Friday, December 17, 2010

Guest Blogger, Mary Maddox

Please join me in welcoming award-winning author Mary Maddox as the special guest blogger here at Thoughts in Progress today as she makes a stop on her virtual book tour.

Mary’s debut release is TALION. Here’s a brief synopsis of it: “The dying body has a thousand voices, and all of them speak to Conrad (Rad) Sanders. Fifteen-year-old Lisa Duncan has no idea she has attracted Rad’s interest. At a mountain resort in Utah, he watches as vivacious Lisa begins an unlikely friendship with Lu Jakes, the strange and introverted daughter of employees there. Lu enters his fantasies as well. He learns she is being abused by her stepmother and toys with the notion of freeing her from her sad life and keeping her awhile as his captive. Lu seems like an easy conquest who could be persuaded to act out his fantasy by turning against her new friend. 

But someone else is watching over Lu. 

Talion appears to Lu as an angelic vision. He offers her love and counsel, the courage to defend herself from bullies at school and a way to free herself from her stepmother’s violence. He seems to know beforehand what will happen. But Talion’s true nature is unclear. His guidance leads Lu into dark places, moving her inevitably closer to the world inhabited by Rad. When she and Lisa are thrust into that darkness, will Talion come to her aid? Or will he become the killer’s ally?”

Mary stopped by to talk about “ a gesture with no tomorrow.”

Many writers, when asked why they write, answer that they must. They feel compelled by some inner need. I am one of these writers, yet I wonder if compulsion is a good enough reason. It explains all kinds of behaviours, some of them unsavoury. After all, addicts take drugs because they must. Obsessions are irrational and inconvenient. If writers feel compelled to write, okay, but when they seek publication, they’re implicating readers in their obsession. Why? If they write to satisfy some inner need, why should they look for an audience?

The Czech writer Milan Kundera has an unflattering name for compulsive writers: graphomaniacs. Kundera defines graphomania as “the mania not to create a form but to impose one’s self upon others” (The Art of the Novel). He implies that such writers have nothing of value to offer, and within the context of his argument, maybe they don’t. Very few novels contribute anything new to the art of the novel, and his pessimistic observation about literature and mass culture seem scarily accurate:

The spirit of our time is firmly focused on a present that is so expansive and profuse that it shoves the past off our horizon and reduces time to the present moment only. Within this system the novel is no longer a work (a thing made to last, to connect the past with the future) but one current event among many, a gesture with no tomorrow.
                            (The Art of the Novel)

Kundera made this observation in the 1980’s, but if anything the Internet has made our present more “expansive and profuse” than ever, and it does seem as though books are published today and gone next month. If writers want fame and a mass readership, it has to be now. But I’m not convinced those are the goals of most writers.

Nor can I accept the motive he attributes to those of us who are humble storytellers rather than ambitious formalists. It’s not some “grotesque . . . will to power” that motivates me. I practice my art so I can touch and entertain and connect with readers. Not dominate them. The need for connection is just as strong in human beings as the need for domination.

I haven’t got any new stories to tell – there are none – only my individual voice and way of seeing the world, whatever they’re worth. And I do want to share them, with one reader or a thousand. My novel Talion might be “a gesture with no tomorrow,” but it’s here today, for anyone who wants to open the book.

Mary, thanks for stopping by today and sharing this. I’m not one to agree with Kundera. I don’t see it as writers imposing themselves on other, rather them sharing their ideas with others.

A little background on Mary. She 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. For more information on Mary and her writing, visit her at her Web site, read her blog at and follow her on Twitter at


  1. Mary, thanks for blogging here today. Wishing you much success with your writing.

  2. Well put...there are no new stories. But our voices, telling the stories, are all different from each other. It makes the stories unique again. :)

  3. Mason - Thanks for hosting Mary.

    Mary - Thanks for sharing your thoughts on why you write and how you look at the process. Each of us brings our own unique selves to the writing journey, and I wish you well on yours.

  4. Mary, I'm with you. I think writing is about a connection, rather than domination. When like minds connect with the same ideas and the same way of thinking, it has a way of opening that stream of thought even more.

    Thanks for hosting, Mason.

  5. Imposing ourselves on others? Now that's unusual way to describe it.

  6. Yes, I disagree with Kundera as well... Writers, I've found, are not graphomaniacs. Interesting concept. As usual... great post.


  7. "the mania not to create a form but to impose one’s self upon others”

    he he I've always thought that Kundera was a wise man :)))

  8. Thank you Mason for hosting Mary.

    I'm not compelled to write. But I do have stories I want to tell. Therefore I write. Nice post.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  9. Fascinating post. I agree, writing is communication.
    The problem with Kundera's logic is his specious assumption that all writers are trying, or should be trying to contribute to the art of the novel. Not true. I write because reading is my great pleasure, a pleasure I want to share. Is it a conceit to believe I can? Possibly.
    But the need to "impose self" seems to belong solely to Kundera.

  10. super interesting post. Thanks, Mason! I think I agree more w/you than Kundera, although there are those who would impose... I just like connecting. Thoughts for another day!

    Merry Christmas~ <3

  11. This was a fascinating post. I think each of us writes for a different reason. We're all unique. Thanks, Mason.

  12. As wise King Solomon once said, there is nothing new under the sun. He's correct, but a writer sees old things with a fresh eye and a distinct perspective that makes the old seem new. That's the gift a writer brings to the world.

    Intriguing premise and I like the questions you raise as to motives of both characters. :-)

  13. Thank you for hosting, Mason!

    I agree with you more than I do Kundera.

  14. Thank you for hosting me, Mason Canyon. And thank you as well to all those who read my post. I appreciate your taking the time to comment.
    -- Mary Maddox

  15. The notion that a writer is imposing his ideas on readers is funny. As readers, we all have the option of reading a few pages and rejecting the rest of the book. As a writer, I just want to tell stories (and don't seem able to stop). Why tell stories if we can't at least offer them to potential readers?

    Interesting post, Mary. And Talion sounds like a good read.

  16. This is a great post. Amazing to have a network of 2,000 to start with!!! I haven't jumped into Twitter yet, and I found that Facebook made my head spin. Marketing has different avenues these days.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.