Looking back, it’s hard to believe that I have been working on my books for seven years. When I started writing If, I was only eleven-years-old. So many things have changed since the beginning, and in many ways, The If Duology has become a record of my adolescent years. While I have not put many personal experiences into the books, rereading old drafts reveals the way I once saw the world.
I first saw Wicked in May 2005 when the National Tour came to Chicago. My Elphaba was Stephanie J. Block, and my Glinda was an understudy, Emily Rozek. The show strongly resonated with me, and I began dreaming of someday starring in Wicked myself.
Although invigorated by these dreams, I also felt unsatisfied. I kept thinking about the Wicked characters and wondering what had happened to them. The day after I first saw Wicked, I complained to my mom and asked what the point of a play was when it had to be over. One week later, I asked her where she thought Elphaba and Fiyero went after the curtain closed. She replied that she supposed they went somewhere they belonged.
At that moment, it was like lightning struck. In a single instant, I saw my protagonist dancing before my mind’s eye. I did not know very much about her, but I did know that she was the answer to my questions. I started writing my first draft that very night.
Writing came easily for the first few weeks. I mapped out the basic plot and characters and became immersed in their world. My illusion was shattered, however, when I learned that Gregory Maguire had already written a sequel of his own. At this point, Son of a Witch had not yet been published, and I had only read the first few pages of Gregory Maguire’s original novel.
To this day, it is difficult to articulate why learning about Son of a Witch was so devastating. In those first short weeks, I had already fallen in love with my story and was worried that Gregory Maguire’s sequel canceled out my own. While I got over this when I realized that a sequel to the book could not answer what had happened after the musical, learning about Son of a Witch was nonetheless a turning point in my journey. It was then that I realized a very hard truth: there was an adult world out there, a world full of people professionally involved with Wicked, and as much as I wanted to be, I was not part of it.
Maybe that’s why I decided to abandon writing If as a book and instead began envisioning it as a Broadway musical. I harbored fantasies of Stephen Schwartz writing the score and Winnie Holzman writing the libretto, with me working beside them to develop the plot. Of course, this dream proved impossible to pursue. Dorothy had been able to follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, but I had no easy way to reach my own wizards.
I finally gave up on this approach, about a year and a half later, when I realized that although I could not compose music or write lyrics, I could write stories. I started writing If as a novel again and found that it was much better suited for the page than the stage.
Still, my struggles were far from over. When people suggested that I publish my work online, I resisted, concerned that an online release would ruin my dreams of publishing The If Duology in print. Traditional publication, however, was impossible because of copyright laws. And although I had given up on the idea of an official stage sequel, I still dreamed that The If Duology would become an official part of the Wicked franchise. I longed to meet Gregory Maguire, Stephen Schwartz, and Winnie Holzman and to become validated by their world. As a teenage girl who struggled to fit in, the prospect of becoming accepted by the Wicked world was especially alluring.
I wrote and I wrote. I gained feedback from readers and continued to polish and rewrite key passages. I also discovered the world of online fanfiction and published a few works for Gilmore Girls and Harry Potter. But throughout it all, I remained haunted by If’s unknown future. Just how would I share it when I was finally finished?
Ultimately, I realized that my books were doing no good sitting on my computer. Phenomenons like A Very Potter Musical and G. Norman Lippert’s James Potter series had opened my eyes to the advantages of sharing one’s work online. My ultimate goal had never been to gain fame or fortune; instead, it had been to share my books with people who loved Wicked as much as I did. With this in my mind, I dedicated myself to publishing The If Duology electronically.
People have asked me just how much If has changed since I first began writing it. Honestly, I think people would be surprised by how much it hasn’t. Though thousands of pages have been cut and events have been altered or simplified, the core themes have remained the same. I’ve simply developed the way I’ve gone about presenting them.
It might have taken me a long time to get to this point, but I’ll never regret the journey. Seven years after I first began, I finally feel qualified to share The If Duology with the world. At long last, If has become the story I’ve always wanted it to be. While things are now very different from the way I once envisioned them, I like to think that my eleven-year-old self would be pleased with the end result. I may not earn money from my journey, but finally getting my protagonist’s story out there feels like a million dollars.