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Diana Gabaldon

The moment Claire Randall steps through the standing stones while on holiday in 1945, we find ourselves right alongside her in 18th century Scotland. We find ourselves in a time when a woman never traveled alone, a time right before the Battle at Culloden, which led to the events of the Highland Clearances. We find ourselves seeing the landscape through her eyes, and feeling her love for a young Scot named Jamie Fraser. We find ourselves hearing his voice say, Sassenach, and knowing that it meant Outlander in Gaelic.

And so it is with Diana Gabaldon's books, which began with the Outlander, followed by Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager and Drums of Autumn, that we follow the lives of two people. Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser come alive in the books that have been on bestseller lists throughout the world, translated in numerous languages and whose saga continues with their daughter, Briana's, own journey into the past.

When I met Diana on June 25 at the Scottish Highland Games in San Diego, she had just spent two straight days doing readings from her books, as well as book signings. Readers awaiting the latest installment to the Outlander series have to wait till the end of the year, with Diana adding, "I'm waiting, too."

Diana Gabaldon began began her career as a writer of comic book stories for Walt Disney and as a freelance writer for magazines like Byte and InfoWorld. She holds a master's degree in marine biology and a Ph.D. in ecology. She was also a university professor before writing full-time. Currently living in Scottsdale, Arizona, Diana's first novel began half a world away in 1743 Scotland, a land she had never even set foot on at that time.

"I wanted to write a book for practice to learn how to write novels," she told January magazine's Linda Richards. "And I was thinking what would be the easiest possible kind of thing to write and I thought maybe a mystery, because I read more of those than anything. And then I thought, 'Well, mysteries have plots. I'm not sure I can do that.' And I thought perhaps that would be a historical novel because I was a research professor. Well, I was a scientist but I did know how to use the library and it's easier to look things up than to make them up entirely. So I said, 'OK. I'll write a historical novel. Where shall I put this?' I had no formal background in history, so any time would do."

She also saw an episode on Doctor Who, which featured a young man in a kilt, whom she thought looked "rather fetching." From that point on, she decided to write a novel based on the Jacobite rising, intending it to be a straight historical novel. However, "... it sort of evolved as I went along. I was never intending to show it to anyone. So it didn't matter what sort of thing I did, I could stick in anything I liked. Consequently I ended up with a series of books that is absolutely uncategorifiable. And no one has ever been able to tell me what they are."

It took Gabaldon 18 months to write Outlander and with the encouragement she received from online writing groups, she published it in 1989 although she admits that her editor didn't know exactly how to sell it. "My main character is a time traveler. It's essentially very rich historical fiction, but it does have this fantastic thread. And it does have a very strong romantic thread. And eventually the marketing people said, 'Well, we don't know what to do with this. If we just release it as fiction, no one will know what to make of it and it'll just sink like a stone and vanish in two weeks.'"

These days, Gabaldon's books vanish from the bookstore shelves, appearing in readers' hands all over the world. Her fourth book, Drums of Autumn, opened at #2 on the New York Times and #1 on the Wall Street Journal. She is currently working on the fifth book in the Outlander series, as well as a contemporary mystery series. And for those who can't wait for the fifth book, Gabaldon has also published the Outlandish Companion, in which much is revealed regarding her protagonists, their ancestors, their lives and times.

Her Outlander novels have also generated legions of fans offline and online. One can find the Ladies of Lallybroch, with their various discourse on writing, anything Scottish and of course, Diana Gabaldon. Her official site lists her calendar of events as well as Gabaldon's own words to the public. She was the guest editor for eScene, a yearly electronic anthology dedicated to providing one-click access to the Internet's best short fiction and authors. Gabaldon will also be at the San Diego Scottish Highland Games on June 24 and 25, signing her books and doing readings from her Outlander series.

To learn more about Diana Gabaldon, visit her official website by clicking here.

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Last updated on October 24, 2000
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