Sunday, January 27, 2008


I get quite a bit of mail asking about the permutations of the audiobook versions of the OUTLANDER and Lord John novels, so thought maybe I'd clarify—as much as is possible.

Hokay. Back in the day….around 1994, this would be…audiobooks were a new and Highly Suspect (in the minds of publishers, who tend to be a wary breed) development. Publishers didn't want to risk money on producing an audio version of a book that they didn't think would sell well, so they seldom did audio versions of anything that wasn't already a bestseller—and costs being what they were, they were even warier of recording an extravagantly long book.

Well, in 1994, VOYAGER (my third book) was published, and hit the New York Times list, thus becoming an official Bestseller (as my beloved first editor also used to say, becoming a bestseller is really the only good solution to the "where do we shelve this?" conundrum—because a book that's a bestseller automatically gets display space at the front of the store, no matter where else it may be shelved. Seemed like a good strategy to me, so I've pursued it ever since. [g]

So. This meant that the publisher's audiobooks department was now cautiously interested in my books. They looked at said books, uttered loud screams of consternation at the length (this being the universal reaction of all publishers, anywhere), and then offered my agent a small amount of money for total world rights, abridged and unabridged, forever.

As I had a very good agent (I still have a very good agent, but not the same one; my first agent, Perry Knowlton, retired, and then died, alas), he said nothing doing, and proceeded to negotiate them into a somewhat better deal: English-language rights only, and on a ten-year license (renewable if agreeable to both parties), rather than the usual, "We'll publish it as long as we feel like it (i.e., as long as it makes money)" contract. They still insisted on having both abridged and unabridged rights, though—in spite of the fact that they made it clear that they only intended to do an abridged version, given the books' length.

(Right. A word about "abridgement." This means that the publisher wants to publish a shorter version of the original book—ergo, they're going to take stuff out. In my innocence, I assumed this meant removing short passages of description, excise a few adjectives…maybe cut a nonessential scene here or there…perhaps boil the book down by 15-20%...not ideal, but maybe acceptable, in that it would introduce a new market, and perhaps someone who "heard" one of the books and was attracted by the characters or storyline would then go and buy some of the others.

Well. "Abridgement" does indeed mean the publisher's going to take things out. They rather cunningly do not tell you how much they propose to take out. And they did offer me "approval" of the abridgement. More about this, below.)

I didn't care for this, "approval" notwithstanding. "I think eventually the books are going to be sufficiently popular that there might be a market for the unabridged version," I told my agent. "And if I thought stuff could desirably be left out of these books, I would have written them that way. I want to keep the unabridged rights. We may never sell them, but if we give them to these guys, they'll never use them, and there'll never be an unabridged version."

Excellent agent that he was, he went back and fought for my unabridged rights, emerging triumphant a few weeks later. Unwilling to absolutely surrender these rights, though, the publisher had insisted on a "non-compete retail" clause. In other words, I could sell the unabridged rights—but whoever made an unabridged audio version could not sell it in the same physical retail outlets (i.e., bookstores) where the abridged audo was sold. (The publisher accurately fearing that if anyone saw the abridged and unabridged versions side by side, they'd see just how much was missing, and not buy the abridged form. (Just as an example, the abridged form of A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES contains 9 CDs. The Unabridged form contains 48. Yeah, you'd see, all right.))

This was the best we could do, and I agreed.

Some time later, the Bantam Audio department called up, burbling with good news: "The usual audiobook is only six hours—but we got permission to do OUTLANDER as nine!" they said.

"Yeah?" I said. "I'd be a lot more impressed if I hadn't just read that book myself for Recording for the Blind (see footnote*), and know that it takes at least 32 hours."

"Oh," they said, still chirpy. " That won't matter; we have wonderful Scottish music to bridge the transitions!"

Still, I didn't realize the full extent of the carnage, until they sent me the abridged manuscript for [cough] "approval."

"Approval" of an abridged manuscript is like a newspaper photographer coming to your house and taking a picture of your sweet child, all dressed up and combed to perfection. Then the editor calls you to tell you the picture is running on the front page! But…owing to space constraints, "You can have the left ear, the chin, the middle button on the dress, and your choice of nostril—or would you rather have one eye, the bottom lip, and both shoes?"

In other words, they hand you a pile of bloody shreds, and you have four days to make any changes you like. Right. Well, I did the best I could to smooth the unspeakably ham-handed transitions that someone had written to (haha) "bridge" the gaping holes between these chunks, but that was all that could be managed.

OK. Well, they produced the abridged audios—the reader, actress Geraldine James, is a lovely reader, I'll say that for them—and they do include snippets of Scottish music (which, btw, I do not consider an adequate substitute for my deathless prose.) Sold a modest amount of them—mind, this was early days for audiobooks, so pretty much all audiobooks sold modestly.

Well…the more books I wrote, the longer they got—and the bloodier the carnage of the abridgements. (They discarded Fergus altogether from the second book, for instance, thus causing considerable confusion when he inexplicably appears in the third. He's in VOYAGER, but they didn't bother to explain to Ms. James that he's French. He therefore appears with a most incongrous heavy Scots accent, she having evidently (and reasonably) assumed from his name that he was Scottish, and there being nothing left in the abridged text to indicate otherwise.)

So I really wanted an unabridged version. I looked into it, and at that time, there were only two companies who did unabridged titles: Books on Tape, and Recorded Books. Well, I happened to be doing an appearance at a Public Librarians Association conference, at which there was a trade show, featuring all kinds of publishers—including a booth rented by Recorded Books. I strolled casually past this a time or two, screwing up my courage, and when I found the booth momentarily without visitors, walked up and introduced myself to the gentleman manning it, proceeding swiftly from general schmoozing to pointing out the popularity of my books—which were fortunately being sold in inspiring quantities from the Random House booth on the other side of the room; every third librarian walking by was carrying one of my books, as I'd been their principal program speaker.

I got a card from this cordial gentleman, and once home, emailed my agent with the contact information, suggesting that he go at once to reinforce any good initial impression I might have made. Subsequently, Recorded Books made an offer for the unabridged audio rights to OUTLANDER, and thus began a most satisfying relationship.

Now, nothing against the production or the reading/acting of the Bantam abridged versions—both are excellent—but the simple fact is that the abridged version of THE FIERY CROSS, for example, includes precisely 23% of the original story. No, they didn't leave out 23%; that's how much they left in.

Recorded Books has (so far) recorded unabridged versions of all of my novels, both the main OUTLANDER series (read by the exquisite Davina Porter) and the Lord John books (read by the marvelous Jeff Woodman, who just is Lord John, in vocal terms). Both these readers are nothing short of spectacular in their acting ability and facility with accents.

Anyway, if you should be curious, the Recorded Books website is (reasonably enough) , and I am pleased (having just gone to check it) to see that HAND OF DEVILS is their monthly special at the moment:

All right. Moving right along with this gripping saga…

Because of the "non-compete retail" clause in the original contract with Bantam, the Unabridged versions done by Recorded Books couldn't be sold in bookstores, until the license for the abridged versions was terminated. We (current agent and I) did terminate these licenses, as each one expired—so far, the first four books have been terminated, which means that while Bantam has had a six-month grace period after each expiration in which to sell off their stock, after that, the unabridged audio can be sold in bookstores. I haven't checked, but I think you can in fact now get the unabridged versions of the first three or four books from Barnes and Noble, as well as from, in addition to the Recorded Books site. (I should note, btw, that Recorded Books also has a rental plan—which, considering the size and expense of the unabridged books, is a nice alternative.)

Oh—and for those who like to download their books as mp3 files— now carries the first three (or possibly four) unabridged audios in this form, by arrangement with Recorded Books. (They may have the abridged ones, too—be careful what you're ordering!)

We will be terminating the licenses for FIERY CROSS and A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, as these reach their expiration dates—but it'll be a few more years. In the meantime, I'm afraid you'll have to get those two audiobooks in unabridged form direct from Recorded Books.

And I should mention eBay. I'm sure there are sellers there who are selling legitimate copies of the unabridged audios, but there are also a lot of fly-by-nights selling bootleg copies. If the item advertised consists of mp3 files on CD—they're almost certainly bootlegged, and my agent would like to know about it. (If you post a link here in the blog, I'll forward it to him; he's got a regular procedure for dealing with bootlegged stuff on eBay.)

Oh, Alex Kingston. Ms. Kingston has absolutely nothing to do with my audiobooks—though I'm certain she'd be a marvelous reader. It's just that our valiant assistant, Susan (who saves us from financial disaster by coming and doing the family book-keeping, hauls things to the post office (no one would ever get anything if it was left up to me to take it to the PO), pulls bookplates for me to sign, and is the only person who knows where the family membership card to the Zoo is) was here yesterday, and while we were chatting about the various interesting (and occasionally baffling) responses here to Claire's graphic-novel portrait, told me that from the discussions on one site she frequents, she thought the odd notion that Claire has corkscrew curls comes from the fact that a number of people, in the course of that mental casting game that's so popular, had firmly fixed upon the actress Alex Kingston as "their" mental picture of Claire. Ms. Kingston, of course, having that sort of hairstyle.

Right. Well, look. Ms. Kingston is a fabulous actress—I don't watch TV, so don't follow ER, but loved her in the "Moll Flanders" miniseries—but she doesn't actually look anything like Claire, aside from the minor similarities of being female and having curly hair (but not that kind of curly hair; Claire has the silky sort of curly hair, not the coarse kind. If you have to have an actress to visualize, think Madeleine Stowe in LAST OF THE MOHICANS, in terms of hair. Claire's is shorter, wilder, and naturally a different color, but that sort of texture.). Sorry, but she doesn't.

  • Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. This is a non-profit group that—as the name suggests—provides free recorded textbooks (or books for professional use or development—i.e., we don't read purely recreational books, like novels, unless required for an English class or the like; the Library of Congress Talking Books Program does this, though) for "print-handicapped" readers.

  • (This means anyone, who for whatever reason, has trouble physically reading a book. It includes not only people who are blind or have very low vision (I think RFB&D told me that only about 10% of their clients are actually blind), but those who have substantial cognitive reading difficulties, or those who (because of MS, paralysis, or some other condition) simply can't hold a book. I've been a volunteer reader for them for….geez, more than 27 years now. They tend to give me scientific texts to read, because I don't have any trouble with the vocabulary; nice to kind of stay in touch with more recent developments in science, if only in this sporadic kind of way. (It's also usually the only time in the week that I sit down—not at a computer—for any extended period, so I can knit. The knitting also keeps me awake while reading the less-gripping sorts of books).)

  • They always need volunteers—not only for reading, but for "directing" (a director handles the actual recording of files and follows the reading, to insure that the reader doesn't blink and miss something, or make mistakes, and to fix places where the reader sneezes, coughs, or accidentally impales self with a knitting needle), marking books (so we know where to read the tables and figures, and where to give page numbers), duplicating files, and general office work. Should you have the urge, there are RFB&D studios in most large cities—check your Yellow Pages and give them a call—or go to their website at . They'd be thrilled to see you. [g]

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Research - Part II: Hot Dogs and Beans

I'm often asked whether I use research assistants (not infrequently, by people who'd like to apply for the job). 'Preciate the offer very much, guys [g], but no, I don't.

Now, like everything else in writing, how/when/how much one researches is totally individual. Some people canNOT start writing until they feel they have a good grip on the period they're writing about. (Some people feel they can't start writing until they know virtually everything about their period. These people never actually write anything, because it isn't possible to read/learn/know everything—but they become good amateur historians. I had one good friend (since deceased, alas) who wrote a novel about Byzantium, decided she must know more before re-writing it—and in the process, discovered that in fact, she really wanted to be a historian rather than a novelist, and ended up going back to school in her late 50's to get a Ph.D. in history.)

I am not one of these people.

Mind, when I wrote OUTLANDER, I wrote it for practice, in order to learn how to write a novel. I chose historical fiction because it seemed like the easiest and least-constraining kind of book to write, not because I loved history. (I do have an abiding curiosity, but it isn't limited to history. [g]) But—as I told myself when I saw a minor Scottish character in a kilt on TV and decided on a whim to set the book in 18th century Scotland—"The point here is not to learn everything about Scotland in the 18th century; the point here is to learn to write a novel."

I already knew that the only way of learning to write something is to…er…write something (odd how frequently this basic fact escapes people). So I started writing [shrug]. Immediately, knowing nothing about Scotland or the 18th century, and having no plot, no outline, and no characters—nothing but the rather vague images conjured up by the notion of a man in a kilt.

(Which, as I'm sure you all agree, is a Powerful and Compelling image. [cough] Speaking of which—a couple years ago, I was fortunate enough to win an international literary award, and went to Germany to accept it. While there, I was interviewed by what seemed like every member of the German press, and toward the end of the week, was having an interview with a lovely man from (I think) a literary journal of some kind. He'd read all the books, and was saying all kinds of nice things about my style, my narrative drive, my imagery, the thematic complexity of the novels, the vividness of my characters…and I was nodding happily, thinking, "Yes, yes, go on…", when he said, "There is just one question I'd like to ask you: Can you tell me, what is the appeal of a man in a kilt?"

Well, I was very tired after a week of this, or I might not have said it—but I just looked at him for a moment and then said, "Well….I suppose it's the idea that you could be up against a wall with him in a minute."


A few weeks later, home again, I got a stack of press clippings from the German publisher, including this particular interview (I do read German, but very slowly). The publisher had put a Post-it note on this one, which said, "I don't know what you told this man, but I think he is in love with you."

[cough, cough, cough])

Yeah, well, anyway. Research. So, I started writing immediately, figuring that if I wrote something that later turned out to be wrong (as I learned more)—I'd just fix it. No big deal, and nobody was going to see this, anyway.

I also began doing the research immediately as well. And learned quickly that for me, the research and the writing feed off each other in a sort of positive-feedback loop. I write along, and realize that I need to know some specific bit of information. I go to look this up, find it—and along the way, find some other entertaining bit of history or trivia whose existence I would never have suspected—which in turn provides the kernel for a new scene, plotline, character, etc.—which in turn requires more specific information, which in turn…

Mind, I don't write with an outline, nor do I plan the books out before writing them (what fun would that be?). Consequently, I have no idea (beyond a few events here and there) as to what will happen in a book, let alone how it will happen. That being so, the book is free to take any direction and shape that it will—the shape reveals itself to me as we go along (and I'll write a bit about the shapes of books later on, perhaps).

My favorite analogy regarding research is what I call "Hot dogs and beans." Consider that you're planning dinner for your family. You decide to have hot dogs and beans; tasty and cheap and everybody likes them. You have a busy life, and thus an assistant—you tell the assistant to go to the store and get hot dogs and beans for you. The assistant does, and you have a nice supper.

OK. If you go to the store yourself, you're intending to get hot dogs and beans. But on your way to the sausage-and-cheese section, you pass the fresh meat section—where you observe that there's a sale on organic chicken breasts. "Ooh," you think. "I could make chicken curry!" So you get the chicken breasts, go back through the aisles to get spices, vegetable juice, mango-peach applesauce, mango chutney, jasmine rice…and coming back toward the front of the store with this, you pass through the fresh produce section and see the water droplets gleaming among the fresh lettuces and long green onions—and it occurs to you that a shrimp salad would be Really Good with the curry—so you go back to Meats and get half a pound of fresh baby shrimp, then to the condiments aisle for dressing—and thence to the chilled wine cabinet near the checkout, for a lovely dry Riesling, which will just top this meal off….

Well, if you write historical novels and you depend heavily on research assistants, you get hot dogs and beans.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Genre Thoughts - Part III: The Pragmatic, or "Should YOU do it?"

Publishing houses are by nature conservative. They're businesses, which means they need to make money to stay in existence. Which in turn means they have to guess which books (of the hundreds of thousands written every year) are likely to sell—and they have to be right a good proportion of the time.

Now, one of the Horrible Truths about publishing is that no one in a publishing house actually reads the books they publish, except the editors who acquire them. Everything else—ad budgets, cover and book design, decisions regarding print runs, etc.—is based on what an editor can tell the other departments about the book. This means that responsibility for whether a book is successful or not will ultimately land at the editor's feet—because he or she chose it.

By and large, any editor would sell his or her soul to acquire a truly wonderful book. However, editors also work for the publishing company—the latter being by definition a soulless entity whose only concern is the bottom line. That being so, any editor is constantly walking the narrow line between wanting to acquire a marvelous, unique book—and the nagging, ever-present question: Can we sell this?

This is a lot of pressure for the poor editor. On the one hand, they really, really want fresh, new, exciting, wonderful books. On the other hand, if the books they choose don't sell well, they'll get fired. The fresher, newer, and more exciting a manuscript is, the longer the odds against its success. Why is this?

Well, if I may lapse into analogy for a moment, consider restaurants. Lutece vs. McDonald's, to be specific. Lutece is a four-star, world-renowned restaurant, whose menu is the absolute definition of "gourmet." People eat there and swoon. McDonald's…well, the food is tasty, cheap, and more than anything else, predictable. Which restaurant would you rather own stock in?

Yeah, me too.

You notice I mentioned the three things that make McDonald's successful: tasty (as in, stimulating the taste buds with salt and fat, if not providing a particularly memorable dining experience), cheap, and…predictable.

Human beings are an odd mix of caution and curiosity. This is because we're primates, and we evolved in environments where this blend of traits was highly adaptive.

(Evolution? Oh, don't even get me started. Go to any museum and look at the dinosaur skeletons. Go outside and look down the street. See a crowd fleeing from an oncoming tyrannosaur? 65 million years ago, there were all these gigantic lizards running around, and no people. Now you would be hard-pressed to find even an ankylosaurus on the New York subway. QED. Apparently, Things Changed Over the Course of Time (i.e., they evolved), and I don't believe for an instant that God got bored with dinosaurs and one day pointed his finger and went "Bing! You're dead. I'm going to have people instead." In my (admittedly limited) experience, God is seldom that direct in His methods. (I do believe in God, and that He created everything. Why the heck people think He would do that in such a ham-handed way, when everything you see in the natural world argues subtlety and sophistication… In other words, I think the supposed dichotomy between evolution and creationism is spurious, and the Pope's with me on this. But I digress)).

The point being that by and large, you (as a primate) learn that this grass here, and grubs under logs and those roots over there are edible and tasty, and so glom them on sight. But every now and then, you come across something like a tree with red fruit. And you go, "Whoa, man, what's that?" Well, it looks really iinteresting. Sniff, sniff, sniff. Lick. But it might be poisonous. Hm. And you're not all that hungry, and Bob's just dug up an anthill…hm. Auntie Maxine's looking interested; let's wait and see if she eats it and drops dead, and meanwhile, here's a new rotted log. Hey, man, ever seen so many grubs in your life?!?

Returning to the modern day, this means that people early on form preferences regarding what they like to read—and they tend to stick to them, only rarely venturing into the dangerous realm of the new when Auntie Maxine hands them a nice, juicy red book and assures them they'll love it.

The result of this, in terms of publishing companies' operations, is that when an editor is faced with the question, "Can we sell it?", the logical corollary is usually—"How much is it like what we already know will sell?"

The answer to that one lies along a spectrum, one end of which is, "Lots. It's like a Grisham, only with a good ending. Or just like Patricia Cornwell, but the people are likable. Or like Danielle Steel, only…" (OK, not going there. [g])—and the other end is, "Well…it really doesn't look like anything I've seen before, let alone anything I've seen on a bestseller list." The closer your book lies to the left-hand end of that spectrum, the higher its chances of being published—because the chances (so far as the publisher is concerned) of its making money are higher. Ergo, the better the chance of the book being bought by an editor.

Bestsellers are not actually bestsellers because they are invariably good books; they're bestsellers because people are in the habit of buying them.

Returning for a moment to my own experience—OUTLANDER was bought by a general fiction editor who loved it (actually, three editors bid on it; she won). She then took it to the first editorial meeting, where she enthused about the book, about how wonderful it was, how they must do something Really Special in terms of cover art, marketing…"Great!" said the marketing people. "What kind of book is it?"

[dead silence for a moment]

"Err…" she said. "I don't really… know…" [long discussion of what it was—no, it's not that—maybe it's…?, no it's really not that, etc., etc.]

Anyway, the upshot was that the publishing company wanted to cancel the three-book contract they'd given me—because they couldn't see any effective way to sell a book that couldn't be described in terms of its genre. My editor, bless her, insisted that they would publish it, and it would (as she's often said) "have to be a word-of-mouth book, because it's too weird to describe to anybody."

(Beyond the weirdness, it was also a Really Long book. Really Long books give publishers Irritable Bowel Syndrome.)

The bottom line here is, yes, you can write (and sell, which is the salient point here) a book that crosses (or obliterates) genres. You can also sell an immensely long book. BUT, if you're going to sell a really unusual book, it also has to be Really Good.

If you have a book that fits well into a tried-and-tested genre, it doesn't have to be the best book ever written in that genre. (Mind, as I said in my first post on this subject, there's certainly not a necessity to write poorly in genre fiction, and it's certainly desirable to write well. It's just that a decently-executed book will still sell.)

Still, on the bright side, the publishing industry has gotten a good deal more flexible in accepting genre-crossing books—because there have been enough of them over the last ten or twenty years that have succeeded. "Paranormal romance," for instance, used to make people's jaws drop, while nowadays, romances featuring vampires (and the occasional werewolf. Oh, I do wish I could remember the title of the romance with the werewolf hero with the retractable penis…) are positively commonplace. Ditto "romantic suspense," which blends mystery and romance. But these genre blends have now become recognizable genres in themselves.

So it all comes down to marketing. A publisher's concern is selling the book. Which means that it first has to be sold to bookstores, and then to the readers. If you go into a bookstore, what's the first thing you do? (beyond glancing at the remainder table or checking to see if they have Godiva milk-chocolate with caramel) You look at the labels on the bookshelves, to guide you to the type of book you're looking for. A book that cannot be easily shelved can't be easily sold to a bookstore—or to a reader.

Which means that a book that crosses or blends multiple genres—if it's special enough to be bought by an editor anyway—is going to be shoved willy-nilly into some genre, just because it has to be shelved. (The default, if the publisher simply can't think what else to do, is to put it in "Fiction." However, conventional bookselling wisdom holds that individual books normally sell better if they can be put into one of the "niche" genres, like romance or mystery, because they show up better.) That being so, the publisher will then orient the cover art and marketing to whatever genre they think will give the book the best chance of selling, whether the book really belongs in that genre (in terms of content) or not.

So the bottom line is, what do you want most? Do you want to write the book of your heart? Or do you want most to be published? (Not rich and famous; nobody can guarantee that—but published.)

If this is a book that just has to be written the way you see it—by all means, write it that way. But if you're crossing genres with abandon just because you feel like it….well, be aware that this likely will make the sale a little harder.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest

I can't recall which topic it was, where someone was thanking me for recommending other books I liked. I'll be putting up an addendum to the Methadone List on my website next week--a short list entitled "Violent Wee Buggers" (these being a group of Scottish and Irish novelists whose work I adore--but they do tend to be both violent and grim (while also being intermittently hilarious and/or poetic about it)).

Anyway, whilst composing this list, I got an email from a Scottish friend, also a writer, but not yet published, telling me that his book, SLEEPING WITH RACHEL, had reached the semi-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest (about which I know nothing, though I've been hearing about it for weeks, a number of my friends having entered it). This was great news, of course--and he wanted to ask if I might go look at the brief excerpt of the book that's posted online, and leave a quick review.

I was happy to do that (in fact, I've read the whole manuscript, and think it's _very_ good)--but thought I'd also tell you guys about it, in case you should be in the mood. It's a modern novel, set in Scotland, and I don't know quite what you'd call it--it has mystery, long-buried secrets, famil dysfunction, and a lot of sexual tension [g]--but it's beautifully written. Anyway, if you _should_ feel the urge, it's at

And should you feel inclined to leave a review--David and I both thank you!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Genre Thoughts - Part II - The Personal, or Why _I_ Do it.


OK. Descending to the personal (later we'll go on to the practical [g])…

So far, I've seen my books shelved and sold (with evident success) as:

Fiction (or Literature; some bookstores have separate categories for Fiction and Literature, some don't)

Historical Fiction

Historical Non-Fiction (no, really. Foyle's bookshop in London shelved them under Historical Nonfiction, when I saw them there a few years ago. As it was explained to me, shelving decisions were made by Miss Kitty Foyle (since deceased, alas), and Miss Foyle believed in time travel. Ergo…)

Science Fiction (This is why I hate reviews and marketing stuff that refers to "a magic stone circle." 'Tisn't magic at all.)

Fantasy (Fantasy and sf are indeed separate things—and it's totally possible to use them both together, too.)

Romance (this is a whole discussion unto itself, so we'll leave it as a simple statement for the moment)

Mystery (the Lord John books are (sort of) structured as mysteries, but the main OUTLANDER novels each include a complete murder mystery—though most readers don't notice)

Military History (true. The Military History Book Club now and then lists my titles in their catalogue)

Gay and Lesbian Fiction


Horror. (Really. A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES won a 2006 Quill Award, in the "science-fiction/fantasy/horror" category—beating out Stephen King's CELL, and thus allowing me to say that I've beaten Stephen King for a horror award. [g] (Beat George R.R. Martin's A FEAST FOR CROWS, too, which was very flattering.)

Putting aside the question of just how appropriate any of these categorizations may actually be [g], I think the point is obvious: my books don't really have a genre. Or else they have all of them (the Prologues are often poetry, and while I've never seen the books sold as Westerns, we do employ a number of the concepts central to Westerns: the notion of what "law" means, as an ideal and in practice, and the notion of the lone hero fighting for his home and family). The effect is pretty much the same, though—the books are impossible to describe to anyone in twenty-five words or less, and they have no easily attachable "label" that a sales rep could use when pitching them to a bookstore account, or that a publicist could use when trying to line up interviews and appearances.

By all conventional publishing wisdom, these books should be impossible to sell. So why the heck did I choose to write a book that couldn't be sold?

Well, easy. I never intended to sell OUTLANDER.

See, I just wanted to learn how to write a novel. And, having written a lot of other stuff over the years (everything from Walt Disney comics to a 400-page Ph.D. dissertation on "Nest Site Selection in the Pinyon Jay, Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus" (which my husband says should be subtitled, "Why Birds Build Nests Where They Do, and Who Cares, Anyway?), and having had no one ever tell me how to write any of it…I just read some examples, wrote whatever it was, and if it didn't look quite right, I poked it until it did.

"OK," I said to myself, "you've been reading novels for thirty-odd years; surely if you write one, you will recognize it." So fine. I'd write a novel, learn how—and then I'd consider picking some commercially feasible premise and writing a "real" book that I intended to submit for publication. But this one was just for practice.

That being so, it didn't matter what I did. I wasn't meaning to publish it, I didn't intend even to tell anyone what I was doing (and didn't, for a long time)…it just didn't matter what "sort" of book it was. It was just a book.

So I chose historical fiction as a place to start, partly on grounds that historical fiction has no real genre constraints, other than taking place at some past date. You can do anything in terms of a historical novel, from very light historical romances to THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF HENRY VIII, WWII thrillers, Civil War espionage stories…you name it. And since I had no idea what I was doing, the idea of having fewer assumptions about what I was doing seemed good. Besides, I was a research professor; I knew what to do with a library. It seemed easier to look things up than make them up—and if I turned out to have no imagination, I could steal things from the historical record.

Where to set this putative novel? Again—anywhere. But I happened to be watching a very old "Dr. Who" rerun on PBS, in an episode featuring a young Scotsman—a 17-18-year-old kid who appeared in his kilt. "Well, that's fetching," I said. "OK. Scotland, 18th century." And on the third day of writing, I decided to introduce an Englishwoman, so as to have an element of sexual tension—I mean, I had to have a lot of Scotsmen because of the kilt factor, but had also decided to use the Rising of the '45 as backdrop, that being Conflict with a capital "C" (all I knew about writing novels was that they should have conflict. That's still the best thing I know about writing novels), so if she was an Englishwoman, we'd have lots of conflict.

So I loosed this Englishwoman into a cottage full of Scotsmen to see what she'd do. Whereupon she promptly started making smart-ass modern remarks about everything—and she also took over and started telling the story herself. I fought with her for several pages, trying to beat her into shape and make her talk like a historical person, but she wasn't having any—so finally I said, "What the heck. Nobody's ever going to see this; it doesn't matter what bizarre thing I do. Go ahead and be modern; I'll figure out how you got there later."

Well, once you have time-traveling Englishwomen in your historical novel, plainly anything goes. So I proceeded to use anything I liked, in terms of plot, literary device, structure, the Loch Ness monster, etc., etc. After all…nobody was every going to see it.

And here we all are, 15 million books later. [cough]

So essentially, I wrote a book with no genre because it didn't matter, since I wasn't going to show it to anybody anyway. And since that seemed to work all right, I just kept doing it. [g]

Tomorrow….Should YOU do it? (or, How Publishing Works—or Doesn't)

To be continued…….

Genre Thoughts - Part I

(I seem to be incapable of discussing anything complex without making a series of it, don't I? [g])

Someone in one of the other comment threads was asking about genre – naturally, I can't find the original question at the moment (well, it's late; it's about 4 AM, and I'm just winding up work for the night), but in general terms, the person said she was working on a book that "crossed genres" and people were telling her she shouldn't—that she should pick a specific genre and shape the constraints and structures of her story to fit that genre. Since I rather obviously didn't do that myself, did I have any thoughts on the matter?

Oh, yes, lots. [g] It is, as I say, Rather Late, but let me start with a general philosophical statement regarding genre, and tomorrow, we'll descend to the personal particulars.

I think it might be useful to contemplate what it is that successful fiction (of any kind) does. The most general definition I could come up with is that fiction affords temporary satisfaction to an abiding curiosity.

In other words, we tend to be unendingly curious--mostly about ourselves. That curiosity goes in lots of direction, but you can distinguish several major areas: love, death, the past (what you might call historical definition of present identity), the future, the unknown. A few others, to be sure, but these are the big issues that interest almost everyone. Not surprisingly, they correspond generally with the major "genre" divisions of fiction--romance, mystery, Westerns (which deal very specifically with an American vision of the past) and historical fiction, and sf/f.

That's pretty broad, but I think one has to be either very broad or very specific in this kind of discussion.

Anyway, taking it on faith for a moment that the main genre divisions do deal with areas of intense human curiosity, this means that if you choose to deal with such an area, you begin with a natural advantage--you're already writing about something which holds strong interest for a large number of people. That being so, you need not necessarily write with consummate skill or great artistry in order to temporarily satisfy your readers' curiosity--you must only write intelligibly; the natural interest of your content will sustain the book.

On the other hand, if you choose to write outside these broad areas of interest, or on the fringes of one, or in the intersections of several--then you need something else in order to provide that satisfaction, because you must arouse the curiosity you mean to satisfy, rather than taking it for granted a priori.

The point, of course, is that "necessarily," above. You may write in a pretty mediocre fashion, and still succeed, if you work within the general limits of an accepted genre. You sure as heck don't have to write with medicrity—literary criticism notwithstanding, poor writing really is not a requirement of any genre.

All the tricks of skill--the uniqueness of viewpoint, the elegance of construction, the inventiveness of structure, the subtlety of perception, the freshness of language, are as available to a writer who works smack in the middle of the classic romance genre as to one who wants to explore the nuances of social milieu or the differences between perception and reality. The thing is that the first writer doesn't have to use these tricks in order to attract and satisfy an audience, and the second one does.

Not all writers can use them. However, if a "genre" writer has the skill--and ambition--to do so, then the results are as individual and as striking as they are in the hands of someone working entirely in the "literary" area (some people say "literary" fiction is simply any fiction that doesn't fit in some other recognizable genre; some identify "literary" fiction as "boring" fiction--i.e., something that appears not to address any area they find intrinsically interesting).

Consequently, you get "romances" like GONE WITH THE WIND and ANNA KARENINA, and "Westerns" like LONESOME DOVE; "historicals" like A TALE OF TWO CITIES, and "mysteries" like SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS and NAME OF THE ROSE. The basic genre elements are there--conflicted sexual attraction, social misfit-on-quest, individual caught up in Great Events, who-done-it-and-why--but so is very good writing and sophisticated perception.

And I think it's this that leads to the notion that literary fiction is somehow "better" than genre fiction--there's less of it, and rarity is always valued for its own sake, but also, literary fiction has to demonstrate a high level of visible "artistry" (tricks and tools, let's say) simply in order to be noticed, let alone succeed. Genre fiction can succeed simply on the basis of its content.

Therefore, you tend to see 1) the genre writer who writes clearly and mostly observes the structural conventions of a genre, 2) the strictly "literary" writer, whose main interests are uniqueness and wordplay, and 3) the unique writer who exercises his or her skills in an area of major human interest--but feels free to leave the boundaries; a "genre" writer with literary skills, if you will. I think the third class often ends up being what we eventually call "Literature."

To be continued

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Pleasures and Perils of Research - Part I

One of the perks of writing historical fiction is that you get to do research (if you don't like to do research, I strongly recommend against taking up historical fiction. Write mysteries or auto-repair manuals (for years, my husband kept pointing out that that great classic, "How to Repair the Small-Block Chevy Engine" has been in print forever, and sells thousands of copies every year, and why didn't I write something like that?) instead).

On the other hand, if you do like to do research, you often find yourself in the enviable position of being able to tax-deduct pictures of naked Scotsmen, which of course I must have in order to show the graphic-novel artist just what I mean by "high, rounded, lean, muscular buttocks." Ditto a number of Very Interesting Books, like THE SEX LIFE OF THE FOOT AND SHOE, which I found on a remainder table, and which was directly responsible for the character of Mr. Willoughby, since after reading the description of what a "lotus foot" was really for, I decided that plainly I must have a Chinese foot-fetishist. Or THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE IN FRANCE FROM 1650-1800, which gave me not only Monsieur Forez, the hangman (he was real, btw), and his excellent description of just how to hang, draw, and quarter someone, but also hanged-men's grease—which in turn caused me to write two whole scenes in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, just in order to work it gracefully into the plot.

On the other hand…having a passion for research often involves one in the unexpected. Like the time I went to Finland on a book-tour, and accepted my Finnish translator's invitation to dinner. "My husband has been stoking the sauna all day," she announced. "It should be perfect!" And so the translator, the editor, and I all stripped off and spent a cozy half-hour toasting in the sauna together—after which we walked across the road (naked) in the dark and jumped into the lake (which was about 10 degrees. Celsius, but still). "You're the bravest American I've ever seen!" my editor told me. "No," I said, "it's just that I'm a writer; I'll do anything in order to be able to describe it." (Though in fact, the experience was so interesting that I ended up having a sauna installed when we remodeled the house (an ongoing saga that's been ongoing for the last two years, but at least we now have a kitchen again-- and a working sauna)—I use it all the time, and it's great! (We had moose for dinner, after sauna-ing. Very tasty, but I fortunately didn't develop an urge to eat moose all the time. Now the bear… that was tasty; marinated in wine and vinegar, served over greens with gorgonzola cheese. Finns are mostly not vegetarians, let's put it that way. I ate reindeer three times in two days. Nice with a crisp Sauvingnon Blanc).)

Anyway—I mentioned the remodeling? Well, we've been doing it in phases, and have now reached Phase III, which is my office wing ("wing" sounds rather grand; it's a loft above a modest lower room that serves as combination library/assistant's office (no, I don't have a research assistant—see "Part II: Hot Dogs and Beans," tomorrow—my assistant comes one day a week, to bring me bookplates to sign, do the family bookkeeping, and haul things to the post office. This last is an invaluable service, since without her, nobody would ever get anything from me; I have major Post Office Phobia, and am completely incapable of wrapping things up, let alone lugging them to the PO)).

I mention this because the most noticeable side-effect of research is books. Lots of books. And unfortunately, it is not possible for my husband to jack-hammer the floor of the lower office until I remove all of the books (and bookshelves) sitting on top of it. Consequently, the stock of Staples office-supply store has gone up considerably this month, as I buy more and more (and more, and more…) foldable storage boxes in which to put said books.

On the good side, this packing means that all the books actually get dusted (my husband bought me a whole package of dust-masks, in which I look like a duck-billed platypus), and I get to look at each one. This is very cool, because I become reacquainted with things like THE HISTORY OF UNDERWEAR, THIS OLD PIG (in case you were wondering where I got The White Sow—it's a book about antique varieties of pigs, with Highly Entertaining Illustrations), A DICTIONARY OF POLISH OBSCENITIES (that's for the contemporary mystery, which has a Polish-American detective. No, really; his name is Tom Kolodzi), HANDBOOK OF THE SANITARY TROOPS (a WWII handbook for the British medical corps), THE AGE OF AGONY (descriptions of 18th century medical practices; this is, btw, (I think) where I found the mention of using deliberate malarial infection to "burn out" syphilis, for those who've asked me about it), and my entire collection of ghost stories (including an entertaining one titled SEXUAL HAUNTINGS).

(Why, yes, I do like parentheses. Why do you ask?)

So now I have a wall-high collection of neatly-labeled storage boxes (well, semi-neatly-labeled. You try writing "Revolutionary War biographies, Misc. Saints, and Rattlesnakes" upside-down on a box sitting on the floor). And I also have a useful barricade behind which to crouch and return fire with my Glock, should the house be invaded by drug-crazed burglars (they'd have to be either drug-crazed or librarians; we don't own anything anyone in their right mind would want, except books). But I do look forward to the distant, glorious day when I'll be able to unpack everything again, and lay hands instantly on CANNIBALISM, THE PLEASURES OF THE TORTURE CHAMBER, or THE RED FAIRY BOOK. (As I frequently remind my husband, the benefits of writing novels that don't fit into any identifiable genre is that all the books I buy are tax-deductible.)

Monday, January 14, 2008


Umm...look, guys.

YES, Claire has curly hair. I've written about three million words saying so; you can probably take my word for it.

NO, she does not have corkscrew curls. Read back through those three million words (take your time; I've got a lot of patience [g]); does it _ever_ say, "I twirled one of my corkscrew curls around my finger?" "Curls corkscrewed out of my head like Christmas ribbon?" "I hastily thumbed my long corkscrew curls back out of my face"?

Geez, Louise, people. She says things like, "My hair was standing out round my face like a bramble bush." "I pushed drifting hair irritably out of my face." "My hair was standing on end." Where are you getting corkscrew curls out of this?

(Just as a historical note, corkscrew curls are pretty much 19th century. I think y'all are thinking Melanie Wilkes or something.)

Anyway, as a purely technical observation, nobody _has_ corkscrew curls. People who have curly hair (or choose to curl it with irons or whatever), can _get_ their hair to do this, but it's a deliberate styling, not the natural way the hair goes. And as I say--corkscrew curls weren't a fashionable style either for the 18th century (you'll see small clusters of them as part of an elaborate wig, maybe) -or- the 1940's.

"Bob," btw, means "bobbed hair," and while the original bob, from the Roaring 20's, was indeed a short cut, about ear-length, by the '40's, a longer bob, about shoulder-length, was also common. It just meant a blunt cut, and not trailing long hair.


This is the nicetime of year in Scottsdale/Phoenix--our compensation for suffering through the beastly-hot summers. It's about 65 F. outside at the moment, and I've just come back from my late-morning walk, having had yet another encounter with the local wildlife.

We're about half a mile from the Phoenix Mountain Preserve (a big wilderness area), and most of the lots in our neighborhood range from half an acre to an acre in size, with a lot of unused open ground in and among. Consequently, we see quite a bit of wildlife.

There's a pair of great horned owls in the neighborhood; I hear them often when I'm working late at night. They court in December, so have been out hoo-hooing all through the eucalyptus trees at the back of our property for the last month or more. They're generally at it when I take the dogs out for a pre-bed potty-stop--very romantic to be standing out amongst the tumbleweeds and tywanees (this being a common local weed; God knows what it's really called, but the kids call them tywanees) under a waning moon in a vivid sky of purple-black, listening to the soft hoo/hoo-hoo (males hoot once, and the females answer back, "hoo-hoo") duet in the trees.

I've seen three coyotes since New Year's--the first on New Year's Day, while on my morning walk. He was trotting ahead of me, right up the middle of the street. When he perceived my presence, he looked back over his shoulder, and speeded up just slightly. We covered a good mile in this fashion, him looking back laughing over his shoulder every thirty seconds of so, until he saw something he wanted to investigate and vanished into someone's yard.

I've also had everything from king snakes (wrapped around the planter to keep cool) to raccoons (carefully washing and eating the nuggets of cat food) on my front porch. This time, though, I ran into the Harris Hawks.

Harris Hawks are rather unusual, in that they live and hunt in groups, rather than solitarily or in pairs. There's a family of them in the neighborhood; they sit on the neighbor's giant ham-radio antenna to bask in the mornings, much to his annoyance.

Anyway, I was strolling along, minding my own business, when one of the Harrises flew out of a yard right in front of me, flying low, holding a full-grown rabbit in his claws, still twitching. Now Harris Hawks are not all that big, as hawks go, and this guy was having a lot of trouble getting up any altitude. He flapped madly, rising only a little, across the street, and tried to zoom upward, trying to clear the house in his path. There was an SUV parked outside the house. He cleared the roof-rack--but the rabbit didn't. WHAM! and the hawk let go (perforce) and skittered wildly across the top of the SUV. There was a flutter of wings, and another Harris zoomed across the street and came down on the edge of the house's roof. Both hawks staring at the rabbit with an "OK. NOW what?" look on their faces.

In Celtic culture, seeing various animals, birds, etc. while out walking is supposed to be a portent of various things. Seeing ravens, for instance, is often a prophetic experience, in which the number of ravens seen is important. No idea what two hawks and a dead rabbit portend, but we'll hope it's a fortunate one--if not for the rabbit.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Scottish Buttocks

Well, I mentioned Scottish buttocks earlier, did I not? As I said elsewhere, part of the fascination of doing a graphic novel is the opportunity to work closely with such a talented artist--I'm hoping the artist feels likewise about working with _me_. [g]

We are in the early stages, and he's only just begun painting some of the panels for the first few pages--most of which are Just Spectacular!! Not at all what you'd expect of a graphic novel, I don't think. Still, sometimes the first take on a panel or page requires a little adjustment. And when I got a rough painting of page 5, which involves a naked Jamie (back view only, ladies)...

"Whoa!" said the assorted members of my family, friends, and employees who viewed it. "_That's_ not Jamie's butt, is it?!"

"Um.," I said, I having a pretty well-defined idea of just what Jamie's butt _does_ look like. Rather than try either to describe the Ideal Jamie's Butt in words, or try to persuade my husband to let me photograph his rear end (he being the resident tall, lean, muscular red-headed model)--I didn't even _suggest_ that one--I set out to browse the web in search of good prospects that I could send to the artist.

Now, as you may suppose, Googling "male nude rear view" turns up quite a number of interesting sites. I did begin with a vague memory of a young Scottish soldier, photographed from behind as his kilt flew up, and did eventually find that photograph, but upon due scrutiny, decided that this was not Jamie's Butt at all, and went on looking. The search took me from the sublime!1pR_lCYsRPo4buU_aEZeJ8Vg!3366.entry

to the ridiculous

With several additional possibilities in between:

On this one, Row 1, third from the left, and Row 3, first on the left:

And on this one, Row 3, fourth from the left:

However, I did finally find a Very Good Candidate:

So I'm looking forward with great interest to the next take on page 5!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Yes, it was a VERY Happy Birthday, thanks!

Thanks to all the kind people who have been showering me with good wishes, emails, chocolate, and presents--and if I can figure out how to post additional pictures here, I'll put up a photo of Special Object contributed to the festivities by the Ladies of Lallybroch. Who else do you know who has his/her own bobblehead, I'd like to know?

My husband got me three pairs of socks (I asked for them), a set of weights (I hadn't specifically asked for them, but certainly wanted them), and a very pretty watch. My elder daughter is sending me some hand-spun yarn (we both knit, and she's lately taken up spinning and dying her own wool), my younger daughter brought me flowers and a shadow-box and informs me that we are going together to the spa next week for hot-stone massages (Eeee!), and my son got me "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" to complete my Pirates collection. He also took the Little Bad Dogs back to Flagstaff with him this afternoon, so I got another present as well--less dog-pee in the living room!

Anyway, I had a lovely day, doing pretty much just what I wanted--which, oddly enough, turned out to be writing. [g] So I wrote, blithely ignoring the enormous stacks of books waiting to be boxed in my office (that's what gets remodeled next), the small-but-oppressive stack of Important Things on my desk (dog-license forms, things waiting for blurb or comment, and the case number/phone number I have to call in order to replace the defective CD drive that came with our new desktop--we got the computer six months ago, and discovered the CD drive to be defective three months ago (it took that long for the EB*'s at Best Buy to fix the defective _hard_ drive, and reinstall the defective Vista OS--which had to be ordered twice, because they sent it with French installation disks the first time--so that we could get to the point where we could _tell_ the CD drive was defective). What with book-tours and holidays, I sort of haven't had the necessary three or four hours to spend on the phone with the EB*'s in order to get the d*mn thing replaced; it took six phone-hours to make them replace the hard drive, telling my story to _five_ different people in turn, all of whom put me on hold for anything from 20-45 minutes, all of whom agreed in turn that yes, they _did_ need to replace the drive...and then transferred me to someone else--ending up with a pothead in Canada who kept nodding off during the conversation, and ended up giving me an appointment time for a technician--but then putting in a different time, a week later, for the actual appointment, causing me to wait at home for three hours, and spend another two hours on the phone to find out where the &@^@&* the technician was. The technician's a nice young man, though--we've seen him four times so far; I should set him his own place at the dinner table), and sixteen phone calls from people wanting to rent an apartment. Had a great time! (And for those who are interested, part of what I wrote is posted as an excerpt on the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum, at

(message 35 has the excerpt attached to it)

And thanks to my husband--and the nice people at Avanti ("Restaurant of Distinction" [g]) for a delightful birthday dinner, featuring hot, fresh, buttery garlic bread, cold Rombauer chardonnay, a Benito salad (an enormous plate of mixed greens with giant shrimp, hearts of artichokes and palms, tomatoes, and garlic-basil vinaigrette), and Tortellinig Portofino--meat-filled tortellini in Alfredo sauce with mushrooms and walnuts. Followed--as though this were not enough--by chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream (and a little Williams-Sonoma Peppermint Bark for a midnight snack, courtesy of my sister [g])

It's been a great birthday--thanks!

* EB = Evil B@st@rds (see if I _ever_ buy another (haha) "Service Plan" from these people, that's all I can say)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Photo Credit

I couldn't figure out how to attach a credit line to the photo in my profile, so this is it: This nice photo was taken by Nancy Castaldo at the 2007 Historical Novelists Society conference in Albany, and used with Nancy's kind permission. Thanks, Nancy!

Graphic Novel!

I told one of my friends that I had a contract to write a graphic novel--something I'd been wanting to do for some time (I actually used to write comics for Walt Disney--Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, and The Beagle Boys, for the most part). Friend replied that she'd always thought my novels were pretty graphic already.

Anyway, here's the original press release from Ballantine, describing the project.

I posted a preliminary bit of artwork from this project on my website ( artist's conception of Claire (based on my descriptions of her). I think this is pretty cool, myself, but would be fascinated to hear what y'all think about it!

And what about Jamie? I hear you saying. Well...stay tuned, later this week, for the Scottish Buttocks discussion, that's all I can say.

Del Rey To Publish an original

"outlander" Graphic Novel by diana gabaldon

NEW YORK, NY – December 10, 2007 – Del Rey, an imprint of Ballantine Books at the Random House Publishing Group, announced today that it will publish an original story set in the world of Diana Gabaldon's bestselling Outlander series, written by Gabaldon herself and illustrated in full color by award-winning artist Hoang Nguyen. The project was acquired by Betsy Mitchell, editor in chief of Del Rey, in negotiations with Gabaldon's literary agent Russell Galen.

The new story, starring Gabaldon's beloved characters Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser, opens with Murtagh, Jamie's godfather, awaiting the return of his godson to Scotland, and the fulfillment of a vow made years before. The graphic novel will be approximately 192 pages and will publish sometime in 2009. Gabaldon's upcoming new Outlander novel, An Echo in the Bone, is expected to publish that year as well.

The #1 New York Times bestselling seriesOutlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Cross , and A Breath of Snow and Ashestells the story of Jamie Fraser, a Scottish Highlander from the 18th century, and his time-traveling wife, Claire. The series has 15 million copies in print, has been published in 19 languages, and has spawned huge worldwide online fan communities, as well as numerous online discussion groups. A major motion picture is in development.

The Outlander graphic novel will not be the first project Gabaldon has scripted. Early in her career she wrote numerous comic-book scripts for Walt Disney, among them the Scrooge McDuck series, and the award-winning "Nutrition Adventures with Orange Bird."

"I'm thrilled to see the launch of such an exciting new project," Gabaldon says. "I've been wanting to do a graphic novel story for years, and couldn't ask for a better opportunity or more wonderful people to work with. I'm especially delighted to be working with such a magical artist as Hoang Nguyen. My agent and my husband have both fallen in love with his version of Claire—and I'm looking forward with great anticipation to seeing Jamie in ink."


Diana Gabaldon is also the author of the nonfiction title The Outlandish Companion and two novels starring a character first introduced in Outlander: Lord John and the Private Matter and Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade. She holds a bachelor's degree in zoology, a master's degree in marine biology, and a Ph.D. in ecology and was a university professor before turning to writing full-time. Gabaldon lives with her family in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Hoang Nguyen's previous work includes the Robocop movie adaptation for Dark Horse, Alien Legion graphic novels for Marvel Epic, Punisher: War Zone for Marvel and Warstrike for Malibu Comics. His original project Metal Militia was optioned by Dino De Laurentiis for feature film development. More recently he has worked in the video game industry, having contributed to such well-known titles as the Elder Scrolls series for Bethesda Softworks and Xena for Universal Studios. He was the lead artist and character designer on Dead to Rights for Namco and is currently a consultant for Namco Bandai Games. Nguyen lives in Santa Clara, California.


Del Rey Books ( ) was founded in 1977 as an imprint of Ballantine Books, a division of the Random House Publishing Group, under the guidance of the renowned Judy-Lynn del Rey and her husband, Lester del Rey. Del Rey publishes the best of modern fantasy, science fiction, and alternate history. In 2004 it expanded by launching Del Rey Manga, which has grown to be a major force in the U.S. graphic-novel field.

Welcome Aboard!

Why "the Artemis"? Well, as many of you--well-read and well-educated persons that you all are--know, Artemis is the Greek form of Diana. And owing to some unknown burst of inspiration on the part of my mother (I was supposed to be named Theresa Ann, but she changed her mind at the last minute, and my sister ended up as Theresa), I actually was named for the goddess of the moon. And I did have a ship in my third book (VOYAGER) named the Artemis.

Besides, I had to call it something.

I'd been talking to my editor at Ballantine about posting an announcement regarding our new graphic novel project (see post below), and she remarked that she couldn't wait to see what the response was to both the announcement and the artwork.

At this point, it dawned on me that I don't actually have a facility on my website for people to leave comments. Hence this blog.

Mind, I've never done a blog before, but I'll do my best with this one. And I really would be interested to hear what you think--either about the graphic novel, or anything else.