Azcentral.com has an interview with author Gregory Maguire regarding Out of Oz, his fourth novel set in the world created by L. Frank Baum that kicked off with Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (which subsequently became a musical sensation) and was followed by Son of a Witch and A Lion Among Men. The new novel is described by the site as follows: “Munchkinland is being oppressed by an occupying army from the Emerald City, and the good witch Glinda is under house arrest. Maguire’s Oz is a land of social strife and lethal intrigue, just like ours, except that the animals talk.” What follows is an excerpt from the interview.
Question: You’ve said that you “believe” this is the final book in the series. You’re leaving the door open?
Answer: Well, you know, I watched Ursula Le Guin write The Earthsea Trilogy and then 18 years later come up with a fourth book, and I also saw Arthur Conan Doyle try to push Sherlock Holmes off a cliff only to find that his readers were throwing down ropes saying he can’t die. So I suppose I honor those possibilities, but I do believe it is the last one.
Q: What gives you that sense of finality?
A: The subtitle of the original novel was The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, and even though the witch is gone at the end of Wicked, in a sense her times are not over as long as there is anybody alive who can remember her and carry her along with them, for good or for ill. In Out of Oz, I deal with the childhood and youth of the witch’s granddaughter, a green-skinned girl named Rain.
Q: Is it different creating a character from scratch, so to speak, rather than reimagining one that people already think they know?
A: The funny thing about Rain is that she’s not just a natural outgrowth of the stories that I had originally told, but in a way she also is a response to some of the things that happened in Wicked the musical. There’s one scene in which the young Elphaba sings a song of great longing in which she imagines that the Wizard of Oz will de-greenify her, that is, take away her green skin and allow her to fit in a little bit more. I supposed subconsciously I must have been influenced by that thought, and so two generations later the character of Rain is hidden in the household of Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. She was born green, but she has been made splendidly pasty and can pass for any other citizen of Oz.
Q: What is your relationship with Baum as you write these stories? Any guilt?
A: Even if I was going to make his world darker, I wanted for it to be consistent. I did not want it to be a parody. I didn’t write a Saturday Night Live skit about Wizard of Oz, I wrote a novel that took the givens seriously and just made them more serious. I think Baum as a writer was at his very best in The Wizard of Oz, and he was pretty regrettable in some of the later books. In a way he had an idea that was better than his talent, and the fact that he managed not to ruin it was probably a piece of good luck. He’s given us a piece of Americana that I think is going to be deathless, but because I don’t think he’s a genius — he’s not Shakespeare, he’s not Lewis Carroll, he’s not Virginia Woolf — I did not feel as if I was besmirching the work to play with it a little bit.
For the full interview, click HERE.