Author Chose Oz Over Hitler

Posted on November 21, 2005

The Associated Press interviews Gregory Maguire, author of the bestselling novel, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, which was the inspiration for the Tony-nominated Broadway musical. But before he wrote about Oz, he originally thought he'd write a book about Hitler.
It was the early 1990s and the first Gulf War had just started. Headlines such as "Saddam Hussein: The Next Hitler?" were splashed on the front pages of British newspapers. Maguire's blood chilled. How does someone become so bad? How can one person be so evil? "Stories begin to unfold once I have questions like that, usually unanswerable questions," said Maguire, settling into a leather chair in his study during a recent interview at his home outside Boston.

That's when the author turned to his favorite movie growing up, the book that inspired it and the character that has haunted children for decades: the Wicked Witch in L. Frank Baum's classic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

"She was the perfect person to use to try to understand better the nature of evil. You're not really told about her in the original, but I have the freedom to play with a person that people knew and could already identify with," he says.

The novel, which was published 10 years ago, became a cult favorite that eventually moved into the mainstream. The heroine of Wicked is Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West in Oz. Elphaba is misunderstood and not as bad as we originally thought. But she still gets melted by Dorothy from Kansas.

The sequel, Son of a Witch (Regen Books), is in bookstores now.

Son of a Witch

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