DIANA Gabaldon revealed she was once in talks about an Outlander musical – and would one day like to see it hit the stage.
The author was approached by Aberdeen playwright Mike Gibb about making a live version of her books.
She says: “Mike came to me in 2009 as he had it in mind to do an Outlander musical. Some of the songs were really very good. But at that point my agent did the deal with Sony which took two years of negotiations.
“So we had to suspend the musical at that point. I retained my musical drama rights to the books, but there’s a hold-back period in the contract for several years.”
She adds: “But we are approaching that point again where we can consider doing a musical, so we will look around at that then and see where we are.”
However, some of Diana’s followers go to painful lengths to show their devotion.
She said: “I’ve been asked to sign people’s arms with a Sharpie, which they then go and have tattooed on their skin.
“One woman waited for hours to be in line at a book signing. She then took off her shoe and her stocking to show me the tattoo on her foot.
“It was of the running stag brooch that was on the front cover of my book The Fiery Cross on the US and Canadian editions.
“I was like, ‘Well that looks painful.’ She then gave me a Polaroid photo of her foot as a memento.”
And other followers have left her feeling flushed with success.
She adds: “Someone asked me a question online about the books and it was going to be quite a complicated answer.
“I replied, ‘I will be happy to answer that later as right now I only have two brain cells left and one of those is trying to remember to buy toilet paper.’
“A few days later a big FedEx truck pulls up next to my house and decants 200 rolls of toilet paper from all around the world.
“There was Korean, Japanese, Australian and a lot from the US as well. The Korean toilet paper was pretty cute as it had images of bees on it.”
Then there are the mickey-takes, with Diana left tickled by Burnistoun’s Outlander sketch which featured Jamie McShagger from The Clan McShagger on the new BBC Scotland channel last month.
She laughed: “That was very funny but I’ve seen a lot of parodies of Outlander now. Fans film their own ones too.”
But her followers will be delighted to know that after she completes her 10-part main series she plans to keep Outlander going with a string of potential spin-offs and a prequel.
She joked: “I will die sooner or later, although I think I can make it through to the tenth book.
“But the Outlander effect is now totally outwith my control.
The Great American Read, hosted by TV personality and journalist Meredith Vieira, is an eight-part TV competition shining a national spotlight on the importance of reading and will feature an interview with Diana Gabaldon, best known for her Outlander series of novels and the STARZ TV series derived from it.
In fact, the TV series returned Outlander to the No. 1 spot on the New York Times best seller list 23 years after it was first published.
Gabaldon, who is currently working on the ninth book in the series, appeared at PBS’ summer TCA session for The Great American Read. Following is a bit of what she had to say.
What was it like when you found out you made the list?
I said, “Who else is on this list?”
Is your favorite book on the list?
Trying to pick one favorite book out of the universe of books is impossible. Trying to pick one off of a list of 100 is difficult but maybe not impossible. It’s a dead heat between Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Lonesome Dove. Having made that decision, I was thinking: What do these books have in common? Why do I like them both so much? I finally decided that it’s because they share what my husband refers to in reference to my work as the “One damn thing after another” school of fiction.
What book or books really changed the way you thought?
My dad at one phase of his career was an elementary school principal. And his elementary school held a book sale — it was a very active school and all the parents brought in books by the ton — which he collected in this little janitorial room. Just before the book sale, he would let my mother, my sister and me into that room with an empty cardboard box each. We brought back the books that we had taken last year and added them to the pile, but we extracted new ones. When I was about 15, I filled my box halfway with the paperbacks that had the covers ripped off and I found out why.
What are you reading right now?
I’m in one of those phases where I’m reading four books at once because I’m actively working on the ninth book of my main series, and so I’m rereading Dorothy Sayers‘ The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery for probably the 80th time, because I love the series and the characters, but it’s a book I can step in and out of. I can put it down when it’s time to go to work myself. But I’m also running a nonfiction book in the background that I’m reading for general interest. Then, I’m also rereading parts of my own eighth book Written in My Own Heart’s Blood because I’m working on the ninth book, and there are pieces where I encounter an emotional thread that I had dropped in the last book. So, I will go back to read through it and pick that up so it will come into the new book with its original power.
When you were first writing Outlander, did you start with the love story or did you start off with the mythic quality of the show?
Neither one. I don’t write in a straight line and I don’t plan stories out ahead of time. In fact, I don’t actually know what’s going to happen in a book.
I began writing Outlander for practice. I knew I was supposed to be a novelist, but I didn’t know how; and I decided the way to learn was to actually write a novel. So, Outlander was my practice book. I was never going to show it to anyone, so it didn’t matter what I did with it. It didn’t have to have a genre, so I used anything that I like. I’ve been reading since I was a 3-year-old. I like a lot of stuff, so I used it all.
Now that Outlander has been adapted, does the image of the actors supersede in your own minds, or maybe in your readers’ minds, the characters as written?
I know that for a number of readers, because they say so on my Facebook page and so forth, the vision of the actors does, in fact, supersede their original vision of what the characters looked like. It doesn’t for me. They still look the same way they always looked.
That said, what an actor does is magic. It’s pretty much what we do but in a different venue. Their magic is to embody somebody that they aren’t. The first time I saw Sam Heughan, though, they sent me his audition tape for Jamie Fraser, and I was looking up his pictures on my way to wherever I was going, and he has a very limited filmography, not many pictures, and, frankly, the ones that he had up were strange.
Anyway, so, when I saw the audition, I didn’t know what to expect. He appeared, and five seconds into it, I was saying, “He doesn’t look anything like his photos. He looks fine.” Five seconds more, he was gone, and it was just Jamie Fraser right there. I recognized him immediately.
How did your story get discovered and championed?
Well, it’s actually extremely humdrum. The only novel thing about it was that in 1988, the internet basically didn’t exist except for a few small special interest groups, CompuServe, Delfi, GEnie, but owing to various career choices I had made, I was an “expert in scientific computation,” and I was in that world. I had discovered a group of people called the Literary Forum on CompuServe. This was not a writers’ group. This was just people who liked to talk about books. There were a few writers there, though.
I had always known I was supposed to be novelist, and when I was 36, I said, “Well, you better start writing a novel, then.” Actually what I said was “Mozart was dead at 36. You better get started.” So I did. I was not going to tell the people that I knew on CompuServe what I was doing for various reasons, and I didn’t. But one night I was having an argument with a gentleman online about what it feels like to be pregnant.
He said, “I know what that’s like. My wife’s had three children.” I laughed, and I said, “Yeah, Buster. I’ve had three children.” He said, “Can you tell me what it’s like?” I said, “I can, yes, but it’s kind of complex. I can’t fit it in a 30‑line message slot.” I said, “I have this little thing I wrote a few months ago in which a young woman explains to her brother in some detail what it’s like to be pregnant. I’ll put it in the library here for you.” My husband says I am congenitally unable to lose an argument, and he’s right. That’s why I overcame my fear of showing what I was writing, in order to win an argument, and I did, as a matter of fact, win the argument.
But what happened was that everyone who had been following the argument went and read this piece, and they all came rushing back, and they said, “This is great. What is it?” And I said, “I don’t know.” They said, “Well, where’s the beginning?” I said, “I haven’t written that yet.” And they said, “Well, put up some more of it. This is fascinating.”
I don’t write in a straight line. I write in little bits and fit them together. Whenever I had a bit that would stand alone without too much discussion, I put it up. And people got more and more interested. They said, “This is great. Diana has a new chunk. Have you read it?” This was my first experience with the power of word of mouth, also the power of giving out free samples, which I have employed ever since.
And essentially what happened is that I was introduced to an agent who I had my eye on by a CompuServe friend who was this man’s client as well, and he said, “You’re almost ready to look for an agent. Would you like me to introduce you to so and so?” And I said, “Yes.” I wasn’t finished writing the book, but I was afraid my friend would be run over by a bus or leave CompuServe, so I said, “Yeah. Go ahead and ask him.”
So he wrote a perfectly straightforward typed letter to Perry Knowlton, who was the agent. Perry, God rest his soul, was a much older gentleman who never touched a computer in his life. So, I followed up my friend’s note with my own query letter. Mind you, my book was still not done. It said, “Dear, Mr. Knowlton, I’ve been writing and selling nonfiction by myself for several years. But now that I’m working on a novel, I understand that I need good literary representation. You’ve been recommended to me by John and these other people who all think you walk on water.” I said, “I have this very long book. I don’t want to waste your time reading it, it’s a long historical novel. Would you be willing to read excerpts from it?” I didn’t tell him it wasn’t done. Excerpts were all I had.
He very kindly called me back and gave me a heart attack and said, yes, he would read my excerpts. So, I hastily wrote a 26‑page single spaced synopsis of what I thought I knew about the rest of the story and sent it with my bundle of excerpts, and he took me. It is not usual to buy an unfinished book as a first novel, but I was very lucky. I actually finished the book six months later, gave it to him, and he sent it to five editors who he thought might like it. Within four days, three of them had called back with offers to buy it. So, he negotiated amongst them for two weeks. He emerged with a three‑book contract, and bing, I was a novelist. Like I said, it’s very humdrum.
New episodes of The Great American Read premiere September 11 through October 23 on PBS. Voting opened with the launch of the two-hour premiere episode on May 22 and continues throughout the summer, leading up to the grand finale on October 23.
The good news today is that seasons 5 and 6 have been confirmed ( as if there was any doubt about that ), and that Diana Gabaldon may be writing at least one episode.
Creator of the Outlander book series that the STARZ show is based on, Gabaldon enjoys a bit more creative freedom with her creation than other authors and adaptations. Showrunner Ronald D. Moore made sure of this from the beginning — Gabs serves as a series consultant from time to time, as well as appearing in episode 4 from season 1.
Also also, Diana has written an episode of the series: season 2, episode 11, ‘Vengeance Is Mine’. The hope was that she would be able to write additional episodes, but continuing work on the ninth novel in the series prevented this from happening in seasons 3 and 4.
During the 44th Annual Saturn Awards, we were able to chat briefly with Diana on the red carpet before the ceremony, where she accepted the award for Best Fantasy TV Series on behalf of the show. (This is the third year running that the STARZ series has taken home the golden statue.)
She mentioned that production was wrapping on season 4, and that she was very excited for fans to see where the season goes.
We asked her about the possibility of her returning to write an episode in the coming seasons, and she said that as long as her writing and editing schedule for book nine, Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, goes well, she would be interested and available.
While Outlander will not be present at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) this year, they will have a presence at New York Comic Con (NYCC), where at the very least, a new trailer for the upcoming season 4 is expected to drop, if not the entire premiere episode (as they did last year during SDCC).
Diana Gabaldon, the author of the Outlanderseries and a friend of Martin’s, recently backed up that idea when speaking with fans last week. We’re not sure what question inspired her to talk about this conversation she had with Martin, but it was interesting.
So Gabaldon asked Martin how things were going with “the newest book.” Quoth Martin, via Gabaldon:
I’m having all kinds of trouble. Have you ever killed somebody off that you later realized that you needed?…I just painted myself into a corner.
Let’s note that we don’t know when Martin and Gabaldon had this conversation. Perhaps it was years ago, and Martin has already written himself out of whatever corner he’d painted himself into. In any case, you have to wonder which dead character was/is giving him problems. It’s probably not a major one — the deaths of characters like Ned and Robb and Tywin are woven into the narrative such that we can’t imagine Martin ruing killing them off. Maybe someone like Maester Aemon or Qyentyn Martell or Kevan Lannister? It’s not the series lacks for dead people.
The idea of Martin being tripped up by a dead character he “needed” rings true. Martin is meticulous about his plotting, and has been known to rewrite parts of his books after he decides to change something. Diana Gabaldon isn’t phased, though. “This happens all the time when you write,” she says. “But you have an imagination…So if you paint yourself into the corner, I said, what you do is you get a new bucket of paint and you paint yourself back out and do the floor behind you. I mean, you can revise history — it’s easy if you try.”
Outlander – George R.R. Martin – The Winds of Winter –
Historians who maintain the Culloden Battlefield in Scotland are reportedly blaming fans of the novels and TV series for trampling the area around the Clan Fraser memorial .
The property manager of Culloden says more than 180,000 people visited the battlefield last year, up 28 percent from 2016. Some even left behind little cutouts of Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie Fraser on the Starz drama.
The Battle of Culloden was teased at the end of season 2 and depicted in the premiere episode of season 3 on Outlander. It was a brief re-creation of the actual confrontation that took place on April 16, 1745 between British troops and the Jacobite forces of Bonnie Prince Charlie. In the series, it’s where Jamie finally kills Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies).
“Some of the things I have seen at Culloden have really got my back up,” Alasdair MacNeill of the Circle of Gentlemen, a Jacobite appreciation society, tells the Daily Record. “A lot the visitors are American and seem to think they are on a film set rather than a war grave. They maybe don’t know the history. But how would they feel if I walked my dog across Gettysburg?”
The National Trust for Scotland is reportedly hoping to reseed the area around the monument. In the meantime, Outlander series author Diana Gabaldon weighed in on the phenomenon with a not-so-subtle message to fans to tread lightly on such hallowed ground.
Katey Boal and her team do a wonderful job in conserving, curating and presenting this precious part of Scotland’s heritage, and I’m sure that all Outlander fans are more than grateful and appreciative of their efforts, and I am sure they will make every effort to support them. https://twitter.com/ScotlandNow/status/985868066021142528 …
Savannah Book Fest: Scientist-turned-novelist Diana Gabaldon to dish on ‘Outlander’ at sold-out opening address
In the late 1980s, Diana Gabaldon was a research scientist working in the field of behavioral ecology when she set out to explore a new hobby that would transform her career rather drastically.
What became the New York Times bestselling series “Outlander” began as a piece of historical fiction and a challenge Gabaldon gave herself. She wanted to write a novel, just for practice. While watching the science-fiction television series “Doctor Who,” a Scottish character from the 18th century caught her attention. He became the foundation for one of the “Outlander” main characters, Jamie Fraser.
“That was an accident,” Gabaldon said in an interview with January Magazine. “I mean, everything was an accident, amazingly. I wanted to write a book for practice to learn how to write novels. And I was thinking what would be the easiest possible kind of thing to write, and I thought maybe a mystery, because I read more of those than anything.
“And then I thought, ‘Well, mysteries have plots. I’m not sure I can do that.’ And I thought perhaps that would be a historical novel because I was a research professor. Well, I was a scientist, but I did know how to use the library and it’s easier to look things up than to make them up entirely. So I said, ‘OK. I’ll write a historical novel.”
Gabaldon had joined an online message board, an early precursor to chat rooms, on the subject of literature. In the group, a man asked for a description of what it was like to be pregnant. Having three children already, Gabaldon understood the experience, but she had also written about it. At the time, she had kept her novel writing a secret. She shared a portion of the manuscript with the online message board, which reacted to it well. She decided to share more, and to write more.
In a stroke of luck, she found a literary agent and and sold the first unfinished manuscript for “Outlander.” Although it began as a piece of historical fiction, Gabaldon’s female protagonist did not fit well into 18th-century Scotland. So the book took a turn into science fiction with the introduction of 20th-century British nurse Claire Randall, who time travels from 1945 to 1743.
Originally marketed as a romance novel, “Outlander’s” popularity later allowed the publishing company to transition the series into the fiction section. Described as part historical fiction (based around the true story of Scotland’s Charles Edward Stuart), part romance novel and part science-fiction, “Outlander” has been hard to categorize, but that has rarely defeated its popularity.
“Whenever you’re dealing with something that’s difficult to describe, that you can’t get across to someone in a sound bite, it sounds like the normal default is to pick what’s easiest, and in the case of fiction written by women, fiction involving women, fiction involving any sort of relationship, the word that comes to mind is romance,” Gabaldon said in an interview with Vulture. “It’s canned stuff: ‘It’s steamy, it’s stirring, it’s sizzling, it’s a bodice ripper.’ And as I say, in romance novels, those are courtship stories. Once the couple is married, that’s the end of the story. And in our story, that means we would have stopped at episode seven.
“I’ve never seen anyone deal in a literary way with what it takes to stay married for more than 50 years, and that seemed like a worthy goal. On one level, this series is telling the story of how people stay married for a long time.”
The original “Outlander” book was published in 1991. Since then, Gabaldon has finished seven more books in the series, with a forthcoming ninth in the works. The “Outlander” series has been published in 26 countries and 23 languages and now includes several companion series. It has sold more 28 million copies in print.
In 2013, Starz revealed a television adaption of 16 episodes. It premiered in 2014 and was renewed for a fourth season in 2016. The third season aired in September and the fourth season is now being filmed. The television adaption has been nominated for several awards, including multiple Emmys and Golden Globes.
Soon after the second book, Gabaldon retired from her science career to focus on writing. She holds degrees in zoology, marine biology and a doctorate in quantitative behavioral ecology.
Tickets for her opening address at the 2018 Savannah Book Festival sold out in minutes.
“Diana Gabaldon, like Oprah, could run for president,” said Kim Bockius-Suwyn, executive director the festival. “I have to remind people we’re a literary festival. Diana’s fans are hysterical. They crashed our website.”