• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
    —ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

INFLUENCES

I know writers of novels who say they don’t read fiction at all while working on a book, out of fear of “being influenced” by what they read. I am struck by horror at the thought of going years without being able to read fiction (though perhaps these people write faster than I do, and take long vacations between books?)—but more struck by the sheer silliness of this.

Everything writers see, think, and experience influences their work. How could it not? Now, it’s true that people do ask writers, “Where do you get your ideas?” and that writers–out of facetiousness or desperation–give answers like, “From the Sears catalog” (or “From Ideas.com,” depending on the writer’s vintage). But the truth is that writers get ideas from every damn thing they see, hear, smell, touch, taste, think, feel, or do—including the books they read.

Naturally, one wants to develop a unique voice, but do kids learn to talk without ever being talked to? You have an individual voice, by virtue of being an individual. And your individuality is composed of your essential God-given spark of personality and of the sum total of the things you encounter in life. Now, whether each encounter is a bruising collision or a fruitful act of love…who knows? But all of it is grist to a writer’s mill; so much should be obvious, if one reads at all widely.

Personally, I learned to read at the age of three, and have read non-stop ever since. I’m 58 now; you can read a lot of books in fifty-five years. I’m sure that every single book I’ve ever read has had some influence on me as a writer, whether negative (I’ve read a lot of books with the mounting conviction that I would never in my life do something like that) or positive.

When I first began to write fiction, though, I was deliberately looking for positive influences, and luckily had quite a few to hand. During the writing of my first novel (OUTLANDER/CROSS STITCH, which I wrote for practice, not intending to ever show it to anyone), I consciously considered the art and techniques of these five writers in particular:

Charles Dickens – Nobody does characters like Dickens did, and that’s why his books endure. He told excellent stories and painted a vivid portrait of Victorian society, but that society consists of people who live, breathe, and speak on the page. I learned from him the art of evoking a character: naming and describing people in such vivid detail as to make them live.

Robert Louis Stevenson – One of the earliest and best of the romance writers—back when “romance” meant adventure and excitement, escape from daily life. TREASURE ISLAND? KIDNAPPED? THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE? The titles alone are enough to transport you, but the clean prose and vivid characters bring you back again and again.

Dorothy L. Sayers – Mistress of dialogue, character, humor and social nuance. From her, I learned that dialogue is the single most defining trait of character, and just how much you can do with accent, idiom, and dialect. Also, that a character is embedded in his or her social matrix, and that matrix is as important as the individual’s personal characteristics.

John D. MacDonald – John D. was a prolific writer, with more than five hundred novels to his credit, in more than one genre, but was best known for his Travis McGee mystery/thrillers. From him, I learned how to sustain characters over the course of a long series, how to maintain a narrative drive, how to write action, and how to pace a story.

P.G. Wodehouse – one of the most popular humorists ever. Pelham Grenville Wodehouse taught me how much sheer amusement you can derive from the English language—and the art of constructing a plot that works so seamlessly that it doesn’t matter how absurd it is. And no one who’s ever had the pleasure of meeting Bertie Wooster and his gentleman’s personal gentleman, Jeeves—let alone his bevy of friends and nemeses (Gussie Fink-Nottle and his Aunt Agatha, to mention only two)—will ever forget them.

I learned a great deal from all these writers—and from hundreds more. What every
writer on this list of personal muses has in common, though, is great skill in the matter of creating characters. And character, I think, is the single most important thing in fiction. You might read a book once for its interesting plot—but not twice. When you meet a fascinating person in the pages of a book, though, you come back, discovering new relevance, seeing new depths—or just enjoying the renewal of a long and lasting friendship.

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44 Responses »

  1. Diana, I couldn't agree with you more! I defy anyone to say that they are not influenced by everything around them as well as everything they read, be that academic work, novels, newspapers and anything in between.

    All this, coupled with one's own life experiences, both good and bad, give each of us a unique view of the world, no matter where in that world we come from and what culture. However, it is only when one is prepared and brave enough to step outside your situation and look critically at one's own culture/way of life/situation from someone else's point of view that a fully rounded person emerges. I think you have done this admirably throughout your Outlander series, as well as the Lord John series – it is a real lesson to us all of how to write and learn at the same time.

    Hope you have a great time at Strathpeffer Games and can get some more research done whilst you are over here in Scotland.

    Irene Paulton

  2. Coming back again and again to your books has mystified my family. "How can you read those books over and over again?" It was hard to put a finger on why I do, but you stated it perfectly clearly. We come back again and again because of the characters. I know these are fiction, but sometimes I find myself asking, "I wonder what Jaime and Claire are up to?" Then I know it is time to begin reading the series once more. Thank you!!!

  3. Oh Jenny…your comment made me laugh because my family has asked me the exact question when they see me reading the Outlander series again. Luckily, I've passed my books on to co-workers and now I have people at work to talk to about Jamie and Claire. As teachers, we have to monitor the halls during passing periods and I love that I can run over and discuss the Frasers, even if it's only 4 minutes at a time. The characters have been so well written that they ARE real to us. Thanks, Diana, for giving us that little break from reality to keep us sane!

  4. Jenny and Amy – right there with ya – have read and re-read Outlanders so many times -Jamie and Clare are now real people and it IS like visiting old friends and seeing how they've been. My family doesn't get it either.

  5. Like they say in the trade; “there is nothing new under the sun.” Writers get ideas from everywhere even from other writers. What makes it stand out? The same thing that makes oneself memorable: the personality of your writing, a unique voice, a style.
    I couldn’t imagine myself not reading while writing. It is true that sometimes, I stop reading, while writing, if my mind is too convoluted conceiving an idea. But then, the legally schizophrenic mind, the mind of a writer, has the need to partially detach from its characters and drop in into a different adventure in order to breathe in new air that helps the writer move forward. It’s like taking your family for a visit to friends. At least that is my personal experience.

    I also have my favorites who in a way have influenced me. Just to name a few:
    Isabel Allende; Paulo Coelho; Milán Kundera, and of course you Diana.

  6. Thanks, Diana. Always a pleasure to read what you have to say about things.

    Aside from the Outlander series, I have a few other series that I love. Why do I love them? Because of the characters. William G. Tapply – Brady Coyne; Philip J. Craig – J.W. Jackson; Donna Leona – Guido Brunetti; Sue Grafton – Kinsey Milhone; J.D. Robb – Eve Dallas and Roarke. If I tell people they think it's ODD that I'd re-read mysteries. *G* But I enjoy the characters so much, it's like hanging out with them! (Not to mention, half the time I can't remember who done it *G*.) For me: "When you meet a fascinating person in the pages of a book, though, you come back, discovering new relevance, seeing new depths—or just enjoying the renewal of a long and lasting friendship." – it's all about the last bit….

    Thanks. Diana.

    Judie

  7. Wonderfully written. And what you are saying is exactly how I feel about Jamie and Clare. They have become real people to me. Here's the perfect example for you. I have recently planted a garden in a community plot, and was wondering how I was going to keep all the vegetables I grow from going bad at my house. I found myself thinking "What did Clare do with her garden?". I often find myself thinking of them in real life, and have read the series at least 10 times. It's about time for me to read it again, to be ready for when the new book comes out. :)

  8. The books that have stayed with me over the years are the ones who characters speak to me in a real sense. Their features are completely clear to me and I can hear their voices having conversations with the other characters.

    The characters become that way because of the authors real life experiences. Diana, you know how to make a simple moment, like a Granny making cookies with her grandson, become an experience that is as real to me as if I were standing in that kitchen with them.

    I know that I will read your books over and over again, because I find new things everytime I read them.

  9. I always wanted to write because I love to read. I was raised on a ranch in New Mexico and attended a rural school with three teachers for grades kindergarten though 8th. High school involved a bus ride of 64 miles every day, one way.

    I had all the time in the world to read. I married a cowboy and raised three children and glory be…when they were grown my husband bought me a PC! The world opened up, I took classes, learned HTML, built a webpage and began to write. I write for my own satisfaction and expect never to publish. But I enjoy it immensely, almost as well as reading.

    When one of my grown daughters brought 'Outlander' and told me how wonderful it was I have been hooked ever since. I live with Claire and Jamie; my mother's people came from Scotland to settle in South Carolina in the years before the revolution and I like to think you sort of wrote their history. If so, I am deeply in love with my many greatsgrandfather!!

    My list of influences has changed since then, you Diana, are the top of my list. There are many more but no one does it better.

    Thank you for you books. I am a lurker here but part of my day is to check in to see what you are doing. I find that you are doing fine, and that is wonderful…

  10. Speaking for myself, I do tend to be very influenced by books if the author has a strong voice. But so what? You just edit it out for consistency after you're finished, right?

    What I don't get is when writers tell me they don't really read books. I'm like, "Hur?"

  11. Hi Diana,
    I am a lifelong reader and just wanted you to know that you are my all time favorite author ever. I absolutely love your books and don't think I get any more excited than when a new book from you is imminent! Thank you for providing the very best characters (adore Jaime and Claire) and story line around.
    Kelly

  12. I completely agree. To pretend you are not influenced by other writers is sheer silliness. Whether it's apositive influence (or negative "I don't EVER want to do that!" as you said) helps you develop as a writer. I wish I could still write to Laura Ingalls Wilder and tell her how much her books influenced me and motivated me to want to be a novelist as a young child. I am happy to still be able to contact you and say that your writing (and Claire's wit) has found its way into my writing. :)

  13. Ahh, yes, creating fascinating characters that you want to revisit time and time again is key to successful writing, but so few authors are able to achieve it! I love all the characters you've created in the Outlander series and have re-read the books numerous times, but over the years and many, many books later, I have found very few authors that tempt me to re-read.

  14. I envy those that learned to read at an early age.
    One of the strongest influential characters in my life was a teacher (Notre Dame Nun) in my freshman year in high school. Because I wasn't a very accomplished reader in elementary school, I had to take a remedial reading course in high school. She didn't care what I read, novels, comic books, magazines, cook books. So long as I enjoyed them and understood them. I will never forget her for as long as I live. I read to my own children everyday when they were young and will do so with grandchildren as well.

    Your characters seem to "come to life" on the pages. To me they were/are real people. I often wonder what's become of some of the lesser characters in the books? You make it so that one could actually believe that they were/are real people. I have to remind myself that they aren't real (very hard to do sometimes). And while I appreciate all of them, I must admit that it's the people of my world that have the greatest influence on me. And I hope that I've had some influence on them.

    Since my high school days I've become a voracious reader and have read many kinds of stories. I make it a point to finish a book, regardless of the storyline or style of writing (it's very difficult sometimes.)I feel I owe it to the author as they've done something I only dream of.

    Can't wait for the next adventure of Jamie and Claire.

  15. Dear Diana,

    I have read books that were unforgettable for several reasons. A great plot, an excellent adventure, idiosyncratic characters, a favorite period of history, all these and more have caused me to collect books over my life's time.

    Never have I been so moved by a story, by characters, the times, events and adventures as I have been moved by your books. If someone told me that I would visit a website where excerpts from a series of books were posted and where every aspect of that excerpt would be dissected, analyzed, argued and merited, I would've said they're ridiculous. Foolish.

    How is it that a fictional man and woman matter to me as much as any dear friend? How could I fear for their lives? Wonder what they think or feel? Why do I cringe with pain or feel my blood pressure rise in anger as a result of judgments or injustices done unto them? And, for heaven's sake, why do I ponder the absolute joy and sheer fun it would be to have sex with a tall, red headed Scotsman when I am so happily married? Sheesh!

    I love Charles Dickens. I really dig A.S. Byatt, Herman Hesse, John Steinbeck. But, you, Diana, are my favorite author. Your books are my go-to books when that certain something is missing in my life, when I need something to "make it all better."

    Thank you.

    Midge

  16. You are an inspiration and so very gracious with sharing your time and talents. Thank you!

    I finally saw the Exile excerpt in the back of the Green Slime book – FANTASTIC. I can't wait for the release!

  17. Thanks Diana, I am an avid reader also, I was the one when people asked my Mum where's Heather? She'd reply, She's Happily off in a corner with a book :-) I can't imagine not reading something every day. And like all of your readers Jamie, Claire and all are very real to me too. I can't wait for Exile to come along, :-)

  18. Diana,
    I just checked out the website created for the musical that is being made, and I wanted to tell you again that I would REALLY love to be apart of the cast.
    I am 14 living in Santa Rosa, California and I sort of love your writing. (who doesn't?)
    Acting has been my thing for 6 years now and I've always wanted to be in a big production such as this.
    Even being an extra would be fine.
    My email is gowizards14@yahoo.com
    and I also have a facebook.
    Please, please contact me about this, you don't know how much it would mean to me.

    -Miranda Williams

  19. Loved your post, and I completely agree with you.

    I've been trying to write for the past few months, I have a lot of stories in my head that I want to write, but I am a brazilian and I want to write my stories in English, so I've been reading a lot of books, learning writing techniques, etc. I have to say, Your books were the ones that helped me the most, my vocabulary has increased substantially and I learned a lot!

    I am very focused on improving my writing and English in general, so I will read these books you were influenced by, and try to sharpen my skills a little bit. I haven't read most of the classics yet, like Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson…

    Hugs,
    Elisa

  20. Hi, Miranda!

    Well, see, there isn't a stage production at present, though there -might- eventually be one. Right now, what we have is a recording of the libretto–the songs alone. There's no script as yet, let alone funding, theatre, etc.

    It's also a pretty minimalist production; very well produced, but sung by only four (very talented) voices. Um…all of them adults (with the exception of the two young sisters who sing the Gaelic of the "Ist tu fuil…" song). Granted, a _big_ stage show would likely have a chorus that might employ younger people, but as I say, we aren't there yet.

    Being ambitious is a good thing, though–go on asking and being out there! And the best of luck to you, too. [smile]

  21. Dear Elisa–

    Wow! The idea of writing novels in a foreign language is remarkably ambitious–but I wish you all the luck in the world with it! (And I'm very flattered that my books have been any help to you.)

    –Diana

  22. "When you meet a fascinating person in the pages of a book, though, you come back, discovering new relevance, seeing new depths—or just enjoying the renewal of a long and lasting friendship."

    Well said, and succinctly put, the reason I have favorite books that I reread time and time again. When you love (or hate) a character, you want to see if and how they develop as a person, and what happens to them as a result of their own and outside influence. This is why people are so invested in some books, and why they become furious at authors – they feel as if the characters are 'betraying' them in acting other than the person believes they should. I personally have always felt this is narrow minded and immature – characters, if written properly, are influenced by their surroundings and experiences, the same as real people are; they don't always act and do what they should do. It is the mark of a great writer that we forget that their characters are NOT real people, off living their life somewhere, and that we could find them if we tried. (Now the sucking up part.) You have the trick of making me forget and that's why I love your books.

    Now I'm off to renew my friendship with Bertie!!

  23. Dear Diana,

    maybe I got you wrong with what you originally wanted to say – but I don´t think, it´s silly, not to want to read during writing…

    I´m kind of writer, that doesn´t read during writing… I do not read because I don´t want to be influenced by others words… No: I don´t want to zone out, that´s all…

    You have the admirable ability to write many projects alongside (is that the right expression?). Further you write exzerpts and put them together to a novel. Others don´t… like me. I start with the beginning of a story and follow the protagonist through the book. For this I have to dip inside the story – it´s kind of meditation – and your right: I´m writing fast in these moments. Well: Having a daughter and a househould and my job at the fairtrade-company and being human (drink, eat, sleep) I have to break this meditation-mode; but it´s a lot easier to get back if you don´t start to read books in addition to write. That means: no books during writing… (well, to be honest: I´ve read _your_ books – but they are the only one I read during writing because of my tree-projects :-) )

    Best regards
    Susan

  24. Dear Susan–

    Whatever lets you get words on the page is the right thing to do. [g] But I just said that I don't think avoiding reading _to avoid being influenced_ by what you read makes sense–not that you shouldn't/couldn't avoid reading for other reasons, which is what you're doing.

  25. So well said. Period. Thanks for this! I hang on your every word regarding the process of writing itself. You are rather a hero of mine. :)

  26. Thank you for becoming a writer, & doing such a fine job of making characters come alive and apart of our lives. Which is just ONE of the reasons I completely love the Outlander series. I feel like I'm coming home. :)

    I was in an used book store the other day and picked up an old book (written in 1954) called The Scotswoman by Inglis Fletcher. The main character is Flora MacDonald and I smiled because without your books I don't think I would have a clue who she is or what Culloden was. So far it is a nice book. Thank you for your attention to detail in all things but especially with the history portion. I learn AND I'm fully entertained! The best of both worlds. Hope your are recovering nicely. Have a wonderful day.

  27. Dear Diana,

    ah… so I got you wrong and now see clearer ;-) That´s it when english is not the mothertongue and experience isn´t really there. But I have to say, I´m getting better, since I met you and am forced to talk in other languages then German and Italian ;-)

    Regards
    Susan

  28. Dear Diana,

    I was so struck by your observation that books are re-read not only for their plot. As a budding writer myself, I agree completely: the dialogue gives the reader an opening into the mind and personality NOT shown by the writer; that part of the character that we, as readers, make OURS.

    Your explanation was so succinct that I plan to shamelessly point others toward when asked why I so love writing dialogue and getting inflection and idion "right" the first time around.

    I've just discovered the "Outlander" series, thanks to a fellow writer-friend who knows me VERY well, and frankly read them cover to cover non-stop for a month. I feel as though these wonderfully-rounded characters are dear friends, complete with their quirks and foibles, strengths and courage.

    Thank you for getting the idea to "try" to write a novel. Me thinks you pulled it off, m'dear!

    Pat

  29. hi, diana,
    i am one of many that read and re-read books, often during the first reading, too. i'll go back over a section that really spoke to me, or really made me wish that i was that particular heroine. (oh, he's kissing her again? let's do that again!) i find myself in the story with the characters, and they are so real to me. in fact, jamie is my make-believe boyfriend (just don't tell my husband!!)
    i am also a writer–and i find that i like to go back and read over several times what i have written, to tweak it, or just to enjoy what i was able to pen. i agree that charles dickens is a major influence on writers, because he was so good at creating and naming characters, as well as making the reader wonder where he's going next in the plot. i feel that way about jamie and claire and the rest of the gang.
    i find that reading other writers helps me to write. i (usually) enjoy the read while i learn. i can't go one day without at least reading something before bed. i am currently re-reading "voyager" and finding things that i missed the first time, whether is was a piece of action, or how you said something.
    so, i guess what i'm trying to say is. . .thanks!

  30. Diana,
    If I ever write a book , you are going to be one of the people on my blog like this one.
    The things you write down, even the things u say in ur podcasts and interviews (which I have saved from youtube) are so so quotable…
    You are absolutely write, books read are one of hte major influences on how a person writes himself. But … the way Claire narrates the books, and the way Roger's third person narrates them are slowly insinuating themselves into the way I think and talk.
    I can safely say, that even though I was entertaining company before, sicne I have read Outlander books , I have become something of a pro in making ppl laugh and think… and not just in english. I wish you would keep writing forever :p
    I used to be active on compuserve, but i sorta lost touch with it… but Ive never been able to lose touch with outlander books. One of them is always on my ipod – just to laugh during the day, and out of the several thigns I read spontaneously, one of them is always an outlander book. I wish there was someway we all could thank you for these :)
    Infact, I have this weird thing, where I expect every guy I ve been dating (for more than 1 month) to read Outlander atleast. Just to get an idea of how men should be. Is this crazy? I dont know, but they think so. One of them actually thought I was crazy and well, yada yada… lol
    I am digressing…

    I had the lcuk to meet you when you were in toronto, but I could only get my books signed, since it was crowded. But I do hope to talk to you for a few minutes someday, when you are here abouts again (are you ?)…. Also, do you wear purple/lilac ?

    Lots of love

    Rashu

  31. oops…. I meant 'you are absolutely right*', not 'write'…

  32. Dear Diana,
    I couldn't imagine going that long without reading either! The only books I avoid while writing are novels that take place during my time period – I feel I have to do my own non-fiction research before I start reading others' interpretations. Afterward, though…
    And yay for Dorothy Sayers!

  33. Dear Rashu–

    Not lilac; I look yellow in it. [g] A very deep purple, with either a red or blue undertone, looks OK on me, though.

    Thanks, and yes, I do generally go to Toronto on booktours, so will hope to meet you there next time!

    –Diana

  34. Diana –

    Really nice write-up of what makes a book great, and one day you should absolutely be included in that list! Your characters are the main thing that keep me coming back to Outlander again and again. Even after finishing the series to date, I find myself thinking about Jamie and Claire and their many families and friends all the time, they feel that real!

  35. Thank you Diana! Now you have given me the gift of finally being able to explain to people why I read some books over and over again. I usually just say "they are my friends". But then people look at me like I'm sad or crazy.

    Thank you also for creating many more books with characters that I never get tired of.
    I hope you have a good summer.

    P.S. This is my first blog comment/fan letter ever.

  36. Diana,

    This was an amazing and extremely helpful post! Thanks for it. Now I'm just curious but when you say that you "consciously considered the art and techniques of these five writers in particular"…was it more that you actually studied the way they wrote by analyzing their books or was it more that you had read their work and it was sort of lodged in your brain? Like how sometimes after you read a long engrossing book and next thing you know you find yourself speaking in the fashion of the book.

    Dorothy Sayers is actually one my all-time favorite authors and after reading her books I would just sit their in awe of her main character…Lord Wimsey…just wondering how she created someone who spoke like that! I was actually secretly hoping her style of writing would rub off on me subconsciously haha.

    Oh and also!…Sorry so many questions but do you favor novels written in the first person or in the third person? I know that the Outlander series and the Lord John books are all written in the first person …did you debate on which person point of view to use when you began writing?

  37. Dear Maliha–

    Err….maybe you want to read my books a trifle _more_ consciously. [g] Only OUTLANDER is written in the first person. NONE of the Lord John books has any first-person stuff at all, while all the other Outlander books are written with a combination of viewpoints (Claire is the only character with a first-person point of view, ever. Everyone else–Brianna, Roger, Jamie, Lord John, Young Ian, William–has third-person viewpoint).

    Which I suppose answers your last question. [cough]

    As to the first one, mostly I'd just read those authors repeatedly–but I'd _noticed_ what they did. I didn't sit down and say, "Oh, ah, how did he/she do _this_?", because I already knew how. But it wasn't just a matter of falling into someone else's voice, either; I did _know_ exactly how John D. MacDonald handled the question of Travis McGee's past in each knew book, for instance, or how Dorothy L. Sayers used idiom and accent to depict class distinction (and how those in turn affected character and plot).

    But you know, it's just whatever works for you, in terms of reading, analysis, or whatever. Anything that lets you get words on the page is the right thing to do!

  38. Oh my! I feel like a complete imbecile. I just looked through the Lord John books again and realized that indeed they are written in the third person. My apologies..I read them a very long time ago it must have slipped my mind. As for Outlander I think I was just thinking of Claire's narrative. But yeah you clearly have a knack for mastering both persons. I usually end up liking books that are written in the first person better just because I feel that I connect with the main character MORE that way; but it is becoming clear that that's not necessarily true always. I mean I loved the Lord John books and I became really attached to his character too–And like you said (and I stupidly screwed up) that is indeed written in the third person. So really it just depends on the author and HOW he/she paints his/her characters.
    So yes thank you! That does answer my question about the person point of view. And thanks again for the fabulous entry and all the insight on writing. You're writing has been/is a great inspiration for me!

  39. It's the characters that bring us back over and over again, but it's also the quality of the writing, the vivid descriptions that create such strong visual images, and, yes, the plots. Even though we know what's happening, it's still exciting. You can read a book for the first time only once, but subsequent readings enable us to enjoy other aspects. The first time through, it's a mad dash to Find Out What Happens.
    And why do people (not Outlander fans, of course :) ) think rereading is strange? No one would ever say, "Oh, you've heard that music once; why are you listening to it again?"

    Judie–I, too, like Donna Leon, JD Robb, and Sue Grafton, but I'm not familiar with Tapply and Craig. I'll have to check them out…thanks! And might I suggest Robert B. Parker, especially the Spenser novels. Spenser and Susan Silverman are right up there in the relationship class with Claire and Jamie. (But his books are MUCH shorter.)

    Oh, and try Dana Stabenow's Alaskan mysteries, featuring Kate Shugak. I believe Dana's a friend of Diana's.
    There are other series I like, but you're right; the best ones are the series with the strongest characters.

    Diana — I also learned to read at age 3. In addition to having all those years of books (a few more than you), I am also afflicted with the blessing/curse (sometimes it's one, sometimes the other) of being a very fast reader. What about you, if I may ask?

  40. Dear Bluebird–

    I read _all_ the time, no matter what else I'm doing–and reasonably fast, yes. In an average (i.e., not frantically busy) week, I'll probably read 2-4 novels, plus assorted newspapers, cartoon anthologies [g], and other stuff.

  41. Diana–

    Thank you for this amazing post! I am in awe of your writing skills and this post allowed me to see who has influenced you. You also make me want to go and read the authors you mentioned and see if I can pick up on what you noticed in their writings. Lastly I have to say that not only is the Outlander series timeless, but the characters are the most developed and captivating and real and relatable and engaging and wonderful and and and…

    I recently reread An Echo In The Bone and was stunned by how many memorable moments I forget! I reread something Jamie said to Claire the other day and the only thing I could think of was 'DAMN Diana is so brilliant I can hardly stand it.' You had me in tears.

    "When a man dies, it's only him AND one is much like another. Aye, a family needs a man to feed them, protect them. But any decent man can do it. A woman… A woman takes life with her when she goes. A woman is infinite possibility."

    I wish this was printed somewhere in the Bible… absolutely englightening.

    Keighley

  42. Ms. Gabaldon -

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the first 4 books in the Outlander series…the main story and all of the interesting sidebars are wonderful, entertaining, and engaging. I must say I have already re-read the first book a couple of time, and listened to it on audio a couple of times…it is just very, very well written.

    Thank you for this lovely “gift” to readers.

    I am a constant reader, and was recalling the only other items I have ever read about Scotland.
    One was a series of novellas serialized in Scottish ladies’ magazines in the late 1960s.
    The other was Sir Walter Scott’s book, Rob Roy: set against the “first” uprising with very similar scenes and story lines. Yours are more interesting and better written, even tho he is the “father of historical fiction.”

    That said, I would be interested to know about your research sources, especially concerning the old tales, myths, balads, etc. I am also curious about your sense of the dialect: certainly you do a wonderful job with the language/dialects/Gaellic, etc.

    Finally, I particularly enjoy your references to traditional healing methods.

    Lovely work – brava !

    • Dear Chris–

      Thank you! A lot of my research sources are noted (as is a piece on Scots dialect, Gaelic, etc.) in THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, which has a Bibliography of some 600 books used in the research for the first four books of the series. There will be a Volume II of the COMPANION, covering the next four volumes (and probably the Lord John books as well), but that won’t be out until after MOBY (WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD) is published next year.

      –Diana

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