PREFACE: One random commenter will be chosen to win a pristine, hardcover with dust jacket, copy of The Outlandish Companion (1999 version), which is sort of an encyclopedia of the Outlander series. Very helpful in keeping things straight from one book to another, and includes lots of extras, like astrological readings (U.S. only).
Be sure to leave your email address in your comment so that I can notify you if you turn out to be the lucky winner!
If you’re at all like me, sometimes it irritates you when everyone around you raves about a particular book. Fifty Shades of Grey, for example. Everyone I know has read the entire series, including the hairdresser who never reads anything and a psychologist friend of mine who insists she just wanted to find out what the guy’s psychological issues were and skipped the explicit sex scenes. (Yeah, right, Jennifer!) Even my conservative Christian mother came to me one day and asked what it was about after someone in her retirement community mentioned it. I assured her that she would not like it, and I think she believed me.
In spite of all that, I haven’t read any of the Shades of Grey series. Not because of the explicit sex. I’ve read erotic romance for years and that doesn’t offend me. I think it’s just a fit of rebellion on my part. Or maybe there’s a tiny bit of envy for the author’s fantastic success. Or maybe it’s just that I have too many unread books on my Kindle already. Who knows? I’ll probably get to it someday.
Back to Outlander. I had heard raves about it for years, and one day it turned up in a box of assorted romances I bought on eBay. (I used to do that a lot…before I got the Kindle.) Anyway, it was a smaller-size, very thick book with tiny printing, and I put on the TBR shelf and didn’t get to it for at least 2-3 years.
When I finally did pull it out—I don’t remember why I did so—I found it near-impossible to put down. It wasn’t what I expected. The characters drew me—beginning with Claire, not so much her husband Frank—and it seemed like Claire’s life was constantly in danger. As soon as she’d manage to escape one peril, she’d fall into another one when you least expected it. My emotions were rollercoastering so much that I wondered how in the world this book could have a happy-ever-after. (In those days, I “cheated” by reading the last few pages first to see if the HEA was good enough to keep reading. I must have thought so since I kept on reading it.) Although I have to say that I didn’t know then that there were lots of thick sequels with more mind-blowing perils for Claire and her love interest. By the time I found out, it didn’t matter. I was hooked. I would lap up anything Gabaldon wrote for hints of news about the characters I love so well.
And I’m not the only one. Gabaldon has more than 202,000 fans of her Facebook page, and the “Daily Lines” she posts with snippets of the next installment, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, regularly gets over a thousand likes and a hundred or more comments daily. It’s gotten to the point where she has to apologize for taking so long to write it. But hey, her books can be easily a thousand pages! (I once read one in a day, but was left with a dreadful headache, so don’t do it. They’re better read slowly and savored anyway.)
Another recommendation: buy the Kindle version (or other digital format). The print versions are so heavy that I have to read sitting at a desk or table or else risk a flare-up of carpal tunnel. I bought all of the print versions before realizing that, and then bought all of the Kindle versions too. That’s an investment of over $200, and I don’t regret it one bit.
You can read about Diana Gabaldon here, but I’ll touch on some of the things that I found particularly interesting.
Gabaldon grew up around Flagstaff, AZ. Her father was an Arizona state senator; her mother’s family was from Yorkshire, England. She has an M.S. in marine biology and an earned Ph.D in ecology. In the 1980’s, she was a full-time assistant professor at Arizona State University, and did research on scientific computing. In those days, her writing was limited to science and computing.
Sometime in 1988, she decided to write a “practice novel,” just to see how it was done. She never intended to submit it to any publisher or have it published. Her initial inspiration for the primary male character came from a 17-year-old Scotsman on an episode of Doctor Who, called “War Games.” She decided to have an Englishwoman to play off all the Scotsmen, and when this character began to take over the plot and behave like a modern woman, she decided to use time travel to explain Claire’s anachronistic behavior.
After she posted an excerpt on the Compuserve Literary Forum, she was introduced to an agent, who initially got her a three-book deal. She resigned from her university position and became a full-time author at that time.
As a new author myself, Gabaldon’s story inspires me. With all these stories floating around in my head, who knows if one of them has the potential to delight readers as much as hers does? I’ll never know unless I sit myself down and get them all down in writing, will I?
Readers: If you have Outlander gathering dust on your shelf, pull it out and read it immediately. If you don’t, run, don’t walk, to get your copy. You won’t regret it. Trust me. And you will have six (soon to be seven) sequels to look forward to when you’re finished.
Authors: Get those stories in your head down on paper NOW! Your readers are out there waiting impatiently to get their hands (and eyes) on them!
- Outlander (1991) (published in the UK as Cross Stitch)
- Dragonfly in Amber (1992)
- Voyager (1994)
- Drums of Autumn (1997)
- The Outlandish Companion (1999), a guide to the Outlander series containing synopses, a character guide, and other notes and information
- The Fiery Cross (2001)
- A Breath of Snow and Ashes (2005)
- An Echo in the Bone (2009)
- The Exile – An Outlander Graphic Novel (2010)
- “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” (2010), a short story in Songs of Love and Death, an anthology
- Written In My Own Heart’s Blood (forthcoming)
- “The Space Between” (2012), a short story in The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, an anthology 
- The Outlandish Companion, Vol. II (forthcoming)