Amy Gumm continues the title mission of Danielle Paige's series: 'Dorothy Must Die'

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The Wizard of Oz is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, but in her Dorothy Must Die book series, Danielle Paige is wrecking the Yellow Brick Road.

All of Oz is in chaos as the author opens the second chapter of her trilogy, The Wicked Will Rise (out March 30, 2015), the cover and title of which we are revealing exclusively.

The first Dorothy Must Die book reintroduced Dorothy Gale as the despotic ruler of Emerald City, and decades after a tornado famously transported her to Oz, another one brings teenage Kansas native Amy Gumm to the now-dystopian landscape. Instead of getting back home, though, Amy is given a mission to take out Dorothy and her henchmen — violent Tin Woodman, creepy Scarecrow and grotesque Lion — in order to get Oz back on track.

The first book ended with a huge battle pitting Amy and her allies in the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked vs. the evil Dorothy. As the next book begins, though, Dorothy is missing, Oz's magic is completely out of whack, Amy is on her own to navigate this still alien landscape, and there is strangeness afoot — even by Ozian standards, according to Paige.

USA TODAY caught up with Paige to talk about the next book. (For readers who just can't wait till March for more of Paige's twisted Oz, the e-novella The Witch Must Burn, out Nov. 11, continues to fill in the gaps on why Dorothy turned so very bad.)

Q: Second parts of trilogies are kind of famous for their dark turns. Are things getting a lot more perilous for Amy?

A: Things are only just getting started. There's a lot more death and destruction to come. In Dorothy Must Die, Amy spent most of her time in the palace, and in the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked's mountain headquarters. This time she — and the reader — will be seeing a lot more of Oz, and it's an eye-opening experience. She'll be exploring its strange outlands and meeting more of its odd denizens.

Amy also is about to learn some disturbing truths about her home, and what she's really doing in Oz. Ever noticed how Kansas and Oz are basically the same shape on a map? Coincidence? We'll find out, along with more about the connection between Dorothy and Amy.

Q: How is the title 'The Wicked Will Rise' appropriate for this chapter?

A: One of the major themes of Dorothy Must Die has to do with the idea of "wicked." When Dorothy's the bad guy, what exactly does "wicked" mean anyway? The Wicked Will Rise will keep asking questions about the difference between good and evil, and what the difference between them really is in a world where everything has gone haywire.

Who is the Wicked in the title referring to? Is it Dorothy and her henchmen? Is it the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked? Is it Amy herself? Or is it someone else? For now, I'm going to keep it a surprise.

Q: That's definitely a familiar witchy silhouette on the cover.

A. I'm totally in love with this cover. It's so creepy and mysterious, but a little bit funny, too, which is just the way I see these books.

If you're asking why there's a witch on the cover, though, I'm not falling for that trick. You'll have to read the book to find out who that witchy figure is and why she's important. All I can say is that there's more than one pointy-hat-wearer in Amy's Oz, and it might not be who you think.

Q: How will Amy's relationships with the Order, Ozma and the Wizard change and evolve?

A: Amy's sick of taking orders, and she's growing increasingly suspicious of the motives of Mombi and the Order. We'll see her struggle with some tough choices as she wonders if there's anyone in Oz she can trust — including herself.

We'll also learn more about the characters we've already met in Dorothy Must Die. For instance, what exactly is the connection between Pete and Ozma? And what is Glinda's special interest in Amy? Is there more to the so-called Good Witch than meets the eye? What are the Wizard's motives, and what's he up to now that Dorothy's been weakened by Amy and the Order?

Speaking of Dorothy, she's not occupying the palace anymore, but someone is. What is that person up to? There's a lot we don't yet know, and nothing in Oz is what it seems.

Q: Any new characters of note?

A: One of the things that makes writing these books so much fun is that there are so many cool characters to play with. The L. Frank Baum Oz books are a box of toys I don't think I'll ever get sick of.

We'll be meeting a few more of my favorite characters from the books, like Polychrome, the Daughter of the Rainbow, and General Jinjur and her All-Girl Army. We'll also be taking a trip deep into winged — or wingless — monkey country. But even if you've read all the Oz books, don't be too sure that you know what to expect from these characters. As with everyone in Amy's Oz, they've come a long way since 1904.

Q: How is Amy most affected by what's to come?

A: Amy really comes into her own in this book. In Dorothy Must Die, she wasn't exactly in control. She's whisked away to Oz, where everyone is trying to tell her what to do and who to be. In The Wicked Will Rise, she'll decide it's time to act on her own and make her own choices. But will they be the right ones?

Her mastery over the mystical arts — something she struggled with in Book 1 — will also deepen. But it might be at a cost.

In the romance department, Amy's relationship with Nox will reach a new level in this book. Romantic love is largely absent in Baum's Oz, and Nox and Amy have both lived their lives without much love at all. So watching what role love can play in shaping them and shaping Oz was huge for me — I think it might be a force as powerful as magic.

But if you're looking for happily ever after, you're reading the wrong series.

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