FAIRFIELD — For time-traveling, cross-genre “Outlander” fans, it’s a season to savor.
Between TV filming locations, TV show planning, press interviews and book-release jaunts, best-selling creator Diana Gabaldon is one busy woman. The eighth book in her series, “Written in My Own Heart’s Blood,” dubbed MOBY by Gabaldon, is set to be released Tuesday and the 16-episode first season of “Outlander” will air in the U.S. beginning Aug. 9, on the Starz network.
Not bad when it was all born out of an 850-page book that was written for practice well over two decades ago and was never meant to be published.
“I didn’t tell anyone I was writing it, let alone think about getting it published,” Gabaldon said in a phone interview from her home in Arizona.
Asked to cubbyhole that first book into a genre and it just couldn’t be done – it runs the gamut from historical and warfare to fantasy, time travel and romance with a little bit of sex tossed in. And that’s just for a beginning.
“(Since it) wasn’t for publication, I used everything,” she said, with a laugh. “As I said to my agent, there is more to this story, but I thought I should stop writing while I could still lift it.”
The original book has garnered awards and been acknowledged in a variety of genres, such as romance, historical and fantasy. According to her website, she’s seen the book shelved in literature, fiction, historical fiction, historical nonfiction, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, military history, gay and lesbian fiction and horror. Some of these garnered some humorous side comments from Gabaldon on her website.
For the unfamiliar, “Outlander” is about former English combat nurse Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser, a young Scots warrior. Randall is back from World War II and with her husband on a trip in 1945 when she walks into one of the ancient stone circles located throughout the British Isles. She walks right into war-torn 1743 Scotland with the marauding Highlanders, and into the life of Fraser. For a little future interest grab, Randall returns to the 20th century thinking Fraser is dead, and bears his child, a daughter named Brianna.
Gabaldon wasn’t joking when she told her agent that there was more to the story. The first book was published in the early 1990s with subsequent books and subsequent time-traveling characters and adventures criss-crossing time zones, countries, historical battlefields and more.
Each lengthy novel – exceeding 1,000 pages in many cases – traces Randall, Fraser and a cast full of characters through some of the richest historical times and the bloodiest of battles. MOBY begins in 1778 and, like others, contains some rather well-known characters such as George Washington and Benedict Arnold in what Gabaldon calls “cameo” appearances.
While Gabaldon acknowledges the books as being “enormous,” she said that “each one actually can be reduced down into one theme.” She said “Outlander” is love, “Voyager” is identity, and so on.
It’s not a purpose-driven theme – she said most of the themes she doesn’t actually recognize until “I’m very far into the book.”
Gabaldon said her fans embrace the characters as their own, expressing worry or concern about them – and what should and shouldn’t happen to them in future installments.
“(The characters) feel like members of their family,” Gabaldon said. “They worry about them both between books and during books. That might be what makes people reread the books several times.”
Gabaldon was mum on any juicy plots in the new novel but did say, “I’m pretty sure they will enjoy it.” There are a few character surprises.
“Some will make people sit up and say, ‘What?’ ” she said.
The book series has been published in 26 countries and 23 languages. She’s not quite sure what lies ahead for the “Outlander” series characters, but said there will be a prequel about Fraser’s parents.
“They have kind of an exciting story,” she said, adding that their story was “briefly sketched” in with Randall’s story.
The TV series, said Gabaldon, is faithful to the storylines of the book but it also explores story parallels that Gabaldon didn’t delve into in the book.
“I’ve been pleased with the way (it’s been) handled so far,” she said. “Watching footage has been marvelous for me.”
Gabaldon’s book tours and appearances start in earnest this month all over the U.S. and Canada with two Northern California appearances – June 12 in Los Altos Hills and June 13 in Sacramento.
The appearances are rigorous – a new city every day, with a day that begins about 4 a.m.
“I’m usually putting on makeup in the rearview mirror of a car,” she said, with a laugh.
For more information, go to Gabaldon’s website at www.dianagabaldon.com.
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.