Myne Whitman (Nkem Okotcha) is a writer of two best selling novels, blogger, social media consultant, editor and publisher of ‘The Business of Writing’, ‘Romance meets life’ and Naija Stories. She spoke with Tundun Adeyemo about her love for writing. She will be Tundun Adeyemo’s guest this Saturday on www.africaukradio.com from 1730pm.
1. For those who do not know you, please introduce yourself in a nutshell. What part of Nigeria are you from? Your names does not sound remotely Nigerian. Did you grow up in Nigeria or the States? Where you educated in Nigeria or the States?
I was born Nkem Okotcha in Enugu, Nigeria. My parents are both from Asaba in Delta States and after growing up and going to school in Enugu, I lived in Asaba from my late teens till I moved to Abuja for my youth service. Myne Whitman is a form of translation of my name into English and is a registered pen name for my media work. Most of my education was in Nigeria until I left in 2006 for a masters degree which I obtained from Edinburgh University, Scotland.
What is the story behind your love for writing?
I’ve always loved reading and writing, exploring one’s thoughts and engaging with others on their’s as well. I started writing in my early teens. I was struggling with the transition between primary and secondary school and not being a tomboy or spending a lot of time outdoors playing anymore. Writing about young girls having adventures and doing the things I missed doing helped me at this point.
Your genre of writing is romantic fiction. Why have you chosen this? Or did it choose you?
I will say that I chose romantic fiction. I really started writing when romance became a big part of my life in my late teens, I wrote the dreams I had of healthy relationships between my heroines and the men of their dreams. I also noticed that it was a very popular genre, read and loved by a large swathe of people. I always preferred things that get to more people than less.
Are there successful love stories from your website ‘Romance meets life’? By this I mean, have you had feedback from readers saying something they read on your website strengthened their relationship or moved them on in life?
Oh yes, I get so many emails and some of them are published on the site, some people also leave comments to that effect.
Romantic fiction writers are infatuated with the concept of love and its dynamics. What would you say to that? Are you in love with love perhaps?
I definitely am, lol. Love is such an inspiration; it powers most everything we do as human beings. The love we have for family, our children, friends, other people, the romantic love that drives a lot of us, it’s unquantifiable. I am a Christian and my foundational thinking is based on that. Going by the bible, God is love, and the commandments for practical Christian living has been distilled to two ethics, love God and love your fellow man as you love yourself. I am definitely in love with love.
Where does the passion and inspiration come from to maintain your websites? Writing does take a lot of time, what else do you do when you are not writing or on the internet?
My passion for writing comes from the innate need to share, to reach out, to connect. The websites are now business ventures and the money I make from them also serves as a reward for the time, effort and energy invested in them. Apart from writing, I volunteer where I can, try to have fun where I live or travel, and also run my home.
Many people struggle to make a living from their writing, is this your story? If you could choose between what you do now and another career, what else would you love to do?
My Master’s degree is in Public Health Research, if I could do that full time, I would, and then write in my spare time.
You are a wife, author, business consultant how do you keep it all together?
It’s all down to planning, and time management. I am still figuring it out. I know it helps that I don’t have little ones yet so I’m trying to maximize the time I have now because I know children take up a large chunk of your time.
Naijastories since its inception in 2010 has become very popular, do you find that Nigerian fiction on the whole has improved ? Is there one author that has been discovered for a wider audience as a result of your work on Naija stories.
I believe Nigerian fiction has improved, I am happy to see so many people working in this area. Naija Stories carries out online workshops, and gives instant feedback to writers. Writers like Chimamanda Adichie, Helon Habila, Chika Unigwe, Unoma Azuah, do workshops off line, and then there are contests that Naija Stories organizes too. Combined with the NLNG Prize and the Etisalat prize, writers have been upping their game day by day.
Does faith play a role in your life?
I am a Christian but I’m recently not very religious because I keep getting the feeling that religion has become a crutch for ordinary people and so-called pastors prefer to take advantage of this. Men of God sow fear and discord among their members as well as defraud them rather than do what God wants and strengthen and teach people to live good, loving lives. My faith allows me to live according to the principles and morals instilled in me as a child, striving to live better and making my life one that can touch others.
What are some of the challenges you face connecting with people on multiple media like facebook, hangout etc.
The biggest challenge is that of time. It is very hard to be every where at once and all the time, but with the help of tools and the same social media, I’m making it work bit by bit.
A heart warming story of a peak/summit you have reached recently.
I entered Naija Stories for a Western Union competition last year. It was tagged “World of Betters” and they were selecting 1000 people with great ideas of how to make the world better. I submitted that my goal was to use the win to pay for publishing the Naija Stories 2012 anthology, to promote the book and to send paperbacks to each of the featured writers. It was the best news when the organizers contacted me to say we had won $1000!