Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall in Outlander...this time travel story takes Claire from 1945 to the Scottish Highlands of 1743. Jamie is a young, fierce warrior with a sweet and innocent side...who doesn't love a hot Highlander? And when fate throws him together with Claire, a strong and competent combat nurse from the future, he nicknames her "Sassenach", which is Gaelic for "Outlander", i.e., someone not from Scotland. I love everything about Jamie - his speech, his insight, his courage, and his protectiveness. Claire is already married...but in another time and place. There were times, while reading this, that I found myself sobbing. That's a compelling couple and amazing writing.
To celebrate the airing of the series on Starz, I put together a post of some lesser-known facts about the Outlander series and the amazing author, Diana Gabaldon.
Diana is not Scottish--in fact, she took her first trip to Scotland after the Outlander manuscript had been sold to a UK publisher. Her last name, pronounced GAA-bull-dohn (last syllable rhymes with "stone"), is Spanish in origin.
The idea for both the historical setting in Scotland and the character of Jamie Fraser came from an old British rerun of a Dr. Who episode, "War Games". On the show, a Scotsman in a kilt named Jamie MacCrimmon made an impression on Diana; the actor's name was Frazer Hines. Crazy update (August 23) - it's been announced that Frazer Hines, now 70, will be joining the cast of Outlander as Sir Fletcher Gordon, the governor of Wentworth Prison! Talk about full circle.
Another new update: Diana has a cameo appearance in the fourth episode, "The Gathering". She'll play the role of Iona MacTavish...the scene takes place in one of the galleries over the Great Hall, and includes a few lines of dialog.
The mesmerizing theme song for the Starz shows gives me chills every time I watch - I refuse to miss even one second. The haunting melody that plays during the opening credits was created by Bear McCreary and features his wife Raya Yarbrough singing. You can download "Skye Boat Song" on iTunes here!
Diana actually wrote Outlander "for practice", to learn how to write a novel. It was never intended to be read by an audience. She began writing it on March 6, 1988.
She holds three degrees in science, including a Ph.D. in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology; she also wrote comic books for Disney (Scrooge McDuck) before beginning her novels.
Outlander won the Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA Award for Best Romance in 1991, the year it was published.
Diana inserted a nod to her first name in the third book in the series, Voyager. Jamie and Claire sail on a ship called Artemis--the Greek counterpart of the Roman Goddess Diana.
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Diana does not work from an outline, and she gets most of her writing done between the hours of midnight and 4:00 a.m.
There will be at least one more book--the 9th--in the series. Diana already knows what the last scene in the entire series is: she wrote it ten years ago, after the idea came to her in the middle of the night. However, the story can still evolve in unexpected ways, as that last scene is really more of an epilogue. Certain hints during interviews point to this epilogue having something to do with one of the first scenes in Outlander, during which a mysterious ghostly figure of Jamie appears to Claire in 1940s Scotland.
Anytime I'm asked, during one of my own author presentations, who my favorite author is, Diana Gabaldon is my immediate answer. I gather so much inspiration from her writing, although I don't write within the Historical Romance genre. However, I do write Romance with paranormal elements, and while certain paranormal themes--time travel and witchcraft, for example--play a significant part in the Outlander series, it's the sexual tension she creates between the characters that I study. Plus, there are certain scenes I just happen to enjoy reading over--and over--again! Fans of the series will know what I'm talking about...those moments in the book where words make our hearts physically ache or joyfully soar.
In terms of similar books, the closest I've found to evoking the same type of feelings as Outlander within the Historical Romance genre is The Bronze Horseman, by Paullina Simons. This series is set in WWII Russia, not 18th century Scotland, but it's truly amazing.
If you like a bit of paranormal with your romance, try one of my books! Both Silver Lake and Gull Harbor are reunion romances mixed with ghost stories. My new Young Adult novel, Divine Fall, involves a fallen angel, or Nephilim, who gets tangled up with a human girl as he follows his quest for revenge.
Happy reading, and enjoy the Outlander premier! For some pictures of the actors cast to play Jamie and Claire, visit my Outlander Pinterest board. Jamie is portrayed by Sam Heughan, and Claire is played by Caitriona Balfe. For Game of Thrones enthusiasts like myself, one last fun fact: the actor playing both Frank and Black Jack Randall is Tobias Menzies, who also portrays Edmure Tully in GoT (see "E" in my A-Z GoT list). Fantastic casting all around!