Diana Gabaldon

Diana Gabaldon

Diana Gabaldon is the phenomenally successful author of four time travel books: Outlander/Cross Stitch in UK (1992) and Australia, Dragonfly in Amber (1995), Voyager (1995) and Drums of Autumn (1997). It’s hard to classify them and Ms. Gabaldon won’t, so I don’t bother. They are basically set in Scotland and the American Colonies. I became interested as much of the action takes place around the area of Scotland where I was born – Drumnadrochit village and Inverness on Loch Ness. I found her descriptions of these places to be very accurate and so I continued reading the series as it was released. All I can say is they are a rollicking good read and HUGE (great value) like her characters.

Diana is 46 and married to Doug Watkins. They live in Scottsdale, Arizona and have three children–Laura, Samuel and Jennifer. When I interviewed her, she had just returned from a tour promoting Drums and had resigned from her job to concentrate on writing full-time. I wanted to ask her about herself and not her books as there are plenty of web sites devoted to them. Just search for her name.

How long does it take you to write a book?

It takes me about two years to write one of these books. The first (Outlander)was published in 1990 here [USA] A British publisher has bought all my books,slightly behind the US publishing schedule, but moving right along–evidently, they’ve just never got around to doing anything about promoting them in Oz.

I am Scottish and I am impressed by your rendition of a Scottish accent. Are you Scottish?
Am I Scottish? No, not a bit. My mother’s people are (basically) from Yorkshire, England; my father’s [are] from New Mexico (via Spain, circa 1590 or so). I do get fan mail from Scotland; people asking “How long did you live in the Highlands before moving to Arizona?”

Have you always worked as a writer?
I was a University professor when I began writing Outlander. I have a Ph.D. in Ecology, an M.S. in Marine Biology, and was a Research Professor at the Center for Environmental Studies. (No, it hasn’t got one single thing to do with anything I write about, sorry.). I finally “retired” from the university when I finished my second book–my contract [had] came up for renewal, and I said, “Well, it would be nice to see what it’s like to sleep more than four hours at a stretch.” So now I do small bits of teaching. I like to teach, but in terms of writing, rather than science. I do workshops at writers’ conferences fairly often, and I run a section in the CompuServe Writers Forum, called Research and the Craft of Writing.

Who are you named for?
I’m named for Diana, goddess of the moon (no, really).

What was said about you when you were born?
“She’s just peed on my shirt!” (spoken by my father, who was holding me immediately post-birth)

What is the worst scene from your childhood?
When I walked face-first into a mailbox while daydreaming, and my father went berserk. He wasn’t concerned that I might have hurt myself; only that someone would have seen me and thought I was an idiot.

The best scene?
Eating tuna fish sandwiches with my family in Oak Creek Canyon, on the banks of a rushing creek, surrounded by the spring smells of sycamore trees.

Have you a favourite early memory?
I have lots of them. I’m convinced I recall my own baptism, but everyone says I can’t possibly. I don’t know how else I’d know what the ceiling looks like right over the baptismal font in Guadalupe Church, though.

Who are your favourite childhood fantasy characters in TV, books, magazines?
The main characters in any book I read.

Do you have present life heroes?
Not as such (present heroes).

What is the best thing you’ve ever done?
The best thing I’ve ever done is marry my husband.

What would you like to be doing 5 years from now?
Writing better books.

What are you superstitious about?
Not much.

What is your favourite work of art?
Don’t have one. I like all kinds of art, and have many, many favorite pieces
ranging from music to visual art (paintings and statuary) to books.

What is your favourite film?
Don’t see a lot of films. Most I see aren’t that great. I liked Raiders of the Lost Ark a lot. Loved Last of the Mohicans.

What books are you reading presently?
The Moon and the Sun (galley proof of a friend’s book (Vonda McIntyre) that I’m reading in order to give a cover quote); London Fields (Martin Amis); The Long Fuse (Don Cook)–nonfiction, historical stuff on how England lost the American colonies; Angel Confidential (Mike Ripley) –comic mystery, very funny; and bits and pieces of six new herbal guides I just got from Canada.

Who would you most like to meet?
Well, lots of people. Dorothy Dunnett (writer) maybe. The lead singer from Runrig. An actor called Fraser Hines. Several people that I know only electronically.

What do you like/dislike most about your appearance?
Well, I dunno; it seems to change. Sometimes I look fine, sometimes I look like I crawled out from under a rock. I don’t tend to see myself in terms of individual features, though, [but] more as a Gestalt.

Do you have curly hair like your heroine, Claire?
No, it’s blond, straight and shiny.

What words might other people use to describe you?
I don’t know what they might say. The chief thing they do say is, “I
thought you’d be bigger!”

What words would you use to describe yourself?
Er…compact. Kind, but grouchy.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A big bed, a warm husband, and a good book. Wine or Mountain Dew (that’s a particularly repulsive sort of soft drink that I like).

What do you procrastinate about?

What depresses you?
Well, not much, frankly.

What objects do you always carry with you?
My rings and my wristwatch.

What is your favourite word?
Don’t have one; I couldn’t possibly choose one.

What is your greatest fear?
Something drastic happening to one of my family.

What is the trait you most deplore/like in yourself?

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Don’t know; nothing comes to mind.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

What is your greatest regret?
That my mother didn’t live to see either her first grandchild or my first book.

What one thing would improve the quality of your life?
More time. Lots more time. (Corollary; ripping the phone out by the roots)

How would you like to die?
In bed, at night, by myself.

What would people say about you then?
Something silly and untrue, probably. I’ve only ever read one print interview in which I didn’t find anything misleading, misstated, or simply untrue.

What is your present state of mind about the world?
Detached but optimistic.