An Interview With Diana Gabaldon

One fine day last spring, I met my sister-in-law Rita for lunch. She was clutching a chunky paperback with an embossed cover, the kind, so I thought, that I would never read. Rita told me my brother had bought her the entire eight-volume boxed set of Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, the blockbuster series about time travel in the Scottish Highlands, because she had become so obsessed with the first book. She was sad to be nearing the end, she said, and may need to go back to the beginning and start all over again. (At an average of 1,200 pages per volume, that tells you something.) But be warned, she said. There’s a lot of sex in those stories.

I’m not sure why she needed to warn me, but I was intrigued—not about the sex, it was the time travel!—and so I bought the first volume, Outlander.  It was impossible to put down, and I’ve been devouring those chunky paperbacks with the embossed covers ever since. And now I’m sad to be nearing the end too. (Though there’s good news on that front: Gabaldon is working on a ninth book, Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, and claims that she’ll make it an even ten and be done.)

Outlander Faerie Magazine
© Lisa Gill

Outlander is a smart, well-written, impeccably researched page turner that is impossible to categorize or define. The New York Times called it “genre-bending.” A rich, bubbling stew of romance and historical fiction, it is also a thriller, thick with magical enchantment, herbal lore, and more. Whatever you call it, one thing is certain: It’s an international publishing sensation. Outlander has sold well over 30 million copies in 44 languages around the world since the first book was published in 1991. It was made into a hit TV series on Starz and was recently renewed for its fifth and sixth seasons. The show costars Sam Heughan, the hunky Scotsman, in the role of Jamie Fraser, and Irish-born beauty Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall. And maybe someday Outlander will be a Broadway musical—there have been talks—but possibly not while the TV show is running.

The story centers around Claire, a former combat nurse, who takes a second honeymoon to Scotland in 1946 with her husband, Frank. Out for a walk one morning near Inverness, she stumbles upon Craigh na Dun, an ancient circle of stones that turns out to be a portal to the past, and Claire slips through to 1743. Before she can even blink an eye, she finds herself in mortal danger and is rescued by the dashing Highlander Jamie Fraser.

If you have read the books, you know what happens next, and if not, well, you are in for a great treat. But be warned: Don’t pick up these books unless you are prepared to not put them down. And if you can, read the Outlander books in sequence before you watch the TV series. That way, you’ll have the characters take shape in your imagination before the actors get inside your head. Gabaldon agrees. “The show is a very good companion to the books,” she says. “But it’s not a replacement.”

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