HUDSON – Writers have created mystical and magical worlds like Wonderland, Neverland and Camelot to comfort adults and children in times of grief and worry, said Gregory Maguire, the best selling author of “Wicked.”
More than 150 people met the author Nov. 8 at the Hudson Library and Historical Society where Maguire shared his writing experience, and fans could purchase copies of his latest book, “Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker” which imagines the backstory to the classic tale of “The Nutcracker.”
“Hiddensee” is a story of hope and intertwines the famous nutcracker with the life of the mysterious toy maker, Drosselmeier, who carves him.
Written in 1816 by E.T.A. Hoffmann as a story for children, the tale of “The Nutcracker and Mouse King” makes little sense, Maguire said. There’s a lot of digression, and it’s never explained. It’s a “schizophrenic story.”
Then Pyotr Tchaikovsky wrote the musical score and made it a seasonal favorite, he said. Most of the crowd admitted to seeing the annual Christmas ballet.
Maguire said Act 1 was a pretty good story with Clara and The Prince battling the evil Mouse King, but Act 2 was as if a relative “brought out a slide show story from their eight-month vacation trip.”
The dances have nothing to do with Clara or the Mouse King, Maguire said.
“Hiddensee” creates a backstory for “The Nutcracker,” much like “Wicked” created the backstory for the wicked witch of the west in “The Wizard of Oz.”
Raised in a strict household, “The Wizard of Oz” was the one movie Maguire and his six siblings were allowed to watch.
“I would organize a play around it and cast parts,” Maguire said. “If you take all the music out of it, it runs 12 minutes.”
Then Maguire would mix up the story and add characters such as Captain Hook and Tinkerbell.
“If you add something, the story can’t end the same,” Maguire said.
One version of the story had Captain Hook marrying the wicked witch and having “Little Hookin’s and Snookin’s.”
His father was a journalist and his stepmother a poet, and Maguire said he began writing “Wicked” in the second grade.
“The story belonged to us, and I played it over and over again,” he said.
Maguire shared early handwritten stories and drawings, which included fires and people falling out of windows.
“They were always filled with adventure,” he said. “I liked to save them in the end.”
Maguire was 24 when his first book, “The Lightning Time” was published. He has written 25 children’s books and 10 adult books.
While living in London, he read about a brutal murder, which made him think about the antagonist in a story, he said.
“How do people go from healthy to being guilty of murder? Or a monster?” he said.
He thought about the witch in the “Wizard of Oz” who was bad, Maguire said. That meant she was unredeemable, and it was all right to vanquish her.
“There was no backstory for the witch,” Maguire said.
He decided to create one and wrote “Wicked” in five months.
“It was my first royalty check with more money than enough for two hamburgers,” Maguire said. “I thought they made a mistake.”
His fortune changed at the age of 39 when “Wicked” sold a million copies, he said. Broadway turned it into a musical, which has been performed more than 4,000 times in its decade run and has won 35 major awards, including a Grammy and multiple Tony Awards.