INTERVIEW: Jonathan Maberry, Author of “The Cobbler of Oz”

Jonathan Maberry is a NY Times bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, and Marvel Comics writer. He’s the author of many novels including Assassin’s Code, Flesh & Bone Dead of Night, Patient Zero and Rot & Ruin; and the editor of V-Wars: A Chronicle of the Vampire Wars. His nonfiction books range on topics from martial arts to zombie pop-culture. Since 1978 he has sold more than 1200 magazine feature articles, 3000 columns, two plays, greeting cards, song lyrics, poetry, and textbooks. Jonathan continues to teach the celebrated Experimental Writing for Teens class, which he created. He founded the Writers Coffeehouse and co-founded The Liars Club; and is a frequent speaker at schools and libraries, as well as a keynote speaker and guest of honor at major writers and genre conferences.

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

“The Cobbler of Oz” is about a little winged-monkey girl whose wings are too small to allow her to fly, so she seeks out a shoemaker to buy magic traveling shoes.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

I always loved the Flying Monkeys in the Oz movie and books, but in the books they can talk.  I’ve wanted to explore that for years.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

I think this is the first story I’ve ever written where no one dies, nothing explodes, there are no zombies or vampires, and no one’s trying to destroy the world. I found that to be a marvelously refreshing change. It’s like a cool cup of water after a long walk in one of Dante’s outer rings.

Most authors say all their stories are personal. If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

The Wizard of Oz is my favorite movie, and I’ve loved and treasured the books all my life. I’m the only adult I’ve ever met who has read all of the books. Baum’s and the others.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

I re-read the first three books. What a pleasure!  Kicking back on a sofa, good jazz playing, a cup of coffee nearby, dog snuggled up against me, reading the books that filled my childhood with magic.

What is the appeal of Oz? Why do you think readers/viewers love it so much?

For me, Oz is the perfect balance of innocence and awareness, good and evil, weakness and personal power. It’s a canvas on which a million new pictures can be painted. It’s also not meticulously described, which means that everyone who visits Oz can fill in the blanks and co-create the people, the creatures, the landscape according to their own imaginations. Most magical realms are too clearly the sole property of the creator, but Oz invites us to imagine.

What are some of your favorite Oz memories (whether from the books or the various movies, or other “reimagining’s”), and what makes them your favorites?

I saw the movie before I read the books, and when I started in on the books I found it fun and fascinating to identify all of the similarities and all of the differences.  It was in discussions of those differences that I encouraged a lot of my boyhood friends to read those books.

What do you think about the new Oz movie coming out in March, Oz: The Great and Powerful? Excited? Dubious? Some combination of both?

I’ve seen the coming attractions for Oz: The Great and Powerful and I am entirely captivated. The movie looks wonderful, the casting is perfect, and it appears to capture that balance of innocence and awareness that first drew me to those books. I’ll be in the theater for the first show.