INTERVIEW: Jane Yolen, Author of “Blown Away”

Jane Yolen, often called the “Hans Christian Andersen of America” has published over 325 books. Two of her short stories won Nebula Awards. Her books and stories have won the Golden Kite Award, the Caldecott Medal, two Christopher Medals, the Jewish Book Award, the California Young Reader Medal, been nominated for the Hugo, the National Book Award and dozens of others. She has been voted Grand Master of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, and Grand Master of the World Fantasy Association. Six colleges and universities have given her honorary doctorates.

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

It began as a story about Toto,  stuffed and on wheels, and how he got that way. And then the story morphed into something even stranger.

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

I had just written a poem called “Those Are the Stories” about stories I wanted to read and one of the lines is “There was once a dog who went about on four wheels. . .” when the call for Oz stories came and it sprang into my mind that the dog was Toto.

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

I thought it was one story and it turned into something else, which made it a challenge. And when Ozma came on to the scene, well everything changed and got even stranger. Even I was surprised.

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

I was a huge Oz reader as a child and fell far away from its magic as I reread it as an adult because the flatness of the language and its repetitive nature repelled the critic in me. But I came back around again, partially due to Wicked and its sequels and partly due to reading the Oz books aloud to a granddaughter.

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

Some early Kansas stuff, early cars and trains, tornadoes and twisters, and of course rereading the opening pages of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

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

It is protean. There is so much in it to love, to admire, to be in awe of, to wonder at.

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

I loved the Judy Garland movie, though the Flying Monkeys scared the pants off of me. The books that I galloped through as a child made me a fantasy reader for the rest of my life.

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 haven’t seen any trailers except one recently. Looking forward with a mixture of hope tempered by experience, seasoned with snark.