HUDSON – More than 150 people met "Wicked" author Gregory Maguire Nov. 8 at the Hudson Library and Historical Society, where Maguire shared his writing experiences and fans could purchase copies of his latest book, "Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker."
Much like the smash Broadway hit "Wicked" created the backstory for the Wicked Witch of the West in "The Wizard of Oz," "Hiddensee" does the same for The Nutcracker.
A story of hope, "Hiddensee" intertwines the famous "Nutcracker and Mouse King" with the life of a mysterious toy maker, Drosselmeier, who carves the nutcracker.
Written in 1816 by E. T. A. Hoffman as a story for children, Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s musical score for the ballet makes it a holiday favorite. But Maguire says the original story makes little sense.
"It’s a schizophrenic story," Maguire says of the two-act ballet.
Maguire says Act 1 is a pretty good story with Clara’s Christmas gift of a nutcracker coming alive and defeating the evil Mouse King in battle, but Act 2 is as if a relative "brought out a slide show story from their eight-month vacation trip."
None of the dances have anything to do with Clara or the Mouse King, Maguire says.
Maguire didn’t want to spoil "Hiddensee" by revealing any of it, but talked about his childhood and how "Wicked" evolved into a best selling story.
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 says. "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. One version of the story had Captain Hook marrying the wicked witch and having "little hookins and snookins."
"If you add something, the story can't end the same," Maguire says.
His father was a journalist and his stepmother a poet, inspiring the humanities in Maguire at an early age. He says he began writing "Wicked" in the second grade.
"The story belonged to us, and I played it over and over again," he says.
Maguire shared early handwritten stories and drawings with the packed room at the Hudson library, which included fires and people falling out of windows.
"They were always filled with adventure," he says. "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 gave him a new idea about the antagonist in a story, he says.
"How do people go from healthy to being guilty of murder? Or a monster?" he says.
He thought about the witch in the "Wizard of Oz" who was bad, Maguire says. That meant she was unredeemable, and it was all right to vanquish her.
"There was no backstory for the witch," Maguire says.
"Wicked" was written in five months.
"It was my first royalty check with more money than enough for two hamburgers," Maguire says. "I thought they made a mistake."
His fortune changed at the age of 39 when "Wicked" sold a million copies, he says. 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.
Hiddensee can be purchased at any bookstore or online.