Outlander: Diana Gabaldon reflects on writing Voyager and whether she'll do a cameo
To help kick off season 3 of Outlander, we asked bestselling author Diana Gabaldon to reflect on her time writing Voyager — her third book in the Outlander series, on which the Starz show’s current season is based — and to discuss what she’s working on next…
Where did the title for book 3 come from?
It usually takes me a long time to come up with a title for a novel. (It took 11 months to come up with Outlander, and the publisher’s reaction was “Oh, good, it’s only one word. It won’t cover up the art.” Voyager, though, came along even before I’d begun writing. All of the Outlander novels have at least one foot still set in Scotland, but the thing is, post-Culloden, the Highlands we knew and loved in the earlier books were… gone. The mountains and glens were still there, but the clans were dead and the remnant culture of the Highlands was scattered to the winds, carried abroad by those who survived. The story goes with them. Hence, Voyager.
So what does Voyager mean to the franchise?
Well, see, I don’t like to do things I’ve already done. On the other hand, I could tell before I finished writing Outlander that there was more than one book to this story. That’s why each book in the series is completely different, in structure, voice, tone, theme, etc, even though they all deal with the adventures of Jamie Fraser and Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser. Outlander is a linear story, told entirely in the first person by Claire. Dragonfly in Amber is er … not linear. It takes place in two separate times and is told from two points of view: Claire’s and Roger’s. Voyager, not surprisingly, has three viewpoints: Claire’s, Jamie’s, and Roger’s. It’s told in a kind of braided narrative: Jamie is living through his story in the usual way, going forward. Claire is telling her side of the story backward, recounting things to her daughter and the young historian she’s asked for help. And Roger’s viewpoint, as he tries to solve the mystery, and falls for Brianna, provides the turning points between Claire’s and Jamie’s parts of the story.
I’m really pleased that Ron and company were able to use that structure very effectively. Writing each book is a unique adventure. Some books were written in a specific location. Outlander was written in the garage. Some were written in silence and some were written with music. Voyager was a musical book. I wrote it in combination of Carmina Burana and assorted Celtic musicians, like The Corries, Runrig, Ewan MacColl, the Rankin family, Alasdair Fraser. The songs and music evoke a particular emotional state in which the veils between me and the other side are thinner than usual, and that’s very desirable for writing.
You’re currently writing a new installment in the Outlander series. Did that leave you any time to write an episode of the series this season?
I’m in the middle of writing Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, the ninth book of the main series, and just couldn’t take three months for a script. Writing a script and revising takes a good bit of time, and working on set while they film it is, as Sam Heughan told me, “intense and ruthless.” But also, they’d hired four new writers, making a total of eight for the season, and didn’t really need me to do an episode as they did last season, being very shorthanded.
Can we expect you to pop up in a cameo on screen?
I didn’t do one this year, mostly no time! I think I’d like to do a cameo for season 4, though.
Outlander airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.