• “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

FAQ: About the Books

The Frequently Asked Questions about Diana Gabaldon and The Outlander Series have been taken from her answers to the questions from her online fans (America OnLine and CompuServe). In most cases, the answers are direct quotes from Diana’s posts. In others, she has edited the original answer to include more information.

Readers be cautioned that some of the answers to these questions will contain SPOILERS. If you don’t want to know anything about the future books, be cautious in your reading. I will try to note which questions contain spoilers.

(After following a link below, simply select the “Back” key in your browser to return to the index.)

Publishing Information

Outlander Series

Outlander (Cross Stitch in the UK) (1991)
Dragonfly in Amber (1992)
Voyager (1994)
Drums of Autumn (1997)
The Fiery Cross (2001)
A Breath of Snow and Ashes (2005)
An Echo in the Bone (2009)
Book Eight (untitled, in progress)

The Outlandish Companion (Through the Stones in the UK)(1999)

Lord John Series

“Lord John and the Hell-Fire Club” (short story, originally published in PAST POISONS, edited by Maxim Jakubowski, 1998.  Later collected in HAND OF DEVILS, published 2007)
“Lord John and the Succubus” (novella, originally published as a novella in the Legends II: Dragon, Sword, and King anthology, edited by Robert Silverberg (available at Amazon) (2004), HAND OF DEVILS, 2007)
Lord John and the Private Matter (2003) (novel)
Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade (2007)
“Lord John and the Haunted Soldier” (novella, collected in HAND OF DEVILS)
Lord John and the Hand of Devils (collection of three novellas, 2007)
Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner (not yet published)

Thomas Kolodzi Series

Red Ant’s Head (not yet published–and I need to find a better title, because people make faces whenever I tell them this one)
second untitled novel (under contract; not yet written)

Miscellaneous Anthologies

Fathers and Daughters: A Celebration in Memoirs (1999) (“A Silence at the Heart”)
Mothers and Daughters: Celebrating the Gift of Love (1998) (“Dream a Little Dream for Me”, with Laura Watkins)
Past Poisons: An Ellis Peters Memorial Anthology of Historical Crime (1999)
Excalibur (1995) (“Surgeon’s Steel”)
Jenseits von Avalon (German)(1999)
Out of Avalon (Jennifer Roberson, ed.) (“The Castellan”, with Samuel Watkins)
Mothers & Sons: A Celebration in Memoirs, Stories, and Photographs (Anthology) (2000)  (“Mirror Image,” with Samuel Watkins)
Legends II: Short Novels by Modern Masters of Fantasy (Robert Silverberg, ed. “Lord John and the Succubus”)
Warriors (ed. George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, 2010) (“The Custom of the Army” (a Lord John novella))
Songs of Love and Death (ed. George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, 2010) (“A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows”)
Down These Strange Streets (ed. George R.R. Margin and Gardner Dozois; not yet published) (“Lord John and the Plague of Zombies”)
The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination (John Joseph Adams, ed.; not yet published) (“The Space Between”)


Introduction to Sir Walter Scott’s IVANHOE (2001, Modern Library)
Introduction to Thomas Paine’s COMMON SENSE (2004, Bantam Classic)


Where did you get the idea for a time-travel novel?

I had meant Outlander to be a straight historical novel; but when I introduced Claire (around the third day of writing–it was the scene where she meets Dougal and the others in the cottage), she wouldn’t cooperate. Dougal asked her who she was, and without my stopping to think who she should be, she drew herself up, stared belligerently at him and said “Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp. And who the hell are you?” She promptly took over the story and began telling it herself, making smart-ass modern remarks about everything. At which point I shrugged and said, “Fine. Nobody’s ever going to see this book, so it doesn’t matter what bizarre thing I do–go ahead and be modern, and I’ll figure out how you got there later.” So the time-travel was all her fault. {g}


How did Outlander get published?

Well, first I was going to write a book for practice and never show it to anybody. {g}

Nevertheless, I posted a piece of the book in the CompuServe Literary Forum in order to win an argument I was having with a man about how it feels to be pregnant. A lot of people who’d been following the argument read the piece (it’s the bit from Outlander, where Jenny explains to Jamie what it feels like), and they all said, “Hey, this is good! What is it and where’s some more?” And so I put up more, and people read it, and….eventually, John Stith (who writes wonderful science fiction/mysteries, by the way) offered to introduce me to his agent, whom I’d heard many good things about from a number of published writers I’d met online.

The agent took me on, on the basis of an unfinished manuscript, and once I did finish it, sent it to five editors whom he thought might like it. Four days later, three of them had called back wanting to buy it, and we were kind of off to the races.

I told him that by the time I finished Outlander, I knew there was more to the story, but I thought I’d better stop while I could still lift the manuscript. So he told the publishers who wanted the book that there was more story, and Delacorte said, “Trilogies are very popular these days; do you think she could write three?”  Being a good agent, he replied, “I’m sure she could.” So they gave me a three-book contract, and bing! I was a novelist.

Mind you, this process–posting, conversations, agent- finding, etc.–took nearly a year of online interaction; I boil it down just to save space here. But that’s essentially it.


What is Cross Stitch?

Cross Stitch was my original title (it was a play on “a stitch in time”), and the Brits liked it. The Americans said “It sounds too much like embroidery, can you think of something more….adventurous?” so I did—OUTLANDER (I thought of calling it “Sassenach,” but they said, “No.  Nobody can pronounce it, and since they can’t pronounce your name either…). Also, when I wrote it, I had in mind that it was one book–and knew only enough about it to be pretty sure that Claire would “cross” not once, but twice– future to past, past to future–which would make an X, which is the basic embroidery cross stitch. It also had to do with Claire’s occupation–that of a healer.  Lots of meanings, but overall, not really a good title, I don’t think.


Why is there a date discrepancy between Outlander and Cross Stitch with regard to the birth of Geillis Duncan?

The discrepancy in dates is a mistake–it’s a copy-editing error caused by differences between the British edition of the books (which begin in 1946) and the American ones (which begin in 1945). The reason being that the American book was already in galleys when we sold Outlander in the UK.

The difference occurred after Reay Tannahill, a Scot who kindly proofread Cross Stitch before it was published in the UK, said that 1946 would have been a more accurate representation of conditions as I described them in Scotland. So I changed the date- -but the Americans wouldn’t let me change it for Outlander, saying that this would involve re-working all the dates, which would mean re-copy-editing the whole thing, and they didn’t want to do that.


Why did you choose Scotland during the Jacobite period as the setting for your books?

it was an accident. I thought I’d write a book for practice, just to learn how, and thought perhaps a historical novel would be the easiest thing for me to write; I was, after all, a research professor—I knew what to do with a library. So, where to set this practice book?

Well, I happened to see a “Dr. Who” rerun in a weak-minded moment, and was taken by a minor character—a young Scotsman from 1745, who appeared in his kilt.* ”Well, that’s fetching,” I said. “Yeah, why not?  Scotland, eighteenth century.” So that’s where I began, knowing nothing about Scotland or the eighteenth century, with no plot, no outline, no characters—nothing but the rather vague images conjured up by a man in a kilt (which is, of course, a very powerful and compelling image).

** This was a character named Jamie MacCrimmon, played by the actor Frazer Hines.  Other than the kilt and the first name (which I used in compliment to the Scottish inspiration), there’s no resemblance between Jamie MacCrimmon and James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser—as you can see from the Photos page, where there’s a shot of me with Frazer, taken a year or so ago in Edinburgh.   (No, actually, Frazer has nothing to do with Jamie’s last name—owing to the local PBS station cutting off the “Dr. Who” credits in order to run pledge appeals, I didn’t know the actor’s name until some years later, after the first book had been written.  I did send a copy to Frazer then, though, thanking him for the kilt. {g})  Below is more on the “Dr. Who”  connection:

Frazer Hines (the actor who played Jamie MacCrimmon, a   companion to the second Doctor, on “Dr. Who”) sent me these photos—they were taken last summer in Edinburgh (by a nice journalist named Jean Brittain—thanks, Jean!) while I was appearing at the Gathering there. You can’t see any of it, alas, but we’re on the grounds of Holyrood Palace here, talking with fans who’d come to my reading.

Now, I’ve known Frazer on paper for years; when my first book was published, I sent him a couple of copies, with a letter explaining that it was a “Dr. Who” episode in which he’d appeared that caused me to set the book in eighteenth century Scotland, and he’d kindly replied to me. But we’d never met in person. (The long version of the story is somewhere in my blog archives.)

Last summer, though, a BBC reporter, seeing my name on the list of guests for the Gathering, had a brainstorm, and called to ask whether I’d be willing to do an interview with Frazer for a radio program. I said I’d love to, and was expecting to meet him at the hotel that evening. As I was working my way toward the end of the enormous signing line, though, I looked up and smiled at the next person, thinking, “Well, he looks familiar; did I see him in the bar…oh. Oh!”

Oh, indeed. [g] Anyway, we had a lovely chat, with each other and with a few fans, and then did our main interview the next day as planned (more or less interviewing each other while watching snippets of “War Games”—the episode in which Frazer—er…well, Frazer’s kilt, at least [cough]—had caught my attention).


Is there any significance to the title Dragonfly in Amber?

The dragonfly in amber is sort of a symbol of Jamie and Claire’s marriage–not only via the token Hugh Munroe gives Claire– but as a metaphor; a means of preserving something of great beauty that exists out of its proper time. Also, amber is an interesting substance that’s been used for magic and protection for thousands of years.


Genre Labels and the big “romance” question, are they or aren’t they?

I’ve probably read a couple of hundred “real” romance novels, ranging from traditional category romances to F/F/P (Futuristic/Fantasy/Paranormal). That’s why I say I don’t write romance; because I don’t.

It’s not just that I didn’t intend to write romance (though I didn’t); there are major differences between what I write and the standard form of the genre–as a good many “real” romance writers were only too eager to let me know, when Outlander won the RWA’s RITA award for Best Book of the Year when it came out (that award, btw, isn’t—or wasn’t—limited to romances).

I joined GEnie (one of the big online “information services” available in the late 80’s—well before the Web as it is now existed) shortly after winning the award, and one (quite well known) author sent me a private e-mail, saying that she thought she had better come out and tell me, since there were several messages from her on the board saying so, that she felt it was not right for Outlander to have won, since “it wasn’t really a romance–there wasn’t enough concentration on the relationship between the hero and heroine, she was older than him (hey, everybody knows you can’t do that! (You want to know how many times I’ve heard “You can’t do THAT in a romance!”–from romance writers at romance conventions?) they didn’t meet until page 69, you didn’t know he was the hero until much later, it was much too long, and it had all that HIStory, it was in the first person!! (an utterly heinous crime in that genre, apparently), and as for what I did to Jamie…!!

Now, I do like well-written romance (I read everything, and lots of it).  People do now and then ask who my favorite romance authors are: Susan Elizabeth Phillips is my all-time favorite, but Jenny Crusie, Laura Kinsale, Julia Quinn, Mary Jo Putney and Mary Balogh are all writers I’d recommend without hesitation.

Still, my books don’t fit the standard conventions of the modern romance at all. OUTLANDER alone has some elements of a standard romance–enough to make it appealing to romance readers in general–but none of the other books do; they deal with an ongoing relationship between two decent people who already love each other- -there’s no falling-in-love, getting acquainted, now-we-like-each- other-now-we-don’t kind of conflict. It (the Outlander cycle) is primarily an adventure story, in which history is as important a player as any of the individuals. To say nothing of which, I don’t have guaranteed happy endings—which you really must have in a romance (I got threatening letters after DRAGONFLY came out–all saying “How dare you end a book this way, when you know the next one won’t be out for a year!” {g}).

Anyhow, you see what I’m saying, I trust. I don’t object at all to romances, but I don’t write them. I don’t observe the conventions of the genre—or of any other, for that matter.

I don’t like genre labels in the first place; I would much rather have my books taken on their own terms–I think they don’t belong to any genre at all—or all of them. But the way the publishing industry works, books need to have some kind of label in order to facilitate their being sold.

When we sold Outlander, the publisher held onto the book for 18 months, trying to figure out what to sell it as. They finally decided that–of all the different classifications the books could fit in–”Romance” was by far the largest single market.   I agreed that they could market the paperback that way—provided that we had dignified covers (no Fabio, no mad bosoms), and provided that if and when the books became “visible” (which is publisherese for “hit the New York Times list”), they would reposition them as Fiction.

The publisher very honorably did this—but it then took me a number of years to force Barnes and Noble to move the books out of the Romance section. (I finally did it by writing a rather rude letter to the then-CEO of B&N, pointing out that another bookstore chain, who shelved the books as Fiction, sold 40% more of all my titles than did B&N.  Pointing out that Lord John Grey is gay, and there was no heroine at all in his  books didn’t keep them from shoving PRIVATE MATTER into the Romance section, mind, but the bottom line carried more weight.)


What kind of research do you do for your books?

I know a lot of people who feel that they need to do all the research before they begin to write, but that wouldn’t work for me–since I never know what’s going to happen, I wouldn’t know where to begin, let alone where to stop.  After all, there’s always more you can find out, isn’t there?

Instead, I research concurrently, doing the research along with the writing.   I find that the research and the writing feed off each other in a useful way: while looking up some bit of information I need for a scene, I almost invariably also find some fascinating thing that stimulates a completely different scene—which in turn will require some further information, that in turn yields further novelties, and so on.

I buy books like salted peanuts, and by this time, I have a pretty substantial collection.  The core reference collection is about 1500 volumes, and includes things like…{going to shelf to count}…109 books on herbs and folk-medicine (ranging from Nicholas Culpeper’s Herbal, published in 1647, to MEDICINAL PLANTS OF EUROPE AND BRITAIN, to INDIAN HERBOLOGY, to NEW AGE HERBS), forty or fifty on Scottish culture in general and Highland culture in particular (customs, geography, language, costume, history, etc.), sixty or so assorted dictionaries (running from my enormous Webster-Merriam Third International Unabridged, my all-time favorite, to several specialized dictionaries of slang, including Eric Partridge’s huge DICTIONARY OF SLANG AND UNCONVENTIONAL ENGLISH, Samuel Johnson’s 1757 DICTIONARY (to answer another Frequently-Asked Question, this is how you find words like “stultiloquy” or “fop-doodle”), and Captain Francis Grose’s A DICTIONARY OF THE VULGAR TONGUE (originally published in 1807, and very vulgar some of the Captain’s selections are, too: e.g., “admiral of the narrow seas – one who, from drunkenness, vomits into the lap of his dinner companion,” while “Scotch Greys” (a famous Scottish regiment) is a euphemism for lice), the OPUS MALEDICTORUM: A Book of Bad Words, A DICTIONARY OF MONSTERS, the Collins DICTIONARY OF TROUT FLIES, and general-purpose dictionaries in languages from Maori and Navajo (though I can’t say I’ve ever had to use either of those in a novel, at least not yet) to French, German, Spanish, etc.  (I do have three Gaelic/English dictionaries, but I really rely on the kind help of Cathy-Ann MacPhee (noted Gaelic singer and representative of the Gaelic Mafia) for translation.)

Then there are the medical books, ranging from the 1969 edition of the Merck Manual that defines the limits of Claire’s medical knowledge to memoirs by surgeons and monstrous coffee-table books on the (illustrated) History of Medicine.  And the shelf of books on weapons, artillery, knives, guns, battles, and warfare.   And the books on antique methods of wood-working, house-building, cookery, sewing, etc.  And…well, let’s just say that I tend to organize the books by shelf and bookcase (i.e., the history of North Carolina is the bottom three shelves of the bookcase whose top four shelves contain specific histories of the American Revolution—not biographies; those are in the secondary collection out in the back bedrooms (my husband won’t let me keep bookshelves in the main part of the house, he wanting to keep the walls visible so we can hang art on them)—accounts and maps of particular battles, General von Steuben’s drilling instructions, Advice to the Officers of His Majesty’s Army, and that kind of stuff.  Oh, and the bottom shelf of that case is the books on slavery.

I carry a research book around when I go outside with the dogs, I leave one in the bathroom, and I read research stuff while I ride my exercise bike. Sometimes I do have something specific to look up–like how to extract a tooth, or how many slaves were on the average sugar plantation in North Carolina in 1767, or how much a black bear weighs, but it really doesn’t take much time to discover a discrete fact–it’s the browsing and finding fascinating items like hanged-men’s grease (that’s historically true, by the way–it was one of the perks of an 18th century hangman) that takes time. Fortunately, it’s also fun.

(Yes, I do use the Internet for research, too.  It’s marvelous for finding specific facts quickly—someone’s birthdate, for instance, or whether it was George II or George III who was in charge during the American Revolution (the III, in case you care)—and also excellent for locating pictures of places you aren’t able to conveniently visit or plants and animals not normally hanging round your backyard (given what normally is hanging round my backyard, this would be limited to things like giraffes and beavers).   But it’s worth noting that the Internet is a mile wide and an inch deep, as the saying goes.  Also, that there is no such thing as credibility online.  Caveat lector.)


How did you get the accent?

I “got” the Scottish accents from quite a few sources, but the main ones are from reading Scottish novels, and from listening to Scottish folksong recordings. Especially in live recordings, groups (like The Corries, for example) will banter with the audience, and you can hear them talk, as well as pick up idiom and vocabulary from the songs.

I also read all the novels I could find with a Scottish setting, particularly those written by Scots.  The “accent” isn’t purely an accent, of course–it’s (my approximation of) Scots, which is a real dialect of English. It’s not the same thing as Gaelic, which is a completely separate language. Scots is (more or less) English, but has quite a number of specific words and idioms not found in standard English, and also has its own peculiarly idiosyncratic sentence structures, which you notice if you start paying close attention.

A really quick example: A hotel clerk in New York will say, “Can I help you?” A hotel clerk in London will say, “May I help you?” A hotel clerk in Inverness will say (I’ve heard them), “Can I be helpin’ ye at all, then?”

Likewise, I picked up Claire’s British vernacular mostly from novels; I’ve always had a great fondness for British authors and have read any number of them — especially a long and intensive exposure to the works of P.G. Wodehouse and Dorothy L. Sayers. I’d been reading English novels for years and years, and could easily see the differences between those and American novels, both in idiom and vocabulary. And for some strange reason Claire’s British dialogue felt more natural to me than American speech does.

Part of this can be attributed to half my family tree being British. My great-great grandfather emigrated from England in the late 1800′s and settled in Flagstaff, Arizona where I grew up–next door. He died (at the age of 92) when I was four or so, but I do remember him, and there are a number of peculiarly British expressions that linger in the family.

Part of this can be attributed to half my family tree being British. My great-great grandfather emigrated from England in the late 1800′s and settled in Flagstaff, Arizona where I grew up–next door. He died (at the age of 92) when I was four or so, but I do remember him.


Your books are so complex! Do you use an outline?

No. Of course, I also don’t write in a straight line; I write in lots of little pieces and then glue them together like a jigsaw puzzle. So I’ll work forward and back, backwards and forward, until a scene is finished–then hop somewhere else and write something different. I don’t even have chapters, until just before I print the completed manuscript to send to my editor; breaking the text into chapters and titling them is just about the last thing I do to a book.

And yes, now and then I’ll have scenes or fragments that either don’t fit or are redundant or extraneous (I’m sure no one thinks I ever edit or cut anything {g}, but I really do). In most cases, though, those scenes can be “recycled” into the next book–one of the benefits of writing a series.  For example–the brief scene with Meyer Rothschild, the traveling numismatist, was originally written for Dragonfly. It wasn’t that it didn’t fit well there– but it wasn’t necessary, so I removed it. And lo and behold, it tied in beautifully with the clue of the ancient coins in Voyager, where I used it in almost the original version, making only small adjustments for the plot. Meyer of Frankfort was a real historical person, by the way–he and his uncle were traveling dealers in rare coins, and he was the original founder of the famous Rothschild banking fortune.

Then there are versions of things that simply don’t work–I rewrote the front half of the “frame” story for Dragonfly seven times before I was happy with it– keeping whatever small pieces seemed to work from each iteration.

I mentioned above that I do the research concurrently with the writing.  As I’m working, I’m also semi-consciously composing a sort of historical timeline, noting important events and deciding—there’s nothing organized about this at all, I’m afraid; it’s just how things strike me at the time—whether we’re going to live through a particular event (like the Battles of Saratoga, for instance) adapt it/fictionalize it (this is how you use historical events that don’t occur conveniently where you want them to, btw; you just change the names), or merely refer to some well-known event (like the publication of the Declaration of Independence) in order to orient the reader timewise.

Well, as I write my bits and pieces, they gradually begin to stick together, and form larger and larger pieces.  By the time I have five or six big “chunks” of 40-60 pages each, I also usually have a good idea of the historical chronology, and can therefore line these chunks up in rough order against that timeline in the back of my head.  With any luck, at this point, I see the shape of the book (all my books have an underlying geometrical shape.  It isn’t usually visible to the reader—though you’d see it, if I explained it to you—but it’s helpful to me to see it) and the writing gets much faster then, because I can see what’s missing.


Do your readers give you ideas?

Well, in all honesty, not often, and not usually on purpose. I generally know the shape of the story, if not the specifics—and as I tell the people who enjoy speculating as to what might happen in the story, “Y’all are always wrong.”

Still, now and then, someone will suggest something that starts a train of thought, and I do end up with something. I think the only cases I can recall were with a couple of my LitForum (CompuServe) friends–both people I’ve known for years, who’ve watched the development of the books and characters from the earliest days.

One woman asked–half-kiddingly–what I thought Jamie would say, think, or do, if he came forward in time and saw his daughter in a bikini. Now, there’s no way Jamie can travel forward in time–but it did spark a train of thought that led to that conversation by moonlight in VOYAGER, and Claire’s letter to her daughter.

And then….well, I have a dear friend named Margaret Campbell. Who insists that one of her fondest secret ambitions as a child was to be a carnival geek–you know, the person who bites the heads off live chickens in the old carnival side-shows? Well, one thing in the conversation led to another, and I found myself writing in a white geek voodoo priestess with a sideline in oracles. And if you think that was easy to work into the plot…!  (It did start something of a trend, though; a number of other writers who hung out on the Forum have also used “Margaret Campbell” as a character.)

Oh, I’m wrong–there have been a couple of others, though they weren’t so much giving me ideas, as acting as ideas. Barry Fogden was in fact a very good (and well-known) English poet, now a very good cellist– whose grandfather was a shepherd. Consequently, we (the LitForum people on CompuServe—now the Compuserve Books and Writers Community) used to tease him about his supposed relations with sheep. And as usual, one thing led to another, and so we have Father Fogden, the disgraced and exiled priest of Hispaniola–and his flock.

To say nothing of his dog, Ludo, who was a real person (er, so to speak), too. So I wouldn’t say the readers don’t influence me, exactly. It’s not usually very direct, though.


Why is Outlander written in the first person point of view?

Well, I kind of like to experiment and try new and hair-raising things in terms of structure and literary technique (not that writing in the first person is either new or hair-raising). However, OUTLANDER was my first novel, I was writing it for practice, and it just seemed the easiest and most comfortable, is the answer.

Now that I know more about writing, there are other good reasons to have done it, but that’s why I did do it at the time; it felt natural to me. I think I may have felt most comfortable with this (aside from the minor fact that Claire Beauchamp Randall took over and began telling the story herself), because practically all of my favorite works of literature were done this way. If you look at the classic novels of the English language about half of them are written in the first person, from MOBY DICK and DAVID COPPERFIELD to TREASURE ISLAND –even large chunks of the Bible are written in the first person! (I point this out with great regularity to romance readers who come up to me at conferences and ask “How did you dare to write a book in the first person?” “Easy,” I say, “I just sat down and typed ‘I’. (cough)  It is for some reason considered a High Crime and/or Misdemeanor to write romance novels in the first person.  No one ever asks me this at science-fiction/fantasy conferences, mystery conferences, or book festivals.)

Which is not to say that there are no drawbacks to it, or that it suits everyone. But if it fits your style and your story, why on earth not?

The framing story of Dragonfly is written partly in Claire’s first-person voice, partly in the third-person voice of Roger Wakefield. And, If you look at the first half of Voyager, you’ll see that it’s done in a “braided” technique, telling Jamie’s story in third person in a linear chronology, Claire’s story in first person backwards, in flashback, and using the sections in Roger’s voice as the “turn” points that trigger the other two voices.

I didn’t actually realize I was doing this until someone pointed it out to me, but in fact, I’ve been adding one major viewpoint character to each book.  OUTLANDER is entirely in Claire’s viewpoint.  DRAGONFLY is mostly Claire, but there are sections in Roger MacKenzie’s (third-person) point of view.  VOYAGER adds Jamie’s voice, DRUMS OF AUTUMN adds Brianna Randall Fraser, and so on.  All the viewpoints save Claire’s are third-person, though.


What have been the most difficult sections for you to write?

Difficult? Goodness, all of them. Well, not really, but it is work, you know, even though a great deal of fun. As for emotional difficulty, which is what I suspect you mean–Claire’s farewell letter to Bree, the rape scene in Outlander, the farewell scene in Dragonfly in Amber, and a few others that don’t come immediately to mind. The ones you’d expect, in other words.


Are all the locations used in the books real?

Well, places like Inverness, Loch Ness and Fort William are certainly real, as are Paris, Fontainebleu, Cap Haitien, Philadelphia, etc. If you mean the stone circle….I don’t know. Bear in mind that I had never been to Scotland when I wrote Outlander. When I finally did go, I found a stone circle very like the one I described, at a place called Castlerigg (which is not in the Highlands, but in the Lake District). There is also a place near Inverness called the Clava Cairns, which has a stone circle, and another place called Tomnahurich, which is supposed to be a fairy’s hill, but I’ve never been there, so I don’t know how like it is. So far as I know, there isn’t a physical basis for Lallybroch, but then again, I do repeatedly find things that really exist after I’ve written them, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised.


Are the books out in audio format?

Yes, indeedy.  Recorded Books, Inc. (www.recordedbooks.com ) has produced Unabridged (meaning they didn’t leave anything out; all the books are complete) audiobooks of all the OUTLANDER and the Lord John Grey books, with the exception of THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, which really doesn’t lend itself to being read aloud.

Now, I should note that at present (as of January 3, 2011), all the books are available through Audible.com, except for THE FIERY CROSS and A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES.  These books ARE AVAILABLE—just not through Audible.com, and I will tell you why.

OK, follow me like a leopard here. Back in the day, nobody had any idea whether audiobooks would amount to anything; it was new-fangled technology, nobody was familiar with the concept as anything beyond the material for the blind that the Library of Congress’s Talking Books program does, nobody was sure it would ever be worth anything—and it cost a lot to produce one.

That being so, when Bantam-Dell (a subgroup of my US publisher, Random House) contracted with us (me and my agent) fifteen (or so) years ago for audiobooks, they did so very cautiously—and only for the rights to make an abridged version, because the thought of anyone being willing to listen to (let alone pay for) an unabridged version of something the size of OUTLANDER was laughable.

Now, in my naivete, I had no idea that “abridged” actually meant, “butchered into little bloody shreds, one-quarter of which will then be scraped up into a pile and kind of patted into the rough semblance of a story, rather like a sculpture made of raw hamburger.” I did, though, insist on keeping the Unabridged rights, having faith that at some far distant date, someone might be willing to take the gigantic gamble of recording the Whole Thing, down to the last word.

Bantam-Dell fussed about this—publishers hate to give up any rights, whether they know what to do with said rights or not; they might come in handy someday, after all—but eventually gave in, since they were positive that the unabridged rights were worthless. They did, however, insist on a non-compete clause in the contract, just in case: to wit, that if anybody did ever do an Unabridged version, this version could not be sold in retail outlets where the abridged version was sold. (They reasoning—correctly—that if anybody saw the two versions side by side on a shelf, they’d instantly realize that ¾ of the story had been omitted from the abridged version. (Not kidding, here; the FIERY CROSS abridged audiobook contains only 23% of the original book’s text. Just so you know…))

OK. A few years later, I happened to meet some representatives of Recorded Books, Inc. (well, actually, I engineered an “accidental” meeting at a librarians conference, having ascertained that Recorded Books was the biggest of the only two companies who even did unabridged books), got them interested (though they were a little goggle-eyed at the sheer tonnage involved; OUTLANDER was the longest book they’d ever done), and…well, Bob’s your uncle.

Recorded Books has done a magnificent job with the Unabridged audiobooks. They found marvelous readers (the hugely talented Davina Porter, who reads the OUTLANDER novels, and the equally talented Jeff Woodman, who does the Lord John books), and have risen nobly to the challenge of getting the audiobook versions produced more or less simultaneously with the print versions (no easy job, given how close I always come to the pub date in delivering the manuscript).

Now, going back to the original Bantam-Dell contract for the abridged audiobooks: my agent (who was an excellent agent) reasoned that since no one actually knew how the audiobook market might develop, he didn’t want to lock me into the usual sort of semi-permanent contract that we’d do for a book (i.e., you essentially grant the publishing company the right to publish your book as long as it sells. Only if it stops selling and they allow it to go out of print, can you get back the rights to it), and instead sold the audiobook abridged rights on a ten-year license. Meaning that we gave Bantam-Dell the right to produce an audiobook of each title (six books were covered under the original contract; they weren’t all written then, but were all under contract as print titles) for a period of ten years, from the date of publication of each title. So the license for VOYAGER, for instance, expired in 2004, as that book was originally published in 1994. And so on. We could then, if we liked, renew the license for an additional period. Or not.

Well, having seen what a travesty the abridged books are (meaning no offense either to the reader or the production team; there’s just no way of doing a good version of a book from which you’ve essentially omitted every other word), the answer was a resounding NOT, and we’ve been canceling those licenses the instant they come due. (Bantam-Dell is allowed a certain period post-cancellation during which they can still sell whatever stock they have on-hand, but they can’t produce any more.)

Result being that we’ve pretty much stamped out the abridged versions of OUTLANDER, DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, VOYAGER, and DRUMS OF AUTUMN. But THE FIERY CROSS was published in 2001. Which means that its license doesn’t expire until 2011. Which (hahahaha!) is NOW! So we’ll get to cancel that license Right Soon, leaving only ABOSA to go.

But that’s the reason why you haven’t been able to get FIERY CROSS or A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES from Audible.com—it’s considered a retail outlet that sells the abridged versions. [I’m putting the following in caps, because I keep telling this to people, but they often don’t seem to notice or understand:]

YOU CAN GET THE UNABRIDGED VERSIONS OF FIERY CROSS AND ABOSA!! You just can’t (yet) get them from Audible.com, which is most people’s default supplier of audiobooks. You totally can either rent or buy the unabridged audio of both books, right here (and here). But I admit that it will be much more convenient for everyone when the license on ABOSA expires as well, and all the Unabridged audios can be found on Audible.com.

(You can get AN ECHO IN THE BONE and all the Lord John books in Unabridged form on Audible now, because none of these books were covered in the original contract with Bantam-Dell, and thus no abridged version of them has ever existed. It’s not going to, either, I can tell you that much….)

Will there be an audiobook version of THE EXILE?

Well, no,  I really don’t think there will be an audio version of THE EXILE, unless it’s made by Recording for the Blind or the Talking Books program (in which the reader describes all illustrations for the benefit of a visually impaired reader). This book is a graphic novel. And while I was quite surprised to discover that there are a lot of people (judging from the comments on Amazon.com) who have never heard the term “graphic novel” (and didn’t bother to find out what it meant, or to scroll down far enough in the product description to see what it meant, and thus were shocked—shocked!—to find that it was A COMIC BOOK! (and thus concluded that this was calculated fraud on my part…people are Very Strange on occasion))—a graphic novel is, in fact, a comic book. For adults, but it is a novel told largely in visual images.  Ergo, kind of hard to do as an audiobook, I mean. Reading just the dialogue part of the script might not be all that effective.