When I signed up to host presenters from the upcoming Historical Novels Society conference on my blog, I had no idea I’d be lucky enough to host big hitters like Diana Gabaldon (and see my last post: Anne Perry). It’s so exciting to have her here today!
I was first introduced to her work by author friend Jordan Rosenfeld, who pulled Outlander off her shelf where it lay in a long line of the series, saying, “Here you go; you’ll love this.” And of course I did. I relished every one of those six hundred pages! And was thrilled to see that, coming late to the game, there were a half-dozen books still to devour. I’ll never look at kilts the same way again.
Gabaldon’s bio from the HNS website reports that she: “is the author of the award-winning, best-selling Outlander novels, described by Salon as “the smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting ‘Scrooge McDuck comics.” Outlander began in 1991 and has continued through several more bestselling novels, with twenty million copies in print worldwide. Diana has also written a sub-series featuring Lord John Grey. Diana emcee’d the fabulous “Late Night Sex Scene Readings” at the San Diego conference in 2011, and will be reprising this scandalous event again in St. Petersburg this year.”
(I saw those Sex Scene Readings in 2011 and they were very fun!)
Without any further ado, here are Gabaldon’s fantastic, funny answers to questions created by megamind author Vanitha Sankaran, head board member of the HNS conference. Wait, no, a little more ado: I was told I could pick and choose out of the answers, but I think they’re all wonderful and thus I include them en masse.
What got you first interested in historical fiction?
I wasn’t any more interested in historical fiction than in any other kind; I just thought a historical novel might be the easiest thing for me to write for practice, since I was a research professor, and did know my way around a library. It seemed slightly easier to look things up than to make them up…and, I figured, if I turned out to have no imagination, I could steal things from the historical record.
How do you find the people and topics of your books?
They just sort of show up. I think it’s probably better if I don’t try to figure out where they’re coming from.
Do you follow a specific writing and/or research process?
What, like the Palmer Method? (g) I imagine everyone’s got some routines that are specific to them, but on the whole, both writing and research are pretty organic. Personally, I do the writing and the research concurrently, because I find they feed off and reinforce each other. I have a rough sort of work schedule, but it’s flexible. I mostly write late at night, between midnight and 4 a.m.—much less intrusion and psychic noise.
For you, what is the line between fiction and fact?
Er…are you implying that there are people who don’t know the difference? (g) Fiction is stuff I make up, and facts are…you know…facts. (Though I notice with interest that one source gives two definitions of “fact”:
1. A thing that is indisputably the case.
1. 2. Information used as evidence or as part of a report or news article.
I think that’s an interesting distinction, don’t you?)
Do you have an anecdote about a reading or fan interaction you’d like to share?
Well, I have had no fewer than three young ladies come up to me at book-signings, turn around and lower their pants enough for me to see that they had “Da mi basia mille” (“Give me a thousand kisses.” It’s a quote from Catullus, used in one of my books) tattooed on their rumpuses. As my husband remarked, “It’s not everybody who can say, “Kiss my ass” in classical Latin.”
Where do you feel historical fiction is headed as a genre?
Frankly, I don’t worry about such things.
Is there an era/area that is your favorite to write about? How about to read?
The eighteenth century is one of my favorites, because it’s sufficiently near to our time that there’s a great deal of primary source material still available, and it’s reasonably accessible (in
terms both of language and printing)—and at the same time, it was a huge period of intellectual, scientific and political upheaval and ferment.
As for reading, I’ll read anything, as long as it’s well written.
What are your favorite reads? Favorite movies? Dominating influences?
I read so much of everything, it’s hard for any one influence to be truly dominant. Still, there are five writers whom I’d acknowledge as what you might call literary role models: Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, John D. MacDonald, Dorothy L. Sayers, and P.G. Wodehouse.
Is there a writer, living or deceased, you would like to meet?
I do meet them, in the pages of their books. Writers really can’t hide, you know;
everything they are is right there on the page.
What book was the most fun for you to write?
It’s always the one I’m presently working on, because that’s the one I don’t yet know everything about. (g)
Can you tell us about your latest publication?
Well, the eighth Big OUTLANDER novel is coming right up, later this year. That’s WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD, set in 1778 (and in the 1980’s), in Colonial America (and Scotland…maybe a little bit in the Caribbean, I haven’t decided yet), and featuring All Kinds of Things, some of which are guaranteed to make the readership scream and hop up and down like peas on a hot shovel, and others that will make them melt into little puddles of goo. The most important thing is probably that THIS IS NOT THE LAST BOOK. (I’m pretty sure the ninth one is the final one.)
Do you have a most interesting question or crazy anecdote related to your writing you would like to share?
Fortunately, my books seem to attract fairly benign nuts. I think this is probably because anyone who’s truly crazy doesn’t have a long enough attention span to read one.
Benign nuts, indeed. I think I qualify!
Thanks so much, Diana, for taking the time to share your insights into your writing and thinking process
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