Some people go out of their way to help others and it can make all the difference. Last month I met Susan Sofayov at a writing conference. Besides being willing to share writing tips and information, she impressed me with her generosity and kindness. Susan offered to read my friend’s children’s book manuscript at our table over lunch so she could discuss and give immediate feedback. My friend was so appreciative and happy for that time.
As I talked with Susan more, I learned that she wrote her book, Defective, with the same generous spirit. Through the story, which is about a young law student who is diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, Susan gives insight into the mind of a person battling mental illness. Susan told me that she wanted readers to understand that “though not curable, mental illness, in many cases, can be controlled and people with mental illnesses are everywhere, living productive lives.”
I think we all know someone who is living with mental illness (whether ourselves, our family or friends) – it is such an important issue in our society. Susan’s book helps the reader to understand better and empathize more.
Where is your home base?
I grew up in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, but I’ve lived in Mt. Lebanon for the last fourteen years. I’ve also lived in Philadelphia and Tel Aviv.
I wish I had a routine! My husband and I run a real estate development/management company, which takes up more time than I would like. Lately, when I can eke out an hour or two of writing time, it’s spent revising.
I refer to myself as a monogamist writer. Unlike some writers who have multiple projects going at any time, I work on one piece until it’s declared finished, which means I can’t stand looking at it anymore. The project I’m currently querying is called the Kiddush Ladies. The best way to describe it is a Jewish, Steel Magnolias, only darker.
Tell us about what inspired you to write Defective? How long did it take you to research and write it? What was your writing process like for this book?
A combination of events inspired me to write the book, but the most important was my own diagnosis of bipolar II disorder at age 46. I wanted people to understand that, though not curable, mental illness, in many cases, can be controlled and people with mental illnesses are everywhere, living productive lives. If you read the book and see yourself in the main character, Maggie, please get help. You owe it to yourself and the people who love you.
I guess you could say I researched for almost forty years and wrote the book in two months. The revising and polishing took over a year. This was the first thing I ever wrote outside of grant proposals, so I had a lot to learn, especially about back story and passive voice.
What was the publishing route for this book? Did you have success right away with your query being accepted?
I sent this book out to agents too early. It wasn’t ready so I received a bunch of rejections. Once it was ready, I participated in a pitch event on SavvyAuthors.com and received three serious requests. In the end, I decided to go with Black Opal Books, a small boutique press.
What advice do you have for other writers who are hoping to get published?
Join a critique group, go to conferences, learn the rules of novel writing and publishing, and grow a very thick skin. I’ve seen a lot of writers who take critiques of their work very personally. Other writers who offer to critique your work generally want to help. If you enter a critique situation wanting to only hear good things, you’ll never grow as a writer. When I went to my first conference, an editor painted my manuscript with red ink. A year later I saw her at another conference and practically hugged her. Her insights led me to a contract with a publisher.
Thank you to Susan for sharing – and thank you for stopping by the blog!