Interview with Mary Maddox - Author of Talion

Mary Maddox grew up in Utah and California. A graduate of Knox College and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she now teaches at Eastern Illinois University. She lives in Charleston, Illinois with her husband, film scholar Joe Heumann. Her interests include dressage and tournament Scrabble. Mary’s short stories have appeared in a number of magazines including Farmer's Market, Yellow Silk, and The Scream Online. Her writing has been honored with awards from the Illinois Arts Council. Talion, her debut novel, is available at Barnes and Noble online and at as a trade paperback and as a Kindle book. You can visit her at her Web site, read her blog at and follow her on Twitter at

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, Mary. Can you tell us how long you’ve been writing professionally and how your journey led to writing your latest book, Talion?

A: Though I’ve been publishing short stories for quite a while, Talion is my first published novel. It has gone through several drafts, beginning as a portrait of friendship and evolving into the tale of a girl who must face a monster to save herself and her friend.

Q: I love your title…can you tell us why you chose it?

A: The protagonist, Lu, sees luminous beings invisible to others. Their leader is Talion. The word is derived from lex talionis, the concept of justice in which retaliation is dealt out in proportion to the offense – like the Biblical law of an eye for an eye. Beautiful and otherworldly, Talion seems capable of both good and evil. He comforts Lu and shows her how to retaliate against the people who have wronged her. He inspires her to stand up to bullies at school, but he also leads her to the brink of committing murder.

Q: Why did you believe your book should be published?

A: Lu Jakes is an unusual and unforgettable hero, an abused girl who somehow remains whole despite the forces bent upon tearing her apart. I’ve been told serial killer novels must have a detective or FBI profiler as the hero, but Talion breaks that rule. It’s a cross-genre novel that combines the mystery of fantasy with the stark realism of a thriller. Above, all, Talion tells a compelling story. Several reviews have described it as a page-turner. One Amazon reviewer actually played hooky from work to finish my novel, which may be the highest compliment a writer can receive.

Q: Can you tell us the story behind your book cover? Did you choose it or did your publisher, Cantraipt Press, have full control? Were you happy with the decision or did you have something else in mind?

A: The cover is my design, based on a photograph by my husband, Joe Heumann, and executed by the Chicago graphic artist Richard Reynolds Taylor. So yes, I’m delighted with the cover. A few readers have thought the cover is too abstract and enigmatic, but I wanted to avoid the standard images – a guy holding a bloody knife or a pair of sulfurous eyes glaring from the shadows. Covers like that have the advantage of telling readers what to expect, but I wanted an image that reflects Talion’s mystery.

Q: How have you approached marketing your book? Do you have someone doing it for you or have you had to do most of the marketing yourself?

A: Pump Up Your Book is orchestrating my virtual tour. I’ve had limited success doing marketing on my own, but the process is time-consuming and I wasn’t getting enough done. I want Talion to find the widest possible readership.

Q: What book on the market can it compare to? How is it different? What makes your book special?

A: Talion bears some likeness to Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones in its mix of paranormal and realistic elements, and its violence has prompted comparisons to Thomas Harris and James Ellroy. But as a cross-genre novel, it’s not easy to categorize. In the end, I think Lu makes the novel special. She’s not supposed to be the hero of a serial killer novel, but here she is.

Q: Open to a random page in your book. Can you tell us what is happening?

A: Lu’s father, Duane, is watching a DVD of Top Gun for the umpteenth time while Lu’s stepmother, Norlene, is frying hamburgers for dinner. He and Norlene argue about whether to borrow money from his former employer, a drug dealer with whom she has been having sex. Readers are privy to Duane’s thoughts. Despite his hurt feelings, he understands why Norlene cheats. If only he were a better provider, he thinks, she wouldn’t be so tempted. In this introduction to Duane, readers already glimpse his bottomless capacity for self-deception.

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

A: I’m working on a series of suspense novels with a museum curator as the protagonist. In the first book, she takes in a free-spirited photographer who disappears under sinister circumstances.

Q: Thank you for your interview, Mary. Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

A: It’s been a pleasure. I hope readers will visit my Web site at and my blog at A one-minute video trailer for Talion can be viewed at on You Tube at Talion is for sale online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon for $12.99. The ebook for Kindle is $3.99.
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