A Tale of Two Wenches, Two Jamies, and Herself
|Enthusiastic fans await Herself|
in Portland, Oregon
Diana Gabaldon is also a lot of other people’s favorite author! So the lines were long and personal interaction minuscule, yet just watching and listening to Herself tell stories was exhilarating. She is, after all, a master storyteller no matter the medium. Her gestures and expressions add personality and subtext that we can only imagine while reading her interviews online. She is also unfailingly gracious, warm, funny, brilliant, and has the enviable ability to endure long (and what must become, after so many weeks, grueling) fan events without wilting noticeably.
After the jump, we’ll tell you all about meeting Diana!
Wench Donna — Barrie, Ontario — June 22
I don’t know how we lucked out, but Diana Gabaldon’s book tour came to my area just a few days after publication date. The fact that it coincided with my birthday weekend was just gravy (or maybe I should say the icing on the cake — I know, pun overload!).
This was the first time I’d ever attended a book signing. My sister drove about five hours for a visit and to attend it with me. She gave me MOBY for a birthday present (the perfect gift!). There was a large crowd of enthusiastic fans in attendance. Some of them had lined up since the night before (!), but we got there two hours early and still had a pretty good place in line.
Diana spoke for about half an hour (you can watch the video below), and then signed copies of MOBY and any other books we had brought along. She was funny, charming, and very gracious. There was a short Q&A session, and I stuck my hand up (fangirl-power kicked terminal-shyness’s ass). She called out to me, and my head was spinning! I quickly decided to ask about forget-me-nots, the flower that Claire went to look for when she first went back in time. I was curious if the flower would be relevant in the final book. Alas, she wouldn’t give out much information, so we will have to wait and see. My own personal theory is that Claire herself planted the flower back in the 1700s.
I was thrilled to have Diana sign my copies of Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, and An Echo in the Bone. After an associate took some photos of me with Herself, I was given a bookmark and my very own Pocket Jamie!
Wench Kathi — Portland, Oregon — July 2
Local landmark Powell’s Bookstore hosted Diana at a downtown theater, which was filled to the brim (and had reserved seating, hooray!). Steely Dan was playing across the street, which I sure hated to miss, but I do have my priorities. I’m hoping the band will come back, Jack, and do it again another day, but I believe in never passing up an opportunity to meet my favorite author!
The day before the event, attentive Outlandians realized that event planners were not intending for us to meet Diana in person. We were to receive our pre-signed books as we exited the theater right after Diana finished speaking. (They must not know any Outlander fans.) Aghast ticketholders initiated a social media campaign for the chance to have their books personalized, and Diana was certainly obliging. Powell’s and the venue quickly changed up the plans, and we all got to stand in line like the diehard fans we are for a chance to tell Herself how much we enjoy her books (or stand there tongue-tied like yours truly).
Diana also agreed to meet briefly with Outlandia to receive a vase of tartan roses made for her by several talented Outlandians and pose for a group photo. I think she was a wee bit surprised at how large our little fan group turned out to be!
Herself was, as always, warm, gracious, entertaining, and engaging. She shared personal anecdotes about her inspiration for Outlander, her early writing days, her writing techniques, why women like men in kilts, and advice for aspiring authors, plus she answered quite a few questions from the audience. Here are a few tidbits I had not heard before:
How’s The Outlandish Companion, Volume 2 coming along?
It’s about 85% done and will probably be released early next year. Volume 1 will also be updated. If you ask her when book 9 will be done, she might hit you over the head with the gigantic book she’s signing for you.
What does she do to celebrate when she finishes a big book?
Buy new towels. (It’s usually about time. The last set she bought 5 years ago is wearing out.) Though she also went to Disneyland after this book. And took care of all the stuff she ignored during the final frenzy (which included a 36-sleepless-hour finishing sprint). And, since she seems to always be juggling a large number of complicated projects, that was probably a lot of stuff.
What one thing would she change about the books if she could go back in time?
Not agree to let them be shelved in the f*@king romance section. She let herself be persuaded only because romance would reach a wider audience initially, thus funding subsequent printings for fans of other genres. But once a book gets labeled, that label tends to stick.
Stores didn’t know how to deal with cross-genre books back in the days of physical bookshelves. In fact, there weren’t many, though maybe that’s just because no one knew what shelf to put them on. (Why didn’t they just put a few copies on several different shelves?? Though that wouldn’t solve the card catalog problem for the libraries.) In fact, Herself almost lost her initial Outlander contract when, after 18 months, the publisher still couldn’t figure out how to classify her book. And once they called it romance, even the techo-wizardry of modern multi-genre virtual shelving could not convince them to call it otherwise. (I’m not naming names here, because we love our bookstores, but she did mention that the competition sold 40% more of her books than the vendors who classified them as romance.) They put all her stories in the romance section, even the Lord John Grey books, believe it or not. I can just imagine how disappointed the traditional romance fan who bought those books would be, ha ha. Nowadays she finds Outlander on many shelves: historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, literature, adventure, military fiction, romance, historical romance, LGBT romance...even historical nonfiction, which is a bit of a head scratcher. (I’m waiting for time-slip nonfiction.)
After she spoke, the fans enjoyed chatting and posing with life-size Pocket Jamie while we waited to get our books personalized. It was the most amazing thing to be surrounded by people who wanted to talk about Outlander stuff. Only Outlander. All night. That was awesome!! I usually have to rein in my enthusiasm around other folks in Real Life. :-)
And of course, the biggest thrill of all was getting to stand next to Herself and be so awestruck I could hardly babble a quick sentence about how much I loved her books! 15 seconds is hardly enough time to inhale the breath I’d need to begin explaining the deep feelings I have for her stories and characters, so it was hard to know what to say... (At least I knew better than to ask when the next book would be out!)
The whole evening was a fabulous experience for a whole bunch of Portland fans! I felt bad that our signing was the penultimate stop in a verra long tour — and Herself had signed more than 50,000 books and was probably overdue about 1,000 hours of sleep. But you wouldn’t have guessed it!
I find there to be a verra special quality of camaraderie at a gathering of Outlander fans, like a gigantic happy family reunion. Abounding with plaid, generous spirits, men in kilts, a fabulous assortment of t-shirts (perfect for selecting what you want to order next), bagpipes, dragonfly jewelry, a tartan miniskirt, kilt inspectors, and the breathtaking King of Men — in pocket or large-as-life size.
I’d like to thank Diana, Powell’s Books, and the hard-working members of Outlandia for making this such a memorable evening for so many fans! I'd also like to thank Outlander Addiction and members of Outlandia for letting me use some of their photos.
Did you attend one of Diana’s book signings for MOBY? Or maybe one of her earlier events? We’d love to hear about it! We hope you’ll leave us a comment.