Author Spotlight: Gregory Maguire
“Once upon a time” and “they lived happily ever after.” This is the formula for most well-loved fairy tales we all grew up hearing, reading, and watching. Throw in a moral lesson, several kind friends, an unexpected ally, and a worthy adversary, and poof, you’re done. While the core of the fairy tale stays with us for most of our whole lives, sometimes we can’t help but look beyond the pages of the book. We wonder what happens to the evil stepsister. We try to imagine what comes next after the hero left. We think about why the villain was so evil in the first place. Lucky for us, we have Gregory Maguire to write all our speculations down.
Gregory Maguire is the author of the book which was the basis of one of Broadway’s most popular musicals—Wicked. Published in 1995, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West chronicles the backstory of everyone’s favorite fiend from Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz.
Born and raised in Albany, New York, Maguire is the youngest of four children. His mother passed away shortly after he was born. He and his other siblings were sent to live with relatives first, but eventually, Maguire was handed over to an infant house, where they named him Gregory. Some years later, his father remarried, and their family was reunited.
Maguire attended the State University of New York in Albany where he earned a BA in English and Art. He then went to Simmons College, where he received his MA in children’s literature from Simmons College, and then Tufts University where he got his PhD in English and American literature. He wrote several children’s fantasy books and always felt like he could never write for adults, feeling like he wasn’t a good enough writer for the task.
Eventually, however, his childhood obsession with fairy tales caught up with him. He was fond of questioning loopholes in fairytales and children’s stores, and one that constantly plagued him was the lack of evidence of the wickedness of the Wizard Witch of the West in Frank L. Baum’s Wizard of Oz. Maguire took this idea and incorporated some of his childhood experiences and ran away with it.
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West chronicles the story of Oz years before Dorothy’s visit. It tells the story of the friendship between Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, from their days as roommates at Shiz University. The novel also explains how the Wizard managed to villainize Elphaba, turning everyone against her and getting an unassuming little girl to try and kill her. The novel turned into a four-book series, the last of which is Out of Oz published in 2011.
This fondness of asking “what if” led Maguire to creating more adult fantasy fiction based on popular fairy tales and children’s stories. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (1999) retells Cinderella from the point of view of Cinderella’s stepsisters. Lost (2001), set in reality, has a protagonist who is a descendant of the man who inspired Charles Dickens’s character Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol. Mirror, Mirror (2003) is a revised account of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, set in Italy. His latest offering is After Alice (2015), a story told from the point of view of Ada, who stumbles in the rabbit hole right before/after (no one knows because time is weird in Wonderland) and knows that Alice wouldn’t be able to get out alone.
In 2003, Wicked, a musical based on Maguire’s novel, premiered on Broadway. The music and lyrics were written by Stephen Schwartz, the book by Winnie Holzman, and it starred Idina Menzel as Elphaba and Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda. The musical opened to a small crowd and was initially expected to flop, but soon enough, the audience caught on, and it eventually received 10 Tony Award nominations. Although it won only two Tonys, the musical has been playing nonstop at New York’s Gershwin Theatre and is now the 10th longest-running musical on Broadway.
To this day, Wicked is Maguire’s most popular work. He’s currently working on an adult novel and lives in Massachusetts with his partner and their three adopted children.
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