To address underrepresentation, Milford teen’s first book shines light on LGBTQ+ community

MILFORD — At just 16 years old, Madison McMahon is not only a published author — but one who is using the written word to aid others in their quest of self-discovery.

The Milford teen’s self-published book, titled “The Son of Mara,” gives representation to the LGBTQ community. The book is available online at Barnes and Noble, lulu.com and will soon be available in stores.

“I ran through the motions with this one for the first time,” McMahon said. “I’ve always had an aptitude for English in school, but I’ve definitively been one of those people who have ideas, and these ideas were so loud and clear that I felt they were worth writing down.”

McMahon said she began writing at 12, when she began a project that never came to fruition. “The Son of Mara” is her first finished work — one that she looks at with pride for not only the satisfaction of completion but also its social implications.

McMahon said “The Son of Mara” focuses on a teenage witch named Blythe. In the book, an accident occurs where Blythe discovers she has more power than any witch should possess. Her aunt reluctantly sends her to a school for magical people, and while Blythe is at the school, she learns that everyone believes she’s part of a prophecy. As her journey continues, she learns more about herself and the school.

“She learns that everything is not as it seems,” McMahon said. “So there’s a little bit of mystery element going on.”

McMahon said Blythe and the majority of the characters are gay, and the book features queer relationships.

“It especially features sapphic or women, just because as I learned more about queer media, a lot of the representation was gay men, which is good because they deserve representation, too,” she said. “But there wasn’t a lot of women representation, so that’s something I wanted to have in the book.”

“The central focus of the story is not queer pain, it’s just something that is, and that is OK,” McMahon added.

“When I was 12, I don’t think I knew what a gay person was, nonetheless that I was one myself,” McMahon added. “I felt it was important to represent that, especially for younger audiences.”

McMahon said she came up with the idea in the winter and started writing the book this past summer before going into her junior year at St. Joseph High School in Trumbull.

“I don’t like the heat, so I just stayed inside and wrote all day,” she said. “I was writing about 10 pages a day.”

Throughout her publishing journey, McMahon said her family has been extremely supportive.

“I’ve been so lucky that they’ve been so supportive,” she said. “I mean, what parent lets their child stay inside the entire summer when they should be out with their friends and encourages me to write? My mom was there for every idea that needed work-shopping, and obviously, they’ve been so supportive by printing a huge poster (of the book cover) and throwing a (book launch) party.”

After McMahon finished her book, she entered the publishing portion, which she called the “scariest” part of the entire process.

“It was definitely the scariest part since I’m 16, and no one in my family is in publishing,” she said. “I had to do all the research myself and find the right way to do things. I definitely learned more about publishing and editing.”

“It was intimidating, but thankfully a lot of people on TikTok and Instagram really liked it,” McMahon added. “Over the four months, I amassed more than 8,000 followers on TikTok, and people were really into it, which was a helpful motivator.”

McMahon said she would read selections of her book on TikTok.

“I found the videos that got the most interaction were based on the amount of queer representation in the book,” she said. “I just think young audiences are just really starved of that representation. I know I was growing up.”

For McMahon, this book is a journey of self-discovery.

“I did pour a bit of myself into the characters, where I feel like young people don’t feel like they can share their ideas and stories because they just think they don’t have enough experience to write or know anything meaningless,” she said.

“I feel like there is a certain intimacy between teenagers in that modern experience,” she added. “I just wanted young readers to feel seen and heard by the thoughts and feelings written by another teenager because that’s something another teenager can know.”

One of the themes in the book is Blythe wanting a place to belong, and McMahon said many teens can identify with the sentiment.

“Also just wanting somewhere to be weird isn’t wrong, it’s appreciated,” she said. “So when Blythe goes to the school for mythical, magical, monstrous people, I feel like a lot of young people can relate to that feeling, of finding your place. She doesn’t feel so weird anymore.”

McMahon said she was terrified no one was going to like or read the book.

“I told myself if one person reads it and feels not so strange and no different, and felt like ‘hey, somebody understands and sees me,’ I remember thinking that would be enough,” she said. “I didn’t care how many books were sold, but if it helped one person, that would be enough. And I just want young writers to know they can do this too, and it's difficult but worth it, and their ideas are worth being shared.”