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Diana Gabaldon and Outlander

Updated on December 20, 2015
Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series of novels.
Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series of novels. | Source

If you don't already know who the people are in the above photo, then you have either been living under a rock or deep in a cave and have had no access to books or television.

The rest of us know them as characters, Jamie, Claire and Frank, the three main characters of author, Diana Gabaldon's best selling novel Outlander.

Outlander and Diana Gabaldon's seven other novels in her series (and a ninth one on the way) have become a phenomenon to its readership throughout the world especially since its long awaited adaption to the screen on Starz premium television network. The DVDs of season one of the program are out as well.

What is all the brouhaha over Outlander you ask? It is one of the best novels of historical fiction, romance, mystery, adventure, science fiction/fantasy ever written. Yes, it is of all those genres in one book series. It is right up there with Tolkein's Lord of the Rings, only it is sexier, funnier, more interesting and dramatic.

Yes, all those genres rolled into one series of novels, and it is by far the most unique of stories.

It tells the story of Claire Beauchamp Randall, who was a combat nurse during WWII, and married before the war to a professor of history, Frank Randall. It is 1945, the war is over and Claire and Frank are on a second honeymoon in Scotland having been separated for many years because of the war.

During their stay in Inverness, Scotland, Claire is mysteriously transported back in time to the highlands of Scotland in 1743. There, she must adapt, adjust and assimilate to life at that time and place - a dangerous and risky time in Scottish history. It is the time of the highlander Jacobite uprisings and rebellions against England in their support of Bonny Prince Charlie.

There, Claire meets the handsome and dashing Scottish highlander warrior James (Jamie) Fraser, and eventually falls in love with him. Will Claire remain with Jamie in 1743 or return to her husband Frank in 1945?

Such is the dilemma that faces Claire in this novel. She has a choice and who will she choose? Which man does she really love?

As Claire determines the trajectory of her life and her individual destiny, she experiences many adventures both beautiful and dangerous, life affirming and life threatening, loving and hateful.

At every turn, Claire is faced with another choice and decision about her life and where she will eventually end up.

Diana Gabaldon writes with such passion and furor that the reader cannot begin to guess what will happen to Claire and what her final destiny will be.

After reading all eight of the novels so far, Claire's life and journey have not yet ended. We are in for many more surprises.

In her novel series, Diana Gabaldon created her character of Claire to be a strong and independent woman, not so much a feminist, but an empowered woman who can straddle both time periods she must face in her life.

Claire, although married to Frank Randall, has been on her own for most of WWII, working as a combat nurse. She can think for herself, live on her own, navigate conflicts both external and internal, and, so, she is well experienced when she hits the Scottish ground running in 1743.

She doesn't mince words with anyone and can swear with the best of them. (Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!) She intrigues Jamie Fraser and he is smitten with her from the first time he sees her.

Claire is nobody's fool and is a quick learner. She realizes her talent as a nurse and healer will help her greatly to navigate the 18th century Scottish world she finds herself in, and she is highly respected in that world for her healing abilities.

The Scottish refer to Claire as a sassenach, which means outlander, a divisive and derisive term for someone from England, an enemy, and not one of them. However sassenach becomes Jamie's term of endearment for Claire, and his friendship with her helps to make her somewhat accepted in their Scottish world.

The eight books of Gabaldon's Outlander series.  A ninth book is in production.
The eight books of Gabaldon's Outlander series. A ninth book is in production. | Source
Claire at the standing stones of Craig na Dun.
Claire at the standing stones of Craig na Dun. | Source

The Creation of Outlander, the novel

Diana Gabaldon has had an interesting trajectory to her life in getting to the point of writing Outlander. She was born on January 11, 1952 and grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona the daughter of Tony Gabaldon, of Mexican-American heritage and Jacqueline Sykes of English-American heritage.

She went on to college to earn a BS in zoology from Northern Arizona University (1970-1973). Next, she went on to earn a MS in marine biology from the University of California, San Diego at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (1973-1975). She then earned a PhD in behavioral ecology at Northern Arizona University (1975-1978)

She became the founding editor of Science Software Quarterly in 1984, and she has been employed at the Center for Environmental Studies a Arizona State University.

During the 1980's she wrote software reviews and technical articles for computer publications. She also wrote popular-science articles and comic books for the Walt Disney Company.

She also had been teaching environmental science at Arizona State University for twelve years at that time.

Gabaldon had been thinking of and wanting a novel writing career all her life so in 1988 she said if she didn't do it then it would never happen. Because of all her research experience, she decided an historical novel would be the easiest to research and write. She began writing the novel for "practice" never intending it to ever be published.

Now, all she needed was a great idea for a novel. She has said in many interviews that she saw a rerun episode of Dr. Who, a science fiction TV series on PBS entitled The War Games.

Dr. Who's companion was a Scot from 1745, a young man about 17 years old, named Jamie McCrimmon. This was the initial inspiration for her main character James Fraser and for the novel's mid-18th century Scotland setting.

She decided her other main character would be an Englishwoman to play off the Scotsman. As Gabaldon wrote her novel, the female character took over and it became the story about the Englishwoman, Claire.

She chose time travel as a way to bring a strong, intelligent, independent woman into the 18th century.

One day she posted a short excerpt of her Outlander novel on Compuserve Literary Forum. Author, John E. Smith, read it, liked it, met her, and then introduced her to a literary agent, Perry Knowlton. So Gabaldon's "practice" novel became the real thing.

Knowlton agreed to represent her on the strength of her unfinished novel, then called Cross Stitch and signed her to a deal for a trilogy. She was to complete the novel she was working on and then write two others.

Gabaldon's U.S. publisher changed the name of the novel to Outlander - the English translation of the Scottish Gaelic world sassenach. The title is still Cross Stitch, a play on "a stitch in time," in the UK. The U.S. wanted a more adventurous title and one not confused with embroidery.

Outlander became a New York Times best-seller when published in 1991 and with the completion of the second novel, Dragonfly in Amber, published in 1992, Gabaldon resigned her faculty position at ASU to pursue a full-time writing career.

As of 2014, Gabaldon has published eight novels in the Outlander series and each has been a runaway best-seller. She is currently working on novel nine in the series. We are all anxiously awaiting the publication of that novel with more of the relationship between Claire and Jamie. She picks up each novel in the series exactly where the last one left off.

She has also published the Outlandish Companion, Volume I and II, which lists every character in her books and gives additional information about the times of her novels. After eight books there are hundreds of characters she has created.

Diana Gabaldon presently lives in Scotsdale, Arizona with her husband Doug Watkins. They have three adult children, Laura, Jenny and Sam, who is also a writer.

Ron E. Moore, executive producer of Outlander, the TV series and Diana Gabaldon, the author of the novels. The TV series, Outlander,  is the merging of these two great artists.
Ron E. Moore, executive producer of Outlander, the TV series and Diana Gabaldon, the author of the novels. The TV series, Outlander, is the merging of these two great artists. | Source
Caitriona Balfe (Claire) and Sam Heughan (Jamie) play the popular protagonists of Gabaldon's Outlander novels.
Caitriona Balfe (Claire) and Sam Heughan (Jamie) play the popular protagonists of Gabaldon's Outlander novels. | Source

Outlander, the Starz television series

For years, Outlander readers have wanted the novel brought to the screen and because of its popularity, Diana Gabaldon has been approached by many Hollywood directors to make a film of the novel.

Gabaldon said that a two hour movie of her novel would not do it justice. Her story just could not be told in two hours, and thank goodness she held out for the right vehicle to bring her novel to life.

The Outlander television series was created by Ronald D. Moore and produced by Sony/Left Bank for Starz cable television movie channel. Season one has sixteen episodes each approximately one hour long.

Outlander premiered on Starz on August 9, 2014, with eight episodes and the television series turned out to be as popular as Gabaldon's novels. Part two of season one, eight more episodes, aired in April 2015. The entire season one is now out on DVD.

Season two filming of the second novel, Dragonfly in Amber, began in April 2015 and is still in production. There are to be thirteen episodes in season two.

Outlander fans are awaiting.

The first season was filmed on location in Scotland, where the majority of the novel takes place. It captured the Scottish highland world of the 18th century with great authenticity. The casting for the show is phenomenal. Caitriona Balfe cast as Claire is flawless in her performance. She carries off the strong, independent yet vulnerable Claire with flair.

Sam Heughan cast as Jamie Fraser is perfect. He is exactly how I and many others have envisioned Jamie from the novels. Both Caitriona and Sam have the best onscreen chemistry that I have seen on television or movie screens in a long time. Their performances are riveting. Both of them have an emotional range that is palpable. Their love scenes are so passionate and steamy that my temperature rises just watching them. The Starz television series has followed the book very closely.

The casting of the rest of the cast, particularly Tobias Menzies, playing the double roll of Frank Randall (1945) and Jonathan "Black Jack" Randall (1743) is just as great. His acting range of performing as the mild-mannered, yet loving, history professor in 1945 and then as the evil and depraved "Black Jack" Randall in 1743 is outstanding. The casting crew has nailed it in every character they have cast.

The landscape scenes of Scotland are so beautiful that the tourist trade in Scotland has nearly doubled with Outlander tours visiting the places where the show has filmed.

The costumes for both the 20th and 18th centuries, designed by Terry Dresbach, wife of Ron D. Moore, are not only authentic but gorgeous. The deep earth colors of Scotland used in season one will change to the bright peacock colors of Paris in season two. And, there are enough men in kilts to satisfy any woman's desire.

Yes, in season two Claire and Jamie find themselves leaving Scotland and relocating to Paris, France where they try to intercept money being raised to bring Prince Charlie to the throne. With the Scottish defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, the Scottish highlander way of life will end and Jamie and Claire try desperately to change the future.

The music for the show is composed by Bear McCreary. The title song is an adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson's poem, "Sing Me a Song of a Lad that is Gone," and set to the Scottish folk song tune "The Skye Boat Song." He was nominated for an Emmy award for his composition in 2015.

Will there be a season three for the award winning Outlander series? Ron D. Moore said he "is confident" there will be a season three on Starz for the show.

Believe me when I say, millions of Outander fans are breathlessly waiting.

Men in kilts

The Scottish men of Outlander:  Rupert MacKenzie (Grant O'Rourke)  Murtagh Fraser (Duncan Lacroix)  Anghus Mhor (Stephen Walters)  Dougal MacKenzie (Graham McTavish) and Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan)
The Scottish men of Outlander: Rupert MacKenzie (Grant O'Rourke) Murtagh Fraser (Duncan Lacroix) Anghus Mhor (Stephen Walters) Dougal MacKenzie (Graham McTavish) and Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) | Source

Awards for Outlander -

Outlander has won the following awards:

Critics Choice Television Awards 2014

People's Choice Awards 2014

Saturn Awards 2015

Caitriona Balfe - Saturn Award Best Actress on Television 2015

Nominations for Outlander

Bear McCreary Emmy nomination for Outstanding Music Composition 2015

Nominations for People's Choice Awards 2016

  • Sam Heughan Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Television Actor
  • Caitriona Balfe Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Television Actress
  • Outlander Favorite Cable Television Sci-Fi/Fantasy Television Show

Nominations for Golden Globe Awards 2016

  • Caitriona Balfe Best Actress in a Television series - drama
  • Tobias Menzies Best Supporting Actor in a series, miniseries or television film
  • Outlander Best Television series - drama

Sneak peek at Outlander Season 2


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    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      8 months ago from Taos, NM

      And the books!

    • profile image

      Betty Ford 

      8 months ago

      Love this program!

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Audrey, yes the knitted arm warmers and small shawls are adorable and don't look too difficult to knit. This show's costuming is outstanding, and the knitted wear is interesting. I bet knitters every where are knitting parts of Claire's costumes.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Hi Faith, So glad you enjoyed reading this and of Gabaldon's story. It is an interesting one. Should we all get a "practice" novel published.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      3 years ago from California

      I thought I would pass this on to you--I knit quite a bit and the Outlander series has spawned a lot of new knit wear patterns and ideas--I was just looking at them--

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      3 years ago from southern USA

      Hi Suzette,

      I missed this last hub here somehow. What a great review and I found the writer's story truly interesting in and of itself. I'm glad she held out for the series. Smart woman!

      I hope you are doing well.

      Peace and blessings

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      3 years ago from California

      I have read all of these==so wonderful to hear the back story of how they were published!

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Hi Nell. I have seen three episodes of Season 2 and it is terrific. I am sad to hear they are not showing it in England and you have to wait till the DVD comes out. Check Amazon. I think there is a way to stream it online. I wonder if it is not shown in England because of the English/British army is portrayed as oppressors and Jonathan Randall as such an evil and depraved man. Or maybe because of the title Outlander as in reference to the English by the Scottish. The adaption of the books is wonderful.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      3 years ago from England

      Can't wait for the next series! I expect it will be ages after America seeing it before I can get the darn DVD! lol! we still haven't seen the first over here on tv, but who cares, just buy the DVD and I can watch it over and over!

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Audrey, Aren't these lot's of fun? The series is a good one and followed the first book very well. Glad to find another Outlander fan.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      I loved your opening lines! Well definitely not living under a rock or deep in the cave.

      I have heard of the series but not viewed it yet. You have shared a whole lot of information here that sounds very interesting and I loved the costumes!

      Thanks for sharing this wonderful hub!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      3 years ago from California

      I have read all of these--although not seen the series--lots of fun!!

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Dianna: Watch this program some time - you might just get hooked! The book series is a good one too! Thanks so much for reading.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Devika: Happy New Year to you and your family as well! Thanks so much for reading this. This book series is a fascinating one for me. I love the TV program as well.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Mike: So your wife is an Outlander fan too! I just discovered the books recently and the TV program is wonderful and follows the books closely. I am waiting for book number 9, too. It should be a good one!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      3 years ago

      I have heard of the series but not viewed it yet. Sounds interesting and love the costumes!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Interesting and a useful hub indeed! A Happy New Year to you.

    • mckbirdbks profile image


      3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello suzettenaples. The Outlanders, The Outlanders, are favorites around here. I am referring to the books on my wife's bookshelves. She found Gabaldon early and waited patiently for the new arrivals. Great article. And Happy holidays.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Genna: You sound like an Outlander fan. Yes, I am glad the show is getting the recognition it deserves. Thanks for reading and I am glad you enjoyed it.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      It was good to hear that both Caitrona Balfe and the series have been nominated for a Golden Globe. Richly deserved. This article is excellent, Suzette!

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Bill, lol! You get a pass on this one. Because Claire became the focus of the novel, more women read her books I think than men, but they are interesting to anyone. She is a quite popular with her fans of which I am one. It is a beautiful love story between Claire and Jamie and I am a sucker for a good love story. Thanks so much for stopping by to read this.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Eric: are you originally from Arizona as that is where Gabaldon is from. Her father was a state senator in Arizona at one point. She is quite a sensation all over the world to her fans.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      3 years ago from South Africa

      Oh dear, here am I, living under a rock! Your review, however, is absolutely captivating and will inspire anyone living under a rock to grow wings :)

      Thank you, Suzette!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hi! My name is Bill and I live under a rock. Never heard of this author or the book. Sigh! So much to do and so few years left. :) Thanks for the review.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Cool, my hometown is all a flutter over this gal Gabaldon. Small town girl makes it big. I think her dad was my principal at one point. What great art these talented people create.


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