• “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.”
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

Historical Sex Scenes

Historical Sex Scenes

Now, don’t start hyperventilating. This isn’t about how to write historical sex scenes (though I might show you a sort-of one, in a bit*). It’s a solicitation. {g}

I was going to start out by saying that I have no idea how this happened, except that I do. I just don’t remember who to blame for it. What did happen was that six(ish) years ago, the Historical Novel Society (of which I am a member) held its biannual conference in Albany. It was the first conference of the HNS that I’d attended, and in my usual amiable way, I’d told the organizers that I’d be happy to do whatever they liked, in the way of panels, etc.

So they put me on three or four panels, and one of those was a panel on writing sex scenes. There were six people assigned to the panel—which is kind of a lot, really; you get a great variety of input, but with such a large number, it’s hard to have a good discussion.

Anyway, the six of us conferred via email as to the best way of managing the panel, traffic-wise, and someone (actually I think it may have been me, maybe I am to blame for this, what a horrifying thought…) said that it’s really hard to talk about the techniques involved in sex scenes without having examples to refer to.

So someone (and it may have been Chris Humphreys…then again, it might have been me…) suggested that since there was no conceivable way in which six people could read sex scenes in an hour, and then have any time in which to talk about them, that we see if the conference would allow us a separate session, outside the regular programming, during which any panelists who liked to could read one or two samples. That way, attendees who really didn’t want to hear sex scenes could avoid them and just hear about techniques, whereas those who wanted the…er…full experience (so to speak), could listen to the samples, which we would then talk about the next day.

Well, the organizers were willing (and it was Chris Humphreys who suggested it to them, I know that much), and they scheduled the Saturday Night Late-Night Sex-Scene Reading, after the official banquet.

I think five of the six panelists agreed to read sex-scenes—a couple of us came in nightwear (I almost always change into a yukata covered with cranes—I have three, in different colors—after the official part of a conference day, because while I’m happy to go on socializing into the wee hours, I’m not doing it in an underwired bra and high heeled boots, after wearing such clothes all day); Chris wore a suit, I seem to recall—or it may have been the pirate shirt open to the waist.

Anyway, two-thirds of the conference attendees came, and a Very Good Time was had by all, let’s put it that way. {cough} (The hotel kindly kept the bar in the dining-room open for this event, and when I staggered up afterward for a glass of much-needed wine, the bar-staff applauded and insisted on giving me the drink for free, which was nice of them.)

Anyway, the long-term effect of this public spectacle was that I’ve been urged (and/or dragooned) into doing it twice more—once as another team effort for the last HNS conference in Illinois, and a solo appearance for The Poisoned Pen bookstore—and now find myself not only booked for a reprise at this year’s HNS conference in San Diego, but charged with running the event.

Chris (that’s C.C. Humphreys, btw, whose Jack Absolute series is on my Methadone List, and I recommend it highly for fans of the 18th century, the British army, adventure, and/or Mohawks) tells me that he and Gillian Bagwell (MY DARLING STRUMPET—which I also really enjoyed (life of Nell Gwyn), and gave a cover quote to) want to do a team-reading of a scene from her book, which he described as “one of the best blow-jobs in fiction.” (Bear in mind that as well as being an excellent author, Chris is also a professional actor. I’m looking forward to this. He did just say “reading,” mind…)

To get to the point here, though—

In order to insure variety and the increased pleasure of the audience {cough, cough}, we’ll need a few participants besides Chris, Gillian, and me. SO—

If you are

1) A published author of historical fiction (traditional publication, please, not self-published)

2) Who will be attending this year’s HNS conference, and

3) Has a good sex-scene (the scene can be from an unpublished manuscript, if you like), and

4) Relatively few inhibitions about reading it aloud in public (costuming (including mask) optional)…

Let me know. {g} Email me at dgabaldon@aol.com, or find me on the Compuserve Books and Writers Community board.

I don’t think we will have to hold auditions {g}, but we’ll see how many volunteers we get.

*You’re sure you want to see one? Well, OK. I’m going to put it here, because not everyone likes to read excerpts. This is—I think—the beginning of SCOTTISH PRISONER, even though my husband, who read it, wrote in the margin, “Are you sure you can print this?!?”

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96 Responses »

  1. Wow…what a thrill it must be to be in a profession where you get to participate in an event that literally blows people away! I go to work and am asked to see the 97 year old that keeps falling out of bed…”Can you work on positioning?” Does_not_even_compare with what you get asked to do!

  2. Gorgeous book cover!

  3. Your husband sounds like such a sweet and gentle man…much like my own husband…but in answer to his question about printing this scene as the opening of the book? YES…I have always appreciated the fact that you write Jamie with such tenderness, vulnerability…its what makes him such a wonderful character, and why most women who read your books fall hopelessly in love with Jamie. :)

  4. Hello Diana:

    God, yes!

    The question is, can I concentrate on my work this morning after reading this? That’s debatable.

    Thanks Diana!


  5. Wow…awfully glad I’m not at work this morning, as that’s when I typically read blogs! :P That’s QUITE the excerpt…

  6. Love it! Love Jamie! Love Claire! when is book 8 coming out?????

    Help, I need it quick!

  7. Well, in terms of beginning a novel, it beats (no pun intended) the heck out of “it was a dark and stormy night.”


  8. How can I be so in love with a fictional character?! Thank you, Diana, for the excerpt and YES, it is perfect for the beginning of the novel! Who could put it down after that opening!

  9. Dear Diana ,
    I don’t think there is a wrong Way for you to begin a Book. And sure not if it begins with Jamie!
    When is it going to Be published in German ?
    Best wishes

  10. Please don’t change the beginning, I think that little excerpt will stay with me all day, and I don’t mind in the least. :)

    When will you be in San Diego?

  11. oh Jamie you truly are missed!

  12. Not a published author, but would love to be a fly on the wall when you guys all meet. Sounds fun and interesting. Please give us an insight to the best blow job after you read it.

    Great excerpt…… so very heart wrenching the way he misses Claire. People don’t always understand the importance of touch till it’s gone. The other day while talking to my Husband (who is in Afghanistan and will be there for a long while) he said to me “I miss you so much” and I told him I know what he really misses it was a bit steamy. Then he said “Well yeah I miss that and need it bad but what I really miss is just the simple touching.
    God I love that man something fierce!!!!!

    Also great cover!!!!!
    Thanks Diana


  13. Gee. Why can’t my work be so much fun? I am regretting my BS in accounting. Alas – creative in business, not writing. Must live vicariously through you, Diana! thanks for sharing the blog and the excerpt!

  14. Beautiful excerpt. Yes, a great way to start the book.

  15. I must really be out of touch…what’s a “Methadone List”?

    As far as beginning a book THAT way…if it’s about Jamie and/or Claire, I don’t care how you start it. I just want you to finish it…sooner rather than later! ;)

    • Hi Valerie,

      The “Methadone List” is Diana’s list of books she recommends to any of her fans. In her own words:

      “The Methadone List is my response to people who write to me asking plaintively, ‘So what am I supposed to read while I wait for your next book?’ ”

      If you go to the top of the page, you can use the search engine window to find past entries on “methadone list”.

      Hope this helps!

      • Excellent…thank you Anne-Marie! I appreciate the explanation and handy tip. I will definately look at the past entires on that list, as I am in need of a good book to read.

        • I love Diana’s books, of course. While waiting, though, try an older author I stumbled across: Diane Norman, who has more recently written as Arianna Franklin. They are all good, but the earlier plots and character development, coupled with historically revealing details, are keepers. I had to go to Alibris to find these.

  16. Any word on when LJ&SP will be published?

    • Dear Angela–

      Well, assuming that I finish _writing_ the dang thing by the end of May(ish), it’ll be out this fall. Don’t have a solid pub date as yet, but I know the UK is planning on sometime in November. (I have different publishers in the US and the UK, so the dates _may_ be different.)


  17. Diana, you never fail to take my breath away! Perfection.

  18. @ @ HOLY MAMA!! Wow, that’s definitely one way to start a book. Even if I hadn’t read them already, that book would make me want to go back and get the other three. And then, read the series. Wow! Cold shower time!

    Will you be doing the book tour with ‘Scottish Prisoner?’ And will Lexington KY be on the list? I’ve got a couple of friends that are recent devotees of the Outlander series and one is a dyed in the kilt Lord John fan.

  19. Hi Diana,

    Very nice excerpt;) The sex scenes you write always get me hot and bothered, because they are so real and you know exactly how to put feelings, sensations, etc. into words. I also love how your sex scenes are not “gag-me” corny or something that would never happen. That is just one of the many reasons your readers love your work so much! Also, I take it there is a lot of Jamie in “Scottish Prisoner”? I am definitely a devoted fan, but I hate to admit that I have not read the LJG series. I am too obsessed with J&C, that I keep re-reading the books and re-listening to the the audio books. Thanks for sharing…

    -Heather B.

  20. Oh, yes, a beautiful way to begin. But I can’t but be heartbroken for poor Jamie, even if he does get his Claire back in the end.

  21. Love it and can’t wait. Thanks for the excerpt – what a great way to start a book. I love that you are so willing to share with your fans. Any possibiilty of another excerpt from book 8? And, do you have a favorite – of your books? Just curious.

  22. Oh, Oh, OHHHH that was an incredibly excerpt!

  23. I think you have us ALL as your prisoners, Diana!
    (On our knees, waiting for the next… excerpt)..

  24. Most definitely you can start a book that way!!!! What a wonderful read whilst sitting with my evening tea!

    BTW I love the cover art for Lord John & the Scottish Prisoner! Can’t wait to read the whole thing!

  25. Great scene, but somehow it makes me so sad for Jamie. It know how much he must have missed Claire.

    But that is why I love reading your books, the way you write makes a person feel as if they were there in the story.

    I think it’s a wonderful opening scene. :-) Also done very nicely.

  26. Diana, as others have said “don’t change a thing”. It’s great and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

    My husband read it and asked if there was a “lot” of those sex scenes in your books, I had to reply “a (cough,cough) moderate few and since you won’t read HYSTERICAL ROMANCES ( that’s his name for any book of that genre, I guess you’ll just have to pick up a book and start getting “hysterical” cause like it or not I sure wish sometimes that I was Claire” I’m not quite sure how he took that…lol

    Claire is one lucky lady, but then I guess men like James just don’t grow on trees as they say. And as BrandyC said I would love to be a fly on the wall at that conference.

    Can’t wait to see you in person in August in Fergus.

  27. Really this just highlights how Jaime and Lord John are in the same boat. Lots of love and no one to give it to. I enjoy the Lord John books in their own right, having him interact with Jaime is just a bonus!

  28. What a way to start my morning!!

  29. Wow I hope your editors leave it just that way. I think it sets so many things up in just a few lines. Jamie’s love & desire for Clair. His own passionate nature. His vulnerability. Wow

  30. Tell the editors YES. It’s certainly not shocking — at least not to anyone who’s followed the story up to this point — and is actually a quite lovely glimpse of Jamie’s undiminished yearning for his lost-forever (as he believes) love. A splendid illustration of “show, don’t tell”.

    Just a couple of questions, most diffidently … If there’s bedding in the stall, would he maybe go down on his knees in the all-concealing straw _first_, so as to avoid possible … er … mess, or even evidence … on his shirt, which appears to be, naturally, all he’s got on? He’s already shown that even now he’s not totally lost to the danger of … uhm … exposure. There are other solutions, of course, but this is a family blog … kind of … Also, ask the horse people, but isn’t there a difference between straw used for bedding and hay used for feed? Hence the delectable Italian dish “straw and hay” using yellow and green pasta? I know, picky, picky, picky. Sorry. Probably why my own stuff doesn’t get published.

    Thanks for this luscious tidbit!

  31. How am I supposed to clean off my cluttered desk after reading that! What a way to start the day. Now trying to get back to the real world and the disaster of my desk !

  32. So the story climaxes at the beginning…

    • Nice one, @Lynda! I miss Jamie so much; I’d much rather discuss the politics of the day with him over a bowl of nice soup (and finger nibbling) at the World’s End in Edinburgh than…well…just about anything!!

    • Dear Lynda–

      That’s one way of looking at it. {g} It doesn’t go downhill from here, though, I can assure you of that!


  33. Well, i guess that’s a very good way on getting one’s attention from page 1.
    Who would put the book down after such an opening ? Not me, that’s for sure !

  34. Well, this is for sure a very good way to get one’s attraction from the very first page.
    Who would put it down after such an introduction ? Not me, for sure ! Seriously Diana, i’ve read all your books and even your most “hot” scenes haven’t the slightest “porno” . They’re very well written, with respect to heroes feelings and humanity.

  35. I love it! I think it is *ahem* a gripping opening!!! Can’t wait to pick up a hard copy!!! Thanks for sharing.

  36. Aaahhh…
    Can never get enough of Jamie (regardless of what he’s, ahem, doing at any given time), Claire, Lord John, et al.

    Fabulous opening. You’re really out to break all the rules…and we all love it!

    Remind me again, when is the HNS held ? Like Brandy, wish I could be a fly on “that” panel’s wall.

  37. Nice cover. Hope we’ll see it on the bookshelves soon.

    • Dear Jerry–

      Actually, this is the UK cover (Orion Books). The US publisher (Random House) has just barely begun thinking about it, as _their_ next release is the 20th-anniversary (Very Deluxe) edition of OUTLANDER, due out July 5th.

      NO idea what the US SCOTTISH PRISONER will look like!


  38. Do you think they’d let you do the same reading you’re doing for HNS at RWA in June? It would be awesome.

    • Dear Ruth–

      Well, I’m not scheduled to do a solo talk/reading at RWA; I’ll be on a panel with Tess Gerritsen and Steve Berry, and doing the mass autographing, but that’s all. (Will be doing a thing for ThrillerFest a week later, but don’t know if I’ll read at that one, either, or if it’s an interview sort of thing. Will let you know, though!)


  39. This is a “not around the bushes” beginning of a book. It takes you right into the story. I enjoy your style very much and thank you for sharing this “story in the making” details with us.

  40. Love it!!!
    This sample from “The Scottish Prisoner” is the type of writing that has made me fall in love with your books and your writing. You write your style which has not steered you wrong. you are awesome!

  41. That book cover is framable art…and what the title and they keys represent….freedom, honour, love, sacrifice…an echo in the bone, indeed.

    Actually, in a lewd sort of way – an echo in the bone resonates with the opening chapter, too.

  42. OH Man….Jamie…. hmmmm. :)

  43. Write! Write! Write! Can’t wait to read Scottish Prisoner….and the next Big Book!!! Three cheers for DG! (and Jamie)


    That is such a sad way to begin this book. D.H. Lawrence once wrote that “In masturbation there is nothing but loss.”, and with this scene you have captured Jamie’s loneliness and desolation caused by all that he has lost. It is so sad to see a man such as Jamie reduced to this state.

    I was very moved by this extract, from the second paragraph on. I did find the first paragraph a bit confusing – why was he having trouble finding his cock when it was in his hand? I know he’s just woken, but after the dream he was having I would have thought he would have been all too aware of the location of that part of his anatomy :)

  45. Oh yes – by all means – you CAN start a book that way and they WILL print it because it’s riveting and enthralling and arresting and excrutiating in its poignancy and pathos. But an excerpt? AN EXCERPT!?!? Now that’s just wrong! Wrong and depraved, and mean and nasty – and just plain CRUEL! (Anda good part of the reason we love you so!) Can NOT wait!!!

  46. Yes, yes you can start a book this way..but can you keep it up…sorry.

  47. Love it! I may or may not have given a deep sigh after reading this excerpt. Alas, I’m at work and husband is too. I’ll have to save it for later. I’m wondering, what is a yukata? I tried google but nothing.

  48. Love, love, love your books, Diana! I’m a published author – The Landlord’s Black-Eyed Daughter, Stars of Fire, and the pending Heaven’s Thunder – a Colorado Saga – all written as Mary Ellen Dennis. I will be at the HNS conference, and I eagerly…subtly?…begging-ly?…volunteer. I mean, how many times do I get to read one of my sex scenes to an audience? Counting on fingers. Correction: Counting on finger.

  49. Wow…wish Jamie yearned for me in that way! Claire is (was?) one lucky lady!

  50. Yes Yes Yes wonderful start…certainly grabs your attention…great cover. Cheers Joan-in waiting for the next book.

  51. Hey Diana,

    I thought it was a great piece. I think you can do whatever you want and we’ll keep wanting more.

    I am a long time fan, since the first printing of Outlander, I’d say, and I’ve read every one of your books and have most of them on my shelf (some came via the library). Whenever I am asked about my favourite series, my favourite author, it’s Outlander and you. I want to congratulate you on the excerpts of Book 8 and the third Lord John novel as they are all fantastic! I can’t wait to read both of these books. I think the idea of a prequel is great, too! Please keep doing what you’re doing, because I am enjoying reading your work so much I would hate it if you stopped :)

    I am saddened to hear that you were on a tour of Canada this past fall and I missed it! Hopefully next time you’ll come to Winnipeg?

    Many thanks for all your hard work!


  52. Wow!! Loved the way you want to start the book, it grabs your attention for sure! Love your books Diana. Re-reading the Outlander series waiting on book 8. Can’t wait!

  53. If ANYONE started a book that way, I’d finish the whole thing, regardless of how well it was written. That’s one heck of a hook! I suppose it helps that Jamie Fraser is also the Scottish man of every woman’s dreams…

  54. Oh My Goodness is ALL I can say…………..I can’t wait for the book, Thank you, Thank you, thank you Diana, for NEVER disapointing me!

    As usual,
    Your number one fan!

  55. Such an evocative excerpt. Poor bugger, I really felt for him…right up until the ‘end’ so-to-speak.

  56. Beautiful cover and fantastic excerpt. Can’t wait to read the whole thing.

  57. Writing a sex scene that took place, hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago is NOT easy! There are so many modern words and terms you cannot use, but you seem to do it so eloquently, and with the greatest of ease!


    • One of my biggest pet peeves in Historical romance books…but then again many of the writer’s are not the caliber of Diana!

  58. Diana..you are my hero! I await each book nearly marking off the days literally!

    Of course I adore all the Jamie and Clair stories…but I now also am in love with the Lord John Grey stories as well!

    I have all of the books on disk and tape..and listen to the stories over and over…wearing out the tapes rapidly!

    The unabridged versions from Recorded Books have two readers, Davina Porter and Jeff Woodman..both of whom do such excellent jobs of bringing the character to life via their wonderful usage of accents and voice…that you know which character is speaking at all times!

    And they make the sex scenes even steamier by their inflections!! IF such a thing is possible!! LOL

    A true match made in heaven for someone as addicted as I am to all of these stories!!

    Thank you Diana..you have made some truly awful times in my life more bearable through your wonderful stories. I can unabashedly say I adore you!

    Please never stop writing…every story gives me something to look forward to!

    Genie Kerr

  59. I loved it. I loved the idea that although Jamie and Claire were parted for a very long time, that in dreams they were still together. It made the whole time somewhat more ‘bearable’ to me. It is an excellent beginning to a book I cannot wait to read.

  60. Every once in a while, I start the whole series over again. I am currently re-reading Outlander for about the 20th time. Diana, your sex scenes are as engaging to read the 20th time as they are the first! The outdoor scene in which Frank discovers that practical Claire is wearing no underwear demonstrates the love that she left behind; the touching intimacy and awkwardness of Jaime and Claire’s wedding night is oh so familiar and authentic; the brutality of Black Jack’s sexual assault. You have woven together these (and more) different sex scenes in such a masterful way I really never get tired of discovering them again, even at the 20th reading. I have totally imagined Dougal and Geillie’s amorous adventures a few ways, and if you ever get time and feel the need to write a short story, I would love to read your version….

  61. I, like almost all who post here, own all of the Outlander series. I am pleased to be able to brag to any who will stop and listen that each of my hardbound copies have been signed by you. Most I have sent with my parents to Arizona to visit the Scottish Games but #7 I was able to stand in line clutching the paper with my hard won lottery draw for the chance to see you inside at Copperfield’s Books in Santa Rosa California.

    In reference to the sex scene that you posted for an example of your outstanding writing, that was far less descriptive than many scenes between Jamie and Claire. I found it amusing that your husband would query as to whether you might not be allowed to publish the scene…his hair must light on fire when he reads scenes that involve Jamie with the actual Claire rather than just her memory.

    Again, like all that post here, I have loved your books these many years and always stand ready when you gift us with the next installment. Thank you for sharing your imagination and your talent with us peasants!

    I’ll also have you know that because of these books, when faced with the ability to go anywhere in the world on the vacation of a lifetime with one of my oldest and dearest friends who, like myself, is Irish (shhh, don’t tell anyone for fear of reprisal) we chose to spend our three weeks in Scotland. We spent the first week in Edinburgh and the remaining two driving hither and yon throughout the Scottish Highlands. I overcame my fears of driving on the wrong side of the road, (Mr. Ford afterall, was an American therefore giving us the right to choose which side of the road was the proper side to drive a motor car on, yes?) and after becoming well aquainted with more than a few curbs, drove to the furthest point each day that we could complete round trip from our flat in Ullapool to see the beauty and the magic that is only found in this beautiful and welcoming country. So thank you for giving this to us lowly people who knew little of the world outside of our own so what we too might share in the glory that abounds.

    • Dear dtarlen–

      So glad you enjoyed the Highlands! (I get to go in July!)

      As for that particular scene, I think my husband’s hesitation was owing to the proposed placement in the book {g], rather than its content.


  62. Wow! That’s some kind of opening. Nothing like a masturbation scene to get the blood pumping!

    Diana, I’m thrilled to be attending the HNS conference this year for the first time…and to hear what you have to say about writing sex scenes in a historical novel. I’m starting the Outlander series for the first time on recommendation. If the series is anything like your reputation, I’m sure they’ll be a fabulous entertainment.

    I look forward to meeting you. Write on! :)

  63. Dear Diana,

    I followed this link from the HNS website, which indicated that this was the way to volunteer my services as a reader of a sexy scene at the HNS conference in San Diego this year. I am an panelist on Saturday morning, and I think that would be a perfect way to end the day.

    We actually met briefly in the author’s lounge at the Decatur Book Festival last fall, but I’m sure you say hello to many ardent fans every time you attend such an event, so I can’t imagine that I stood out; it was nonetheless a thrill for me!

    My second novel, published by Harper Collins, was just released last week: Heart of Deception. I think I have JUST THE THING to read on Saturday night, and willing volunteer my services.

    Hope to hear from you!


  64. Your excerpt shows how far we’ve come since the 1980s, when a romance novel I read in the 80s contained this forgettable/unforgettable line: “She touched the tip of his tumescence.” That was about as racy as it got, but that was then. This is so deliciously now.

    • Dear Sherry–

      Eeg. Well, luckily I don’t write romance novels (and even more luckily, most _good_ modern romance novels have excellent sex scenes. I strongly recommend Joanna Bourne’s THE SPYMASTER’S LADY, for one).


  65. i,,,,,,,,,,m lookong forward to your next book. Please make it soon. I LOVE THE ADVENTURES OF THE fRASER FAMILY!!!!