The Sunday Salon: Gregory Maguire

The Georgia Center for the Book is awesome—it supports libraries in Georgia and literature in general, especially Georgia’s history of literature. They also bring authors to local free events, which brings us to yesterday, when I dashed off after a work meeting to go wait for Gregory Maguire at a library about ten minutes away. Now, I may have my issues with Gregory Maguire’s later novels, but Wicked remains one of my favorite novels, so I just had to go see him while he was out promoting Out of Oz, the last book in The Wicked Years.

I went with my friend Molly to meet my friend Charlotte; we arrived very early, in anticipation of a packed house. But a massive audience never showed; I’m not sure if it was because the event wasn’t advertised or because Maguire was going to be at Outwrite (one of our larger local GLBT bookstore) in the evening, but there were about twenty people there. But the location was gorgeous. It’s one of the newer libraries in the system, and the fall foliage was a lovely backdrop for Maguire. (Although it certainly made my photos dark. But flash would have been obstrusive!)

Maguire arrived on time. After a short introduction, he read the prologue of Out of Oz, give or take a few pages. While I revisited Wicked via audiobook recently, I think I forgot how much I love his prose. It’s so evocative and charming, and made even better by Maguire’s reading style. Maguire calls himself a ham, but it’s more bombastic and character-driven. He puts so much into it, including voices.

After the passage, he took a handful of questions. I had nothing to write notes on, stupidly, so I’ve the answers and not the questions. So I present the answers in a bullet list:

  • In preparing for writing Out of Oz, he created a timeline, a synopsis of the series as a whole, and a glossary to get things right. (There’s apparently a paragraph in A Lion Among Men that takes seven years.)
  • All this arcana might be put into a super special awesome box set someday, but there’s no plans for it.
  • He didn’t envision Wicked as the beginning of a series, but began to wonder about Elphaba’s influence on the lives she left behind—hence the title The Wicked Years.
  • His writing process starts with a perfected beginning line to the end of the book for (what I assume) the first draft; it’s the same for his adult books as his children’s books.
  • He talked about how his books explore moral dilemmas and other situations no matter the age group, which I was happy to hear.
  • He stepped out of his comfort zone (of fairy tale retellings and other fanfiction) while writing Lost; his publisher pushed him to include more aspects of The Christmas Carol, which was downplayed in the first drafts. He feels the novel was rushed and pushed out too early as a result.
  • Four of the seven Maguire children are writers, although only one of them is a fictional writer.
  • One woman was so taken by his reading that she asked if he read his audiobooks. (I instantly muttered “John McDonough!”, which seemed to amuse my friends.) He did read the audiobook for Son of a Witch, but he was not asked to do it again, although he loved the experience.

In addition, only the first printing of the hardcover of Out of Oz will have full-color endpaper, which is composed of a map of Maguire’s Oz. Here’s a photo:

After the questions were over, we were herded into a small room (past a beautiful table selling all of his books—well, most of his books) for the signing. It was very low-key, I have to say, as well as polite and efficient. Charlotte had brought both her own books and some new copies to be signed; Molly and I turned up with none, so we distributed them amongst ourselves so we could talk to him. Molly ended up buying Matchless for herself, but I, alas, got nothing signed. But it’s the experience, not the trophies, right? He complimented Charlotte’s name, Molly’s earrings and knowledge of his earlier children’s novels, and my reading of Wicked. I just had to tell him how I loved how, in Wicked, we get into Elphaba’s head for one moment at the end. He told me he’d taken that device from a biography of Emily Dickinson, and he had always loved it. And he was sweet enough to let us take photos with him.

There are some authors I’m terrified of meeting—Michael Chabon first and foremost. (I have this recurring nightmare that I’m going to tell him that I want to live in his head and end up actually saying, “I want to wear your brain as a hat.”) But Gregory Maguire is such a thoroughly lovely, affable man that it wasn’t intimidating at all to talk to him. If he’s coming to your town to promote Out of Oz, I recommend trying to see him; it makes for a very nice afternoon.

My reading week has been a little haphazard. Work, work, work, you know what I mean? I did finish The Last September (for class). I’m still working on The Vicomte de Bragelonne and I’ve just started on Goliath, which I’m delighted to finally get my hands on.

Author John Lenahan is giving away 20 free digital copies of Shadowmagic to The Literary Omnivore readers; details can be found here. The Baen Free Library is full of free downloads, including The Shadow of the Lion and On Basilisk Station. Night Shade Books is offering Butcher Bird and Grey as free downloads at the moment. Vertigo Comics is offering free downloads of the first issue of several series, including Fables, The Unwritten, and Y: The Last Man. (And you will go download The Unwritten.) Small Beer Press offers several of their books as free downloads, including Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners. If I’ve missed your giveaway or freebie, drop me a line!

8 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Gregory Maguire

  1. Yes, it’s definitely about the experience and not the trophies, and this sounds like a wonderful time! Also, your Michael Chabon nightmare made me laugh out loud 😛 I know what you mean about being intimidated by certain authors. I’m meeting Jeffrey Eugenides today (!!!11@) and I’m equal parts excited and terrified.

  2. Yay! That’s so cool! I’m glad to hear it wasn’t like crazy Neil Gaiman signing. I also love Wicked, but I don’t remember much of Son of a Witch and I’ve only read a couple chapters of A Lion Among Men. (I think I gave up…or was too busy? Either way, the novel obviously wasn’t doing its job if I was able to put it down.)

    And: GOLIATH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    P.S. Lovely picture, you have the staggering ability to look poised and classy when in an exciting situation, whereas I just generally look deranged. 🙂

  3. Pingback: The Sunday Salon: Bochus Yule I « The Literary Omnivore

  4. Pingback: Review: Out of Oz « The Literary Omnivore

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