Literaturschock: I enjoy the sex scenes between Claire and Jamie. What (or who ;-) ) inspires you to write the scenes?

Diana Gabaldon: Well..._they_ do. Who else?

I mean, sex is a natural--and important--part of a good marriage, and what we're dealing with through these books is the evolution of a relationship that covers (probably) fifty years or more. Of course these people are having sex, but the sex they have on any one occasion is unique; it's an act of communication for them, and since it's a very intimate act, it exposes a great deal to the reader--of the characters, of their emotions, and of the state of their relationship at any given point.

Literaturschock: What is the most difficult thing about writing? The easiest?

Diana Gabaldon: The most difficult thing about writing is just sitting here and _doing_ it. There isn't anything easy about it.

If you mean "writing historical novels," rather than simply writing--well, there are a number of components to writing one of these enormous, complex, detailed books. There's research, which is certainly fairly easy, though time-consuming. And yes, I do all the research myself; I don't have assistants, because 1) I would have no idea what to tell them to go look for, and 2) if I had research assistants, the resulting book would be in a subtle but important way _their_ book, as well as mine. The simple process of selection--choosing _what_ to look for, as well as what to omit, or how much detail to select--would insure that the book bore their stamp, and I don't want that. These books are mine, and mine alone.

Beyond that, there are multiple phases to the writing. I don't work with an outline--or even in a _straight_ line. I write in small bits and pieces, and glue them together as the shape of the book emerges for me. So sometimes the assembling of the pieces and the smoothing of the bridges between them is easier than the original writing. Sometimes it isn't.

When I get very large chunks of text, that's usually when I can line them up in roughly chronological order, and have a stab at seeing the shape of the book. That's more a mental thing than a writing thing, though I'm moving pieces of book around. That's not particularly easy _or_ hard; it's just something that happens naturally in its own time, but takes a great deal of concentration.

And then there are the later phases of a book: revision (for me, this is usually fairly minor, and isn't terribly difficult, but may still take six to eight weeks), and then the more mechanical phases like copy-editing, which is very tedious and time-consuming, but not at all difficult in a mental sense.

And finally, when a book is out, there's the phase where people want to look at you, and ask you questions. That's hard work.

Literaturschock: Is there any question you are never asked, but you wish people would ask you?

Diana Gabaldon: You're talking to someone who's just come home from a two-week tour of Australia and New Zealand, during which I averaged six or seven interviews (TV, radio, print) per _day_, plus one, two, or three large book-signings per day, where up to 400 people at a time _all_ asked me questions. Last month, I did the same thing all over the UK, followed by spending two days in a large motorcoach with a dozen German journalists, who took turns asking me questions.

So the answer to this question is no. There is absolutely no question on earth I want anyone to ask me.

Literaturschock: As soon "The Fiery Cross" was published, the book got rank 1 of the German Bestseller lists and the German publisher "Blanvalet" sold more than 100.000 books in the first four days. What do you feel about that?

Diana Gabaldon: Well, I think it's great. Unexpected, but great.

Literaturschock: Have you regulary updates about the selling status of your books in foreign countries and is there a "best-selling-country"?

Diana Gabaldon: Publishers normally send authors royalty statements (usually twice a year, though some send them only once a year), telling them more or less how many copies of their books have been sold, and-- with luck--accompany this with a check for the author's royalties (i.e., the author's share of the cover price on each book; this can be anything from 4-15%, depending on the terms of each contract). Some royalty contracts are fairly simple to read; others are impossible.

As for a "best-selling country," that would depend on whether you mean the country where I've sold the most books overall--that would probably be the U.S.--the country where we've sold the most copies _per capita_ (per head)--that would be New Zealand, where we've sold only 300,000 books, but to a population of only 3 million people--or where we've sold the most books in the shortest time period--that would likely be Germany.

Literaturschock: What do you think it's your secrect? Do you have any advice for wannabe authors?

Diana Gabaldon: The only "secret" I know is to write a good book. As for advice...sure:

Copyright 1997 Diana Gabaldon


There are three "rules" to writing:

1. Read. Read a lot. Reading is how you develop critical judgment as a writer. It's also one way--and quite possibly the best way--of learning technique.

People often say to me, "But how do I know that what I'm writing is any good?"

Bearing in mind that "good" is not necessarily the same thing as "salable"--you know that your own writing is good, in the same way that you know whether _any_ book is "good." Is it interesting? Do you want to know what happens next? Or are you bored, and keep saying to yourself, "What's the matter with this person, why can't they spell?"

There are, of course, lots of different kinds of "good." There are books that may be written with a minimum of skill, but the story and characters are so interesting that it doesn't matter. There are books that are written with great beauty of phrase and lyricism of word--in which Not One Damn Thing happens (literary critics are particularly fond of this kind of book).

Ergo, what you--you, personally--think is a "good" book may not be what someone else thinks is a good book--but there's no reason why your critical judgement cannot be developed to recognize quality of any kind. Beyond that, the reader's personal preferences come into play, and everyone knows that there's no accounting for tastes!

2. Write! The only way to learn to write is This is a Truly Awful thing to realize, but I'm afraid it's so. You can read all the How-to books in the world, attend zillions of workshops and seminars and classes, do tons of research--and none of it counts for _anything_, unless you get words on paper.

And if you _are_ getting words on paper, none of the rest of it is important. (This is not to say that How-to books or classes are in any way detrimental; they're very helpful to some people, at some points in their development. It's just that such things are subsidiary, and not in any way _essential_ to learning to write. Writing is.)

Writing is as much a process of self-discovery as it is anything else. To be successful, you need to know first what you want to write, and secondly, how to write it. Reading is one way of determining what you really want to write.

If you think you want to write highly literary fiction, but you find yourself gravitating toward gory mysteries, your subconscious is undoubtedly telling you something (there are such things as literary mysteries, after all). If you like historical fiction, but tend to put down any book that doesn't contain a strong romantic element--maybe you should look into historical romances, even if you've never read one before.

Conversely, if there are certain types of books that you can't force yourself to finish--don't try. Writing is a labor of love-- there certainly are no guarantees of publication, still less of fame and fortune--so you'd better love what you write, or you won't get far.

There are as many different ways of writing--that is, of going about the business of getting words on paper--as there are writers. This is basically a process of playing mind-games with yourself. There are no hard-and-fast rules, though there are a lot of commonly useful techniques. However, remember that there is no "rule" you can't break (except for _my_ three!).

And Gabaldon's Rule Number Three is:

3. Don't Stop. Writing is largely a matter of persistence. No matter how bad you are to start with, if you keep doing it, you _will_ get better. No guarantees that you'll get good enough to publish, but you will definitely get better. And who knows? You might be very good to start with--some people are.

Literaturschock: I know, you are asked that question again and again and I already asked this question Sara Donati, but: Would you tell us something about the thing with your characters in "Into the Wilderness"?

Diana Gabaldon: Oh, that again? It's such a tiny thing and it's so stupid; I can't imagine why anyone cares about this.

Sara Donati is the pen name of a friend of mine (Rosina Lippi-Green). When she was writing her first book, she would occasionally send me small pieces to read; I could see that she was a fine writer, and I offered to introduce her to a literary agent when she was ready for one.

Anyway, she knew from various things I'd said online (in the Compuserve Writers Forum--and _no_, it's not a chat-room) that I intended at some point to use the Battle of Saratoga in a future book. Well, she had a character who had been in that battle, some fifteen years earlier than the time in which _her_ book is set, and in one scene, he was telling another character stories about things that had happened to him or that he had seen during and after the battle.

So one day Rosina sent me a brief scene, saying that of course she wouldn't do this if I had any objection, but she thought it was rather funny. What she had done was simply to let her character describe Jamie and Claire as though they were real historical characters who had been present at the battle--her character told a brief anecdote about how a little boy had been sick afterward, and a woman with a reputation for healing, called the White Witch, had come across the lines to treat the little boy, accompanied by her husband, Colonel Fraser.

That's it. It's about two paragraphs, and Jamie and Claire don't appear _in_ her book; they aren't doing anything, they don't speak, etc. Her character just talks about them as people he's seen in the past. Period.

Literaturschock: You pick up a sensitve issue with the conflict of (the reader's) interessts between Scotland and the US. How do you handle this?

Diana Gabaldon: I'm not sure what you mean there. If you mean that some readers would rather read stories set in Scotland than stories set in the US, you may be right--but what difference does that make? As I often tell people who express a desire for me to write another book set in Scotland--nothing _happened_ in Scotland after Culloden that would interest them. What they don't realize (though they should, if they read DRAGONFLY IN AMBER) is that the whole Highland culture--the clans, the chiefs, the kilts, the pipes, the broadswords--_vanished_ after Culloden. It just plain wasn't there anymore. Nothing of much historical interest happened in Highland Scotland until the Clearances, which took place quite a long time later.

I'm telling the story of what happened to a group of people from that time. And what happened to a lot of them was that they followed the tide of history across the ocean to the American Colonies--where a lot of really interesting things _did_ happen in the last third of the century.

All of the books have at least one foot in Scotland, no matter what the setting; the remnants of the Highland culture traveled _with_ the people--which is one of the points of the books. Now, in one of the future novels, I think we may indeed return to Scotland--but it won't be at all the same Scotland that was there in the first two books.

Literaturschock: Do you know anything about the film rights for your books and If there would be a movie and only you could choose the crew: Who would be Jamie, Claire, Brianna, Roger and Geillis Duncan?

Diana Gabaldon: Well, the film rights have been optioned several times, and doubtless will be again. It's not the sort of business where you hold your breath. As for casting, I don't know, I don't care, and I would have nothing to say about it in any case.

Literaturschock: Do you write what ever you wanted to write? Or is there an unwritten idea, which sleeps in your head for years?

Diana Gabaldon: I write what I want to write. But of course I have sleeping ideas--any writer does. There's only so much time in one day; you can't write everything all at once, so you have to begin when you can, and perhaps write in small pieces until a book flowers.

In fact, I wrote a whole novel earlier this year, by accident. That is, I thought it was a short story when I began to write it--but I let it take its own shape, and it ended up being about 90,000 words. It's about Lord John Grey (one of the minor characters from the OUTLANDER books), during a period of his life when he was not interacting directly with Jamie and Claire, but pursuing an investigation of his own in London, in 1757. At the moment, it's called LORD JOHN AND THE CHAMBERPOT, but I can't say for sure whether the German publisher will like that title. They may change it, but the book _is_ finished, so will almost certainly be published within the next year. I hope that will help to tide people over between THE FIERY CROSS and the next book in Jamie and Claire's story.

Literaturschock: Did you already finish the contemporary mystery "White Knight"? Would you give us a little sneak preview of it?

Diana Gabaldon: No, I haven't finished that book. I hope to have it done within the next few months, though. As for a preview...well, I'd love to, but I have an agreement with my assorted publishers, that I only publish excerpts on my website, or--very rarely--on theirs, or at their request, on sites like Amazon.

In terms of what the book's _about_...well, it's a contemporary mystery, but you already knew that. It's set in the American Southwest, in and around Phoenix, Arizona, but the protagonist (and main narrator) is an investigative journalist from Philadelphia, named Thomas Kolodzi. It deals with a messy murder in his past, and how his sense of justice--and his desire for revenge--lead him to be involved in something even messier.

Literaturschock: You like animals? What kind of animals do you have?

Diana Gabaldon: Yes, I like all kinds of animals. At this point, we have three dogs (a doberman, a dachshund, and a mutt ), five cats, four parakeets, and two desert tortoises.

Literaturschock: Do you have a special funny story about one of your pets that you would like to tell us?

Diana Gabaldon: I really can't think of any, off-hand. (Sorry, I'm just not the sort of person who does funny pet or child stories.).

Literaturschock: What are you currently reading?

Diana Gabaldon: Oh, let me see...AND THEN YOU DIE, an Italian-set mystery by Michael Dibdin, ANGEL UNDERGROUND, a British mystery by Mike Ripley, DEMON LOVERS, by Walter Stephens (this one is a nonfiction book about the history of sexual haunting and possession), and FOR THE SINS OF MY FATHER, by Albert DeMeo (a memoir by a man whose father belonged to--and was murdered by--the Mafia).

Literaturschock: Thank you so much, Diana! I really appreciate your taking the time to let me interview you.

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