Four years. That’s how long fans of Diana Gabaldon usually wait to get each installment of the amazingly popular Outlander series. We all find books that grab our attention, and make us eager to read the next book. But then what happens? Most often the final page of the book tells you the next title, and even when to expect it to hit the shelves. Only months, maybe even a year away? So, your interest fades until the day you see it on sale. For those of us who wandered blindly into the lives of Clair Beauchamp and James Frazer, that’s just not the way it works.
The moment you finish a book — it begins. Fans gather, either physically or on the internet, to exclaim over shocks and revelations. Then the speculations begin about what developing story lines lead to. This can sustain us for a couple of months, at which time excitement eases down to a low buzz. Checking the official website becomes a semi-weekly pastime, hoping for excerpts, publication of teasers (in the form of Lord John Grey novels), or news of a possible publication date for a new Outlander novel. As the publication date begins to loom, all of the original books get pulled out, so that we can start over from the beginning ‘” a daunting prospect as each book ranges from 800 to 1100 pages. Finally, the latest installment is firmly in hand, and we spend a week seizing every spare moment to read. (Personally, I don’t sleep for two days because I can’t bear to put it down.) And then — it all begins again.
Only Ms. Diana can inspire this kind of devotion. Her own life is as eclectic as her books. With a B.S. in Zoology, an M.S. in Marine Biology, and a Ph.D. in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology (according to her website www.dianagabaldon.com) she went on to be a professor at Arizona State, write comic books for Walt Disney, run a scholarly journal called Science Software Quarterly, and write freelance articles about scientific and technical software. This was all before she sat down to practice writing a novel. The practice novel, Outlander, made her famous.
There are a number of reasons why Diana Gabaldon is my favorite novelist, but two really stand out. First, as something of a rebel myself, I’m drawn to those who refuse to be a slave to convention. The Outlander books have been loosely categorized as: Literature, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical NON-fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, Military History, Gay and Lesbian Fiction, and — Horror. (Again, from the official website.) Secondly, and probably most importantly, Ms. Diana possesses the ability to make you forget that there is a book in your hands. You ARE two hundred years ago, slogging through the Scottish moors, playing traitorous games in the heights of French society, rubbing elbows with Bonnie Prince Charlie, and wrenching through the highs and lows of emotional turmoil.
Could I choose just one as favorite? Voyager — perhaps.