I am so honored and incredibly excited to sit down with Diana Gabaldon today to talk about her writing and the eighth book in the Outlander Series.
From her site (www.dianagabaldon.com):
Diana Gabaldon is the author of the award-winning, #1 NYT-bestselling OUTLANDER novels...The adventure began in 1991 with the classic OUTLANDER (“historical fiction with a Moebius twist”)...Gabaldon (it’s pronounced “GAA-bull-dohn”—rhymes with “stone”) has also written several books in a sub-series featuring Lord John Grey (a major minor character from the main series)...Returning to her comic-book roots, she has also written a graphic novel titled THE EXILE (set within the OUTLANDER universe and featuring the main characters from OUTLANDER), but told from the viewpoint of Jamie Fraser and his godfather, Murtagh.
Gabaldon is presently working on the third Lord John novel (LORD JOHN AND THE SCOTTISH PRISONER), and the eighth book in the OUTLANDER series (WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD). In addition, she is working on a contemporary mystery series, set in Phoenix, and has written Highly Scholarly Introductions (with masses of footnotes) to recent Modern Library editions of Sir Walter Scott’s IVANHOE and Thomas Paine’s COMMON SENSE.
Dr. Gabaldon holds three degrees in science: Zoology, Marine Biology, and Quantitative Behavioral Ecology, (plus an honorary degree as Doctor of Humane Letters, which entitles her to be “Diana Gabaldon, Ph.D., D.H.L.” She supposes this is better than “Diana Gabaldon, Phd.X,”) and spent a dozen years as a university professor with an expertise in scientific computation before beginning to write fiction.
She and her husband, Douglas Watkins, have three adult children and live mostly in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The First Book in the Outlander Series
1. So, you came from a background in science. How did that lead to writing fiction?
Oh, it didn’t.
Things in life aren’t always a direct connection, you know. Often one just stops doing one thing and does something else.
In my case, I’d known from the age of eight or so that I wassupposed to be a novelist; I just didn’t know how. When I turned thirty-five, I said to myself, “You know, Mozart was dead at thirty-six. Maybe you better get a move on.” So I decided to write a novel for practice, in order to learn how. That was OUTLANDER, so evidently I really was supposed to be a novelist.
2. I have to ask, how do you juggle multiple writing projects?
Errr… I work on one thing until it sticks (usually 2/3 of the way down the page) and then I go work on something else until that sticks. Or I have a sudden revelation while working on something—but the revelation has nothing to do with what I’m working on—so I switch to a new document and write down the revelation, then either run with it or go back to the original project, depending. If two projects are stuck, I go on to a third—or switch to email and answer interview questions for awhile.
If you’re just talking about logistics, though…
Each project has its own directory (or folder, as we now say). Within said folder, each file has a codeword that designates the book, novella, whatever, followed by a symbol indicating the year, and an extension indicating the date on which I started writing it. So if I were, say, to begin a new scene today for the eighth major OUTLANDER novel (which in fact I will, because I finished a scene last night), the file would be called JAMIE8%.127. “%” being the symbol for 2013, “JAMIE8”being the code for “WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD”, and today being January 27th.
Each project folder also includes a file called the “MFILE.” That’s the Master File. All it is, is a list of filenames, with a few keywords next to the title. I update it once a week or so. That’s how I find specific files when I need them.
3. Scotland is a beautiful place that I one day hope to visit. What about it appealed to you as a writer?
Men in kilts.
Side note: this is Allan Scott Douglas and he played Jamie in the Outlander Musical
4. When you sit down to write, what is your process – do you sit in complete silence, do you blare your music, drink coffee etc.?
I never “blare” music; what a horrible idea. Occasionally, I have music while writing, but not most of the time. Complete silence is Not Likely, given that I work at home and there are other people and dogs in the house. I do usually drink Diet Coke while working.
Basically, I just sit down, skim through the social media and answer a few things to limber up the word-flow—and then I work.
I can work just about anywhere, under any sort of conditions—because while I’m working, I’m not actually there; I’m in the book.
5. Was Outlander always going to be a series? Is that something you pitched later?
I’ve never pitched anything to anybody, unless you count a query letter written to my first agent. (All I said in that one was, “I have this very long historical novel. I don’t want to waste your time, but would you be willing to read excerpts from it? (I didn’t tell him I wasn’t through writing the book; excerpts were all I had.).)
But no, and yes. Meaning, when I began OUTLANDER, it was just for practice; I didn’t mean to show it to anybody, let alone try to publish it. As it was, Things Happened, and I got an agent before I’d finished writing it. When I finally did finish writing it, I sent it to my agent and said, “I realize that there’s more to this story, but I thought I should stop while I could still lift it. If anybody’s interested in it, though, you can tell them there’s more.”
So, they were, he did, and they gave me a three-book contract. And here we now are, in the middle of the eighth book (plus outriders)…
6. What was it like when you first published Outlander? What is it like now, writing Book EIGHT in the series?
7. Speaking of Book eight, what can you say about Written In My Own Heart’s Blood (MOBY) – I know you’ve posted teasers (found here) but is there anything else that you can say?
Well, I want an octopus on the cover. (My editor pretends not to believe me when I say this, in hopes she can convince me otherwise without having to actually enter into contravention with me.)
8. And of course the standard question: do you have any advice to unpublished or even newly published writers? Do you have one piece of advice that is a MUST for any writer?
3. Don’t Stop!!!
So, I want to thank Diana for stopping by and agreeing to do this. You can follow her via: