• “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

My Writing Process


March 20, 2016

Over the years, I’ve done hundreds (literally) of interviews, and frankly, most of them consist of the same six or seven questions, over and over (and over and overandoverandover)—with the excuse, "Of course, I know you’ve probably (oh, you think?) answered some (ha) of these questions before, but these are things we think our readers would like to know." (Perfectly legit assumption. That’s why all those answers are in the "FAQ" section of my website… and on my Wikipedia page (or at least I hope they’re still there)… and in THE OUTLANDISH COMPANIONS.)

"So…. how did you get the idea to write these books?"

But never mind; they have their job and I have mine. (Yes, I admit that these interviews give the books visibility, and I appreciate the attention. That’s why I go on answering those six or seven questions with a reasonably convincing appearance of gracious enthusiasm (I’ve seen myself do it several times on video, that’s how I know…). Still, once in awhile you get an interesting interviewer, who makes you think—and that’s a great thing, both for me and the people who read the interview. The NPR interviewers are absolutely wonderful; it’s great fun (both for me and—I hope—the listeners) to work with one of them. But there are quite a few good print journalists, as well, and I thought I might post a few excerpts from some of those interviews here. Feel free to ask your own questions, too <g>—I’ll answer what I can.

So—these questions are from a wattpad interview done with Molly Rogers, about five years ago. The complete interview is probably still available on wattpad, but I thought some of the later questions and answers were more interesting (and it’s a looong-ish interview; too long for a good post).

12. Your books require a large amount of research. How did you do that in the beginning when you were just starting out and how is it different now that you are a full-time writer? Do you plan out what research you will need to do for a scene you are writing or do you just write until you need to look something up and then stop and hit the books?

Since I generally have no particular idea what’s in a scene until I finish writing it… Well, let’s see. It’s not a very tidy process, let’s put it that way.

Speaking just generally, I read several "overview" books or accounts covering the general period (of years) and/or particular events (like battles) that I know will be of relevance. Doing any kind of research is like grabbing the end of a long piece of yarn and pulling— you don’t know what the other end is attached to, and you may end up in convoluted tangles—but you can be sure there’s something there. I find a lot of something. There is logic to it—and sometimes I really am looking for a specific bit of information—but for the most part, the writing and the research are done concurrently; they feed off each other.

Let’s see if I can show you a rough notion of how that works:

I may realize that I need to know quite a bit about, say, the Battle of Saratoga, because I know that takes place during the story. So I go and read Richard M. Ketchum’s excellent book, SARATOGA, and in that, learn that Brigadier General Simon Fraser was killed by a sharp-shooter during one of the battles. Plainly, General Fraser must be a relative of Jamie Fraser’s, and this death would be important to him. I learned also the circumstances of the death—that the General died slowly, over the course of a night. So there would be time for Jamie to come to bid him farewell. And I began to see Jamie at the death-bed of Simon Fraser. But I also saw William—Jamie’s illegitimate son—at the other side of the bed. All right, very dramatic. But how might he have come to be there? So I go back to other references, and trace the major events of the life of Simon Fraser—and find a place where William might have become his aide.

(In the process, I also learn that Simon Fraser was involved in the great adventure prior to the Battle of Quebec, when the Highlanders climbed the impassable cliff at night to make a way for the British army to arrive on the Plains of Abraham at dawn. Now, there’s a cool story <g>— and it (and Simon Fraser) turned up in a novella I wrote, titled "The Custom of the Army.")

An Echo in the Bone coverBut coming back to AN ECHO IN THE BONE… I walked the battlefield at Saratoga three times over the years before I wrote the book, and during one conversation with a park ranger, learned that while General Fraser had told his men he wanted to be buried in the Great Redoubt, and many accounts that I’ve seen say that he was— when the Park Service excavated the Great Redoubt, there was no sign of a body. A couple of buttons, but no imprint or other sign that a body had lain there— and the map of the field showed Gen. Fraser’s grave as being near the river.

I asked where it was, as I’d like to see it, and the ranger said that in fact, they didn’t know. It wasn’t marked; they just had an account saying that the body had been moved near the river—probably as a temporary measure—but nobody knew exactly what had become of it. "Really?" said I to myself. "Well…. what if….?"

Because I knew I needed a way for Jamie to go back to Scotland. He couldn’t just leave the army and go, for no apparent reason. But what if his cousin Simon had asked him to take his body back to Scotland? I knew further from SARATOGA that the negotiations between General Burgoyne and General Gates after the final battle were prolonged and complicated. I also knew that Burgoyne was close to Simon Fraser and saddened by his death. So… what is more reasonable than that General Burgoyne would ask, during these negotiations, that General Gates send Jamie (and his wife, of course) to return Simon Fraser’s body to Scotland? Or that General Gates, tired of the hassle, would want to do this small courtesy for Burgoyne in hopes of easing the negotiations?

So there it was; I knew how and why William came to be at the death-bed (and thus to meet Jamie—briefly—face-to-face, but in traumatic circumstances that would prevent his realizing who he was), and how Jamie got to Scotland.

Later, I was in Scotland, and decided to see if I could find a suitable spot where Simon Fraser might have been buried. So I went back to the research material and found the general area—Balnain—where his family home had been, and my husband and I went driving, poking around there, just to get an idea of the countryside, so I could describe his funeral. But while doing this, I realized that we were near an ancient tomb called Corriemony, and told my husband I wanted to see it.

I was thinking vaguely that Simon might have been buried close enough that Claire could come across the tomb, and I could use it for something atmospheric or poetic— but in reading the explanatory material posted at the site, I learned that:

  1. The original burial (of which there were still traces) had vanished—perhaps stolen—and
  2. When the tomb was opened in modern times, there was a body in it—but it wasn’t an ancient body; it had been placed there sometime in the previous 200 years. "Oh, HO," I said. "So now I know where Simon Fraser was really buried!" <g>

Anyway—this all started because I could see William and Jamie kneeling on opposite sides of Simon Fraser’s deathbed, Jamie knowing, and William not knowing.

This is how books evolve for me; I "see" things, here and there, and I write them, and then many other things gradually come about because of those…. anchors, I suppose you could call them. I do what research I seem to need in the writing of these bits, and then—invariably—find things in the research that stimulate other scenes, either directly or indirectly connected.

13. You’ve said before that your writing style is to write all the scenes and then piece them together in order when you’ve gotten them all done. Do you only do this for novels or does it apply to your short stories and novellas as well? Why is this method so effective for you and do you ever try writing in a straight line just for the fun of it?

What fun would that be? <puzzled look> It would take forever to do it that way, since I couldn’t start writing until I’d figured out the entire story, and if I’d done that, it wouldn’t be fun at all to write it.

Anyway, yes; I write just about everything piecemeal, including nonfiction articles, book reviews and essays. It’s effective because it works; I’m never held up stewing about What Comes Next— I don’t care what comes next, I just care about something I can see happening. The order of the happening has a logic to it (often, more than one), and that will become clear to me as I work.

14. How do you approach the crafting of your characters and manage to get them to a point where they seem like real people? Is there one of your characters that you consider your favorite and why?

What a very peculiar notion of writing—though I do realize it’s a common one. Possibly some people really do that, but I can’t imagine how.

Look. It’s not like Legos. You (well, I) don’t start with a crude outline of a character and then start putting little blocks—alcoholic mother, abused as child, has sister he doesn’t get along with, INTJ personality type (whatever that may mean; I do know writers who use psychological personality tests on their characters, which seems truly bizarre—but probably no stranger than the way anybody else does it; whatever works, I mean…)— together according to this plan, to make a three-dimensional golem which you then zap with electricity.

For me, characters are onions, mushrooms, or Hard Nuts:

  • An onion is a person whose essence I apprehend immediately, but the more I work with him or her (by "work with," I mean, "write stuff involving them"), the more layers they develop, and the more rounded and pungent they become.
  • Mushrooms are the characters who simply pop up out of nowhere and walk off with any scene they’re in.
  • And Hard Nuts tend to be the people I’m stuck with—rather than the ones who just show up in my head—either for plot reasons (I had a woman pregnant at the end of one book, so when I rejoined her twenty years later, obviously I had a young adult in addition to deal with), or because they were real historical people who were present during an event or period. Them I just hammer on until they break open and reveal something of their inner selves to me.

15. What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?

I like complexity. <g>

16. What is the underlying geometric principle that you use when you are writing your books and how do you apply that to your writing? (Interviewer’s note: I’m really curious about this! It sounds so fascinating but I can’t quite figure out how you apply geometry to writing in practice.)

Well, it’s not a geometric principle— it’s just that I think in geometric shapes. Let’s see <groping for a decent metaphor>…

You know how a kaleidoscope works, right? (To save any of your readers having to Google it— essentially, you have a tube with two or three rectangular mirrors in it, oriented at angles, which make multiple symmetric reflections of whatever colored objects you put at the front end of the tube.) Well, imagine that I have a three-mirrored kaleidoscope: one mirror is the historical plane of reflection—the events, the timeline, the cultural/intellectual milieu, the physical settings and constraints. The second is the plane of reflection that concerns the characters—who they are, their motivations, their personal histories. And the third is my own plane of reflection—the background, experiences, perceptions, and personality that make me unique.

OK. So say I have a handful of these disparate scenes. Placed in the space formed by my three mirrors, they form patterns. And if I rotate the tube (so to speak), this causes the pieces inside to fall into a different relationship to each other, and I see different patterns. Some patterns are naturally more pleasing than others, and I use the ones that seem most aesthetically logical. (Occasionally I do have a piece that just isn’t necessary in the overall pattern, in which case I take it out and hang onto it—it generally "goes" somewhere in the next book.)

Hearing about this process does, btw, infuriate people who write linearly. I once had a woman sitting on a panel on writing processes with me inform me that I couldn’t possibly do this, because "you have to have a logical foundation! You can’t put the roof on your building unless you’ve built solid walls to hold it up, can you?"

"Of course I can," I replied. "There’s no gravity in the mind, after all. I can make the roof and just leave it hanging there until I have time to build walls under it. You don’t have to write a book from beginning to end, just because that’s how people will read it." She Wasn’t Pleased, but the point here is that people’s minds are wired up differently, and a good deal of writing successfully lies in figuring out how your own mind works best, and using it that way. There is no "right" way to write a book. Anything that lets you get words on the page is the right thing to do.

[There is, btw, a longish essay, titled "The Shape of Things," in the extra goodies at the back of the OUTLANDER 20th Anniversary Edition, that goes into the question of shapes— and analyzes the shapes underlying all the main books in the series. I think I put this in one of the OUTLANDISH COMPANION volumes, too…]


This information wa originally posted on my official Facebook page on March 20, 2016..

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Season 2 Week – Live Chat On April 7


My deepest thanks and gratitude to everyone for all their kind prayers and good wishes. The surgery (for a family member this week) looks to have been very successful, and we’re all completely exhausted, but doing well!


Live Chat With USA Today on Thursday, April 7

USA-Today-chat-RHAs one of the Season Two festivities (I suppose you can call it a festivity… maybe I’ll have a dram of whisky while doing it, to insure being adequately festive), I’ll be doing a live Q&A chat sponsored by USAToday, on Thursday, April 7th, at 7 p.m., Eastern Time, which is 4 p.m., Pacific Time. The link to the chat is here:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2016/03/25/chat-live-author-diana-gabaldon/81959474/

The chat may only be viewed using a desktop browser. You may submit questions for me (for the Live Chat) in advance at the USA Today link above.

(Webmistress’s Note: You can watch a replay of the Live Chat if you click on the link above.)


s2-pr-NYC-cast-crew1-crop

Season 2 Red Carpet Premiere In New York City

S2-prem-Cait-Sam-1-cropHUGE congratulations to the cast, crew, and production of OUTLANDER! I hear the advance Red Carpet premiere in New York City was wonderful, and I totally believe it. <g>

So… if you were there, what did you think? Did you have a good evening? And most importantly—did you enjoy the show? Add your comment to this blog post!

Note that I read and review all blog comments before they are posted. So it may take a day or two before your comment can be seen, depending on my schedule.

Remember that the U.S.A. broadcast premiere of Season 2 of the Outlander TV series is this Saturday, April 9, on Starz!

Click on any of the Red Carpet images to see a full-sized version…


List of Season 2 NYC Festivities

S2-prem-tobias-1-crops2-prem-bear1-cropHere is a list of some Season 2 Premiere festivities in New York City this week:

http://www.dianagabaldon.com/other-projects/outlander-tv-series/s2-premiere-fests/

If you’re not in New York, some can be viewed live (via web streaming) from anywhere, or you can participate using Twitter or Facebook!


Cast and crew image above, left to right: Tobias Menzies, Caitriona Balfe, Terry Dresbach, Ron D. Moore, Maril Davis, Sam Heughan. Image at lower right: Bear McCreary.

These announcements were also posted on my official Facebook page.

Tartan Week – NYC


2016-04-01-flower-box-DGI won’t, alas, be with the Starz gang in New York this week for the premiere of Season Two (of the Outlander TV series) and the Tartan Week festivities.

I have a family member undergoing surgery on Monday, April 4, and need to be there.

So— have a great time if you will be in New York City, and enjoy the new episode of the Outlander TV show on April 9 (it’s fabulous!).

And if y’all have a moment, any prayers or good thoughts would be appreciated!

-Diana


Details of This Week’s New York City Events (New!)

My Webmistress has compiled a list for you of events from April 4th through the 9th to celebrate the broadcast premiere of Season 2 of Outlander, including red carpet events and panel discussions (featuring the cast and crew of Outlander), Tartan Week, and finally the broadcast premiere of Season 2 on April 9!

You can participate in events this week LIVE via the Facebook, Twitter, and the web! Or in person if you are in NYC! Click here for more information!


Tartan Week in New York City

samheughanfullNew York’s Tartan Week will run from April 2nd to the 10th in New York City and includes a diverse range of events, from the Scotland Run through Central Park, to lunch-time concerts, business seminars, a Pre-Parade Ceilidh and much more. Check out the Tartan Week website:

http://nyctartanweek.org/

Scottish actor Sam Heughan, star of the Starz Outlander TV series (and plays main character Jamie Fraser) will be the Grand Marshal of the New York Tartan Day parade on Saturday, April 9. Beginning at 2 p.m., bands, Pipers, Dancers, and Clans from Scotland throughout the United States and Canada are joining the Parade along with dozens of Scottish and West Highland Terriers.

"As Grand Marshal of the New York Tartan Day parade 2016," Sam said, "I am honored and proud to serve the city and its ancestral ties. I love the city, the people, and the vibe. Please join me in toasting all who live and visit there with a whisky and a toast!"

Heughan joins the illustrious alumni who have led the Parade, including Sir Sean Connery, Alan Cumming, Cliff Robertson, Brian Cox, Kevin McKidd, and most recently in 2015, fellow Outlander star Graham McTavish.

Note: A Ceilidh (“kay-lee”) is a social event at which there is Scottish or Irish folk music and singing, traditional dancing, and storytelling.

Link: "Outlander" Star Sam Heughan Named Grand Marshal Of The 2016 NY Tartan Day Parade, by Kyle Dawson, for New York City Tartan Week.


This post originally appeared on my official Facebook page on April 1, 2016. Image at upper right is one of my flower boxes.

You are welcome to add your comment about this post. Please note that all comments are read and approved by me; depending on how crazy my schedule is, it may be a few days before your comment appears. Thanks!

Season Two & “Nobility Problems”

S2-at-table-banner2Season Two of the Starz Outlander TV series premieres on the Starz network in the U.S.A. on April 9! For trailers and lots of other information, check out the Starz Outlander webpage at:

http://www.starz.com/originals/outlander/

If you live outside the U.S.A., click here for information on some viewing regions and countries around the globe.


And here is a short excerpt (aka "Daily Lines") from Book Nine:

"Nobility Problems"

Facebook Hashtags: #DailyLines, #BookNine, #HalAndWilliam, #WhenYouCantQuitYourJob, #NobilityProblems

"Miss England?" Hal asked abruptly.

"Sometimes," William answered honestly. "But I don’t think about it much," he added, with less honesty.

"I do." His uncle’s face looked relaxed, almost wistful in the fading light. "But you haven’t a wife there, or children. No establishment of your own, yet."

"No."

The sounds of the camp were still audible, but muted by the rhythm of the surf at their feet, the passage of the silent clouds above their heads.

The trouble with silence was that it allowed the thoughts in his head to take on a tiresome insistence, like the ticking of a clock in an empty room. Cinnamon’s company, disturbing as it occasionally was, had allowed him to escape them when he needed to.
"How does one go about renouncing a title?"

He hadn’t actually been intending to ask that just yet, and was surprised to hear the words emerge from his mouth. Uncle Hal, by contrast, didn’t seem surprised at all.

"You can’t."

William glared down at his uncle, who was still looking imperturbably out to sea, the wind pulling strands of his dark hair from his queue.

"What do you mean, I can’t? Whose business is it whether I renounce my title or not?"

Uncle Hal looked at him with an affectionate impatience.

"I’m not speaking rhetorically, blockhead. I mean it literally. You can’t renounce a peerage. There’s no means set down in law or custom for doing it, ergo, it can’t be done."

"But you—" William stopped, baffled.

"No, I didn’t," his uncle said dryly. "If I could have at the time, I would have, but I couldn’t, so I didn’t. The most I could do is stop using the title of "Duke," and threaten to physically maim anyone who used it in reference or address to me. It took me several years to make it clear that I meant that," he added off-handedly.

"Really?" William asked cynically. "Who did you maim?"

He actually had supposed his uncle to be speaking rhetorically, and was taken aback when the once and present Duke furrowed his brow in the effort of recall.

"Oh… several scribblers—they’re like roaches, you know; crush one and the others all rush off into the shadows, but by the time you turn round, there are throngs of them back again, happily feasting on your carcass and spreading filth over your life."

"Anyone ever tell you that you have a way with words, uncle?"

"Yes," his uncle said briefly. "But beyond punching a few journalists, I called out George Washcourt—he’s the Marquess of Clermont now, but he wasn’t then—Herbert Villiers, Viscount Brunton, and a gentleman named Radcliffe. Oh, and a Colonel Phillips, of the 34th—cousin to Earl Wallenberg."

"Duels, do you mean? And did you fight them all?"

"Certainly. Well—not Villiers, because he caught a chill on the liver and died before I could, but otherwise… but that’s beside the point." Hal caught himself and shook his head to clear it. Evening was coming on, and the offshore breeze was brisk. He wrapped his cloak about his body and nodded toward the town.

"Let’s go. The tide’s coming in and I’m dining with Sir Henry in half an hour."


Click to go to my Book Nine webpage for more excerpts…


Excerpt originally posted on my official Facebook page on February 19, 2016.

Your brief comments are welcome about this post! But please note that they are subject to my approval; I read them all. So it may take a while for your comment to appear, depending on my schedule.

Two Covers


Outlander-list-coverThis blog is also a post on my official Facebook page, in response to a spirited debate there:

Well, let’s see now. What you’re looking at are the cover of a free giveaway edition of OUTLANDER, at left, and the cover of a recent edition of Entertainment Weekly,  further down on the right, featuring a shot of Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan as Claire and Jamie Fraser.

(BTW, the cover on the left was written by me. Random House, a few years ago, decided to do targeted giveaways of OUTLANDER by street teams at public events, and they asked me what I thought about the cover for this promo edition. I didn’t like any of the sketches they’d shown me. They got fed up with me/ran out of time and asked me what I’d like on the cover, so I wrote that little thumbnail run-down of the contents, and the resident genii of the art department promptly turned it into an appealing cover.)

2016-EW-Cover-risqueOK.

1. What I’m seeing in the comments from folks about this on (my Facebook page) is a pretty sharp divide over the EW cover, at right, with a lot of people charmed or excited by it, and a lot of people disconcerted or displeased by it. (Make Note of this; we’ll be coming back to this point….)

2. Of the latter group, a large number object on moral or aesthetic grounds, considering the photo to be "smut," "soft porn," "raunchy" or otherwise unsuitable for public consumption by right-minded people.

3. Another large subgroup objects on commercial grounds, expressing the fear that a) this photo is a serious misrepresentation of both the Outlander TV show and the books it’s based on, and b) that viewing this cover will cause the uncommitted public to forever shun Outlander in all its forms because the photo is not properly representing the depth, complexity, historicity, and (as one person put it), "the appeal of married love and lives well-lived." (Stop and think for a minute. Cover blurb: "A gripping story of married love and lives well-lived!" Ooo, I must have that….)

4. Am I perceiving things correctly? (Let me know if I’m misrepresenting anyone’s views here…)

The Romance Issue


OK. Before we get started here with My Thoughts (That sounds pretty pompous, doesn’t it? <g> Still, it is my book, and this is my webpage, so I think I get to have an opinion…). Let me briefly address the Romance issue (since "It looks like a cheesy romance novel!" is one of the oft-expressed negative opinions on the EW cover).

A. I like well-written romance novels. I enjoy reading them, and have no hesitation in recommending them to people—you’ll find several romance authors on the Methadone List on my website (If you haven’t been over there, it’s under the "Resources" tab, you’ll find "The Methadone List:"

http://www.dianagabaldon.com/resources/the-methadone-list/

which is a list of books I feel comfortable in recommending to anyone who asks me "So what am I supposed to read while I’m waiting for the next Outlander book?!?").

B. I don’t write romance novels. Besides being roughly four times the size of the usual romance novel, my books are not (with the exception of OUTLANDER itself) courtship stories, and romance novels are. (Romance novels do not have sequels; when the main characters are mated, that’s The End.) The two unbreakable genre "rules" of a romance novel are that the story should be mostly concerned with the relationship of the two main characters, and that it should have a happy ending (though this term is slightly elastic). Well… sometimes you might get an optimistic ending from one of my books. Sometimes not so much… And while there are all kinds of relationships going on in my books (any novel has relationships), they often aren’t that sort, nor are they the main focus of the story.

C. All of this notwithstanding, I have seen my books sold as Romance fairly frequently over the years. (I’ve seen them sold as Literature, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Mystery, Military History, Gay and Lesbian Fiction, and Horror— all with reasonable accuracy.) Largely as a counsel of desperation by marketing people unable to think of any other way to draw anyone’s attention to enormous books that can’t be described. "Romance" is the single easiest aspect of a story to evoke, which is why you see couples on movie posters, TV ads, and book covers, no matter whether the film or book in question really is primarily a romance, or not.

gabaldon-outlander-kr1What I mean to say here is— I have a LOT of experience in having my books called bodice rippers and seeing them published (in countries where I don’t have any personal control over the covers) with Really Strange covers. (The Korean one with the pink soap bubbles, at right, was one of the weirder ones, though I admit it didn’t have a heterosexual couple gazing into each other’s eyes….) Cover image courtesy of the Ladies of Lallybroch.

So. Let me say upfront that everybody sees things through the lens of his or her own experience, background, prejudices, and expectations. That includes me. I do, however, Just Possibly have a little more experience in this arena than do most of y’all (who commented on Facebook). So what I’m saying here is not intended to disrespect anyone else’s opinion, nor yet do I intend to come off as condescending, Marilyn <g> (a person who commented on Facebook)— it’s just that I probably have a wider perspective on the issues than most of y’all probably do, just by virtue of having been in these trenches for the last twenty-five years.

What I Think—The EW Cover

Awright. So here’s what I think, anent the EW cover:

a) I think I’ve seen racier underwear ads (mostly in Vogue).


b) If you honestly think this cover is "smut" or "soft porn," then all I can say is that y’all should maybe get out more. If you’ve ever watched television in the U.K., you’ve seen more explicit things than this three or four times in an evening. If you’ve been watching the TV version of "Outlander," (as theoretically you have) you’ve seen much more explicit sexual encounters on several occasions. Were these not "smut?" Is it OK to watch "soft porn" in the privacy of your home, but intolerable that other people should glimpse it on a magazine cover?

c) Starz promoted Season One with "The Kilt Drops (date)," in print ads, ads on the sides of busses and ads the height of ten-story buildings. I didn’t see a word of protest that this was "cheapening” our beloved story, or reducing it to the "level of a Harlequin Romance?"* Why were you totally OK with that bit of sexual innuendo, while the words "Bodice-ripper" (on the cover of a single magazine) makes you foam at the mouth? Is it OK to enjoy male-directed sexual innuendo (and grope kilt-wearing men), while it’s All Wrong to see female-directed sexual references in print?

Jamie-Claire-TV-STARZ
d) For that matter… look at the Facebook post under (previous to) the one we’re discussing. This is from the EW site, but it shows a still from the show, at right, that I’ve seen reproduced all over the internet since last year. It shows Jamie and Claire in a pose that’s explicitly either pre- or post-sex, and (apparently) totally naked. Did I hear a word of protest about this? Why, no, I didn’t. I heard mass swooning and sighing. So—

e) Evidently (for some) it’s the juxtaposition of "bodice-ripper" and "kilty pleasure" with the photograph on the EW cover that gripes you. Well, I’m totally with you, there— but as I say, that’s been happening to my books ever since the first publication of "Outlander." For a great many people (and virtually all marketing people…), "historical romance" equals "bodice-ripper," and they don’t see or intend anything negative by that term; they just figure that’s what you call "that" sort of book. Stubborn resistance will gradually wear them down, but you have to keep at it— take it from one who routinely rewrites the cover copy on her ads and books…


f) For those complaining that the EW cover doesn’t properly express the depth, complexity, etc. of the story (books or show)… well… no. It doesn’t. Would you like to suggest a pictorial cover that a) would express that, and b) would appeal instantly to a wide audience? It’s one image; there’s no conceivable way for a single image to encompass this story, or a fraction of it. A magazine cover is meant to do one thing: attract eyeballs. With luck, said eyeballs will zip to Jamie and Claire, but will also see the word "Outlander."

g) The giveaway cover that does more or less describe the contents accurately is not one that would work on a magazine like EW. The Atlantic Monthly, maybe, but not EW. Question of style and audience, aye?


h) It’s one magazine cover. To assume on the basis of this that the whole world will gasp in horror and make a note circled in red to Avoid Watching Outlander, at all costs, is… perhaps a trifle over-reactive.

i) (Returning to Point 1, above…) God bless those of you who did express outrage, concern, or dissatisfaction, whatever your motives for doing so. <g> Because nothing— and I do mean nothing— makes more effective publicity than controversy. By objecting and writing blog posts and heated comments, you’ve done more to stimulate interest in the show (and by extension, the books) than the EW piece could ever have achieved had it been received with universal approbation by fans. So thank you!

*Pretty sure none of you who’ve used this particular disparagement regarding the EW cover have ever seen a Harlequin Romance, nor do you know what they are. I have, and I do. (Besides being a lifetime member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA)— and the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), and the Author’s Guild, and a few other organizations— I used to judge finalists in the Historical Fiction category for the RITA Awards (the RWA’s award for excellent romance fiction **)). One of the best historical romance novels I found was THE PRISONER, by Cheryl Reavis. It’s a Harlequin Historical, (published in 1992) and it’s a great book; if you ever find a copy on Alibris or Abebooks, I recommend you grab it. Harlequin romances have very strict guidelines as to length and content. So do sonnets and villanelles. Neither length nor guidelines have anything to do with the quality of writing or story.

** When OUTLANDER was published in 1991, it was nominated in four different RITA categories (it was also nominated for the Nebula ballot, FWIW). I told my husband at the time that it wouldn’t win any of the categories, and I was right: at the time, RITA judging ballots had numbers from 0-6, with 6 being, "This is the best book I’ve ever read; I wish I’d written it myself," and 0 being "This isn’t a romance." Back in the day, they showed entrants what their scores were: mine were evenly divided between 0′s and 6′s. I did win the "Best Book of the Year" award— that was an award voted on by the membership at large (rather than judged), and at the time, there were no genre limitations; any book could be nominated.

Feel free to share your brief comments about this entry or any of my other blog posts. Note that ALL comments are subject to my review for suitable content and approval, which may take several days or longer, depending on my schedule. (In other words, your comment may not appear immediately.) Thanks!


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This blog was originally posted on my official Facebook page on March 4, 2016.


A Stubborn Mind (Book Nine)


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"But you told Frances—you promised her that no one would take advantage of her. And I could have sworn she believed you!"

"Aye," Jamie said quietly. He picked up the piece of rock maple and his knife, and began mechanically cutting slivers. "Aye, I thought so, too—hoped so, at least."

I sat still, watching him.

"I suppose it was foolish," I said at last. "To think that reassurances and promises would be enough. I imagine we don’t know the half of what she saw, being raised in a brothel like a—a prize calf."

"And one knowing it was bound for slaughter?" he put in quietly. "Aye."

We lapsed into a strained silence, both thinking of Fanny. After a few moments, Jamie’s hands resumed their work, slowly, and a few moments later, he glanced at me.

"How many times did ye tell me Jack Randall was dead, Sassenach? How many times did I tell myself that?" The wood shavings fell in small, fragrant curls around his feet. "Some ghosts dinna leave ye easily—and ye ken fine that it’s her sister who’s haunting wee Frances."

"I suppose you’re right," I said unhappily. It wasn’t quite a shiver that I felt at mention of Jane—but a cold sadness that seemed to sink through my skin. "But surely there’s something we can do to help?"

"I expect there is." He set the cleaned stick of wood aside, and bent to sweep the shavings onto a sheet of paper. "Were we in reach of a priest, I should have a Mass said for the repose of her sister’s soul, to start with. If I can find one in Wilmington, we’ll do that. But otherwise… I’ll speak to Roger Mac about it." His mouth twisted wryly.

"I daresay Presbyterians dinna believe in exorcism, or prayers for the dead, either. But he’s a canny man, and he kens the heart; he may call it something else, but he’ll know what I mean—and he can speak wi’ Frances, and pray for her, I’m sure."

He shook the wood shavings into the fire, where they caught at once, curling into brightness and sending up a clean, sweet smoke. I came to stand behind him, watching them burn, and put my hands on his shoulders, warm and solid under my fingers. He leaned his head back against me and sighed, closing his eyes as he relaxed in the warmth. I bent my head and kissed the whorl of the cowlick on his crown.

"Mmphm," he said, and reached up a hand to take mine. "Ken, it works the other way, too."

"What does?"

"The stubbornness of a mind that willna let go." He squeezed my hand and looked up at me. "While we were parted, how many times did ye tell yourself I was dead, Sassenach?" he asked softly. "How often did ye try to forget me?"

I stood motionless, hand curled round his, until I thought I could speak.

"Every day," I whispered. "And never."


Go to my Book Nine webpage for more excerpts (Daily Lines)!


Originally posted on my Facebook page on February 8, 2016.


New German eBook Release in April


brotherhood-blade-1Good news for German fans!

We changed German publishers last year, which caused a slight lag in the publication of some books, with the previous publisher no longer publishing one title and the new publisher not yet having released it again. But now LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE (I don’t recall the German title, but I’m not looking it up, because I don’t like it and hope to persuade them to change it) is about to be released as an ebook again! It will also be released in a new print version, but that will happen a little later.

We’ve had a lot of inquiries about it from readers, so I’m very pleased to be able to tell you that the new ebook (by Droemer-Knaur) will be released in April—hope you enjoy it!

Hula Hoop (Book Nine)


Below is an excerpt from Book Nine of my OUTLANDER novels. Note that there are SPOILERS…

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Madagascar-sapphire-wikipediaIt was a sapphire, a raw one. A misty, cloudy blue little thing, half the size of his little finger’s nail. He shook it free of its wrappings and it landed silently but solidly in the hollow of his hand.

"Ye said it maybe doesna matter whether it’s cut or not," Buck said, nodding at it.

"I think not. I hope not. I wish I could say I can’t take it." Roger closed his fingers gently on the little rock, as though it might burn him. "Thank you, a charaidh. Where did ye find it?"

"Ach…" Buck said vaguely, with a slight wave of his hand. "Just saw it and picked it up, ken?"

"Holy Lord," Roger said, squeezing the little pebble involuntarily. Too late, he remembered the castle in Strathpeffer, him talking with the factor about Jemmy and Rob Cameron—the earl being away from home—and Buck gone, disappeared with a handsome young housemaid. And the factor offering to show him Cromartie’s collection of agates and rare stones… he’d declined, thank God. But—"

"You didn’t," he said to Buck. "Tell me ye didn’t."

"Ye keep saying that," Buck said, frowning at him. "I will, if ye want me to, but I shouldna think a minister ought to be encouraging folk to tell lies. A poor example for the bairns, aye?"

He nodded toward the stable-yard, where Jem was playing with a boy who had a hoop, the two of them trying to drive it with sticks over the bumpy ground, with a marked lack of success. Mandy was throwing pebbles at something in the dry grass—probably some hapless toad trying its best to hibernate against the odds.

"Me, a poor example? And you their own great-great-great-great-grandfather!"

"And should I not be lookin’ out for their welfare, then? Is that what ye’re sayin’ to me?"

"I—" His throat closed suddenly and he cleared it, hard. The boys had left their hoop and were poking at whatever Mandy had found in the grass. "No. I’m not. But I didn’t ask ye to steal for them. To risk your bloody neck for us!" That’s my job, he wanted to say, but didn’t.

"May as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb." Buck gave him a direct stare. "Ye need it, aye? Take it, then." Something that wasn’t quite a smile touched the edge of his mouth. "With my blessing."

On the far side of the yard, Mandy had picked up the hoop and put it about her solid little waist. She waggled her bottom, in a vain attempt at getting it to spin.

"Look, Daddy!" she called. "Hula hoop!"

Jem froze for a moment, then looked at Roger, his eyes big with concern. Roger shook his head slightly — don’t say anything — and Jem swallowed visibly and turned his back to his sister, shoulders stiff.

"What’s a hula hoop, then?" Buck asked quietly, behind him.


Go to my Book Nine webpage for more excerpts (Daily Lines)!


Originally posted on my Facebook page on January 19, 2016. About the #SoreFootButOK hashtag: Had minor surgery recently to remove a bone spur. It’s doing fine; get the dressing off Wednesday! (So I can shower again….)

Myth and Mountain Birthdays (Repost)


US-ENTERTAINMENT-GOLDEN-GLOBE-ARRIVALS
My birthday was always the coldest day of the year. If not literally true, it was family legend, and everyone knows that myth is much stronger than meteorology, even in the north country, where the snow lies deep on the mountaintops, and houses are built to keep the heat in, not out.

This particular legend had its origin—reasonably enough—on the date of my birth, January 11, 1952. My family lived in Flagstaff, but the family doctor had been having a difference of opinion with the hospital board, and had moved his practice to the Williams Hospital. So, when my mother went into labor early in the morning, my twenty-one-year-old parents were obliged to drive thirty miles over a two-lane ice-slick road, through the teeth of a driving blizzard, in order to get to the doctor.

2012-12-15-DG-GrandCanyonWhen I was finally born, just at dark, my father was so unnerved by the entire experience that he went out to a nearby restaurant and ordered ham and eggs for dinner—forgetting that it was Friday. (Way back when, Catholics didn’t eat meat on Fridays.) Driving the thirty miles home through snow and black ice, he ran off the road twice, got stuck in the drifts, and—as he later recounted—managed to free himself only because he couldn’t stand the thought of freezing to death and leaving my mother with a one-day-old child.

At the age of two days, I too made the perilous trip through the dark pines of the frozen landscape, to become a third-generation native of Flagstaff. There aren’t a lot of us, if only because Flagstaff isn’t that old.

Among the early founders of the town were my great-grandparents. Stanley Sykes was born in Yorkshire, England, but at the age of fifteen, was diagnosed with consumption. The only chance, his doctor told him, was to leave England; go to Arizona, where the warm, dry air was good for the lungs (well, it was 1868, after all; the midwesterners hadn’t got here with their damn mulberries and bermuda grass yet). Stanley heeded this advice, and with his elder brother Godfrey, set sail for the New World and the healing balm of the desert air.

San-Fran-peaks-capLike many another outlander—my husband, for example—who thought Arizona was a desert, Stanley was startled to find that the northern third of the state sits atop the Colorado Plateau, and that the San Francisco Peaks are covered with the largest forest of Ponderosa Pine in the world. In search of desert, Godfrey went south… but Stanley stayed, seduced by the rush of wind through the pines and the clear dark skies of the mountain nights, thick with stars.

Great-grandmother Beatrice Belle Switzer came from Kentucky, along with her seven brothers and sisters, when the family farm was flooded out. It must have been a flood of biblical proportions, because once the Switzers started moving, they didn’t stop until they came to Flagstaff, which—at 7000 feet—they evidently considered high enough ground to be safe.

The air in Flagstaff may not have been hot, but apparently it was dry enough, since Stanley lived to be 92, finally dying on a vacation to San Diego (that fog will get you every time). I was four when he died, and still have a vivid memory of him in his armchair, the smoke from his pipe drifting in the lamplight, as he taught me the delicate art of building houses out of cards—a skill that’s stood me in good stead since.

His son, Harold—my grandfather—became the mayor of Flagstaff—and thereby hangs another family tale.

It was a scandal, in fact—or so everyone said—when my mother, Jacqueline Sykes, the mayor’s daughter, descendant of one of the First Families of Flagstaff, fell in love with Antonio Gabaldon. Tony was smart, handsome, athletic, hardworking—and a Mexican-American, born in Belen, New Mexico. In 1949, in a small Arizona town, this was miscegenation—or so everyone said.

My mother’s friends said so. Mrs. X, her English teacher, said so, telling her firmly that she couldn’t possibly marry a Mexican; her children would be idiots. The parish priest who refused to marry them said so; such a marriage would never last. The “interested parties” who took out a public petition against the match said so; it was a scandal. Her parents said so—and at last she was persuaded, and reluctantly broke the engagement.

My mother’s parents sent her south, to the University of Arizona in Tucson, to leave the scandal behind; to forget. But she didn’t forget, and six months later, on a dark December night, she called Tony and said, “I still want you. If you still want me— come and get me.”

He drove down from the snow-covered mountain to the desert and brought her back the same night—and they were married at 6:30 the next morning, by a priest from another parish.

It was a long and happy marriage—dissolved only by death—and thirteen months after the wedding, I arrived, the third generation born on the mountain.

DG-Flagstaff-winter-viewWe (and the fourth generation) live in Scottsdale, but I still keep the family house in Flagstaff, and escape there regularly to write; to me, the ideal weather for writing involves a gleaming portcullis of icicles to keep out all intruders, soft white drifts on the pines and the sidewalks, and the muffled grind of cars in the distance, crushing cinders into the slippery packed snow as they labor uphill. No salt on these roads; the San Francisco peaks are in fact one mountain, the remains of an extinct volcano—or least we hope it is extinct; the U.S. Geological Survey is not so sure.

It’s 72 on this Christmas Day, and the dogs are swimming in the pool. My husband gives me warm slippers, though, knowing I’ll need them soon. My birthday, after all, is always the coldest day of the year.

(Oh… Mrs. X? You were wrong.)

Arizona Diary Essay (Copyright © 1999 by Diana Gabaldon. All Rights Reserved.)


Top image: Arriving on the Red Carpet at Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills on January 10, 2016. (Getty Image). Second image: At the Grand Canyon in 2012. (Photo by my husband.) Image of the San Francisco Peaks is from summit.org. Lower image: 2012 winter view from a household deck in Flagstaff, Arizona. (Photo by me.) This page is also located under the "About Diana" menu.

Golden Globes!


From the Los Angeles area this week with Ron, Maril, and the stars, staff and crew from the Outlander series…

The Outlander TV series is nominated for three Golden Globes for its first season! MASSIVE congratulations to everyone—cast, crew, and fans <g>who’ve made the show the wonderful thing that it is! Wish us Luck!

Ron-Maril-DG-BAFTA-webThere’s Stuff going on every day: the TCA (Television Critics Assn.) (and a zillion follow-up interviews) on Friday, the STARZ pre-Golden Globes party Friday night, the BAFTA Tea on Saturday (that’s me above with Maril and Ron, on the red carpet). And the awards ceremony will be broadcast live TODAY at 5 p.m. (Pacific Time), with red carpet coverage beginning at 4 p.m. (More information below).

Blue Suede Shoes

blue-suede-shoesEither Sam and Catriona have grown, or I’ve shrunk… Actually, I just took my shoes off at last night’s STARZ pre-Golden Globes party. I’d bought some pretty new pointy-toed blue suede shoes (yesterday was Elvis’s birthday…), which do in fact fit very well, but they’re not best suited for standing for hours in conversation. So I ditched them next to a divan (this party happened at the Chateau Marmont, a classic old Hollywood hotel, and they had decorated the party venue on a patio that looked like a sheik’s boudoir—enbroidered divans and pillows everywhere, with little round Turkish-looking tables a foot high. I suppose we were meant to sit on the divans, but they looked so much like beds (and were so low) that no one did, so we stood up all evening). When I retrieved them, I found that someone had spilled a drink in one of them—poured it out when I went out to find my driver; no harm done. But it did mean I was about two feet shorter than everyone at the party! Comfortable, though…

2016-Cate-DG-Sam

Outlander TV Show’s Nominations

Frank-headshotOutlander’s Golden Globe Nominations are:

  • "Best Television Series – Drama" Update: The winner of this category is "Mr. Robot."
  • Catriona Balfe (above, with Sam Heughan and I) is nominated for "Best Performance By An Actress In A Television Series – Drama,” for her portrayal of Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser. Update: The winner is Taraji P. Henson, from Empire.
  • Tobias Menzies (at right) is nominated for "Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role In A Series, Limited Series, or Motion Picture Made for Television" for his portrayal of Black Jack Randall and Frank Randall. Update: The winner of this category is Christian Slater.

The Starz network received six Golden Globe nominations in total, with Outlander garnering half of them.


Live Schedule:

globes-signs-webNBC’s live broadcast schedule of the Golden Globe Awards is:

4 p.m. (PT): NBC’s red carpet pre-show begins. Coverage of stars, producers, and authors in their glamourous gear walking by on the Red Carpet! On the east coast, this live program begins at 7 p.m. (ET).

5 p.m. (PT): 2016 Golden Globe Awards – the main awards begins, a three-hour show. It will be broadcast live from the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. On the east coast, the live show will begin at 8 p.m. (ET). Check your local schedule to confirm.

In the U.S.A., you have paid cable or satellite TV, look for NBC in your channels guide. Or, if you use an HD antenna to access free TV broadcasts, look for the broadcast NBC affiliate in your area.

If you live in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, or San Francisco and subscribe to Playstation Vue, you may be able to legally stream NBC online. Other than that, NBC is not streaming the show. Some cable networks are streaming shows covering just the red carpet before the show, though.


Where to Watch – Outside the U.S.A.

Some cable subscribers outside the U.S. will be able to see the show. Foxtel in Australia will show the event. In Canada, CTV will broadcast it. However, watching the show won’t be available in the United Kingdom, even though the event host, Ricky Gervais, is from there. To be sure, wherever you live, CHECK with your local provider to see if and when the awards show will be shown in your area.

The main NBC site for the broadcast of the awards show is:

http://www.nbc.com/the-golden-globe-awards

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