Danielle Paige shares her thoughts on completing her series on a darker, modern-day reimagining of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
FOUR books and nine novellas later, young adult (YA) fiction author Danielle Paige is finally stepping away from her modern-day retelling of the fantasy tale, The Wizard Of Oz.
“I can’t believe it’s the end,” she says via e-mail. “The books have meant so much to me personally and professionally.
“To get to tell a story in Oz and to have kids (and some adults) embrace it in such a huge way has been such a phenomenal experience.”
Her journey down the Yellow Brick Road – and into the world of YA fiction – started as an obsession with the 1939 movie, The Wizard Of Oz, which stars American actress Judy Garland as Dorothy; the film is an adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s book series that begins with The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, published in 1900.
“I watched The Wizard Of Oz movie with Judy Garland literally every time I knew it was on television when I was a kid.
“My mother gave me a little set of the first 13 Oz books after she realised how much I loved it,” shares Paige.
“I think I was drawn to it for the same reason everyone is – who doesn’t imagine being whisked away from their reality into a world filled with magic, adventure, and new friends?” she says.
The former TV writer adds that although she didn’t realise it at the time, the movie also turned out to be the first story she had seen with females in both the heroic and villainous roles. “The story was empowering and magical, and it stuck with me.” But Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series – as can be intimated from the title – is no plain retelling of that children’s story.
In these novels set after the events in the original book, Dorothy is no longer a sweet, innocent child, but a grownup, power-hungry despot.
Her beloved companions, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and
Cowardly Lion, are equally villainous, using their gifts of a brain, heart and courage respectively to evil ends under Dorothy’s commands.
Similarly, Glinda the Good is not so good, and the remaining Wicked Witches are not so wicked after all.
Meanwhile, history repeats itself when Amy Gumm, a modern-day girl from Kansas, is swept up in her trailer home by a tornado and transported to Oz. There, she discovers that everyone seems the oppowhat site of she has read about, and soon gets sucked into a war for the very survival of Oz itself.
“I always wondered what happened when Dorothy went home for the first time and imagined that she might not be completely happy there,” Paige says.
“What if Dorothy missed Oz and its magic and her friends, and wanted to desperately get back there?
“And what if, in that moment of desperasome tion, darkness grew in her?
“Out of that darkness, Dorothy Must Die was born.”
While originally meant to be a trilogy, the series grew when Paige and her editor decidthat ed they wanted to do “an extra chapter back in Kansas”. The “chapter” turned out to be half of the third book, Yellow Brick War.
And Paige had so much material left over that she managed to produce nine additional novellas, each focusing on specific secondary characters, as well as filling in some of Dorothy’s journey from sweet child to evil tyrant.
“Making everything that was Good in Oz Wicked (and vice-versa) was quite the undertaking.
“And every character had his or her own arc in getting there. So there was just so much story to tell.”
With the final book in the series, The End Of Oz, out earlier this year, Paige has said her farewells to Dorothy, Amy, and Oz.
“There is a part of me that could, and will, stay in Oz forever, but as a writer I am always hungry for the next adventure.
“In so many ways, Dorothy taught me that I had more brains, heart, and courage than I’d imagined, and I am so grateful for that as I click my heels and head off to Algid (where her next book, Stealing Snow, takes place) and beyond.”
In fact, Paige was juggling completing her Dorothy Must Die series with writing the first book of Stealing Snow, her take on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale The Snow Queen; Stealing Snow was published last September.
“Since I got my start in soap operas, I am used to juggling a lot of characters and a lot of different storylines,” she explains.
“I had to work hard at making sure that Snow, my Snow Queen-in-the-making, was a very different heroine than Amy, though.”
Paige started out her writing career as part of the scriptwriting teams of two of America’s longest-running soap operas, Guiding Light and Days Of Our Lives, and won a Writers Guild of America Daytime Serials Award as part of the Guiding Light writing team.
She lives in New York City and is currently working on another fairytale retelling, which will feature Cinderella’s fairy godmother.
“The title isn’t decided yet but the story has been with me even before Dorothy Must Die.
“I always wondered about who the fairy godmother was in Cinderella.
“She is the catalyst for the ‘happily ever after’, but what do we really know about her?
“I imagine a darker, twistier past for her that brought her to the story we know and love so well.”
Wondering about the backstories of wellknown fairytale characters is what got Paige started on her series of books that re-tell old stories. — LAURA HANFIN