Last weekend I had the pleasure of seeing Gregory Maguire at our local bookshop; he was promoting his latest novel, A Lion Among Men, which was published by Harper Collins / William Morrow in October. A Lion Among Men is Maguire’s third novel in “The Wicked Years,” a planned four-book series, following Wicked and Son of a Witch. Lion tells the tale of Oz from the perspective of the cowardly lion, and opens about twenty years after Dorothy threw a bucket of water at the Witch.
The standing-room-only crowd was entertained by Maguire reading three excerpts from the novel. He “did” voices and gestured; a very hands-on reading. I’d love to hear him read the novel in its entirety! Click the links to hear the audio:
This first section is about Yakel, a mysterious crone who hovers in the background around Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) throughout Wicked.
The second section revolves around the central character, the cowardly lion, named Brrr. Maguire named him Brrr both in tribute to Bert Lahr who played the lion in the MGM film, and also for the shiver sound of “brrr” like someone who is constantly frightened. In this scene, Brrr, along with Dorothy and the others, have returns to the Wizard to collect their rewards.
Maguire’s last reading is in the author’s voice “a meditation on what the book is about – finding out whether you are the sum of your attributes, or whether you are something else; whether you can ever escape your attributes, and if so, how …”
Do you read the audiobooks?
I read the audio for Son of a Witch and my comic children’s novels, but not for A Lion Among Men.
At what point did you realize this would be a four-book series? Was it when you were writing Wicked?
Wicked was intended to be a “one off”, beginning at the birth of the main character, and ending with her death. But I wanted to show that Elphaba (the Witch) died too young, that she had issued left unresolved, so I left a lot of “loose ends.” When Wicked went to Broadway, many theater-goers went back and read the book. Girl readers in particular began to write to me asking “what happened to BBBNoor?” (who was in chains at the end of Wicked. I re-visited Oz to find out what happened to her; toward the end of writing Son of a Witch I realized that the story had an even deeper structure and I would need to keep writing.
Do you like Brrr?
Like Elphaba, I like him for his flaws and his mistakes, he seems very real to me. I don’t admire him very much; he makes many mistakes and doesn’t know how to learn from them.
How do you choose the audience for your books?
The books in “The Wicked Years” are written and published for adults; I hope to give adult readers some of the sense of pleasure they remember from reading books as a child – surprises and beautiful pictures. I do go back and forth between writing books for children and for adults, and the change is a matter of tone, not of content. It’s up to parents to decide whether one of my adult books is suitable for their child.
Did you read the Oz books as a child?
I read L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz (the first two in the series). My public library, in Albany, didn’t carry any of the others. I’ve read a few of the others as an adult; I think the first two are very strong in terms of plot and character.
After the Q&A I got in line to ask him to sign my book as well as a copy I purchased for my friend Carolann, who introduced me to Wicked many years ago.
Which books in “The Wicked Years” have you read?