“I know that one day, I’m going to have to live in the real world. I’d like it to be a decent one.” – Tor
Book I Tor Maddox: Unleashed
When sixteen-year old Torrance Olivia Maddox, self-confessed news junkie, figures out that the mysterious and deadly New Flu is being spread by dogs, she has one question—if the danger is that obvious to her, why hasn’t the government revealed the truth and taken action?
Her search for the answer will take her farther than she ever imagined. But then again, she never imagined that man’s best friend could become public enemy number one, that men in black might show up in her cozy suburban neighborhood, that she’d spend her sixteenth birthday as a teenaged runaway, and that her effort to save one dog would become a mission to save them all.
Book 2 Tor Maddox: Embedded
Life has been way too quiet for Tor Maddox since her fifteen minutes of CNN fame. Then agent-in-training Rick Turner reappears with what sounds like a simple assignment—to embed herself as his eyes and ears in her own high school. When she agrees to keep tabs on high school state swim champ Hamilton Parker for the Feds, she is plunged into the deep end of a sinister plot. Knowing that freedom, justice, and lives are at stake again, Tor jumps in feet first, but has she gotten in over her head this time?
When observe and report becomes kiss and tell, Tor’s first mission may blow up in her face.
Book 3 Tor Maddox: Mistaken
Grab a flotation device and welcome aboard for more shenanigans, villainy, and romance.
Eight leotards and a ball gown—that’s what Tor Maddox packed for her summer ballet intensive in New York. Pity she never arrived. Kidnapped once by the good guys and once by the bad ones, Tor finds herself involved in a high seas adventure featuring princesses and pirates, a wedding ring, and the guy she thought she’d never be allowed to see again, junior man-in-black Rick Turner.
Q & A with Liz Coley
How did you get the idea for the Tor Maddox series?
The story idea for the first book, Unleashed, came to me as many do when I was listening to NPR. They were covering the bird flu epidemic—the first time around! My husband and I were driving past Best Friends Veterinary Clinic at the time. The reporter mentioned the millions of birds that had to be destroyed to stop the spread, and I said, “What would happen if it were dogs?” Brian said, “You should write that.” This became my very first NaNoWriMo project in 2006.
What has changed about the book since that first draft?
Here’s what changed in real life: In 2006, the canine flu had been around for only two years. The bird flu epidemic was raging. In 2015, the canine flu is having a major resurgence in the American Midwest. So is the bird flu. Once upon a time I was worried that the events of my story would happen before I could get published. Now I think I got my book out there in the nick of time.
Here’s what changed about the characters: Originally Tor was 14 and Rick was 24 and there was NO WAY there could ever be a romantic thing—just a school girl crush. By up-aging Tor and down-aging Rick to within 4 years, it became a difficult but believable entanglement.
Here’s what changed about the title: Original title was Best Friends, as a salute to dogs being man’s best friends and all of Tor’s best friend relationships. This was revised on submission to Sixty Million Best Friends, the number of dogs in the United States at the time. Under the Radar was considered briefly. And then I settled on the one-word title scheme for the series where every title contains a double meaning.
What’s with the funny character names?
I love unusual names, especially the ones that make you ask, “What were the parents thinking?!” I wanted to recognize the trend of mad creativity with baby name choices and spellings. Tor’s mom, representing the older generation is Suzie. Tor’s best friend is the hip, new version, Sioux-san.
Why are the first two books set in San Diego?
I grew up in San Diego, so the culture and geography and local political issues were all on my radar. I felt like I could work well with that location.
What kind of research do you do for your books?
In UNLEASHED, Tor copies a lot of the research I did, looking in detail at flu genetics and pandemic numbers. I also researched sunset and sunrise times, moon phases, actual flight itineraries, and the street view (and inside photos) of CNN headquarters. There’s a website where you can actually print out the genetic code letter by letter for different strains of influenza and compare them. To plan for Tor and Rody’s escape, I hiked the specific route they took with a camera.
For EMBEDDED, I researched white supremacy and anti-immigrant websites, which are rather chilling. Almost all of the news quotes at the tops of the chapters are quoted from real online sources. I also had one of those “browser history” moments that authors feel very self-conscious about when they are researching things like improvised explosives. Just saying.
For MISTAKEN, I did extensive research on a particular cruise line which shall remain nameless so Big Mouse doesn’t get mad at me. There are hours of videos on the cruise ship work experience, expectations of employees, and orientation procedures. I also looked at cruise itineraries, ship layouts, and the actual CDC handbook on the Vessel Sanitation Program (and several years of inspection data). Most chilling was a book I read/skimmed called “Cruising for Trouble.” Finally Google Earth and Google Maps were extremely helpful in figuring out very specific plot points.
Will there be more books in the series?
That’s going to depend on how successful these books are. I would love to write more stories, because these characters have become like family to me. Quirky family, but family. The best way to ensure the continuation to tell lots of people about the series, ask your library to carry it, and encourage everyone to purchase and read legitimate e-copies or paperbacks, not pirated files. There’s no sonic cannon to repel book pirates.
Her independent publications include alternate history/time travel/romance Out of Xibalba and teen thrillers in the new Tor Maddox series: UNLEASHED, EMBEDDED, and MISTAKEN. Her short fiction has appeared in Cosmos Magazine and several speculative fiction anthologies: The Last Man, More Scary Kisses, Strange Worlds, Flights of Fiction, You’re not Alone, and Winter’s Regret.
Liz lives in Ohio, where she is surrounded by a fantastic community of writers, beaten regularly by better tennis players, uplifted by her choir, supported by her husband, teased by her teenaged daughter, cheered from afar by her two older sons, and adorned with hair by her cats Tiger, Pippin, and Merry.
Liz invites you to follow her as LizColeyBooks on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and visit her website at LizColey.com.