Last month I had an amazing opportunity to go at an author's event for my favorite author Diana Gabaldon. This was huge for me because I notice that she doesn't travel to my area very often or at all for speaking engagements and for this event she would only be one state away. I was introduced to the magic that is Gabaldon's writing by my mother-in-law and fell in love with the Outlander series. I don't know quite how to categorize Outlander and I don't think any one can. In a nut shell it's historical fiction with a little fantasy and romance thrown in. My huband's favorite summary is that a nurse from the 1940's walks through a set of standing stones in Scotland and finds herself transported to the 1740's and has to marry a hunky Scot. Mind you, he hasn't read any of the books and is gleaning this wee bit of information from bits of pieces he's heard me tell him or that he's heard while I'm listening to my audiobooks.
I was fortunate to go to the event with a colleague from my former teaching days. The event was hosted by a public library and when they opened the event registration they were hoping for 400 participants and ended up with over 1,200 in addition to a very long waiting list. As a result they had to change venues to a gymnasium to accommodate Diana's Outlandish fans.
It was perfect. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to go. I was at the event for more than 4 1/2 hours, but it was worth it to me. While meeting Diana and having her sign one of my books was a great honor and I was most definitely starstruck, the best part of the event was listening to her speak. Being a wannabe writer myself I was enthralled and really enjoyed hearing how she started in the business. At the time she was working full-time for a university and was raising 3 young children. In her spare time she wrote and she was never going to publish her work, she just wanted to know if she could write a novel and see it to the end. She shared snippets with an online writing community and what was once a personal project turned into a highly acclaimed and beloved series. My favorite anecdote was answering a question about whether or not she does her own researching and why doesn't she hire someone to do that work for her. Diana's answer, granted this is not verbatim, but you get the gist: She has a personal assistant. If she wants hot dogs for dinner that night, she'll send her personal assistant out who picks up the fixings for dinner and they eat hot dogs. But if Diana, herself, goes out with the intention of buying hot dogs for dinner, she might come across chicken breasts on sale and then she thinks hmmmm, I can make curried chicken, I have all the spices, what else would go well this? Oh, look at that lettuce, it looks fresh and beautiful with the water glistening on it, let's make a salad, let's add some walnuts, and oh, look at these tomatoes, I'll add that as well. And she ends up with curried chicken and a hearty salad instead of hot dogs for dinner. Why doesn't she use a research assistant for her writing, if she did then you'd just get hot dogs ;)
I was so enamored with her and breathed in every word. I thought to myself...it might be possible. I might just be able to pull off my dream some day and write something that is worth something to me. I hung on to every word as if it were a gift just for me and I am so grateful that my husband enjoyed an evening with the kids while I trotted off to another state for the night to meet my favorite author and to gain some inspiration from her.
After the event, my friend Deb and I joined the 1,198 other Outlandish fans and patiently waited in line for Diana to sign our books. I brought my current crocheting project with me and it was good thing I did because we were in line for over 3 hours. My only regret is that I wish I had worn more comfortable shoes and chosen comfort over style. My companion was great and the Outlandish fans charming. I was impressed with the group and how everyone was polite and courteous to one another. I was very impressed that Diana agreed to stay and sign all of our books (with a 2 book limit, though if you wanted more signed you could go back to the end of the line! Super generous!). I had waited 3 hours for her to sign a book for me and for my mother-in-law. Not only did she sign our books she took a picture with each of her fans. After I left the line, she easily had another hour of signing to go. She was gracious and beautiful and I was awestruck. I barely managed to squeak out that my mother-in-law and introduced me to Jamie and Claire and I had been a fan ever since. I think my voice was breathy and soft and just every so squeaky. She graciously signed my book with "Best Wishes" in Gaelic. It is a treasured book that I hope to pass on to my daughter some day when she is old enough to read about the adventures and passion of my favorite characters James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser and his wife Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Fraser.
If you have never read Outlander I suggest you do. Diana Gabaldon is an amazing storyteller. Her ability to weave the intricate scenes, story lines, and characters is extraordinary. She is so descriptive that there are times when I feel like I am in the story, sitting on the sidelines and observing and hearing every conversation. Davina Porter is an amazing narrator for the audiobooks. I have recently started rereading the series again in preparation for the next book due to come out at the end of the year Written in My Own Heart's Blood. With my busy schedule I have little time to sit and enjoy the luxury of reading a long book filled with historical information, many characters, and several story lines. However, the beauty of today's technology has allowed me to download my books onto my smartphone and now I can take Jamie and Claire with me on my long runs. It is a gift to my myself every morning to find the time to read a long and intricate book combined with my passion for running all before the kids wake up.
Thank you Diana for letting us into your world! It was an honor to meet you and to hear you speak!