Susan Sofayov’s ‘Defective’ about mental illness

Published May 12, 2014 at 2:32 pm (Updated May 12, 2014 at 2:32 pm)

For her first novel, “Defective,” author Susan Sofayov tackled the topic of a young woman dealing with mental illness. Sofayov of Mt. Lebanon, a former vice president of childcare for a nonprofit organization, chose the topic for her novel because she lives with bipolar disorder.

Originally from Elwood City, Sofayov moved to Mt. Lebanon with her husband Pete to raise their children Emily, Elias and Ben.

“Defective” tells the story of Maggie Hovis, a University of Pittsburgh Law School student who struggles to hold on to her fiancé, her grade point average and her sanity as she unknowingly struggles with Bipolar II Disorder.

“I never thought I would do it,” Sofayov said of writing a book.

She said a few years ago during a very snowy winter, she got “really bored” and decided she wanted to take a class on how to write a novel. She signed up for an online class through the Community College of Allegheny County and it was there she learned the steps of how to write a novel.

“Once you learn the steps, it’s easy,” she said. She ended up writing the book in about three months, but it took a couple of years to edit.

Sofayov was diagnosed with bipolar disorder later in life than the character in her book. At age 46, she was diagnosed, and her disorder is under control.

“I reached a point where I was tired of the way mentally ill people are presented in the media,” Sofayov said. “Often, mental illness is the character, not the person.”

In the book, Maggie Hovis is often dismissed as being “moody” or a “drama queen” until she is diagnosed. Sofayov describes one scene in the book where Maggie throws a shoe at her fiancé. It was at that point that Maggie realized she needed to seek help.

Sofayov chose the title “Defective” for her book because she said, “That’s how at one point she (Maggie) views herself in the book.”

At one point in the book, Sofayov said Maggie finds out how to “learn to live with it (having bipolar) and reach acceptance.” She also learns that mental illness ran in her family and that one of her deceased aunts had been in a mental institution.

“She learns she is lucky to be living now and not at that time,” because the treatments are better for mental illness, Sofayov said.

Although the story is about a woman with bipolar disorder, it’s not the only thing it deals with. There’s also some romance and humor in it. Sofayov said the book is geared toward young women, ages 17-28, although anyone can read it.

“It’s a romance and a coming-of-age story,” Sofayov said. She added the novel also includes a love triangle.

“I hope if nothing else, this book does some good for someone,” Sofayov said.

Sofayov has caught the writing bug and has finished her second book, a novel for middle-school age children. She is also working on another novel that she describes as “like ‘Steel Magnolias’, only Jewish.”

“Defective” is published by Black Opal Books and is available on,, Smashwords and Good Reads.

Local woman pens novel about mental illness

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