The breathlessly anticipated eighth installment of Diana Gabaldon’s sweeping Outlander series has finally hit shelves. In honor of the publication of Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, we talked to Gabaldon about her favorite books.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your favorite book as a child?
DIANA GABALDON: You got me. I learned to read at age 3 and never stopped, so there are dozens of books I remember fondly from childhood: Alice in Wonderland, Daddy Long-Legs (which was not about a spider), all the OZ books, all of the biographies for “young people” that the local library had, Man-Eater (which was about tigers), The Moon-Spinners… Now, I do recall going to kindergarten, being given a copy of See Dick Run, flipping through it and tossing it on the table, saying — aloud, I was not a tactful child — “Who wants to read that?”
What is your favorite book that you read for school?
I don’t think I ever consciously separated “school” books from any others; I just read anything that came across my path. I do recall loving All Quiet on the Western Front, and I know I read it in a schoolroom, but I think I was in the sixth grade at the time, so it probably wasn’t assigned reading.
What’s a book that really cemented you as a writer?
Personally, I learned to read at the age of three, and have read non-stop ever since. You can read a lot of books in 59 years. I’m sure that every single book I’ve ever read has had some influence on me as a writer, whether negative (I’ve read a lot of books with the mounting conviction that I would never in my life do something like that) or positive.
Is there a book you’ve read over and over again?
Yes, hundreds of them. Most recently, I’ve re-read Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins series (for the third time) as additional enjoyment of his new volume in that series, The Magus of Hay. Great stuff!
What’s a classic that you’re embarrassed to say you’ve never read?
Can’t think of any. I’ve read a lot of classic literature from assorted cultures, and always glad to read more when one comes across my path — but why be embarrassed by the fact that flesh and blood has limits? Nobody’s read everything.
What’s a book you’ve pretended to have read?
I don’t usually do this, but if it’s small-talk in a social context, I’ll just nod and smile when someone mentions a book I’ve not read, and let them talk about it, in case it’s something I might want to read.
What’s a recent book you wish you had written?
Oh, Pandaemonium, by Chris Brookmyre! Just fabulous — such a layered, beautifully structured, engaging, intelligent book. I love all Chris’s stuff, but this was remarkable.
What’s a movie adaptation of a book that you loved?
Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King; beautiful, lovely adaptation, and very faithful, too. And The Last of the Mohicans, which is somewhat more flexible, but still a good adaptation and a terrific movie. Good soundtrack, too.
What’s a book that people might be surprised to learn that you loved?
About half of what I read, probably. I really will read anything, from nonfiction to comic books, and like it all.
If there were only one genre you could read for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Probably mystery and crime. That genre unfailingly provides a coherent structure and guarantees moral content, which you need for a truly good book, while having enough flexibility for almost anything the writer wants to do.
What was the last book that made you laugh out loud, and what was the last one that made you cry?
Well, it was the one I was writing — Written in My Own Heart’s Blood — so I don’t know if that counts.
Do you read your books post-publication?
Absolutely! It wasn’t a Book when it left my hands, and it’s a huge thrill to open the package and find one, all fine and crisp and smelling new. I carry it around for days, fondling it at stop-lights and reading it in lines.
What are you reading right now?
Oh, let’s see… Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd and Deanna Raybourn’s City of Jasmine and rereading Shilpa Agarwal’s Haunting Bombay.