Author Diana Gabaldon on Her Favorite Books and How Outlander Came Into Being

Diana Gabaldon

Diana Gabaldon (Courtesy of Rahoul Ghose/PBS)

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PBS’ The Great American Read, hosted by TV personality and journalist Meredith Vieira, is returning this fall when the novel that received the most votes from the 100 best-loved novels selected by the American public will be announced.

But before The Great American Read returns in September, readers are being encouranged to read as many books as possible, vote on their favorite works of fiction, and share their thoughts and opinions on social media.

To date, fans have amassed more than 2 million votes in search for America’s “Best-Loved Novel.” PBS also just announced the top 40 bookscurrently leading the polls (listed alphabetically). Viewers are currently able to vote for their favorite titles at pbs.org/greatamericanread and through hashtag voting via Facebook and Twitter.

The eight-part TV competition shines a national spotlight on the importance of reading and will feature interviews with numerous authors from the books on the list, including Diana Gabaldon, who is best known for her Outlander series of novels and the STARZ TV series derived from it. In fact, the TV series returned Outlander to the No. 1 spot on the New York Times best seller list 23 years after it was first published.

Gabaldon, who is currently working on the ninth book in the series, appeared at PBS’ summer TCA session for The Great American Read. Following is a bit of what she had to say.

What was it like when you found out you made the list?

I said, “Who else is on this list?”

Is your favorite book on the list?

Trying to pick one favorite book out of the universe of books is impossible. Trying to pick one off of a list of 100 is difficult but maybe not impossible. It’s a dead heat between Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Lonesome Dove. Having made that decision, I was thinking: What do these books have in common? Why do I like them both so much? I finally decided that it’s because they share what my husband refers to in reference to my work as the “One damn thing after another” school of fiction.

What book or books really changed the way you thought?

My dad at one phase of his career was an elementary school principal. And his elementary school held a book sale — it was a very active school and all the parents brought in books by the ton — which he collected in this little janitorial room. Just before the book sale, he would let my mother, my sister and me into that room with an empty cardboard box each. We brought back the books that we had taken last year and added them to the pile, but we extracted new ones. When I was about 15, I filled my box halfway with the paperbacks that had the covers ripped off and I found out why.

What are you reading right now? 

I’m in one of those phases where I’m reading four books at once because I’m actively working on the ninth book of my main series, and so I’m rereading Dorothy Sayers‘ The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club: A  Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery for probably the 80th time, because I love the series and the characters, but it’s a book I can step in and out of. I can put it down when it’s time to go to work myself. But I’m also running a nonfiction book in the background that I’m reading for general interest. Then, I’m also rereading parts of my own eighth book Written in My Own Heart’s Blood because I’m working on the ninth book, and there are pieces where I encounter an emotional thread that I had dropped in the last book. So, I will go back to read through it and pick that up so it will come into the new book with its original power.

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