As a rule, someone with a master's degree in marine biology, a PhD in quantitative ecology, a university teaching position, and freelance work for computer magazines and publications like Disney comics isn’t looking for more to do.
Diana Gabaldon has not gotten to where she is in life by following the rules. A New York Times bestselling author, she writes books that fit into existing categories about as neatly as she does. Which is to say, not at all.
Outlander is part romance and part science-fiction, time-travel adventure, part fantasy and part sweeping historical epic. It was purchased by a publisher even before Gabaldon had finished the manuscript in her spare time between teaching, writing, and family duties. The novel introduced readers to Claire Randall, a woman with a husband in one century, and a lover in another.
“I merely wanted to write a novel to learn how,” Gabaldon explains of the series’ genesis. “So I said, ‘All right, what’s the easiest kind of novel you could write, since this is just for practice?’ And it seemed to me that the easiest sort of novel might be a historical novel.” With her strong background in educational research and an extensive college library at her disposal, Gabaldon found the historical period she would use in a way that once again defied expectations: through a very old rerun of the campy British science-fiction series Dr. Who. “This character [on the show] wore a kilt,” Gabaldon says. “And I thought that rather fetching.”
Though she has had to endure some muttering from second-guessers about everything from her first-person point of view to having a female protagonist older than her lover, Gabaldon’s success backs up her assertion that “‘the rules’ are whatever works.” She notes that “there is nothing stopping a book that uses the assorted conventions of one or more of the genres from being both original and of high literary merit.” She adds that popular classics such as Moby Dick and Gone with the Wind tend to occur “when the elements of good storytelling combine with originality and good writing.”
As unconventional as her career has been in so many ways, Gabaldon attributes much of her success to a very conventional “rule”: “I work like a dog. How the heck would anybody else do it?” She offers some rules of her own to aspiring novelists: “1) Read, 2) Write, 3) Don’t Stop!”
Her legions of readers and listeners are hoping Diana Gabaldon will never stop revisiting the characters and situations she has created in her Outlander series. And listeners have been particularly impressed with Davina Porter’s readings of the books. A reviewer in Kliatt commented, “I’ve previously read [Outlander], but Porter’s reading made the story more exciting and atmospheric. Her English narrative voice, her Scottish burr, and her English regional accents are phenomenal ... This is an outstanding matching of story and reader; long but accessible to any reader."
Lord John Grey Series
Outlander audio preview
by Diana Gabaldon
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