INTERVIEW: Robin Wasserman, Author of “One Flew Over the Rainbow”

Robin Wasserman is the author of several books for children and young adults, including The Book of Blood and Shadow, the Cold Awakening Trilogy, the Chasing Yesterday Trilogy, and Hacking Harvard. Her books have appeared on the ALA Quick Picks and Popular Paperbacks lists as well as the Indie Next list, and her Seven Deadly Sins series was adapted into a television miniseries. She is a former children’s book editor who lives and writes in Brooklyn. Find her at www.robinwasserman.com or on Twitter @robinwasserman.

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

“One Flew Over the Rainbow” reimagines Oz as a mental institution, and tells Dorothy’s story–new girl trying to find her way home accidentally remakes a world–through the eyes of the patients who call this strange place home.

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

Even when I was a kid, there were always things about Dorothy that bothered me–her self-absorption along the journey, her blithe acceptance of the Wizard’s version of Oz politics, the carelessness with which she eventually discards her newfound friends. Surely when she thinks back on her time in Oz, she imagines herself a savior, but I always think about the people she left behind, stuck putting back together all the things her clumsy innocence destroyed. That’s where this story began–with a Dorothy who means well, but can’t quite believe that anyone else’s problems or lives are as real as her own.

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

The most challenging thing was my deep and desperate love for the Wizard of Oz–it’s always tough to tackle someone else’s story and make it your own, but that’s particularly difficult when it’s a story close to your heart. And for me, the Wizard of Oz is about as close as it gets.

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

The only research I did was to reread the book, which I haven’t done in many years. Turns out it’s still good.

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

I think it’s the ultimate escapist story–the dream that somewhere (over the rainbow, obviously) is a world in technicolor, a world that puts your own dull, flat, monochromatic world to shame, and it’s a world where you just can’t help being a hero.

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 have…uh…Very Strong Feelings about the idea of a new Oz feature film, most of which I probably shouldn’t commit to writing lest I ever meet James Franco at a cocktail party or something. I will say that, as a serious loyalist to the original, I am deeply conflicted about the idea of a new film entering the canon, especially if there’s a risk of a generation of children watching this one first (or only). That didn’t seem to go very well for the Star Wars fans.  But I’ll admit that a couple years ago, when there was a rumor that Robert Downey Jr. was going to take the lead role, I was fully on board. In fact, I was driving the bus. And skeptical or not, I know I’ll be first in line to buy tickets, because it’s Oz: I’m never going to pass up the chance to see it come to life.