Sacramento Public Library presents Diana Gabaldon at The Crest Theatre

(patrons talking loudly) (laughter) (bagpipe music) (audience clapping to the
beat of bagpipe music) (audience applause) – Thank you! That’s Joshua Brown of
Sky Highland Outfitters, so let’s please give him
another round of applause. (audience applause) And as the name suggests, he is an outfitter, so talk to him after the program if you would like to be
fitted with your own kilt. (audience laughter) Thank you. Good evening, and welcome to the event that at least some of us
have been waiting for. (laughter) And we’re almost there. You’ve been very patient tonight. My name is Rivkah Sass and I am the director of the
Sacrament Public Library, the best job in Sacramento! (audience applause) Thank you for joining us at our honorary branch, the Crest Theatre. We did not think we could
accommodate everyone in our beautiful library galleria, and I think we were right. So we were right to do this. I have to say that our hearts are full of gratitude tonight for many reasons. First of all, I have to thank all of you who live within
the city limits of Sacramento and voted “Yes” on measure B. (audience cheers) That allows us to keep our libraries, the 12 city libraries
within the city limits open, and we are thrilled about that. We’re thrilled and very grateful to the Friends of the Library who in part, helped make tonight possible and who support so many of our programs at Sacramento Public Library. I have to thank the Crest Theatre staff, Sid and her staff have been great. I think everything worked really smoothly and beautifully tonight, getting you all in and making that happen. (audience applause) And I said I have the best job in probably the world, actually, I just said Sacramento, but
it’s actually the world. And it’s because the staff
at Sacramento Public Library is so incredible. I really did feel like the
queen as I walked in tonight. Everything was organized,
everything was done, and people did a beautiful job. So I have to tell you, we have a delicious
evening planned tonight. (audience hoots) Our own Stephenee Birelli, a librarian at our central library, (audience cheers) will be leading the conversation
with Diana Gabaldon. And there’s the first
time I said it right, I’ve been waking up every night saying, “I’m going to mispronounce it,
I’m going to mispronounce it! “It’s bad to the bone,
Gabaldon!” (laughter) So, anyway, she’s going to
be leading the conversation. She’s going to do a wonderful job because she does that
at everything she does. And, like all wonderful things
that come from creative minds, I really feel the need to give credit where credit is due. Stephenee is the mastermind
of this whole event. How many of you attended her “How Outlandish” series of events? (applause) Thank you. If you don’t live in
Sacramento, you missed out. That was only one of a
notable book’s program that she did. She did a 12-part series celebrating the works of Jane Austen, which was very special. She’s done “The Lord of
the Rings”, J.R.R Tolkien. She continues to amaze and delight us. And tonight will demonstrate that she is truly a renaissance woman because not only does she hold degrees in both Library and Information
Science and Literature, she is a very talented historic costumer. And those of you’ve been here early saw her work, all done by hand, all done, every bit of it, by hand. So, please join me in
welcoming Stephenee Birelli. (audience applause) We’ll see if she’s too shy to come out. Now before I introduce
our very special guest I want to tell you that after the program, I’ll be back. There’s a little more
housekeeping to be done, and I’ll be telling you about
the book signing tonight. So be patient with me as I return. Other than that, what can I say? Diana Gabaldon is the number one New York Times bestselling author of the “Outlander” series, which have delighted and
created wonder for readers since 1991 when her
first book was published. So we’re thrilled that she’s joining us tonight in Sacramento, California. Please join me in
welcoming Diana Gabaldon. (audience applause and cheers) – Well, there may be 25 million
copies of them in the world, but only one author. (audience laughter) One author who could not
make us laugh with this line, “No wonder he was so good with horses, (laughter) “If I were a horse, I’d
let him ride me any way.” (laughter) Welcome Diana. – Thanks Stephenee. – It is my great honor to
be on the stage with you. – That’s lovely, thank you. – [Stephenee] I’m here
representing the fans who are here tonight, and
I hope I do them proud. – I’m sure you will. (audience applause) – [Stephenee] We have a lovely group of people here this evening. We have some from as far as Utah, – Wow. – [Stephenee] Illinois,
and North Carolina. – I’m very flattered, thank you. – [Stephenee] I heard that someone was coming from Japan? I don’t know if they made it. – Really? Wow! (cheers) Oh,
there they are. (laughter) – [Stephenee] We have some birthday girls here tonight. Terry Smith, happy birthday. Avril Ferguson is turning 80. – Wow! (applause) – Joanne Delporto ney McCoughen is 87. (applause) And their daughter surprised them with tickets for tonight,
so very good children. (laughter) Very nice birthday present. We have a couple here, Deborah and Kit, who just got married. (applause) Pocket Jamie actually was in attendance at their wedding. (laughter) Kit actually reads your
books aloud to her, and has read them all. They are currently on “Echo in the Bone”. – [Diana] Very nice. – So I wonder what he does when he gets to the Gaelic bits. (laughter) – Wing it. (laughs) – I am impressed. So, over time, I have
been collecting questions from your local fans, and I’m looking forward to asking you some of them this evening. As Rivkah noted, your
books are a huge success, but to each of the readers out there, that is not what matters. Sure, it’s a good selling point when we’re trying to tell our sister, or our dentist, or our
neighbor about them, convincing them to read it. But for each of us, there aren’t 25 million
copies in the world, there is that one book in our hands. It speaks directly to us, it is ours. It gives us each a unique experience, and is our old friend, and a home that we keep returning to. And to quote Robert Frost via Claire, “Home is the place where, “when you have to go there, “they have to take you in.” (laughter) And it takes us in every time. – Well thank you very much. (laughs) (audience applause) – So we are in a room
with fans of your books, who have collectively read
them thousands of times. – Thank you. – Yet, there are many people here who don’t know how they came to be. So let’s talk about your
creative process as a writer, and then we’ll talk more
specifically about the books. – Sure. – So, Claire quoted Lewis
Carol when she said, “Begin at the beginning.” So let’s start from the beginning, what kind of reader were you as a child? – Omnivorous from the beginning. I learned to read at
the age of three or so and never stopped. I distinctly remember
going to kindergarten when I was five, being presented with a
copy of “See Dick Run” flipping through it and
tossing it contemptuously onto the table. (laughter) I was not a tactful child. And saying, “Who would read that?” (laughter) I have read everything that
I could get my hands on. From the earliest days, I can’t remember not being able to read. And one of the happiest days of my life was when my mother wrote a
note to the public library, saying, “Let her check
out anything she wants.” (laughter) – [Stephenee] Excellent. So the library was
important to you as a child? – Oh yeah. Well, you know, I grew up long before
the days of e-readers and relatively cheap books. We had a lot of books at home, but many of them were
ones that we had inherited from my grandparents
and great-grandparents, so I grew up reading a lot
of very old-fashioned novels. But I read very fast, I read everything we had at home by the time I was 10, so I read my way through the
Flagstaff Public Library. (audience laughter)
– [Stephenee] Excellent. That’s a good challenge. You know, I was a children’s
librarian until recently and would have loved to
have had you as a reader. (laughter) – I kind of got out of
the children’s section by the time I was in the
sixth grade. (laughter) – [Stephenee] Amazing. So how did you come to
start writing “Outlander”? – Well, I had known from
about the age of eight that I was meant to be a novelist. I just realized this. And I might have started earlier, but I came from a very
conservative family background. My father was fond of saying to me, “You’re such a poor judge of character, “you’re bound to marry some bum,” he said. (audience laughter) “So be sure to get a good education, “so you can support your children.” (laughter) So with this going on at home, I thought perhaps that
I would not announce that I wanted to write novels, since this is kind of
iffy, financially speaking. So I went into science. I have a Ph.D. in Quantitative
Behavioral Ecology, which is just animal behavior
with a lot of statistics, don’t worry about it. (laughter) But yeah, I liked
science, I was good at it. I enjoyed research, I like to teach a lot, but I knew I was supposed
to be a novelist. When I turned 35 I said to myself, “Well, you know, Mozart was dead at 36, “maybe you better to get a move on here.” (audience laughter) So I said, “Alright, on my next birthday, “I will start writing a book.” Up to this point I had
written a lot of everything, including a 400-page doctoral dissertation entitled “Nest Site
Selection in the Pinyon Jay, “Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus”. (laughter) Or as my husband says,
“Why Birds Build Nests “Where They Do, And Who Cares Anyway?” (laughter) But no, I did not marry a bum, I married a very nice man, whom I still have 42 years later. (audience applause) Thank you, thanks very much. But he did quit work three months after our
first child was born in order to start his own business. And I do have to say, that in terms of financial stability, there’s not that much to choose between an entrepreneur and a bum. (laughter) So I was obliged to find another way of making extra money. They don’t pay assistant
professors very much. So I was looking for a
way of earning income without taking up
prostitution in the home. (audience laughter) I had sort of slid sideways, and become a quote “expert”
in scientific computation, it’s really easy to be an expert if there’s only six people in the world who do what you do (laughter) and that was my position. So when the need to
earn extra money arose, I wrote query letters to
“Bite” and “InfoWorld” and all the PC press. This was the early 1980s. And I enclosed a copy
of a scholarly journal that I had founded at the university, entitled “Science Software Quarterly”, and also a copy of a comic book that I had written for Walt
Disney a few years earlier entitled “Nutrition
Adventures with Orange Bird”. (audience laughter) It was a really short letter, it said, “Dear Sirs, as you
can see from the enclosed, “you won’t find anyone who knows more “about scientific and
technical software than I do, “and at the same time can write “so as to appeal to a
broad popular audience.” (laughter) Well, this got immediate results, and within a year I was
earning as much freelancing as I was at university. But the point here is that no one ever showed me how to write doctoral dissertations,
or scholarly articles, or software reviews. I just looked at a few
examples and wrote one, and if it didn’t look quite right, I poked it until it did. I said, “OK, I’ve been reading novels “for 30-odd years, surely if I write one, “I will recognize it.” (laughter) But it seems to me that the only way to learn to write a novel, is actually to write a novel. So I said, “Fine, I’m
going to write a novel.” And only two rules, I’m not going to show it to anyone, it’s not for publication,
I just need to learn how. So I will write the whole thing, not matter how bad I may think it is because I need to know what it takes in terms of mental discipline,
and daily commitment, and organization, and
research, and so forth. So I’ll write the whole thing and know what goes into one. My second rule was that I would do the best
thing I could every day with the writing because if I’m not doing my best, how will I know if I’m any good? And how will I get any better? So those were my only two rules. So the next question was, what kind of book should I write? Because I read everything and lots of it. I said, “Well, I read a lot of mysteries, “maybe I should write a mystery.” I said, “No, mysteries have plots, “I’m not sure I can do that.” (laughter) So I said, “What’s the
easiest possible thing “I could write for practice?” No point making it hard. (laughter) After a bit of thought I decided perhaps historical fiction would be best. And that’s because I was
a research professor, I knew my way around a library. It seems easier to look things up than to make them up. (laughter) And if I turn out to have no imagination I can steal things from
the historical record. (audience laughter) Which actually works very well. (laughter) – [Stephenee] Apparently! – So I said, “OK, historical novel, “where shall I set this?” Because I don’t have any
background in history, just the six hours of Western Civilization they make you take as an undergraduate. So one time would do as well as another, I have to look it all up anyway. So I was looking for a
convenient time and place, American Civil War, Italian Renaissance, and in this malleable frame of mind, I happened to see a
really old “Dr. Who” rerun on public television. (laughter and applause) I see some of you are
familiar with Dr. Who, yeah. (audience laughter) Who’s your favorite Dr.?
Mine is David Tennant. (audience cheers) Yeah, though Christopher
Eccleston was very good too. But anyway, this was a really old one. For those who may not know who Dr. Who is, it’s a really old, long-running show done in the UK, originally for children, it’s been running for 60 years or more. The Dr. of the title is a time lord from the planet Gallifrey, who travels through space and time having adventures. And along the way he picks up companions from different periods of Earth’s history. Well on this really old show, it was one of the Patrick
Troughton episodes, he had picked up a young
Scotsman from 1745. This was a young man 18, 19
who appeared in his kilt. And I said, “Well that’s
kind of fetching.” (audience laughter) And I found myself still
thinking about this the next day. (audience laughter) In church. (audience laughs loudly) And I said, “Well, you’ve
got to start somewhere, “why not Scotland 18th century?” So that’s where I began. Knowing nothing about
Scotland or the 18th century. Having no plot, no
outline, and no characters. (audience laughter) Nothing but the rather vague images conjured up by the notion
of a man in a kilt. (audience laughter) Which is, those of you who have
seen Stephenee’s husband, realize is a very powerful
and compelling image. (audience cheers and laughs) Yes, I don’t know whether
he’s in the audience or hiding somewhere. (laughter) But for his sake, we’ll hope he’s conveniently
concealed by darkness. (laughter) – [Stephenee] Not so conveniently. – Well you know, my sixth book, “A Breath of Snow and
Ashes” was very fortunate. It opened at number one
on the bestseller lists of several countries. (audience applause) Thank you. But it also won me several prizes, including a Quill Award for, and I quote, “Science
Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror”. (laughter) For which I beat out
both George R.R. Martin and Stephen King. (laughter and applause) But it also won me the Corine International
Prize for Fiction, which was very cool. And I got to go to Germany to accept this on Bavarian television, which was an adventure in itself. (laughter) But while I was there, the publisher had me interviewed by everyone in the German press, from tabloid newspapers up to the equivalent of Vanity Fair. Toward the end of the very long week I was talking to a nice young man from from Literary Journal. He was saying “I’ve read all your books, “your imagery is tremendous, “your characters are three-dimensional, “and your narrative
drive is just amazing.” And I’m going, “Yes, yes, go on.” (audience laughter) Instead he stopped, and he said, “There’s just this one thing, I wonder, “could you explain to me “what is the appeal of a man in a kilt?” (audience laughs loudly) Well he was a German, you know. (laughter) Anyway, I was really tired,
or I might not have said it, but I just looked at him for a minute, and I said, “Well, I
suppose it’s the idea that “you could be up against a
wall with him in a minute.” (audience laughs and cheers loudly) The young actor playing
Jamie Fraser in the TV show, his name is Sam Heughan, I told him that story and he turned white. (laughter) Then he turned red. (laughter) And then he started wearing
his kilt everywhere. (laughter and applause) So, as I say, a very powerful
and compelling image. So yeah, anyway, that’s where I started. (laughter) – [Stephenee] It certainly is. (audience laughter) Where do I go from there? (audience laughter) – Maybe you need to turn a few pages. (laughter) – Now I just have an image
of a kilt in my head, excuse me! What if that episode of “Dr. Who” hadn’t aired that night? Would we be here talking about a novel based in ancient Rome, or turn-of-the-century
New York, do you think? – It might have been, yeah. It was just luck of the draw. – Well, we’re happy with the
way it turned out, right? (audience cheers and applause) Let’s go back to Pinion Jays. – Sure. – So, you were a scientist before you were a fiction writer. – I was, yeah. – You still do write about birds, but not scientifically. We see them in your novels. – Sure. – You focus on the human element, the plover as mother, they
grey lag goose as a mate, and the thrush as a singer,
like Roger the thrush. – Uh huh. – So pinyon jays are a
beautiful shade of blue that I’ve seen you wear quite often. – Uh huh. – Can you tell us one fascinating fact about pinyon jays? – Uh huh, I can tell you
lots about pinyon jays. I do know why they build
nests where they do. (audience laughter) I studied them for five years, or rather, I had five years worth of data. They are gregarious nesters, that means that they nest colonially. All the nests will be in
the same neighborhood. So once you’ve found one, you can go around looking
at all the trees nearby and eventually you’ve
found the whole flock. They were all color-banded, this flock, so we could tell when we found everybody. So I would map them, and
took pictures of their trees, and all kinds of things. I was testing various hypothesis. What turned out to be the case though was that they were nesting very near roads every year. And when we were wondering
why, why would they do that? Wouldn’t it be disturbing having traffic? We thought for a bit maybe
they were eating roadkill because they’re very omnivorous, they will eat anything, but there’s not enough
roadkill for the whole flock to be doing that. Actually what it turns out to be, pinyon jays are very early nesters because they get their name because they harvest the
piñon nuts off a piñon tree, don’t ask me why the tree is piñon and the bird is pinyon. It was probably a
non-Spanish speaking person who named the bird. (audience laughter) Anyway, they bury the nuts in the fall and then they find them
again in the spring. So they have a food supply
earlier than the other birds. So what I wondered was, are they feeding the kids piñon nuts? So we went up to the
nests, extracted the young, and washed their gullets
out with sterile water so we could see what they were eating. And no, they’re feeding the young insects. I said, “OK.” So I took a sweep net, and I went along the roadside verges taking samples. Then I went along in the open forest taking the same sort of samples. Sure enough there’s 10 times more bugs along the roadside verges
than there are in the forest. And that’s because it snows
in the spring in Flagstaff and the roadside verges are
where the snow melts first so that’s where you get a growth of weeds, that’s where you get bugs, that’s where you get pinyon jays. (audience applause) – [Stephenee] I like
learning science from you. Thank you. – (laughs) It’s fascinating. – So I know you don’t write from the beginning of
the story to the end. Do you remember the first line or scene that you wrote, that made it into the “Outlander” that we know today? – Oh yeah. The first one that made it into the “Outlander”. The first couple of
days I was just writing to get words on paper. I had no idea where I was
going or what was happening. About the third day of writing I said, “Well, we must have a lot
of Scotsmen of course, “because of the kilt factor.” (laughter) “I think it would be a good idea “if we had a woman to play off these guys, “and then we’ll have sexual tension, “that’s conflict that’s good.” This was the only thing
I knew about novels, was that they should have conflict. (laughter) That’s why I chose the Jacobite rising, I said, “That’s looks
like a lot of conflict.” (laughter) So I said, “Well, essentially “we’ve got Scots versus English here. “If I make her an English woman, “we’ll have lots of conflict.” Which we did. I introduced this English
woman into the story, not knowing who she
was, how she got there, or what she was doing in the plot. But I noosed her into a
cottage full of Scotsmen to see what she’d do. She walked in, they’re all sitting around the hearth muttering to each other, and one of them drew
himself up, and he said, “My name’s Dougal MacKenzie,
and who might you be?” Without stopping to think I just typed, “My name’s Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp, “and who the hell are you?” (audience laughter) And I said, “Well, you
don’t sound at all like “an 18th century person.” So I fought with her for several pages, trying to beat her into shape and make her talk like
a historical person. (audience laughter) She wasn’t having any of this. She just kept making
smart-ass modern remarks. (audience laughter) And she also took over and started telling the
story herself. (laughs) So I said, “I’m not
going to fight with you “all the way through this book.” I said, “No one’s ever going to see this. “It doesn’t matter what
bizarre thing I do, “go ahead and be modern, “and I’ll figure out how
you got there later.” So it’s all her fault that there’s time travel in these books. (audience laughter and applause) – [Stephenee] As usual, we can blame Claire for a lot of things. – (laughs) – [Stephenee] Well, I’m glad she did it. Let’s talk a bit about
your creative process then. – Sure, yeah. – What’s a typical day of writing for you? – It depends where I am in a book. The main big books of the series take two to three years to write. They’re very large, they’re very complex, they get more complex as
we go through the series because I can’t count on people realizing that it is a large series
when they see a new book. Especially, it’s airports
and things like that, there’s only the most reason book, and people go passing by
on their way to Cleveland, will just grab it because
it looks interesting, and it’s a big book, it’ll last them. They don’t realize it’s the
eighth book of the series, so that book has to be
understandable enough for them to enjoy that book without having read the earlier ones. So that takes a lot of
interior engineering to do that while not boring the people who have read the first seven books. So it takes more time as I go along. The other thing is that I come and do things like this instead of staying home and writing. (laughter) There’s about a year of promotion built into my schedule that
didn’t used to be there. So it’s all your fault. (audience laughter) – Thank you. – You’re welcome. But anyway, toward the
beginning of a book… I don’t plan the books out ahead of time, I don’t work with an outline, and as you know I don’t
write in a straight line. So in the beginning I don’t
know anything about this book except some of the people who are in it. So I will be doing a lot of
research, and a lot of thinking, and I write everyday because if you don’t, the inertia builds up on you
and it’s hard to start again. So I will write something everyday. I’ll aim for 1,000 words, but in the beginning I may be
only getting 500 words a day, that’s OK. As we move along into it though, after two or three months, I will have gotten a grip on myself, I’ll be oriented in terms of location, the geographical areas
that I’m dealing with, and to some extent, the historical events. So I’ll continue doing the research and the writing concurrently, but over time it shifts, so I will be doing more
writing and less research. What I call my “walking-pace”
is 1,000 words a day. Some days I can do that in two hours, some days it takes four or five, and some days it’s just
not happening. (laughs) So, you do your best. In a given day, I write usually
in the middle of the night, from midnight to 4:30 is my main time. I started doing this when
I had three small children and was writing for a living. I get up around nine in the morning. My husband’s an early bird, luckily he gets about around 5:30, so we actually share a bed
for about an hour every night. (laughter) I get up around nine
and take the dogs out, get a Diet Coke and cheese
and nuts for breakfast, go upstairs and answer my email. By 11 or so, I’m composent
enough to begin working. So I will try to get something
on paper before lunch. My husband comes home for lunch, bringing with him the scene
that I wrote the night before, and tell me what he thought of it. He’s got a good literary
eye, which is very good. He’s the only person who
sees what I’m working on while I’m working on it. – [Stephenee] That’s fascinating. – Yeah, well he’s very good. I will not leave a scene until I think it’s as
good as I can make it. That doesn’t mean it’s
necessarily perfect. Sometimes I’ll give him
something, and I’ll say, “I know there’s something wrong in here, “but I’m not quite sure what it is.” He can always tell me what it is. And he’ll say, “It’s right here. “This particular person wouldn’t say that “under these particular circumstances.” I say, “Huh, well in that case, “let me think what to do. “Shall I just eliminate him saying that, “or, you being a man, “what would you say under
those circumstances?” (laughter) So then I work out what to do about it. But he can pinpoint the problem for me. So then I go back to work
after lunch for an hour or so, then I go to run the household errands, dry-cleaning, take the dog to the vet, do the grocery shopping, come back, do my gardening, do my exercise, I try to walk from two to five miles a day depending on time and the weather, and then I cook dinner, we mess around for a while after dinner, just being social, et cetera, et cetera. (audience laughter) I said we share a bed to sleep for an hour or so every night. (audience laughter) Anyway, as people say, when I published “Voyager”, a lot of people said, “Why are you writing about
these people in their 40s? “No one wants to hear
about people in their 40s “having sex.” And I said, “Want to bet?” (loud audience laughter and applause) Anyway, then I’ll lie down on the couch with the dogs, I’ve got two big fat standard dachshunds who are very cuddly, and a book, and if there’s no alarms in the night, and these days there aren’t because the kids are 32, 30, and 28, I’ll fall asleep within 10 minutes. The dogs and I slumber peacefully until around midnight, 12:30. And then we get up and
stagger off to the office with another Diet Coke
and a couple of bones, and we work the night shift, and that’s how it goes. (laughs) – And you actually, in “A
Breath of Snow and Ashes” Claire says, “Well what
happens is the second sleep. “You fall asleep from
tiredness soon after dark, “but then wake again, “rising from the surface of your dreams, “like a trout coming up to feed.” – [Diana] Mmhmm. (giggles) – Sounds very autobiographical there. – [Diana] Yes, well that’s actually a matter of record, if
you go back and look, that’s what they did in the 18th century because they didn’t have electric lights, to save candles and so forth. And because they were really
tired from all the labor, they went to bed after the sun went down. But they would wake up
four or five hours later, they’d get up, have a
small meal, be social. Sometimes people would even go visit with the neighbors in
the middle of the night because everybody was doing this. They’d just sit by the hearth fire without lighting a lot
of expensive candles, and chat, or knit or whatever. And when they got tired again
after two or three hours they’d go back to bed
and sleep until dawn. Then they’d get up and go to work. – [Stephenee] Since you
don’t write chronologically, you skip around. Most of your books are chronological, maybe on two planes, but “Dragonfly in Amber” actually does. Maybe it resembles more your writing style because it does skip around, we’re going back and forth. – [Diana] Well, yes and no. All of the books have a unique structure and a unique shape. If I tell you what the shape is you would be able to recognize it, but otherwise you wouldn’t. “Outlander” for instance, was three overlapping triangles. It’s got three climaxes. The first when Jamie finds
out who and what she is after the witch trial, and takes her back to the stone circle where she makes her choice as to whether to stay or go. The second is when she
rescues him from Wentworth. And the third is when she saves his soul at the abbey after that. So it’s got these three things. “Dragonfly in Amber” is
shaped like a dumbell. It’s got a framing story on either end, which is told from Roger Wakefield’s third person point-of-view, whereas all of “Outlander”
is in Claire’s first person. OK, after that beginning
framing story with Roger, where he’s dealing with Claire and Brianna who have come to find out what happened to the men of Lallybroch, then there’s a flashback
when they find Jamie’s grave. And Clarie begins to tell Brianna, and by extension Roger, what happened. So she described this arc in Paris of the political intrigue
that led up to the rising, and what was going on, and how they were trying to stop it. And then they go to Lallybroch, which is this long, sort of tranquil segment in the middle, as the bar of the barbell. And of course they are not
able to stop Prince Charlie, and Jamie is obliged to go and fight. And then there’s this second arc, which deals with the actual
battles of the rising and what happened. And Claire knows, of course, about Culloden, what’s going to happen, and various things happen, and it comes down to the last bitter end. And the best Jamie can
do is to save his men. And he takes her to the
stones to send her back and that’s the end there. And then there’s the framing story, which tells what happened
back in the future. So in fact, there’s that short segment, front and back, or the nuts
holding the story together, and that’s in Roger’s third person. “Voyager” is shaped like a horse’s tail. It’s got a braided narrative because we open with
Jamie’s point-of-view, in fact, he thinks he’s
dead on Culloden field, even though his nose throbs, which he thinks peculiar
in the circumstances. (audience laughter) Anyway, he’s telling the story forward because that’s how he’s living it. Meanwhile, Claire is back in the past with Roger and Brianna. She’s flashing back and telling her story
backward essentially. And Roger’s third person point-of-view is in there, serving as the turning point between those two narratives with his detective work into the past. So those three narratives
are criss-crossing until Claire goes back. At which point it falls back into her first person narrative, like a braided horse’s tail. Anyway, they’re all unique things. But someone pointed out to me around the fourth book, that I was, in fact, adding
a new view point character with each book. Which, in fact, I was. (laughs) And yes, there are eight in this one. (audience laughter) – [Stephenee] Rhonda Fran,
she’s a colleague of mine, she asks how you keep everything in order in all the projects
that you’re working on. You’re not only writing the one book, but perhaps other projects. And also you have so many ideas. How do you keep everything in order? – I actually think I have a very benign form of ADHD. (laughter) I fairly recently read
a quiz in the newspaper, “How to Tell if You Have ADD or ADHD” and it had all these questions, which I answered. But I could see that half of them dealt with attention issues. It was like, “Do you constantly feel like “you’re watching a television set “with eight channels going at once?” And I was going, “Yes,
doesn’t everyone?” (laughs) Or that ideas are whizzing past your head, and I’m going, “Yeah, of course.” The other half had to deal
with anger management. “Are you very irritable? “Do you bite pieces out of people? “Can you not stand delay?” And I answered all of those “No”, so that’s why I say it’s
probably a benign form. But yeah, I actually do
think on multiple levels, pretty much all the time. We were discussing this
a little bit backstage. And you know, women with children, they always multi-task because you don’t have any choice. You have to. Men have the luxury of just concentrating on one thing at a time. I can’t say I’ve never
been able to concentrate on one thing at a time, because I can, but it takes either a really good book or an absorbing movie, the
act of writing, or sex. Any of those will kind
of focus my attention. (audience laughter and cheers) – [Stephenee] But the system works for you and you identified that it was fine, and thank goodness because we get a lot of
wonderful things out of the I don’t want to say chaos– – Oh it is, it totally is. – Susan Wycheck asks, “What was the hardest piece
of constructive criticism “to accept that resonated with you “and helped you to become the
author that you are today?” – [Diana] I don’t think anybody ever has constructively criticized me. (laughter) – [Stephenee] Well, I understand– – Except for my husband. (laughs) I don’t know that this is the most useful, but his most memorable bit of criticism was a marginal note that
said, “Nipples again?” (audience laughter and applause) – [Stephenee] A friend
of mine considers nipples a character in the books. (laughter) – It was a time when people breastfed, they were just right there. – [Stephenee] (laughs)
Coming back to libraries, (laughter) where did you do your research? Many have asked if you did it in Scotland. – Well no, because I wasn’t telling anyone that I was writing a book to start with, including my husband, because he would have tried to stop me. Not out of any objection
to my writing a book, but out of fear that I would drop dead since I had at the
time, two full-time jobs and three small children. And he would have said,
“Wait till the kids “are at school, wait till
my business is doing better “and you can quit one of your jobs.” And I just knew if I didn’t do it now I might not ever do it,
so I didn’t tell him. I’ve lost track of what
the question was… – [Stephenee] Libraries.
(laughter) Your research. Of course your husband– – So anyway, I could very well announce that I had to go to
Scotland to do research since I wasn’t tell him
that I was writing a book. I couldn’t have afforded it anyway. I began doing my research
in the university library. I was a professor at Arizona State and it’s quite a large library, it has the International
Library Loan system, which is very useful. So I could get a hold of almost anything if I knew it existed. Then the internet actually developed into a usable resource, but not for many years. – I’ve heard you say that you did your research in a library, but the one aspect you
couldn’t learn from a book was the smells of Scotland. My colleague Sherry Nicollini, and also my sister Kristin
Bennett, an otolaryngologist, asks, “You include a lot of detail
about smells in your novels, “Claire especially seems to have
a very keen sense of smell.” I imagine that you do as well. – Apparently I do. It’s hard to compare it to anyone else’s. – Oh yeah. – Because I can’t tell
what they smell. (laughs) – It’s very vivid, I don’t know
if I can call it imagery… – Oh yes, it is. There’s actually a technique
called the Rule of Three. There’s actually two Rules of Three, but the sensory one is one I learned from Gustav Flaubert, who actually bothered to write it down. And what he said was,
“If you use any three “of the five senses in a scene, “that will immediately bring it to life. “It will make it seem very
vivid and three-dimensional.” And most people who don’t
know that only use two, they only use sight and sound. People are seeing things and
they’re listening to things. They’ll get into touch
when they do sex scenes, but at that point they
usually stop talking, (laughter) so there’s still only two. But if you include smell, which is one of the
easiest things to include. When Claire kisses Jamie she always either tastes or smells what he’s been eating, because, I mean, you do. (laughter) – I find it interesting
that you don’t swear, – I don’t. – but Claire swears like a sailor. – Yes, that’s why. (laughs) – Your books deal with
the good and bad of sex, politics, and religion. Is there one subject you
would never write about? – Uh, let’s see… I can’t think of anything
that I wouldn’t write about. – That sounds about right. (laughter) – I went to a parochial school, and my parents were very clean-spoken, and the worst my father
would ever say was “crap” and then only if terribly upset. (laughs) So I just cannot…Yeah,
I can’t. (laughter) – So, you think that’s what Claire was when she first appeared? – Yeah, she’s my alter-ego… – …vicariously through her? – It’s extremely funny to me because I see some of the footage from the television show and it’s very entertaining
to see how frequently even very professional,
very accomplished actors, forget their lines, or turn
around to the wrong place or something, invariably the younger ones will strike themselves
in the head and say, “Oh, f-word” repeatedly. (laughter) Probably nobody else thinks that’s funny, but I do. (laughter) – So Christine Brown Kittimer writes, “I find reading the ‘Outlander’ series “with a dictionary next to me helpful. “as you sprinkle high lexial level words,” and of course those
other four letter words “throughout your stories
that stretch my vocabulary. “Do you stash away Sunday
words as you encounter them “to plug into your future books?” Do you just find words that you love and just have to include them? – (laughs) I’ve been
a notorious word-drunk from the age of five or so when I discovered the dictionary. I just pick up words everywhere. – And your favorite word? – Absquatulate. – Absquatulate, I love
it. I has a good Q in it. (audience laughter) Your heart-wrenching scenes conjure up strong emotions in your readers. Do they effect you in the
same way when writing them? And how do you write difficult scenes? – Well they’d better, or they wouldn’t get through
to the readers that way. There’s two parts to writing. The craft part, how to actually depict something on the page. You can teach people to do that. I don’t know if you can teach them to find the pieces of a story. I was, luckily, born with it, but I don’t know that everybody is. It may be possible to learn to do that. But I do know that you have to write very honestly, or it’s not going
to come across in that way. And I know a lot of dishonest writers, which I tend not to read their
books after the first one. They’re rather fascile. They avoid any emotional
engagement with a subject. And that may be personal discomfort, or just that they don’t
want to go to the trouble because it is a lot of trouble to do that. No, those are very deeply
emotional scenes for me. Usually I write them late at night because it really disturbs my family to come in and find me with
tears rolling down my face. Some of them that I know
are coming, for instance, like Claire’s farewell letter to Brianna when she went back. I knew she had to write that letter, but I didn’t know how, I
didn’t know what was in it. Those scenes I’ll just
live with for a long time. I’m not even thinking
about them consciously, but something is secreting
or building up there, and then one day, I’ll
call it, the words show up, I’ll suddenly have a phrase
or a line of dialogue, or just something with words. Once the words have shown up then I can sit down and
it usually will come out very quickly at that point. – [Stephenee] We can sense
when they’re coming as well. – Not all of them, believe me. (laughs) My husband is also fond
of writing in the margins occasionally, “Oh,
they’re going to scream!” (audience laughs loudly) There’s a few places
like that in this book. – You have said that when you write your characters show up for work. And I have to say, you
must have been in histerics when Herman and Vermin
walked into the room. (laughter) I love Herman and Vermin. So who are some of your favorite walk-ons? – Mr. Willoughhby, the
little Chinese foot fetishist in “Dragonfly in Amber”
is definitely a mushroom. He was actually the
fruit of an unholy union between my need to get
Jamie across the sea without dying of seasickness. – Oh yes. – And I said, “What could
they possible have used “in the 18th century?” Ginger was available, but
only as an expensive import, it wouldn’t be easy to find. And I’m not sure it would
work that well on him anyway. So what else was there? Well, acupuncture was the only thing that I could think of that was
likely to be very effective, and also picturesque, with a spike stiking out
of his head and all that. So I said, “How is Claire
going to learn acupuncture “in the 18th century?” Well, there were Chinese
people in the 18th century, and they certainly knew how,
it was an old technique. I just had to get one of them in Scotland. (laughter) Not really a problem. But at about the same time, while I was thinking along these lines, I pick up books off remainder
tables all the time, and I picked up one day
this very sprightly volume called “The Sex Life
of the Foot and Shoe”. Fascinating, it’s all about foot fetishes, which is extremely entertaining. (laughter) Some parts of it were rather horrifying. (laughter) Especially the one about
foot binding in China because you know how
that’s done, I expect. You take a small girl and
you bend her toes under and bandage the foot tightly, and then as she grows
older you bend them further and her toes rot and fall off, and you eventually end up with
a foot that looks like that. Question is, why would anybody do that? What are you looking at there? (audience laughter) Not kidding, that’s why they do that. So, having seen that, that kind of added to Mr.
Willoughby’s character. (laughter) Slow on the uptake over there… (laughter) – Yeah, I am, I am, sorry. So are there any characters
you signed up for a bit part but became major characters? – Oh yeah! There’s Lord John Grey, he’s what you might call my…. (audience applause and cheers) What you might call my
most successful mushroom. He popped up out of nowhere
in “Dragonfly in Amber” and I never expected to see him again, and bang, there he was again. He sort of moved in and
made himself at home. (laughter) He talks to me immediately,
without hesitation. I never have to think what he would say in one of his scenes. – So, he talks to you. Do you identify with him, or which character do
you most identify with? (laughter) – There is a group of fans
in Pheonix, where I live, who takes me out to tea once in a while to pick my brains about
the new book coming up. And on one of these occasions they got started on the
character of Black Jack Randall. They’re saying, “He’s so
loathsome, he’s such scum, “he makes my skin crawl.” And I’m sitting there
sipping my tea and thinking, “You have no idea “you’re talking to Black
Jack Randall, do you?” (audience laughter) – [Stephenee] OK, so that
answers the question. Now is that, do you think, because he manipulates
Jamie’s story, or…? – No, I’m a natural born saddist. (audience laughs loudly) – [Stephenee] Yes, yes,
we do appreciate it. (laughter) Roger is fascinated with Claire’s story, he’s a historian, he
chooses to go back in time, he’s star-struck by Jamie, perhaps he’s in love with Claire, he never fits in, he can
never relax and just be, and is the ultimate interloper. Did you write Roger to
represent the reader? Or am I simply revealing
that I identify with Roger? – No, he wasn’t constructed
for any particular reason. It was just who he was. He’s a man who grew up,
essentially without parents, even though he did have
an adoptive great-uncle, who we know was affectionate and so forth. So he does understand relationships, but he didn’t grow up
with his nuclear family. And of course he’s always
missing his parents and wondering what would
they have been like, what would life have been like with them? And also, he is rather
inconveniently burdened with a calling. He never wanted to be a minister, but he’s becoming aware that that’s what he’s supposed to be, and he has no idea how to go about it. Yet then, to be wondering how to do this, and to find himself in the 18th century, where he’s got skills, he’s a manly man, but he doesn’t have 18th century skills. So always feel like you’re fumbling along in the wake of your studly father-in-law, that can’t be good. (laughs) – [Stephenee] None of your
characters are perfect. – No. (laughs) – Each of them are flawed, but who do you most
admire of your characters? – Hmm… – Probably not Black Jack. – Uh, no, he’s not very
admirable I’m afraid. He’s deeply honest though. He knows who and what he is, which actually adds to his tragedy, he does know what he is,
yet he can’t help it. I suppose I admire Jamie more than most, but I admire all of them. – We like Jamie too. (laughter) You mentioned Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie in the Starz television production. You call him Shugs because
your son is named Sam. – Yeah, uh huh. – However, you gave Jenny
Murry your daughter’s name. – Well, I did, it just didn’t occur to me. My daughter’s name is Jennifer and Jenny Murray’s name is actually– – Janet, I guess you’re right. – Janet. It’s just that
that would have been the Scottish diminutive of Janet, which is a very common Scottish name, so I came at it from the other end. – So, you did mention
Roger loosing his parents and trying to fit it. Well, many of your characters are orphans. – Yes, uh huh. They are. That partly because it
gets much more complicated if you have a lot of family
hanging around. (laughter) – I guess so. I guess we
have enough characters, OK. But Claire and Jamie
seem to take on the roll of mother and father, both
literally and figuratively. – Yeah. Well, it was fairly
common in the 18th century because there was a lot of death. And so there was a great
deal of blended familism and fostering and so forth. Fostering was very
common in the Highlands. In fact, it was sort of
the normal thing to do for you to export your young teenage son to a different clan, which probably was good
for the peace of the home, because he’s much more likely to behave if he’s somewhere else. (laughs) With a lot of large, ferocious men who can beat him into shape. (audience laughter) – Jamie asks of Claire, “Why
do you talk to yourself?” And she responds, “It assures
me of a good listener.” When you read your own books, you can be assured of a good reader. Do you read your own books? – Oh yeah. I always read a new book when it comes back from the printer. They will send me the
first copy off the presses and I will immediately take
it out of its wrappings and smell it, and fondle it. I usually carry it around
with me for several days, petting it at stop lights. (audience laughs loudly) – They’re about the same
weight as a newborn, right? – Yeah, very much, yeah. When it left my hands
it was not yet a book, and now it is, so I always sit down and read it through. Also, because of the odd way that I work, I glue bits and pieces together, and usually it isn’t a
complete contiguous thing until quite soon before it’s printed. So I’m still thinking of it in terms of its patchwork, of its shape. I haven’t yet experienced it as a single, contiguous story, so it’s fun to do that. And also I pick up any typos that got in during the copy edit. (laughs) – And of course, we
can’t pick our favorites of our children, but
what about your books? Which books are your… – Well, it’s always either
the one I’m working on or the one I have just finished, so at the moment it’s MOBY. – Excellent, I can’t
wait to enjoy it myself. Who are some of your favorite authors? – Oh, let me see… I have literally dozens because I’ve been reading
for the last 59 years. My five literary roll models, these are the five
authors whose techniques I actually attempted to emulate while I was writing “Outlander”. There’s Charles Dickens, from
whom I learned characters, how to create a very vivid character, and how to describe them, and how to catch them in their dialect. And then there’s Robert Louis Stevenson, whom I learned the art of
just telling a good tale, the narrative velocity, I guess you’d say. Though he was also very good at a very economical
depiction of characters, Long John Silver and
Blind Pew and so forth. Then there’s Dorothy Lee Sayers, also an excellent judge of character. But from her I learned, not only the use of dialogue and dialect, but of social class, and the nuances of social interaction, and also how to construct
a fairly watertight plot. Then there’s John D. MacDonald, a thriller writer from whom I learned both narrative drive and how to maintain a series character over a stretch of… I think he wrote 30 Travis McGee novels. So how do you pick up
a character that this may be the first encounter
that a reader has with him, but you may have a long history with him. How do you describe him in the 28th book in a way that will make him vivid, but not boring? That’s a difficult thing to do. Oh, and the fifth one is P.G. Wodehouse from whom I learned
how to juggle language. – I did have a question
from one of your local fans. I’m sorry I can’t find her… Oh! Pardon me, I’m sorry,
I can’t find her name, but are there any plots or characters that you stared with
that have proved to be very difficult to maintain? You still enjoy them, but they are… they prove to be trouble? – Uh, no, no I don’t think so. As I say, it’s a function of how I write. I’m not working in a linear fashion. I may have started a scene
that just doesn’t go anywhere, which is fine, I just abandon it and
start over somewhere else in a different scene, probably
with a different character. But it’s like half a page at the most. And sometimes it’ll come back, I’ll find out where it
plugs in later in the story and bring it back up. If it doesn’t, that’s fine. There are usually one or
two short bits like that that just don’t fit in the book, but it’s not a problem,
you just abandon them. – So that was Vera. – Oh, thank you Vera. – And Theresa Carlson asks, “I wonder how far ahead you thought “when you wrote that first book.” You have imagined this
world of “Outlander” and it’s taken you through eight novels and three Lord John books and several bulges, and hopefully more. Was the story of “Outlander”… Has it changed at all throughout the process of
writing all the novels? Have you had the whole storyline in your head the whole time? – Well people often ask me that. They say, “Was the story just
with you for years and years?” Because I suppose that’s
how they think of stories. No, no. Totally, there
was nothing in my head but a man in a kilt when I started. (audience laughs) It evolved, you know. Now that I’m on the
eighth book and so forth, of course there is this history, I’ve got the preceding seven books. And to some extent, the characters’ circumstances will dictate what they might do in the next book, but they don’t limit it in any way. And I truly don’t plan the
books out ahead of time. People keep saying, “Have
you written down the ending “in case you get run over by a bus?” No, you better just hope I don’t. (laughter) – Well, actually, this is good to know, because then you can enjoy them as we do. – Well, exactly. I discover them everyday. If I knew what was going to happen then it would not be fun. – I think that’s delightful. Let’s talk a bit about the
Starz television series, which will air in the U.S. on August 9th. – Yup. (audience applause) – It’s very exciting. – It is, yeah. – You already have a great readership, but now your fandom will cross over into other media. – Yeah, well that may be
a little bit dangerous. I was having lunch with Sam and Katrina, who plays Claire, she’s
wonderful, they both are, they’re just terrific. But we were having lunch after the Television Critics Association, and I was sort of giving
them the short course on how to be famous in
10 easy lessons or less. To the extent that any of us is. But they will be. Luckily, I am not that visible. But there’s things, for instance, Sam was the first one cast, and he’s a very amiable young gentleman, and was on Twitter and so forth, and was picking up all this stuff that my fans were saying. And he emailed me and he said, “You fans are crazy.” (laughter) He said, “How do you deal with this?” And I said, “Well, they’re
benign for the most part.” I said, “But there is
actually an algorithm “for dealing with social media, “and I will teach you what it is.” So I did, and he does it very well. But I was talking to them
about it, and I said, “To this point, the
reception that you’ve gotten “has been wonderful, everybody loves you, “they’ve taken you to their hearts, “they will totally like it.” Sam said early on after this
outpouring of affection, he wrote again to me, “What
do you think they’ll do “when they actually see the show?” (laughter) And I said, “Well, either they’ll
collectively wet their pants, (laughter) “or they’ll
have torchlight parades “down the street and be banding Ron’s head “on a pike if they don’t
think it was good.” (laughter) But to this point, we’ve been protected by the fact that the books are
very large and very complex. People who are mentally
ill and seriously deranged just don’t have the
attention span to read them. (audience laughter and applause) This is totally true. I’ve never had a total nut. I get kind of benign nuts, but they tend to be OCD
rather than deranged. (laughter) They’re very valuable on occasion. I said, “Do you know, once
the TV show comes out, “that filter is removed. “You especially, but all
of us will be exposed “to anybody who can turn on a set. “And there are a lot of nuts in the world “who can watch TV.” So yeah, it’s going to change. – [Stephenee] So, I understand that your children have
not read your books. – No they have not. (laughs) – [Stephenee] But now that your story’s being filtered through script writers and you can chaulk things
up to the script writers, do you think your kids are
going to watch the TV show? – Yeah, I think they’ll
probably watch the TV show. What my eldest daughter said was, “I don’t want to read sex
scenes written by my mother.” (laughter) And I said, “Perfectly fine darling.” They are further deterred by the fact that Jamie Fraser is six
foot four with red hair and so is their father. (laughs) (audience snickers) – [Stephenee] I just have a couple more questions to ask. – Sure, uh huh. – [Stephenee] Elsa Newtson asks, “Will there be another
book after this one? “And if so, how many
more can we anticipate?” She says, “I’m 61 and I want to be around “to finish the series.” (audience laughs loudly) – Well I’ll tell you what Elsa, I’m 62, so take your vitamins. (audience laughter) There is at least one more after this one because I’m not through with the story. (audience applause) – That is good news. – But, again, I don’t plan the books out, I have no idea how many
more there might be. I think it’s only one, but then I’ve been thinking
that for a long time, and it’s always more, (laughter) so no, no guarantees, but there will certainly be a book nine. – [Stephenee] Do you have
any plans on focusing on any other characters with bulges? I’ve had a lot of questions about Claire’s parents perhaps, or… – Uhm, might be. There’s a huge number of characters whose back stories or
side stories I could tell, and I do occasionally. If any of you have read
“The Space Between” you will have seen a couple
of very minor characters from the main books, but who nonetheless, had a
fascinating story to tell. And I did tell the
story of Roger’s parents because what happened to his father was something of a mystery. I’m pretty sure that Claire’s
parents are not a mystery, and in fact they’ve never talked to me, so I don’t know. In the fullness of time though, there will be at least a small book entitled “What Frank Knew”. – Really?! (audience applause) That is good news. – Yes, no idea when
I’ll get to that though. He’s a man who keeps his secrets. (laughs) – Your characters have been with you for many years, and you bring them life. When you’ve closed the
book on “Outlander”, I’m sorry, yes we must think of this… Will you miss them, or will you feel that like Jamie, you will
have served them well and can let them go in peace? – Yeah, no. Somebody said, “Are you
sad when you finish a book, “is it like postpartum?” And I said, “No.” No, it’s a tremendous
relief for one thing. It’s construction, it’s
like building this very interesting edifice
that’s got underpinings and structural elements, but
it’s also got decorations, and bits and pieces, and I’m just concentrating… You know, it’s like when you’re
sewing a dress and so forth. You’ve knitted the lace for your sleeves and you’ve put in this beautiful ruching all around the sleeves and so forth, all by hand and so forth. Were you sad when you finished that dress, or were you saying, “Yes!”? – Oh my goodness, (laughter) a couple hours ago I was thrilled! – Yeah! (laughter) See, exactly so. That’s how it is when I finished I book, I’m going, “Yeah!” – Wow! That’s a surprising answer. They really feel like real people to us. – Oh, they are real people. But the thing is, they
wouldn’t be dead necessarily, when I finish the book. I can find them anytime. – And of course we can
always pick up “Outlander” and reread, which we’ve
done many, many times. (applause) Well, all good things must come to an end. Like this talk. – Aww. – On behalf of the
Sacramento Public Library and your readers, Diana I’d like to thank you
– Well thank you. – for being here and
talking with us tonight. We wish you continued success with MOBY and the TV series and any other
projects you have in store. We will help make those successful. – Thank you! (audience applause) – Slangevar! (applause) – Well, I’ve certainly enjoyed the evening and thank you so much to
all of you for coming, and to Stephenee and her fellow librarians for putting this lovely event
together for us tonight. – You’ve very welcome. – I will be more than
happy to sign your books, if you don’t have a signed one already. We did pre-sign some, so if you don’t want
to stand in a long line to have it personalized you don’t have to. If you do want it personalized, I’d be happy to do that for you. And also if you need “Happy Birthday” or “Happy 40th Anniversary” that’s fine. Since there are 975 of you, let’s try not to say, “To my biggest fan ever, “who has bought all of the books…” (laughter) Let’s try to avoid that kind of thing. Anyway, I will see you all momentarily. Thank you. (applause)


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