationships and sex. I knew I wasn’t going to go into too much details in the other sub-themes like the financial aspect or the foster care system. I only had to make sure from my first readers what was enough to carry the major part of the story.
LADYBRILLENigeria: How did you determine what facts had to be included to help give your readers better . . .context?
Myne Whitman: I had to play it by the ear. I did my research into what life is like in present day Lagos for the kind of people that match the characters in my book. I also read a lot into what goes into business takeovers, hostile or otherwise before I decided to go with the latter because I am of the opinion that conflict drives a story and nothing like a struggle to build a character and get the reader rooting for one or the other.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: We have our idea, we have written, revised our stories and now its editing! I noticed you gave credits to many bloggers, friends and family who helped edit your book. I couldn’t help, nevertheless, with noticing a few spelling, and punctuation errors. Lol!
Myne Whitman: You must have very sharp eyes indeed, lol . . . but you’re right. One or two typos escaped the eagle eyes of the naija blogville crew. Very minimal indeed as I have had several people congratulate me on the quality of the novel being a self-published novel and all. However, we’re not resting on our laurels. I have edited the manuscript even further as it will soon be published in Nigeria.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: I guess we edit, edit and edit some more. Lol!
Myne Whitman: Editing is very, very important. It can never be underestimated the amount of enjoyment it removes from reading an otherwise good story.
Myne Whitman Tells us How to Get Published!
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Okay, so thankfully the hard task has been done. We now have our novel. How do you get it published? Tell us the pros and cons with self-publishing?
Myne Whitman: The pros for self-publishing are that the author retains full control over the content, design, and marketing of your book. You retain all rights to your manuscript and most of the revenues earned from the sale of your books. You may be able to penetrate small niche markets that a commercial publisher would overlook or ignore. The book may also have a greater chance of success because you’re more committed to promoting it than a publisher who has hundreds of other titles. I want to point out that apart from the commercial success, there’s also that deep satisfaction of knowing your creative work is out there making and contributing to conversation.
On the flip side, it can be expensive and requires a lump sum outlay to begin with. Even when the book is out, the author may have to invest further in the publicity and marketing of the product. When you’re published traditionally, you can leave all that to your agents and publishers and go back to your next project. Not so here, you have to put in a lot of time, effort and energy to get the book buzzing. Also, a lot of organizations still do not like working with self-published books either to review, distribute or feature.
LADYBRILLENigeria: What are the perks of publishing with a publisher like Author House?
Myne Whitman: 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 full time writer. I first improved on my writing by attending workshops and blogging which helped to polish my manuscript to professional standards. Then I read about other authors who had done the same and what their experiences had been like with different companies.
I chose Author House because I read several good things about them and they have met those so far. They assign you a design team, a book consultant and a sales person. They have various packages including editing and promotions and you choose the one that suits you best and which you can afford. I also liked that they had access to a large number of the major retailers in America and the UK.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: How do you get paid going through a publisher of that caliber?
Myne Whitman: Although there is no upfront contract payment, you get paid royalties just like many other publishers based on the number of books you sell.
Myne Whitman Dishes on ‘A Heart to Mend’
Myne Spills on the Lead Characters Gladys and Edward
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Myne, ‘A Heart to Mend’ was a very easy read. The language was simple and I think I completed it in four hours. Let’s start with your intro with the characters. I particularly enjoyed the intro of Gladys. Initially, I thought she was a ‘Nigerican’ woman who had returned home based on her insistence to navigate Lagos herself. But, I LOVED that she was just from Enugu yet she had the same naivety . . . as you would see a ‘Nigerican’ . . . sister display in a big city like Lagos was present. Describe Gladys character in the novel.
Myne Whitman: I pictured Gladys to be a stable young woman. Her upbringing was very vivid to me. I knew exactly the circumstance with Gladys and how she grew up. She had lost her father early and had been thrust with responsibility. She ends up confident, content and sharp. I loved the fact that she had the standard of no sex before marriage and she stuck with it. However, she is also still at the self-discovery stage, a little bit timid, well brought up but also at the adventure seeking phase.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: She is quite rational, I think even more so than the lead male character Edward Bestman. Describe Edward’s character?
Myne Whitman: Well from the get go I imagined Edward to be an all round man. You know the tall dark and handsome type, hard-working and successful. He had a lot of ego and pride in his character but this was just a cover-up for the insecurity, which had affected a large part of him. Edward grew up rejected and as an orphan, and his earlier flings with women only taught him that no one could want him for himself only. That beclouded his judgment about relationships for so long. As expected, he had barricaded his heart and was not letting anyone, man or woman in.
Myne Whitman Discusses Emotional Unavailability & Nigeria’s Foster Care System
LADYBRILLNigeria: You explore emotional unavailability in both the male and female lead characters but really the emphasis is on Edward. Why did you feel the need to touch on this theme?
Myne Whitman: 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. Though this happens only when we allow it, alas, some of us do. The over-arching theme here is love and it teaches that while none of us is perfect, we should be able to keep our heart open for that person who has enough masking tape to cover our imperfections.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Interesting way to put it with “enough masking tape.” You also did a good job touching on Nigeria’s foster care system, if any. But you left me wondering and actually wanting a little more information on the foster care system there. What about foster care or Nigeria’s orphans made you explore that in your novel?
Myne Whitman: While I still lived in Nigeria, I was involved with some volunteer work that necessitated me to visit a number of orphanages and it intrigued me what the future held for the children I met there. They were mostly happy, likeable children but I worried that with the general instability in Nigeria things might get more difficult as they got older. I have also read quite a few articles on the topic and the story of Edward in A heart to Mend is my own way of teasing out my thoughts of the topic though couched in fiction.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Do you know or could you shed a little light on how Nigeria’s foster care system works? Is there a way to assess extended and non-extended family relatives who can come forward to help take care of orphans in the foster care system?
Myne Whitman: There is no foster care system in Nigeria per se. There are two ministries involved in taking care of vulnerable children; the women/ youth affairs and the social development departments. They do their best in the yet to be structured environment but the majority of the job is done by non-government agencies who set up care homes, rehabilitate these children or call on the willing public to foster them. Any identified extended families are usually involved in these processes but most times, the children may have been abandoned with no familial links.
Myne Whitman Discusses Inter-ethnic Dating, Pre-Marital Sex and Social Class
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: I thought it interesting that you had an Ibo character from Enugu, so conveniently and without a thought, have a romantic and ultimately serious relationship with Northern/Yoruba character. I know your real name is Nkem Akinsoto. Is that a reflection of your background influencing the story line?
Myne Whitman: No, my background had no influence on the novel. It may even be the other way around since I already had started the manuscript before my own story. Lol!
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: (Lol!) I, nevertheless wonder, why not explore the fact that it could be an issue given Gladys was born and raised in the East? Are you suggesting young people in modern day cities across Nigeria are not necessarily as caught up with inter-ethnic dating and marriage?
Myne Whitman: Yes. Though I think interethnic marriage is still a big deal in Nigeria, it’s not as it used to be especially in urban settings and with young people. Lagos is a melting pot, most working class residents speak English or pidgin and the corporate world is made up of people from different parts of the country. There are third-generation Lagosians who have never been to their parents or grandparents state of origin.
In addition, there are also mitigating circumstances in this particular story; Edward is an orphan with no extended family and the same for Gladys. Other cultural attributes were more important in their peculiar situation and that is why social class is the more important element of this story. I explored classism and how it can be the source of even more tension and conflict than ethnicity.
The relationship between Edward and Gladys’ stand out because of the obstacles they face and of course, it challenges the norms of the Nigerian society; especially where cross-class relationships are concerned. That was an element of Nigerian society and the world at large that I wanted to question. I also think that cross-class relationships will continue to be a source of drama as long as human beings feel more comfortable associating with people of the same social class.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: I chuckled and at times laughed at the inherent contradictions present in your characters, which to me, accurately reflects modern day Nigeria. You’ve got Gladys who says she is devoted Christian and refuses pre-marital sex. Yet, she drinks and makes out every now and then with Edward. What exactly were you trying to achieve here?
Myne Whitman: Lol…I was just trying to be real here. Many of us are the same and I guess no one is perfect. As they say “body no be firewood” abi? Each of us have to make our own life choices and decisions and sex should be something you do only when you are ready. Gladys felt their relationship was not at that stage yet and did what seemed right to her and what she could live with.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: True talk, “body no be firewood” indeed. Lol! What strikes me most about your novel is the confidence displayed by Gladys. Her poor background is simply not an issue. She is proud of that. In shaping Glady’s character and exploring social class, what messages were you hoping to communicate to your readers?
Myne Whitman: Gladys obsesses over the social and financial divide between her and Edward, and believes that has to be the only reason he had barricaded his heart and was not letting her in. The lesson is to not assume anything, talk things out with your partner, communicate, communicate and then do so again.
Myne Whitman Discusses Integration of Nigerian Fashion & Pop Culture in Novel
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: I loved the way you integrated middle class Nigeria into ‘A Heart to Mend’s’ story line. Your characters shopped at Shop Rite at the Palms Shopping Center, attended album launch parties and danced to Sound Sultan and Tuface. They also had backgrounds working or trading Nigerian textiles. What was the deciding factor in integrating today’s emerging middle class, (fashion and pop culture) in your story?
Myne Whitman: The main factor was the characters I chose to portray. Gladys and Edward were both brought up in the cities of Enugu and Kano respectively and are now living in Lagos. They are both working class and I wanted to keep this as real as possible. These are the things everyday Lagosians do, they go to work and they find ways to relax. The music and literary scene are coming up gradually and I decided to put that in too. A lot of young Nigerians are listening to and reading Nigerian music and books.
Myne Whitman Discusses Nigeria’s Turbulent Financial Markets?
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: For me, I enjoyed this part the most in your novel for two reasons: First, that a woman author DARED to take on the Nigeria Stock Exchange was exciting to me. We are so used to seeing men dominate in real life in this sector. Second, you had enough dialogue to show your understanding and knowledge of the stock market. Tell us the amount of research that went into setting the story against the backdrop of a rough financial market in Nigeria?
Myne Whitman: This took up the majority of my research time for the novel. It was also quite a difficult chore because not a lot of the material is online. I had to speak with a few people in the business to get a realistic feel.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: How much time did you spend within banks in Nigeria in your career and also personally? Your description of the bank settings was a nice touch?
Myne Whitman: I worked in a Nigerian bank for roughly two years and was fully immersed in the financial sector during that period. This was also around the time of a lot of shifts and unrest during the banking consolidations and I needed to know the basics of the industry to calm aggrieved and worried clients.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: My main critique of ‘Heart to Mend’ was two folds. First, I would have loved an actual time period, in dates, for better context, and second, I would have loved a little more laying the foundation for many lay persons who will read and not necessarily understand the financial dialogue that takes place in your novel. Maybe if Edward introduced this to Gladys . . .
Myne Whitman: I wanted to leave the dates open so as not to date the novel as time passes. Also I believed that most of my readers are smart enough or plugged in enough to figure it out. There were so many clues that just one click on google will fetch you the answers, lol. Finally, this was not meant as a textbook on finance, so the focus is on the relationship between the two characters of which none of them is a financial expert either.
LADYBRILLENigeria: Nevertheless, let’s use this opportunity to explain some things for our lay readers and others who stumble upon this interview. First explain the business climate of the Nigerian Stock Exchange that your story draws on? What has happened in Nigeria’s financial markets.
Myne Whitman: The context was that a few years ago, the Central Bank decided to drag the banking sector into the twenty first century so that they could do business globally. They all had to shore up the capital and this sent out ripples to all the players in the financial markets in Nigeria which can even still be felt now. Only 25 banks survived out of over 80 and recently, a few bank chiefs stepped down for better management by the CBN.
Myne Whitman Discusses the ‘Hostile Takeover’ & Insider Trading Plots in her Novel
LADYBRILLENigeria: Your story gets very interesting with the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) drama embedded in your story line. The M&A turns hostile with a ‘hostile takeover.’ In simple terms, how does a ‘hostile takeover’ work?
Myne Whitman: A hostile takeover is when a company tries to take over ownership of another company, most times a smaller one, without the cooperation of the management of that smaller company.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: You bring to light some of the Security Exchange, Insider Trading laws. Expand on it specific to your novel for our lay audience that will purchase your book?
Myne Whitman: In the novel, Mr. Odusote one of the characters wanted Edward to leverage on his knowledge of his company business plans and being a member of the NSE to cause a flux in the market prices of his shares. This is against the law even though some stock brokers do it once in a while if they think they can get away with it. A couple of such companies were fined up to millions of Naira recently by the NSE.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: There is also the word ‘conglomerate’ that you use. Explain how that works in the context of a ‘hostile takeover’?
Myne Whitman: A conglomerate is a large company usually made of two different companies that deal in different businesses coming together under one corporate umbrella. In the book, Edward has a parent company that was holding several interests, property development, entertainment, telecommunications. However, if the hostile takeover of Bestman Group of companies had worked, he would have lost his position as chairman/CEO.
Myne Whitman Tells us What’s Next and Where to Purchase ‘A Heart to Mend!’
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: What next for Myne Whitman/Nkem Akintoso?
Myne Whitman: I have two other manuscripts I’m working on and hope to complete one before the end of the year. I want to remain in the midst of my readers and fans. Co-ordinating the Blogsville Interactive Story has shown me so much talent and given me some ideas. I’m still playing with those thoughts for now and will broach them with the necessary people in due time.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Where can our readers buy your book?
Myne Whitman: The book is available online on my website www.mynewhitman.com (autographed), and also on the Authorhouse and Amazon websites (UK, US, Canada). It can be pre-ordered from Barnes and Noble, Borders, Target, Books-a-million and Waterstones. It will be available in Nigeria latest by the end of March 2010.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Thank you Nkem. A job well done. Not bad for a first novel. I enjoyed the simplicity of the writing and the characters are one that many can relate to. Best of luck on future endeavors!
Myne Whitman: Thank you very much for this opportunity! I really appreciate it.
~Interview by Uduak Oduok
A running feature for 12 years on Ladybrille.com, The ‘Ladybrille Woman of the Month’ celebrates women in business and leadership, who empower themselves and others through their contributions and actions in their local and international communities. In 2014, the feature expanded to include a podcast show. If you would like to nominate a woman to be celebrated, please email [email protected].