Today marks the release of The Wicked Will Rise, book two in Danielle Paige’s dark, awesomely twisted series set in a nightmarish Land of Oz. In book one, modern-day Kansas girl Amy Gumm is carried off to Oz in a twister…but the world she finds isn’t the magical place of storybooks. Dorothy’s become a tyrant, Ozma a shut-in, and Glinda the Good a toadie to Dorothy’s dark cause: to steal Oz’s magic for her own use. Soon, Amy is recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, which trains her in the art of killing Dorothy. Here’s Paige to talk about why bad girls make the best characters.
You know those girls you love to hate in books? As a writer and a reader, I just love them.
Gossip Girl‘s Blair Waldorf had me from the first time she stood in front of the Tiffany windows, channeling her inner Audrey Hepburn. Beautiful Creatures’ Ridley Duchannes won my heart the second she stuck that lollipop in her mouth. Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent captivated me the minute I first saw the silhouette of those famous horns. And the Evil Queen put me under her spell when she first handed Snow White that apple. You get the picture. So of course I didn’t hesitate a minute before taking Dorothy Gale from sweet as Kansas to the wickedest thing in Oz.
So what is it about literary bad girls that makes them so delicious? And is it just me or has the line between the “good girls” and the bad been a little blurrier lately?
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The girl baddies will always have a special place in my heart, because they start the party. They create the inciting incident the hero has to react to. A villainess has the power and she knows it, without apology—and sometimes with an evil laugh—while the heroine usually spends her time figuring her own power out. Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars has a whole cast of “bad girls,” each hiding secrets from an even bigger bad than themselves. But we sympathize and even root for Aria, Emily, Hannah, and Spencer, as Sara unravels the reasons for their actions. The more we get to know them, the more we see the “good” in them.
In Dorothy Must Die, I flipped the switch on one of the sweetest characters of all time, in part because I always wondered how Dorothy walked away from so many scary things and seemed unaffected by the horror of it all. I like a lot of darkness with my Technicolor! In The Wicked Will Rise, we do get a glimpse of another side of Dorothy, and I think readers will be surprised at the role she plays in the story’s outcome.
What I love about YA today is that our heroines have more shades of grey than they used to. Amy Gumm is a hero, but her dark side, especially in book two, is something she is aware of and tempted by. “Good girls” are now allowed to get angry and do the wrong thing, and “bad girls” are allowed to do “good things.” At the end of the day, I’d say heroes and antiheroes and villains are a little closer together than ever before. And I think that’s a good thing. It makes books a lot more interesting and the protagonists and antagonists a lot more human.
I just began a new series about another literary bad girl—the Snow Queen. Stealing Snow will retell her story—it’s the darker, twistier, grownup Frozen. My protagonist is both hero and villain at different points of the novel. As a writer, it’s the best of both worlds for me.
As for Amy, she’s still traveling her Yellow Brick Road. Will she end up Wicked or Good? Anything can happen in Oz! And in YA!
The Wicked Will Rise is out today!