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Diana Gabaldon and Outlander
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 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.
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
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