Maria Savva's Blog - Interview with Sandra Yuen MacKay

INTERVIEW WITH SANDRA YUEN MACKAY originally posted on Maria Savva's Blog, December 26, 2016. 


Welcome to my blog, Sandra! Please introduce yourself. 

I'm a Chinese artist diagnosed with a form of schizophrenia, living in Vancouver, British Columbia much like the main character of my most recent book, Cathy Fung in Chop Shtick. My first book is My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness, published by Bridgeross Communications. I have an art history degree from the University of British Columbia and have won awards for advocacy.

Why should people buy your books?

My Schizophrenic Life is a poignant, inspiring story about my journey through life and recovery from mental illness. It gives insight into symptoms of the illness and is intended to build awareness and lessen stigma. Chop Shtick is a humorous work of fiction about relationships between people and Cathy's search for answers in life and awakening as an artist. The story peaks several times before the final ending, which I hope will surprise readers.

Tell us a bit more about your latest novel.

Chop Shtick is a romp about a group of artists, their intertwined lives, absurd situations, danger, loss, and triumphs. There are many themes in the book, creating a mishmash of ideas and emotions. It's easy to read and the story shifts quickly, reflecting Cathy's scattered thought processes and vulnerable sensibility. The Big Six, a group of struggling artists are commissioned to build a sculpture in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. 

I think Chop Shtick could be considered controversial because of the way I point out ethnicity, like Italian, Chinese, Eskimo, etc. But that's the whole point. If you make an issue of it by pointing it out, are you being politically incorrect? Stereotypes are prevalent in the book, but they are justifiable as a fictional character's opinion. Life isn't so serious, if we can laugh at ourselves. I consider the book to be satirical also because it pokes fun at the individual and serious issues like schizophrenia. You may have heard of Russell Peters, a Canadian comedian and actor of Indian descent. He uses accents and pokes fun at ethnic groups in his acts. I do much the same but in print. If Archie Bunker can be a bigot in the comedic All in the Family, or John Cleese in Monty Python can mock religion or gender, why not today? Are we so afraid to poke fun at anyone at any time?

I totally agree, Sandra.

Where does your inspiration come from?

The inspiration for Chop Shtick came from reading TEMP by Douglas Coupland published as a series in the Metro. A fellow writer James D Young sent me the newspaper clippings from New York. I looked at his style of writing and humor and wanted to write this novel.

Are there any characters in your books that are based on real people?

In stories, you write what you know. I believe all writers borrow from their own experience when formulating a book.My Schizophrenic Life is based on my real life, so the names of persons are changed to protect their privacy. In Chop Shtick, I draw attributes from people I know, but much is fictional as well. I think it makes the characters more multi-dimensional and reality is a springboard for characterization. Also the café Montagna's in the book is based on a café on Main Street in Vancouver.

What are some of the pros/cons of being an indie author?

In my experience, the book industry frowns on self-published books as being inferior and that anyone can publish a book nowadays. However, I have met some very fine indie writers and the big publishing houses turn away good writing. With e-books and the availability for self-publishing, the publishing market has changed drastically. Self-published books may not be as available in bookstores if they are print on demand. Promotion is left up to the author. And so it goes.

Most of my favourite writers these days are self-published, and I grew up reading bestsellers. I think people are missing out on some real gems by only reading traditionally published books.

Who did your cover design?

I designed the covers of both of my books and did some work on covers for other Bridgeross Communications titles. I think the cover is very important to sell the book because that's the first thing you see. It should be eye-catching. For the cover of Chop Shtick, I made it as modern as possible and give nothing away, hoping potential readers will be curious and want to preview it.

Your covers are great. I love your art work. I've been seeing you posting a lot more of it online recently. It's great stuff.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

I enjoy word play and puns, and sometimes would rather type than speak in a conversation. The written word is powerful. Writing stories is about creating a believable world for the reader that moves them.

Writing can certainly be a lot of fun and very challenging :)

Thanks for joining me here, Sandra. Best of luck with the new book. It sounds fascinating. I'm looking forward to reading it.

About the book:

Are you interested in art, artists, comical situations, unusual circumstances, or stand-up comedy that verges on political incorrectness? If you said yes to any of the above, I recommend my novel, Chop Shtick. Told by Cathy Fung, a single, schizophrenic, Chinese artist, nicknamed the "Queen of Cliches," this story twists quickly into mayhem and amusement. The Big Six, made up of six struggling artists including Cathy, are commissioned to build an Upcycled sculpture in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. Cathy is paranoid about the neighbours' missing cat and strange goings on next door. The artists investigate, which leads into a dangerous escapade. Not only is Cathy envious of her older brother Leonard the Pest but also Nathan X, an aspiring painter in the group, who dates a snobby Parisian named Sylvie. "I know all about Canada. The beaver fur trade, hunting buffalo, igloos and pemmican," says Sylvie. Marco Manicotti, a muscled sculptor, fights with Denise, a Chinese accessory designer, over the position of a pipe. The leader of the group, Raj aka the Big Kahuna, a troubled artist himself, knows Cathy's weaknesses are her naivety and a heart that cares too much. Cathy is led on a path of self-discovery toward her true potential."

Buy the book on Amazon and Amazon Kindle:

Amazon US:
Amazon UK:
Amazon CA:

Thank you for the interview, Maria! To find out more about Maria, please visit:


Lori Henry said...

Congratulations, Sandra! I look forward to reading your new novel, Chop Shtick. :-)

Sandra Yuen MacKay said...

Thanks Lori. All the best for the new year