INTERVIEW: Jeffrey Ford, Author of “A Meeting in Oz”

Jeffrey Ford is the author of the novels, The Physiognomy, Memoranda, The Beyond, The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque, The Girl in the Glass, The Cosmology of the Wider World, and The Shadow Year. His story collections are, The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant, The Empire of Ice Cream, and The Drowned LifeCrackpot Palace, a new collection of 20 stories, was recently published by Morrow/Harper Collins. Ford writes somewhere in Ohio.

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

“A Meeting in Oz” is about what happens to Dorothy when she leaves Oz and returns to the real world, how its memory haunts her.

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

Going back to the original Oz books by Baum I discovered that Dorothy at one point returns to Oz after initially leaving it. She has an apartment in the Emerald City. Aunt Em and Uncle Henry come to visit her at one point. She’s eleven years old, but there’s been a change in Oz since she’s been there. All the citizens have had immortal life conferred upon them, I think, by the spell of one of the witches. Because she longs to reach twelve, she eventually leaves Oz a second time. In my story, she returns one last time.

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

The background reading was extensive in that I went through quite a few of the original Baum Oz books. Other than that the story had its way with me.

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

I often wonder what the effects on my consciousness and reason writing fantastic stories all the time for over a decade has, for better or worse, on the way I see the world. This is similar to the effect that experiencing Oz might have on one who must leave it and plunge back into reality.

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

See above.

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

Baum had an expansiveness of imagination and a commitment to it. He went for it and told his stories.

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?

It’s difficult to gauge the importance of seeing The Wizard of Oz when I was a kid. It’s one of the great movies of all time. Oh, those Flyin’ Monkeys. In college I sat in on a film class given by the underground director Ken Jacobs. He superimposed the first half of The Wizard of Oz over the second half — film showing over film. I forgot what it was supposed to prove, but it enmeshed me even more in the film. I also very much liked Gregory Maguire’s novel, Wicked. The thought of writing about Oz and writing about Oz are two different things. Maguire really makes the world his own and I have to admire that. I’m also fond of a lot of Return to Oz, the 1985 flick with Fairuza Balk as Dorothy. It’s a lot more sinister, sort of noir Oz, and it’s got Tik Tok, the awesome clockwork automaton, and Jack Pumpkinhead.  

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

The last thing I saw James Franco in was Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which was a laugh-fest of a flick. As goofy as they come. I like the director, Joe Dante, though. He’s done some cool movies. I’ve seen the trailer, and am not holding out much hope. Still, I might go check it out.