Diana Gabaldon is the author of the award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling novel Outlander, described by Salon magazine as “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting “Scrooge McDuck” comics.”
The adventure began in 1991 with the classic Outlander (“historical fiction with a Moebius twist”), has continued through six more New York Times-bestselling novels in the series, with more than twenty million copies in print worldwide.
Written In My Own Heart’s Blood, the eighth major novel in the story of Claire and Jamie, is the latest in the series and the new TV series adaptation based on Outlander, Diana’s first book, will premiere on August 9 on the Starz cable channel in the US.
The Diana Gabaldon Interview
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Books by Diana Gabaldon
Diana Gabaldon Interview
Tim Knox: Diana Gabaldon is my guest today. Diana is one of the most prolific bestselling authors of all time. Her Outlander Series has sold 20 million copies, been translated into 23 languages and is now being produced as a TV series on the Starz network.
Even with all she’s accomplished Diana is a very nice lady, very accommodating, very eager to offer her advice for authors who are looking to do what she has done, which is sell a lot of books and parlay that career into something grander, something more than just writing books. Diana’s a great interview.
You’re going to enjoy this. You are going to learn a lot. Diana Gabaldon, author of The Outlander Series, now working on the 8th book in that series called Written in My Own Heart’s Blood.
She also did a graphic novel that we’re going to talk about. So all around a great interview with Diana Gabaldon, author of The Outlander Series on today’s Interviewing Authors.
Tim Knox: Diana, welcome to the program.
Diana Gabaldon: Hi, Tim, happy to be here.
Tim Knox: I’m so happy to have you here. Before we get started, a couple of things. I asked for a headshot and you send me a picture of you playing in the snow and then I asked how to pronounce your name and you say it rhymes with bad to the bone.
Diana Gabaldon: Yes, that’s right.
Tim Knox: This should be a fun interview. I do appreciate your time. I know you’re extremely busy. We’re going to talk about your books, we’re going to talk about the television show. Before we get started, for those folks that are not familiar with your work can you give us a quick background?
Diana Gabaldon: Well let’s see, the 8th book of my monster series is coming out in just a few days. June 10th is the pub date for Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, which is the 8th of the big Outlander novels. The first one was published in 1991. I began writing in 1988 to find out how to write a novel. I wrote Outlander for practice and things kind of developed from there.
Tim Knox: I thought that was very interesting when I was reading about that. You wrote the book. Really you said it started by accident; it was just for practice and a short time later you have this massive novel that’s now in its 8th book. If you don’t mind, let’s explore that a little bit because when you write something for practice like that does it really free you up? I think you just put everything you can find into the first book.
Diana Gabaldon: Yeah that’s exactly right. I was tremendously lucky in that I was writing it for practice. I was not going to show it to anyone, let alone try to get it published and therefore I felt totally free to be completely honest in the writing and to take what otherwise I would have considered wild risks. Nobody’s watching so it didn’t really matter what I did and so I did everything.
Tim Knox: Do you still write like that?
Diana Gabaldon: I do. Having done that once it would be impossible to submit to the constraints of a genre or reader expectation or publisher’s demands or anything like that. It’s always just me and the book when I’m writing.
Tim Knox: I think it’s funny because you’ve called your books big, fat historical fiction.
Diana Gabaldon: That’s basically what they are.
Tim Knox: What was the page count on the first book? Do you remember?
Diana Gabaldon: Something like 697 pages. I usually just keep track of the word count because page count is going to differ depending on the edition – if you’re reading a hardcover or mass market paperback, the type face the publisher chose and all these design elements. So they vary from book to book but Outlander is the shortest of my books at 305,000 words. The two in the middle, Fiery Cross and A Breath of Snow and Ashes, each came in at 508,000 which is actually approaching the limit that you can actually bind between covers.
Tim Knox: If you don’t mind, let’s talk about the first book. You wrote it by accident. It was a practice exercise but it ended up being a wonderful story. Tell us about how you came up with the characters and the story for the first book.
Diana Gabaldon: Well I decided to write a historical novel for practice because it seemed like the easiest thing to write. I was a research professor in Biological Sciences so I knew my way around a library. I said it seems easier to look things up than to make them up and if I turn out to have no imagination I can steal things from the historical record, which actually works pretty well.
So I said, fine, historical fiction. Where shall I set this? I have no background in history, just the six hours of Western Civilization they make you take as an undergrad. So I was looking for a convenient time and place to write about and I happened to see a really old Doctor Who rerun on public television.
For the benefit of your listeners who haven’t seen Doctor Who, it’s a really old really long running fantasy show that’s done in the UK. It’s been filmed for the last 60 odd years. The Doctor is a time lord from the planet Gallifrey who travels through space and time having adventures and along the way he picks up companions from different periods of history.
Well on this really old show that had to have been filmed 55 years ago at least, he picked up a young Scotsman from 1745. This was an 18, 19 year old young man who appeared in his kilt. I said oh that’s kind of fetching.
I found myself still thinking about this the next day and said well it doesn’t really matter where you set this book, why not? I said, fine, Scotland 18th century. So that’s where I began, knowing nothing about Scotland or the 18th century.
I had no plot, no outline and no characters, nothing but the rather vague images conjured up by the notion of a man in a kilt which is of course a very powerful and compelling image. So that’s where I began, the man in the kilt. I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t know anything about the history of Scotland so I wasn’t sure what clan he should belong to or what his family name was. I began with him. He did have a name.
The part played by the young man in the Doctor Who episode, that young Scotsman was named Jamie McCrimmon and so I called my main character Jamie as a sort of compliment to the original. Other than that there really was no connection between them, the name and the kilt. So he was just Jamie. He was Jamie blank for a while.
I went to the University and began looking around the library. I typed Scotland Highlands 18th century into the card catalogue, which had just recently become electronic luckily and out came 38 references.
So I went and looked and there were 400 books on Scotland – geography, language, customs, history, anything you want. I took out anything that looked interesting and began doing the research along with the writing.
I said to myself, having seen a lot of would be historical writers who actually have never written a word because they’re still doing research. I said the point here is not to learn everything about Scotland in the 18th century; the point is to learn how to write a book.
So I said I’ll start doing research. Of course I wanted it to be as accurate as possible. I kind of have a commitment to that as an academic. At the same time the point is to tell the story so I’m going to start putting the story together and do the research and if I run into something that means something I wrote earlier is wrong then I’ll just change it.
That’s not a problem. So that’s what I’ve always done is do the research and the writing concurrently and they feed off each other so it works very well.
Anyway, just a really quick glance at Scotland in the 18th century I was looking for conflict. It was the only thing I knew about novels, just that they should have conflict. So I said, okay, well obviously in the 18th century this was by Prince Charlie and the Jacobite rising of the ’45.
That looks like a lot of conflict so we’ll use that. So I started there and was writing away. About the third day of writing I said well obviously we must have a lot of Scotsman because of the kilt factor but I think it would have a good idea to have a female character here to play off these guys. That will be sexual tension and that’s conflict; that’s good. So I said well from my brief glance at the history of Scotland well it looks like English versus Scots. If I make her an English woman then that’s lots of conflict. That’s fine.
I introduce this English woman – no idea who she was or what she was doing in the plot or how she got in there but I loosed her into a college full of Scotsmen to see what she’d do. She walked in and they were all crushed around muttering at each other.
They all turned around and stared at her. I was thinking, why what’s wrong? Does she look funny? One of them drew himself up and he said, “My name’s Dougal MacKenzie and who might you be?”
Without stopping to think I just typed, “My name’s Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp. Who the hell are you?”
I said you don’t sound at all like a historical person so I fought with her for several pages trying to beat her into shape and make her talk like a historical person. She wasn’t having any. She just kept making smartass modern remarks about everything and she also took over and started telling the story herself.
So I said well I’ll have to fight with you all the way through this book. No one will see it so it doesn’t matter what bizarre thing I do. Go ahead and be modern; I’ll figure out how you got there later. It’s all her fault, the time traveling.
Tim Knox: I find that so interesting. It all started with a man in a kilt.
Diana Gabaldon: Yeah and he’s still going strong.
Tim Knox: It’s so fascinating listening to you describe how you wrote this. You started off with this vision of this man in a kilt and you decided to do something historical but the way you talk about things happen it’s almost like you were writing it but you didn’t have control. These characters, especially Claire, walking in and kind of taking over. It’s very interesting. Your characters become very real to you, do they not?
Diana Gabaldon: They’re totally real. I have never been the sort of writer who feels like it’s up to me to control things so to speak. I have control over the technique you might say, over the craft but not so much over what actually happens.
Tim Knox: Were you a writer before? You said you’d started writing a few years before the book came out. Were you just dabbling in it? Did you think you were going to write a historical novel?
Diana Gabaldon: No I had never written fiction to speak of unless you count comic book stories for Walt Disney, which actually I do. No, I was an academic. I have several degrees in the Biological Sciences, including a PhD in quantitative behavioral ecology, which is just animal behavior with statistics. You can’t do that without writing a lot of stuff and so I’d written my PhD dissertation, scholarly journal article, textbooks, computer documentation, tutorials, all sorts of stuff.
I had kind of slipped sideways into be an “expert” in scientific computation. It was pretty easy at the time because there were only six people in the world who did that. Anyway, I had developed a freelance career writing for the computer press where I did technical reviews and articles for Byte and Info World and P.C. Magazine.
I basically made as much freelancing for the computer press as I did at the University, which just goes to show how badly they pay us professors.
I had been getting paid for my writing for quite a long time before I decided I really must try. If I want to write a novel, the only way to do that is to write a novel and see whether that’s really what I want to do.
I’d known since the age of eight or so that that’s what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to be a novelist but that sort of thing doesn’t come with a roadmap; there’s no curriculum, no sort of vocation program. Anybody who does this writes their own. I grew up in a very conservative family background.
My father would say to me, “You’re such a poor judge of character. You’re bound to marry some bum. Make sure you get an education so you can support your children.”
Tim Knox: Thanks, dad.
Diana Gabaldon: And I’ve never regretted it. So that’s where I was. I was being paid for my work. I did know one end of a sentence from the other. I could write a coherent paragraph. What I didn’t know was could I tell a story in an organized fashion and have it be a passable novel?
I know I could tell stories because I’ve been doing that with my sister since we were very little, just these collaborative non-ending back and forths. To write a novel that was a totally different thing but I had written a lot of things that I had never written before – scholarly articles, comic book stories, et cetera. No one had ever told me how to write any of this stuff.
I just read a few examples, wrote one and if it didn’t look right I poked it until it did. I said, okay, you’ve been reading novels for 30 odd years. Surely if you write one you’ll recognize it.
Tim Knox: You’ll know what it looks like, right?
Diana Gabaldon: That’s pretty much how it works.
Tim Knox: After you wrote the first book – do you remember finishing that book and then trying to figure out what do I do with this now? Did you know how to get published? What was your process for getting this published?
Diana Gabaldon: Actually I did. In the course of my freelance writing for the computer press I had stumbled into an online group called The CompuServe Literary Forum. This was 1984 I think.
Tim Knox: You really are dating yourself now.
Diana Gabaldon: I mean social media is kind of nothing new to me. I’ve been doing this since 1984. This was in no way a writer’s group. It was just people who liked books but there were some writers present.
I’d been hanging around there for a year at least before I decided to start writing my practice novel. I was certainly not going to tell anyone online what I was doing because I’d seen a number of people kind of come through there talking about a book they were planning. They were doing their research and had their chart all laid out with everybody’s shoe size.
I was thinking that doesn’t sound like writing at all to me. So I wasn’t going to announce anything. I was just going to write the book and I’ll see if I want to talk about it or not. So I didn’t but I began asking questions and paying more attention to those members who were professional writers.
By the time I started asking questions they knew me quite well. I’d been there as a regular participant for a couple of years. They knew I was serious. Some of them had seen small bits of the writing that I’d done.
They knew I was serious and they were very kind about sharing information. When I asked them do you need an agent? If you do, do you have an agent? How did you find them? If you don’t have the same agent you started out with, why not? If you write more than one kind of thing do you need more than one kind of agent? How does it all work? As I said, they were all very kind about sharing their own personal stories.
So I began just doing very casual research on the question of agents, which mostly constituted just talking to people. I began as a result of these stories and so forth to zero in on this one gentleman named Perry Knowlton who seemed like he might be a good bet for me. He was a New York based agent which I knew I wanted. I wanted someone who has lunch with editors on a regular basis. He was a very prominent agent.
He represented a number of bestselling authors. I wanted someone with a good rep. I had learned from a couple of my friends that he wasn’t afraid of long books or unorthodox books, both of which I had. He didn’t take unsolicited queries and so I didn’t know how to approach him. I said well you’re nowhere near finished with the book.
Either you’ll figure it out or you’ll find another agent who’s easier to get at. So I did this and one day I was talking to John Steff, a friend who writes science-fiction mysteries. I said well I’m asking everybody about agents. Do you have one? He said, “Yeah, his name’s Perry Knowlton. I know you’re almost ready to look for an agent. Would you like me to introduce you to Perry?” “Yes John, that’d be really nice.” I was afraid that John would leave CompuServe or be run over by a bus or something.
So Perry, God rest his soul, was a much older gentleman who I’m sure never touched a computer in his entire life. Every communication I ever got from him was typed on his personal stationary on a manual typewriter.
So anyway, John sent him a typewritten letter saying, “I know this woman and I think she’s worth looking at.” I followed that with my own brief query and I said, “Dear Mr. Knowlton, I’ve been writing and selling non-fiction by myself for several years but now that I’m writing a novel I understand that I need good literary representation.
You’ve been recommended to me by John and Judy and Carol and Sherry and all these people whose opinions I respect. I have this very long historical novel. I don’t want to waste your time. Would you be willing to read excerpts from it?” I didn’t tell him I wasn’t finished writing it and excerpts were all I had. He said he’d read my excerpts.
So I quickly hashed together a 26 page single space synopsis and sent it with the excerpts and he took me on, on the basis of an unfinished first novel.
So it was another six months before I finished the book and so I sent it to Perry and said I’ve realized that there is more to the story but I thought I should stop while I can still lift it but if anyone’s interested I could have much more. He sent it to five editors who he thought might like it and within four days three of them had called back with offers to buy it, which was exciting.
He told all of them, “She says there’s more.” All of them said trilogies are very popular these days. Do you think she could write three? Being a good agent he said oh I’m sure she could. They gave me a three book contract and I was a novelist.
Tim Knox: Is that what drove you to create this as a series?
Diana Gabaldon: No, I knew there was more to the story but I never said it was a trilogy. I said there’s more.
Tim Knox: I think one thing that’s interesting about your series is each book really does stand alone. They can be read out of order.
Diana Gabaldon: Yes they can. That’s one of the reasons why it takes so long to write them. Not only are they very long, very detailed, very complex and structured and have a lot of research to them but also it’s a considerable feat of engineering to create a book of that size that will stand alone and yet at the same time when read in the context of the series will be that much richer.
Tim Knox: When the book came out, what was the initial response from readers?
Diana Gabaldon: Let’s see, well, I was a total unknown and they had released it… it took them 18 months to figure out how to release it because these books truly are indescribable in terms of marketing terms or a genre. They either have no genre or all of them.
Picking one is a real chore. In fact they spent 18 months worrying about how they were going to sell this book. They came very close to canceling the contract and giving me back the book but my beloved first editor said, “No, this is the best book I’ve ever read. We’re publishing it,” so they did.
My agent called me 18 months later. I had never had a book before so I didn’t know how long these things took. I was just busy working on the second book. He said, “They finally decided what to do with your book.” “That’s good. What?” “Well it’s a hardcover, soft cover deal. The hardcover of course will just go up front with all the other hardcover fiction.”
This being back in the day when that’s where all the hardcovers went. “They think they’d like to sell the paperback as romance.” As what? I certainly like romance but I’ve read enough of it to know that’s not what I wrote.
I got two problems with that. One is that if you call it a romance I will never be reviewed by the New York Times, which was a bigger deal back then than it is now. That’s true; I never have been but I can’t say I care.
He said the more important thing is if you call it a romance it will cut off the entire male half of my readership. I said I’ve had enough men reading what I write to know that they see different things in the books than women do. It’s just not women’s fiction even though the main protagonist is a female.
He said he understood and we could insist that they call it fantasy or science-fiction because of the time travel and things like that. He said, “But bear in mind the bestseller in SF is 50,000 copies in paperback. The bestseller in romance is 500,000.”
Well you’ve got a point. We agreed that they could at least initially publish the paperback as a romance provided that we had dignified covers, no human beings with man bosom, long hair. If the books became visible that they would then reposition them as fiction, which they very honorably did.
Voyager, my third book, did hit the list and they did immediately put the bars of color across the roses on the cover. I had a lot of trouble with Barnes & Noble. It took me another eight years to force them to move the books out of their romance section into general fiction but they finally did and they’ve done very well there.
What you actually asked me is how the fans reacted to them – with great enthusiasm. With the initial marketing, most of the fans had been and in some respect continue to be women. The male readership is certainly increasing, especially of late with the advent of the TV series I think. I expect that we will have a great many more, a larger swatch of humanity.
Tim Knox: What year did the book come out?
Diana Gabaldon: 1991.
Tim Knox: So really the internet was not a huge deal back then. It was traditionally published and distributed out.
Diana Gabaldon: Exactly and therefore you had to depend on the publisher’s marketing efforts. If they were taking out full page ads in the Romantic Times, there wasn’t much you could do about it.
Tim Knox: That’s one of the interesting things. You seem to cross all genres with the same books.
Diana Gabaldon: I do, yes. I have seen the same books sold with evident success as literature, fiction, historical fiction, historical non-fiction – they were in the non-fiction section of Foyles Bookstore in London. I saw it in there and mentioned this to the clerk and this was ’92 I think.
He said, “Well Ms. Kitty determines where all the books go. She’s read your books and evidently she believes in time travel.” Let’s see – historical fiction, historical non-fiction, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, military history – that’s true; they’ve been sold by the military history book club – gay and lesbian fiction and horror.
I actually won a Quill Award in the fantasy/science-fiction/horror category, beating out both George R.R. Martin and Stephen King.
Tim Knox: Well let’s talk a little about the new book that is about to come out. This is the 8th book in the series, right?
Diana Gabaldon: Yes it is.
Tim Knox: Tell us a little about it.
Diana Gabaldon: Alright well it being my sort of book it’s got a staggered timeframe. I play with time like I was juggling eggs. But part of the story, the 18th century part, is right in the middle of the American Revolution in 1778.
The situation is much as we left it at the end of the last book, which is that Jamie Fraser, our central male character, was believed to have drowned in the previous book and his widow under threat of being arrested as a spy was obliged to marry Jamie’s best friend, Lord John Grey who could protect her, he being of course on the British side and so forth. She actually was a spy.
Anyway, she married him basically to protect her family. She didn’t care that much about herself. James is dead. However, as it turns out, Jamie was not dead. He reappeared in the last book, Jamie and John being married did not bother him in the slightest, he knowing full well that John is gay. He was a lot more disturbed to find out that they slept together.
So we sort of left him at the end of the last book where he’s sort of abducted Lord John because he was being pursued by a lot of British soldiers and to get out of the house he was obliged to take John hostage. So the minute they get outside the city, John being the honorable person he is, blurts out, “I’ve had carnal knowledge of your wife,” to which Jamie replies, “Oh? Why?” That’s the end of the last book so we’re going to answer that question.
Tim Knox: That’s such a great thing.
Diana Gabaldon: That’s only one of the eight main storylines in this book.
Tim Knox: So the new book is Written in My Own Heart’s Blood and when is it coming out?
Diana Gabaldon: It will be out quite soon on June 10th.
Tim Knox: I assume you’re going to be traveling all over the place promoting.
Diana Gabaldon: All hell breaks loose on the 6th in fact and Random House is having what they call a fan retreat in Seattle on the 7th in which 500 lucky fans get to spend the entire day with me and preview a copy of MOBY. I have to arrive on the 6th so I can sign 1,100 copies of MOBY; that’s what I’ve been calling it for shorthand.
Tim Knox: If you were just emerging as a writer today with the internet and self-publishing and everything that’s going on, what would you do differently if anything?
Diana Gabaldon: Really nothing. It’s just that there are many more avenues of social media that you can exploit but I used the CompuServe literary forum in exactly the same way I use Facebook and Twitter these days. I still actually have the forum going on.
Though these days it’s just kind of my personal hangout rather than promotion. It’s quite small by comparison with the Facebook. I’ve got something like 300,000 subscribers on Facebook and whenever I discuss the TV show the reach goes up to 2.5 million so that’s kind of the big thing.
My son is actually a novelist himself. He writes epic fantasy and he grew up with social media, et cetera but what advice I can give him on promotion is just, you know, expose yourself so to speak. Give people free samples of both your work and your personality.
That’s how you draw people to be intrigued. You have to give them a reason to pick up your book. If they think you’re witty in public and then they see your name on a book they go look at it.
Tim Knox: It’s all about building relationships. Let’s talk a little about the TV series because I for one can’t wait to see this. My 18 year old daughter who is just a nut for this kind of stuff is like, “Dad, when’s it coming on? When’s it coming on?” How did you go from the books to the TV series, Outlander, that’s coming on Starz network?
Diana Gabaldon: Well sort of a long and winding road. I imagine you know what a TV option is. Essentially it means someone offers you a modest amount of money for a period of time for which they try to put together a deal to make a movie. If they can’t the option comes back to you and you can resell it.
If they can then they pay you a somewhat larger sum of money, which is the purchase price, and after that you have lost all control of your project. You want to be really careful with who you do options with.
Over the last 23 years we have only optioned the material four times. The most recent person – these were people who mostly wanted to make a two hour movie of it and I can tell you having seen various attempts made that it is not possible to make a two hour movie of that book and have it resemble the book in anyway shape or form.
The last guy who had the option struggled with this for some time and hired very respectable scriptwriters whose names you would recognize immediately if I were injudicious enough to mention them in public, but it was not working.
Meanwhile Ron Moore, who you may know as the re-creator of Battlestar Galactica, was casting around looking for a new project and more or less by accident stumbled into Outlander. His wife was the costume designer for the show and she’s fabulous and his production partner were both unbeknownst to each other huge fans of the series.
They started talking about the books over dinner with him one night and he said, “Oh, what’s this?” So he read the book, fell in love with it and went looking for the rights holder. Jim is his name and Ron said he kept coming back once a year and saying, “How’s that two hour film?”
“I’m beginning to think you might be right. It might be a TV series.” So that ensued something like two years of wrestling around with contracts and negotiations and lawyers and the end result was this five-way absolutely writhing mass of a contract between those two, Jim, Ron, Starz and Sony, which is the parent company and Starz is the production company, and me. It was finally signed last year, actually just about one year ago today. It was announced at the BEA in New York.
Anyway then Ron and his production partner came out to talk to me at my house before they started work and we spent two days together discussing storylines and characters and backstory and things I had not put in the book but was thinking of for future books.
They were sharing their ideas about adaptation with me and we were very much on the same wavelength. I did understand something about how conversion to a visual medium works because I have written comic book stories and a graphic novel and so forth, but still I had not been closely associated with the production company. It’s been very fascinating and very beneficial I think to all concerned.
They are not legally compelled to ask me for my opinion of course, let alone take it, but they do. They’ve been very good about including me, letting me see scripts, showing me footage and things like that. I am by contract a “consultant” on the show, which basically means I’ll give them my opinion when asked for it.
Tim Knox: That’s one thing I wanted to ask you because I’ve talked to a couple of authors who have had their work optioned and they were not happy because of the loss of control and that sort of thing. How is that sitting with you?
Diana Gabaldon: It’s actually just fine because I trust Ron. He’s very good and he’s respectful of the material. In fact we are in a somewhat different position than someone say whose book is optioned for a movie and it gets made and so forth, in that we have this immense fan base to begin with and Starz has been very cognizant of that. They play to the fans. They look after them. They supply them with entertaining bits and pieces and, yeah, they’re very interested in maintaining good relations with the fans. As Ron said, he said, “My job is not to screw up my wife’s favorite book.”
Tim Knox: That’s a very important point, not only his wife’s book but the fan base. You don’t mess with your fans. If they go in and do something completely different and off kilter there’s going to be an uprising.
Diana Gabaldon: Exactly, yeah. In fact it is an adaptation. Things are changed but not necessarily changed for the worse. They sometimes move scenes from one place to another because of the episodic nature of the show but then they’ll supply little external pieces or emendations to link the story back up where it should be.
In fact I’d say about 80%, maybe more, maybe 90% of the show is of scenes that people will know and recognize from the book. They’ve preserved the original dialogue. The overall feel of the scene is totally recognizable and yet because it is this adaptation there are these little bits. As Ron says, he never adds anything that is contrary to the book.
He adds things that aren’t in the book but he says they could have been in the book or were obviously in the book but took place offstage. It is Outlander but there’s this wonderful sense of novelty and discovery about it too. Like anybody else, I’m watching to see what happens next.
Tim Knox: When does it air?
Diana Gabaldon: Airdate for the U.S. and Canada is August 9th.
Tim Knox: Are we excited?
Diana Gabaldon: We are excited. Fans are beside themselves with ecstasy.
Tim Knox: You mentioned your graphic novel, The Exile. Really quickly tell me about that.
Diana Gabaldon: Oh well it was actually kind of an outgrowth of the film contract or one of the film contracts, the original with the 4th option holder. It included the usual clause which gives them complete control over all your merchandising rights which usually would include comic books. So I looked at that and said to my agent, I said what do you think about this? It’s not high on my priority list but I’m thinking of it sometime and I want to write a graphic novel. They’re beginning to kind of emerge into the mainstream and I do know how, going to my Walt Disney history. Should we carve out an exemption so it will allow me to do this?
He said we absolutely should so he did and having that in hand, a month later along came Betsy Mitchell from Valentine and said, “Would you like to write a graphic novel for me?” Yeah, sure. That’s basically it.
Tim Knox: Very good. The graphic novels really are becoming a source for a lot… I mean, The Walking Dead being the most prominent. In the time we have left if you will, just give our audience some advice on the process of writing. Do you write on a particular schedule? Is there a time of day you write best? Do you have a target word count? How do you go about it?
Diana Gabaldon: Yeah I have a rough routine which evolved when I began writing at which point I had two full-time jobs and three children under the age of six, so I don’t want anyone telling me they don’t have time to write. You can find time.
At that point I was writing in the middle of the night because that’s when you write if you have small children. It suited my biorhythm though; I’ve always been a night owl. My prime working time is still between midnight and 4:30 in the morning. I do work at other times but I’ll get up around 9:00 or so, bump into walls, take the dogs out, get a Diet Coke, answer the email and, you know I’m finally ready by 10:30 or 11:00 and will work for an hour or so before lunch, work maybe partly research but I try to get a few words on the page at least as a foothold.
I’ll have lunch with husband, get another hour of something in after lunch and then go run the household errands and maybe do a little exercise. I try to walk five miles a day because my work is sitting. Then I’ll go to the grocery store, get what we’re having for supper, make dinner, pal around with my husband.
He likes to go to bed early around 9:30 or 10:00 so I’ll tuck him in and lie down on the couch with the two dogs. I have big fat standard Dachshunds; they’re very cuddly. We lie down with a book and usually I’ll fall asleep within 10 minutes and if nobody calls with an emergency, and mostly they don’t these days. The kids are 32, 30 and 28 so it’s mostly quiet.
I will fall asleep and I’ll wake up again naturally around midnight and have another Diet Coke and start the main day’s work.
Tim Knox: Out of everything you’ve written do you have a favorite book?
Diana Gabaldon: It’s always either the one that I’m working on or the one I’ve just finished, so at the moment it’s Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. I like to think I’m getting better as I go on.
Tim Knox: Well Diana, this has been a pleasure. Tell folks where they can find more information about you and your work and of course The Outlander series coming on and Written in My Own Heart’s Blood coming soon.
Diana Gabaldon: Right well sort of the archive of everything is on my website, which is DianaGabaldon.com, very easy. I am also available on Facebook. I actually inhabit my own page and am there pretty much every day.
That’s Facebook.com/AuthorDianaGabaldon. I’m on Twitter as @Writer_DG. Any of those places you can find me most of the time.
Tim Knox: As far as the television show, are we looking at a multi-season deal? Are you going to be following the books all the way through on the television show?
Diana Gabaldon: If we’re lucky and the first season is well received then certainly yes. The contract provides for the entire series and the plan would be to do one book basically per season. We have a very good commitment from Starz for 16 episode seasons so we have a little room.
Tim Knox: Might we see you on the show?
Diana Gabaldon: You will actually. I have a cameo in one of the episodes. In the first season I spent 10 days with them in Scotland and two days a TV actor.
Tim Knox: Diana Gabaldon, author of The Outlander Series, now working on her 8th book as well as the Starz television show. Diana, it’s been a pleasure and we hope to have you back very soon.
Diana Gabaldon: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Tim.