Message From The Author
Echoes of the Past
DIANA GABALDON RETURNS TO HER TIME-TRAVELING OUTLANDERS
By Gerri Russell
She started out writing for practice and created a "big, weird book" that didn't fit into any particular genre. She broke the "rules" of writing by creating scenes out of order in a random fashion that eventually became an agglomerated whole. Yet bestselling phenomenon Diana Gabaldon didn't let any of that stop her natural storytelling abilities from enchanting millions of readers worldwide. Gabaldon is now up to book seven in her renowned Outlander series.
Since the first hardcover release of Outlander in 1991, Gabaldon has created a small publishing empire with multiple bestselling books in the series, as well as compiled The Outlandish Companion, which answers readers' questions about the many characters and situations in the novels.
Her current release, An Echo in the Bone (Oct., Delacorte), continues the journey of Jamie Fraser, a Scottish Highlander from the 18th century, and his time-traveling wife, Claire Randall. The path that led to the success of Gabaldon's series is a tale in itself.
RUSSELL: Diana, for readers who might not know how you got started in your writing career, could you share a little of that journey with us?
GABALDON: I wanted to be a novelist at a very early age, but I come from a very conservative background. Instead of encouraging me to write, my father cautioned me to work in a field where
I could support my family. I put any writing aspirations on hold and went on to university, where I earned a master's degree in marine biology and a Ph.D. in ecology. My dissertation was a 400-page work titled "Nest Site Selection in the Pinyon Jay, Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus" -- or as my husband says,
"Why birds build nests where they do, and who cares anyway?"
When I turned 35, I thought to myself, "Mozart was dead at 36. If you want to write a novel, maybe you'd better get started." So, I asked myself, what was the easiest possible book for me to write, for practice? After considerable thought, it seemed to me that perhaps a historical novel would be the easiest thing to try. I was a research professor, after all. I had a huge university library available, and I knew how to use it. I thought it seemed a little easier to look things up than to make them up -- and if I turned out to have no imagination, I could steal things from the historical record. Having no formal background in history, I figured one time or place would do as well as another.
RUSSELL: So how did you start writing books about Scotland?
GABALDON: It was quite by accident, really. I was watching an episode of PBS' Doctor Who with a young Scottish lad named Jamie MacCrimmon, whom the Doctor had picked up in 1745. This character wore a kilt, which I thought was rather fetching, and he demonstrated a form of pigheaded male gallantry that I've always found endearing: the strong urge on the part of a man to protect a woman, even though he may realize that she's plainly capable of looking after herself.
RUSSELL: Can you tell us a little about what we can expect in An Echo in the Bone?
GABALDON: The cover offers great insight into the storyline. There's a Celtic symbol in the background with a caltrop in the foreground. The caltrop is a weapon, but for the book it represents the four intersecting storylines that make up the book's whole.
In the first storyline, readers will get to see Jamie and Claire as their relationship matures and as their life gets more complex. The American Revolution takes center stage, and while Jamie knows the Americans will win, he'd rather die than face his illegitimate son, William, a young lieutenant in the British army, across the barrel of a gun. The second storyline explores Claire and Jamie's daughter Brianna and her husband, Roger,
as they settle into the Highlands
of the 20th century with their young family -- and discover
that the 20th century may be no safer than the 18th. The third
storyline features Lord John
Grey and his son -- also Jamie's
son -- William, and the battles (both overt and covert) on the British side of the Revolution.
The final storyline showcases Young Ian, and we'll find out
more about his Mohawk wife.
RUSSELL: Will there be another book in the Outlander series after An Echo in the Bone?
GABALDON: Certainly. There will be at least one more book, but I won't really know until I finish writing whether this is the end or if there's more to the story.
RUSSELL: Who is your favorite character in the Outlander series?
GABALDON: I don't have a favorite; they all talk to me. But I will tell you that there's a local group of fans who take me out to tea now and then to pick my brains, and on one such occasion, they got started on Black Jack Randall: "Oh, he's such scum. He makes my skin crawl. He's just loathsome. ..." And I sat there, smiling pleasantly and sipping my Earl Grey, thinking, "You have no idea that you're talking to Black Jack Randall, do you?"
RUSSELL: In addition to the Outlander series, you've written several Lord John Grey books, and you've mentioned a contemporary mystery series and a graphic novel on your blog. Can you give us an update on these projects?
GABALDON: There will be another Lord John Grey book, Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner -- that's under contract. Now that I'm done with An Echo in the Bone I'll be working
on that and also will get back to the contemporary crime
novel I've been working on, temporarily titled "Red Ant's Head."
As for the graphic novel, that's based on Outlander but
it's not a straight adaptation; it has a new storyline that weaves through the major events of the novel. It will be released
sometime in 2010. It's not really a departure for me; I used
to script comic books for Walt Disney back in the 1970s. The artist, Hoang Nguyen, is doing a marvelous job with the
artwork. It'll be a gorgeous book!
RUSSELL: Outlander has been optioned for a movie with Randall Wallace, of Braveheart and Pearl Harbor fame,
writing the script. What's happening there?
GABALDON: The script is complete and it's my understanding that they are currently shopping for a director.
RUSSELL: Have you had any input into
GABALDON: None, whatsoever.
RUSSELL: Even though you're not a Scot, you capture the imagery and all the fine details of Scotland in the pages of your books. Have you been to Scotland for research?
GABALDON: I've been to Scotland many times while developing the Outlander series, most recently this summer. I attended The Gathering in Edinburgh, a Highland Games event that brings people together from across the world to celebrate Scotland's culture, clans and families in a kind of "homecoming." When I let people know I was coming to Scotland, I was asked to be the guest of honor at the Inverness Highland Games.
RUSSELL: Can we talk a bit about your writing process? You write your scenes
in the order they come to you. How does this work?
GABALDON: I think it's like raising continents. You know, looking out over this vast and trackless sea, you begin to
see volcanoes popping up here and there, spouting. And as
they rise and lava goes down the sides you get mountains
coming up and, gradually, it all comes clear. You begin to see
how one mountain flows down into a valley and up into another. But to start with, all you see are mountains. Gradually, as you
get close to the surface, you can look and see all the valleys
RUSSELL: As a successful author who follows her own
heart and her own rules, what tips can you share with
other aspiring authors?
GABALDON: I speak to a lot of writers' groups and here's what I always say: Read anything and everything. Write. That is, unfortunately, the only way of learning how! And don't stop.
RUSSELL: Your Outlander series has made millions of readers believe in lifelong love and romance. Do you have anything you'd like to say to your fans?
GABALDON: I'm grateful for each of them. I get lots of
mail from fans, saying that they've read the series for the
second or third time, telling me about the deeper connections
they discovered in the books: the arc of the series or the layers
I build into each of the novels or the deeper connections
they experience with the characters upon further reading.
I am gratified that they enjoy the books and hope they will
continue to do so.
RUSSELL: Diana, thank you so much for spending this time with us! Wishing you every success with your new series and
all your endeavors in the years ahead.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: GERRI RUSSELL
Gerri Russell is a longtime Diana Gabaldon fan. The Outlander series was one of the reasons Russell fell in love with all things Scottish. She continues to write about Scotland today. The first book in Russell's Brotherhood of the Scottish Templars series, To Tempt a Knight, was a September release from Dorchester Publishing. You can find her online at GerriRussell.net.
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