OutlanderFan.com’s Interview with ‘Herself,’ Diana Gabaldon…

Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ series, books 1-7

First, I have to say a ginormous THANK YOU to Diana for graciously taking the time to do this interview; not only was she in the midst of writing MOBY (Written in My Own Heart’s Blood/Book 8), she was also gearing up for her daughter’s wedding in Scotland… I found her to be friendly, funny, and generous in her responses, for which I’m verra appreciative.

 As an Outlander fan, I’m curious about what goes on in Herself’s head when she writes/goes about her daily life. I want to know: 

  • Is the connection between Jamie & Claire a reflection of  Diana’s own sense of self?
  • What is she like to be around while she’s writing?
  • Is there a particular book/author that affected her life as much as Outlander has ours? 
  • Is she ever reluctant to turn over her stories/characters to us, the readers?
  • Does she think about Jamie as much as we do, lol?

I think you’ll find her responses enlightening as well as entertaining…

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{She answered this first question in true DG form, and left me laughing out loud…}

Not to sound cliché, but the dynamic between Jamie & Claire awakened my ‘inner-goddess;’ something about their connection  moved me to embrace my  femininity & literally view the ‘male species’ in a different light (much to my husband’s great delight, lol). Who/what awakened yours, or did you perhaps always have a sense of being comfortable in your own skin?                  

 Dear Jennifer- I just like men.

 

 {Don’t you just love that?  Her response just smacks of  Jamie or Lord John Grey, lol}

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{I did gain a lot of insight into her writing process from her response to this question…}

Whenever inspiration to write something hits me, it feels like I will literally burst; hopefully I’m at home when this happens- the kids can be running around screaming their heads off  like little barbarians in their underwear and it doesn’t matter, as long as I’m able to get it ‘out of my system’ and into the computer. However, if I’m not at home or near a computer it’s unfortunate for anyone around me as I’m rather edgy, and unable to focus on anything (hmmm, maybe I should get a tablet, lol). What are you like to be around when you write? Have you ever been inspired to write at an inoppurtune moment?

When I began to write my first novel, I had 1) two full-time jobs, 2) three children under the age of 6, and 3) a husband who would have begged me to wait until I had “more time” before trying to write a novel (out of fear that I would die of exhaustion), if I’d been incautious enough to tell him what I was doing, which I wasn’t. Consequently, I usually didn’t have a lot of uninterrupted time to write the novel. (I did have time to write; both my jobs involved tremendous amounts of writing, so I was often at a computer.)

The other thing, though, has to do with how I write. Which is to say—I don’t write with an outline, and I don’t write in a straight line. I don’t decide what I’m going to write and then sit down and work on it. What I need to begin working is what I call a “kernel”: a line of dialogue, a vivid image, an emotional ambiance…anything I can sense concretely enough to write a line or two describing it. Once I have that on paper, I stare at it, and I fiddle; put words in, take them out, add clauses, shuffles sentences—so the top of my mind is concerned with the craft of the thing, looking for maximum euphony and clarity and accuracy. That kind of frees up the stuff on the bottom to wander around kicking at the compost piles down there and asking random questions: What time of day is it? How is the light falling? Is it lighting someone’s face? Who just spoke? Are my hands cold? Etc., etc., etc. (as the King of Siam might remark).

The end result of all this is that I learned almost immediately to crystallize a kernel when I got one; to visualize whatever it was as a mental image attached to a few words. Then I could just carry that around in my head until I got to my computer. Once there, I could drop my kernel onscreen like one of those Japanese gel capsules that you drop in boiling water and get Godzilla made out of pink sponge.
 
I can write anywhere, under just about any conditions, except for someone talking directly to me and insisting that I pay attention to them. <g>
 
As to what I’m like when I’m writing, I’m told I make faces.
 
{So she started writing Outlander on the ‘down-low;’ how intimate! And I love that she doesn’t write with an outline or in a straight line. The characters and plots are complex and fragmented, and don’t really conform to a given outline; they deserve to emerge at their own pace, in their own way… In the end, they are all cohesive. That’s one of the things I love most about Outlander, how the characters & plots are so diverse; they branch out on so many different levels and yet stay rooted, like a tree… Their secrets are revealed to us in each piece of bark, each knot and leaf, and flow together hypnotically like a weeping willow swaying in the breeze…
Also I will never look at my kids’ gel capsule/animal sponges in the same light again, lol.}
 
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{I hope my husband takes no offense by this next question, lol!}
 

I always say that if I’d read Outlander 20 years ago I’d probably be living in Scotland/married to a Scotsman right now, lol; is there one book/author in particular that has ever moved you to consider a lifestyle change?

 

Sure. All the wonderful books I’ve read since childhood convinced me that I was meant to be a writer. <g>

 

{Alrighty then… next question!}
 
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{*Sniff, don’t hurt my baby!  Who else can relate to this next one?}
 

As crazy as this sounds, whenever I loan out any copy of the Outlander series, I feel both happy to be turning on someone new to the series and also a little protective, lol, like I’m trusting them with a family member. As the author/creator, do you ever have protective feelings of the characters? Is there ever even a tiny grain of reluctance to share or ‘entrust’ the characters/story with us ‘perfect strangers,’ lol?

No, I don’t have a reluctance to trust the story to readers. That’s what I wrote it for, after all. <g> That said, I do occasionally roll my eyes when obliged to listen to some of the less thoughtfully considered reactions people sometimes have to the story or characters.

Now, everyone brings his or her own background, perceptions, experience, and expectations to a book—that’s why each re-read of a complex book is different; you’re a different person each time you come to it. But that also means that some readers with a limited world-view, or who have had a very strong life experience of some kind, will read a book with a personal bias that, um, I don’t share. <cough>
 
The deeply moving, maternal letter of farewell that Claire writes to her daughter before departing into the past? Two letters from women upset that this tender physician put a P.S. on the letter saying, “P.S. Stand up straight and don’t get fat.” Distorted Body Image! How dare I cause young women to worry about their bodies?!? How could I do such a thing?
 
Having been through stuff like that before, I wrote back with a polite letter, asking whether perhaps each reader had had someone in her life with an eating disorder or other serious emotional issue connected with body image? Both of them admitted that, well, yes, in fact they did. I sympathized, but pointed out that no one else had had that reaction to the letter, and while their reaction was of course valid, it didn’t mean that it was universal, or correct.
 
Then there are the very young men and women who have grown up in a post-feminist world with not much exposure to history—not any history in particular, but just the notion that historical periods were different from the present, and not just different in terms of not having electric waffle-makers or tampons, but different in terms of how people thought, and the conditions and concerns that shaped that thought. You know…the concept of a frame of reference.
 
Lacking that concept, they tend to get seriously bent over events in the books that would <be> Unacceptable (that ultimate word of power <cough>) to Modern Enlightened Thought. Older readers almost never respond that way to the same events, but are inclined to find them moving, funny, or sexually arousing.
 
{How true, everyone brings their own frame of reference/life experience/perceptions to the story. I personally was not offended by the passage in Outlander where Jamie ‘disciplined’ Claire for almost getting them all (Jamie, Murtagh, Dougal, Rupert etc) killed upon her rescue from Captain Randall/Fort William. While such an act seems unreasonable in 2012,  I understand that in 1743, things were a little different; Jamie had his reasons which I won’t go into here, but relative to his upbringing in the Scottish Highlands in that time period, he did what he believed was necessary, for Claire’s own good.  However, I am aware of other Outlander fans who were indeed offended, and while I completely understand and sympathize why someone would be, I just personally don’t see the two as the same.  (At the risk of sounding callous, I did find it a little funny, and it led to one of my favorite scenes ever in the series, you can see it on the Need a Jamie Fix? page, it’s #2.)}
 
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{I’ve been dying to ask this last question, ever since I became a true Outlander fan.}

Throughout my daily life, I find (as do many of my fellow Outlander friends) that I often notice things/people that remind me of something from the books (a dragonfly, mortar and pestle, etc.) Is it like that for you? For example, if you were to see a tall redhead say, at the grocery store, would your mind go automatically to Jamie? Or is it maybe something you try to turn off when you’re about your daily life/with your family?

This is a corollary to the “where do you get your ideas?” question. <g> The answer being, “everywhere. All the time.” Stuff just washes through me all the time—sights, sounds, smells, thoughts, visions, conversations, figures of speech, you name it—and some of it crystallizes into kernels and some of it doesn’t.

The automatic sifting of Stuff naturally stops (or retreats so far into the subconscious that I don’t notice it) if I’m concentrating on something, but otherwise, it’s just there all the time, like breathing.
 
{So it’s not just us, she thinks about it all the time too! That’s reassuring, especially when you consider that MOBY is in the works :)}
 
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Well, this experience was truly a pleasure for me, and one that I’ll always be thankful for!  I want to thank Diana again for taking the time to share with us her insights into her creative process.  I had so much fun doing this, and I hope you enjoyed reading it! What do YOU guys think of  Herself’s insights? ♥
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27 Comments

  1. August 28, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Good stuff! Thank you! Please keep up the good work!!

  2. aaron brown said,

    August 28, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    How awesome!! I am glad to know she thinks about it 24/7 as well!

  3. Bev said,

    August 28, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Awesome questions and responses! Well done you! and thanks for sharing.

  4. August 28, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    Great interview Loved it!

  5. mary george said,

    August 29, 2012 at 12:31 am

    she created it and won’t leave it, so creative

  6. Barbara Pickett said,

    August 29, 2012 at 8:53 am

    More confirmation (though none was needed) of how truly brilliant she really is.

  7. Jerry Tompkins said,

    August 29, 2012 at 8:58 am

    I’m with Aaron. I’m glad to hear that Herself is thinking all the time about writing, that she doesn’t just turn it off at times.

  8. Sarah said,

    August 29, 2012 at 9:25 am

    What a great interview and thanks for sharing it with all of us.

  9. August 29, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Ever gracious, that’s Herself! After reading this, I really do see her in ALL her characters!

  10. Angela said,

    August 29, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Amazing that you got her to do this! How exciting!!!

  11. Hiedi Ashworth said,

    August 29, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    I loved it. One question I wished you had asked is” Since writing these books, did they move you into new realms you never thought you would go to and how, or were they a reflection of a life path you were already headed on?” I am thinking of the fact that when starting Outlander, Diana had not been to Scotland. Had she always meant to go there or did her writing take her there and other new places?

  12. Lilyana said,

    August 29, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Wow you ask beautiful questions and I love your love for Jamie. Wonderful. Thank you for sharing this bit of Herself with us.

  13. DiForBooks said,

    August 29, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Jennifer, good questions. Lovely interview. I’ve never seen this site before, glad I was referred here.

  14. Kate said,

    August 31, 2012 at 8:39 am

    So exciting!! Just started Drums of Autumn and I think I like appreciate Diana even more knowing that she wrote all of these as a busy mom. Great interview!

    • OutlanderFan said,

      August 31, 2012 at 8:51 am

      Thank you Kate!!! I have a deeper appreciation for it too! (And YAY for starting DOA!)


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