I spotted Sandra on GoodReads and signed her up as my friend, and very quickly we started an exchange about our books and snippets on our relative lives in the different continents, she in Canada and I in the UK. I’m keen to learn more about her through this conversation and I hope you do too !
Sandra, can you please tell us something unique about yourself?
When I was younger, I considered becoming an engineer, an accountant or a teacher. I ended up in fine arts in college and university. I may not make as much money as some others, but I’m doing what I love, to create. I think making art and writing have had a tremendous effect on me, aiding me during good times and bad. As time has passed, I’ve focused more on my writing and enjoyed every minute – well almost!
Cool! I am so pleased to hear that you’re enjoying writing and creating beautiful art. Like you, I almost became an engineer or a Maths teacher, but life intervened
Who, living or dead, do you most admire?
I’d have to say my father. He was an architect and was knighted by the Prior of St. John for outstanding service. He taught me values and allowed me to choose my own path. He died at age seventy, but stays with me in my heart.
Wow, you must be so proud of your father, and he, of you!
What inspired you to write your latest book?
When I wrote My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness, I wanted to document the course of significant events in my life. I soon realized that by sharing my struggle and successes, I could give others hope and inspiration. I was able to explain what made my recovery possible. Also, I wanted to reduce stigma by putting the reader in my shoes and showing the insider’s point of view.
These days, I’m working on a novel about a Chinese girl coming of age in Canada. Her life is complicated and she puts her life on hold for others.
Your new book sounds a wonderful read! Sandra, I have your memoir on my reading list and I’m really looking forward to it.
Who is your favourite book/author and if they influence your writing, and how?
On Writing by Stephen King, and books by Margaret Atwood, Jeffrey Archer, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury and others inspire me to explore, grow and challenge myself as a writer. Success stories of Kathryn Stockett and J. K. Rowling are great motivators, but I keep in mind that my stories are a reflection of my own life experience and are unique in that way. If there is value or significance in what I write, that’s important.
I totally agree with you there, Sandra. Do you have a routine for writing? How long does it take you to complete your current book?
I try to write every week and build it into my routine. It took me six months to write the first draft of my memoir. After many edits it was published two years later. My current manuscript is in the editing stage. I hope to complete it this year.
Good luck with the edit. You’re right – routine and discipline are key ingredients in the writing process.
What do you do when you’re not writing? What’s your favourite pastime?
When I’m not writing, I enjoy movies and good conversation. I have a broad taste in films and will watch my favourites over and over.
That’s a wonderful hobby, watching great films and enjoying good conversations. Do you use Social Media for promoting your work and communicating with other writers? What’s your take on it?
I’m on Facebook and GoodReads but not Twitter. I think as a writer, communicating is what I do and if I can connect with others around the world and share a commonality or learn what works for them, I can evolve as a person and a writer. Hopefully, I can support others too.
Do your characters talk to you? Have you ever used people you know as a character?
My characters sometimes steer the conflict or subplots. I may base my characters on some people I know or even myself, however, there are differences as well. Seeing the world through the eyes of a character is part of the foundation of good storytelling.
I know exactly where you’re coming from, Sandra, as I am totally in your shoes as a writer
If you could go anywhere in the world to write your next book, where would it be?
I think Italy, France or Great Britain. There is so much rich history in those places. I have visited parts of Europe and enjoy the art, architecture and people.
I guess we could swap places, perhaps like Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz in the film The Holiday
Here is a challenge: describe your memoir within 140 characters, as in a tweet.
My Schizophrenic Life explores my battle with mental illness and how I came out the other side.
About the Author: Sandra Yuen MacKay is an artist and writer in Vancouver, British Columbia. She has a Fine Arts Diploma from Langara College and a degree in art history from the University of British Columbia. She is a speaker on recovery and works to improve the lives of mental health consumers in her community. Aside from her autobiography, she writes fictional stories in different genres, including Hell’s Fire, a sci-fi novella about a widower who goes on a mission to save his daughter.
You can connect with Sandra via her blog and links to her art at: http://symackay.blogspot.com