World War II-era nurse Claire Randall stumbled through a stone circle into the 18th century—and straight into the hearts of readers, who have gobbled up Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series since its 1991 debut.
Gabaldon returned this summer with Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, the eighth book in the series—and this month the first book, Outlander, has been turned into a TV series that will air on Starz. We asked Gabaldon a few questions about the series and the new book.
Fans can be notoriously picky about screen adaptations of their favorite books. Do you think they’ll be pleased with the upcoming TV adaptation of “Outlander”?
Yes, I do.
What was your favorite moment from the book to see on the screen?
I won't know until I've seen the show in its entirety. I did, though, tell Sam Heughan during a fan event in L.A. that I was looking forward to seeing him raped and tortured.
As an author, do you worry that the TV series will put increased pressure on you to finish the series, as George R.R. Martin has experienced after the adaptation of “Game of Thrones”?
No. I write much faster than George. No, really—it's not a problem. I have eight books of the series in print! Several of them quite long (meaning that the material could well extend over more than one season). It isn't going to take me eight years to write another book.
Like all your books, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood has a lot of interwoven storylines. Which one was your favorite?
Ah . . . well, I tell you what. Pick up your favorite shirt. Look at the fabric closely. Which thread is your favorite?
If a fabric is well-woven, all the threads will be in the right place, providing support or ornament. Just so in a well-constructed book.
You’ve said that some characters are “mushrooms”—people who just show up in a storyline and run away with it. Were there any of those in the new novel?
Oh, yes. They're always there. I can't tell you about them, though, as so many people have hysterics if they encounter anything they think is a spoiler for the new book.
It seems like every Outlander book is rumored to be the last. Do you see a likely end point?
Rumors, forsooth. It's just silly hysteria, and entirely pointless. I've never said this or that book is the last one. I can't think why people think they have to know how many books there will be in a series—but if some mental compulsion afflicts them, I'm afraid they're out of luck. I don't plan the books out ahead of time, I don't write with an outline, and I don't write in a straight line—so I have no idea.
You write very long books in an era of short attention spans. Have you received any pushback about this? What pleasures do you think longer books afford to readers?
Oh, the publishers used to have fits about the length, but they've pretty much accepted reality of recent years and just deal with it. As for readers with short attention spans, there are plenty of short books out there. It's not my job to worry about What Readers Want; it's my job to write the best book I can, and then people can like it or not, up to them.
Your fans are particularly fervent—a 900-seat auditorium in Portland sold out soon after tickets went on sale, and you just had a fan retreat outside Seattle. Do you have a favorite fan moment?
I have wonderful fans: educated, literate, intelligent, sane (something many of my fellow-authors envy) and amazingly kind. Which is not to say that some of them don't show up at signings with "Da mi basia Mille" tattooed on their rumpuses, or present me with hand knitted teddy bears (in pale blue) playing bagpipes, but I love them all, regardless.
You’ve mentioned your work on a contemporary mystery—is that still something fans can look forward to?
Yes, in the fullness of time.
After decades in the business, what advice do you wish you’d had when you first launched your publishing career?
Actually, I had a lot of great advice from established writers, and do my best to pass it on to new writers. Can't think of anything I should have known but didn't, though.