What would life be like without good friends and family with whom to share it? They can lift us up, give us support throughout all of life’s offerings, and, most of all, they can give us the freedom to find our own adventure. Work and other responsibilities are an integral part of each of our daily routines. However, when a close friend calls you out of the blue to go on an epic road trip – to see Diana Gabaldon – while also offering a chance for spontaneity and adventure, what should you do? That’s right! Find a way to quickly organize, plan, and pack – knowing that you have the full support of your family in the process. Well, that is what happened to one of our Sass3 lassies. Given an opportunity to see Diana Gabaldon was an experience she could not miss. Whether meeting Diana Gabaldon for the first time, or in her case for the fourth time, the level of inspiration she offers to her readers is something that cannot be fully explained or even rationalized to those outside of this fandom. Filled with an adventurous spirit, an impetuous desire to meet the author she admires the most, and spending quality time with a dear friend who shares her same Outlander addiction, our lassie did what we all would most likely do – she set off for an unforgettable weekend trip to Arizona!
In this blog we will discuss her incredible journey, what we can share about the Q & A while attending The Poisoned Pen event supporting Diana Gabaldon’s newest short story MatchUp, and the joys of friendship that can make anyone feel 25 once again! Come and follow Jae’s journey as she drops everything to go and see Diana Gabaldon, whose literary work has offered her escape, solace, and the desire to follow in the footsteps of history.
Good Times Are Even Better When They Are Shared With Friends
As a member of Sass3, I have had the opportunity to travel on memorable road trips that have taken us to Arizona, Los Angeles, and, most recently, Seattle. The power of Outlander is shared equally between the three of us, yet we always try to search for a balance between our responsibilities and fulfilling our wee addiction for all things Outlander. There are many adventures yet to come that we cannot wait to share! However, this spontaneous trip was taken with a dear friend who has always supported our Timeless Sass3nach Journeys from the very beginning. I missed my fellow lassies during my travels, but I was honored to be asked to accompany her on this epic road trip. I knew we would create memories that would certainly last a lifetime!
We set out early in the morning at 5:00 am, hoping to miss most of the heat as we travelled through the desert. We were not deterred in the least by the six hour drive to travel from San Diego to Scottsdale. We could not wait to spend the time together while taking our time to drive to Arizona, listening to the soundtracks for each season, talking about our favorite Outlander moments from book to screen, and catching up while we took a joyous break from our busy professional schedules. Once we arrived, we set our navigation system on our phones to lead us straight to the location where every fan loves to purchase signed copies of the Outlander series – The Poisoned Pen!
The Poisoned Pen
There is undoubtedly something special about this bookstore . The Poisoned Pen offers everything that an avid reader loves to have – a place to escape, a place to be inspired – as you can easily make the connections between the authors and their literary works while walking past each bookshelf and viewing their signings hanging on the walls. Everywhere you turn there is something to see. This was my second time visiting the store and each time I have been welcomed by the immensely knowledgeable staff. You never know whom you might see in the store as well. We always meet fellow fans from across the country. However, today we were elated to see Laurie R. King who is another distinguished author known for her anthologies based upon the Sherlock Holmes series. My friend and I looked at each other with excitement, realizing that she would also be the guest speaker scheduled to present alongside Diana Gabaldon at the evening’s Poisoned Pen event. We couldn’t be more ecstatic as we anticipated our adventures yet to come!
Before we left The Poisoned Pen we had to place our orders for Diana Gabaldon’s newest collection of novellas entitled Seven Stones to Stand or Fall. It is described by The Poisoned Pen as “a magnificent collection of Outlander short fiction—including two never-before-published novellas—featuring Jamie Fraser, Lord John Grey, Master Raymond, and many more.” We both have read all the novellas thus far and couldn’t wait to read the additional two stories that have been newly added to this collection. You too can purchase a signed first edition of this new release from The Poisoned Pen by clicking here.
A Poisoned Pen Event at the Andaz Resort
This was my third attendance at a Poisoned Pen sponsored book signing event with Diana Gabaldon. Each time there is an undeniable energy in the room. It is not uncommon to meet fellow fans from around the globe who come to these events for the same reasoning as myself. We each are captivated by Diana Gabaldon’s dynamic speaking abilities that elicit everything from laughter to complete admiration. You just never know what she might divulge or say, as her ability to speak about any topic with seamless inter-weavings of wittiness and expertise has been loved by many throughout the Outlander fan base.
At this event, Diana Gabaldon was paired in a conversation with Laurie R. King to sign and discuss MatchUp, a collection of stories edited by Lee Child for the International Thriller Writers. In addition, she also spent a few moments discussing the release of Seven Stones to Stand or Fall. This unique and heart-stopping collection of novellas, including two new stories, are being published today, June 27, 2017.
The exchange between Diana Gabaldon and Laurie R. King was not only spontaneous and filled with points of pure entertainment, it was also fascinating to learn their insight on the writing process and hear memorable moments in each of their careers. The hour felt like five minutes had passed. We were thoroughly engaged in every aspect of the conversation while we enjoyed the spontaneous back and forth conversations that highlighted their own individual sense of humor, descriptions of both authors’ newest literary works, and, of course, the discussions that led to additional insight regarding the filming of the Outlander series. There is so much to tell! Where should I start? Well the best place would honestly be Diana Gabaldon’s presentation of Matchup!
A Discussion about MatchUp: A Collaboration Between Steve Berry and Diana Gabaldon
I have read this story and it will honestly capture your attention from beginning to end! The concept of facing two great literary characters of Jamie Fraser and Cotton Malone together, in one thrilling story entitled Past Prologue, was brilliantly executed and left you feeling as though you needed to read it again in order to re-capture every detail! As expected, Diana Gabaldon’s magical gift for storytelling presents one specific narrative from Jamie Fraser that will quickly grab your emotions straight from the heart – reinforcing your addiction to this series all over again!
The book, MatchUp, is centered around the theme of “The battle of the sexes just got thrilling!” For many Outlander fans the collaboration between Steve Berry and Diana Gabaldon was considered a highly anticipated story within this newest release of thriller anthologies. The pairing of these literary authors was intriguing in regards to the concept development of this book. However, what we enjoyed the most is the story behind the creation of Past Prologue – How did this story begin? What methods were used during the formation of this story that allowed each author to have their own accurate portrayal of their key literary character? This is what we learned:
- Diana Gabaldon revealed that she was approached by Steve Berry to try and connect one of her characters with his literary lead, Cotton Malone – for the purpose of raising funds for the International Thriller Writers. A pure heart and a genuine philanthropist, she said yes knowing that the proceeds would help a charitable cause. Diana Gabaldon relayed to the audience that she was adamant about not changing her time frame for her characters, and we all know that Jamie Fraser will always remain in the 18th century. So it was decided between the authors that Cotton Malone would time travel for the purpose of the story.
- The rough draft, plot, and character development was initiated by Diana Gabaldon. Steve Berry made the final revisions and polishes to the story, even changing it to present tense – the only story in the collection to do so!
- The piece we loved most about this insight was knowing that Diana Gabaldon never falters from her gift of research. All the rare books portrayed in the story are real references. If you have read the story already, I am certain which antiquarian book may intrigue you the most knowing there is a true historical reference to it.
- We learned that the dialogue of the story is certainly the most important tool to delineate between each character, ensuring that they have their own unique and authentic voice. After reading this story, I truly felt that Diana Gabaldon and Steve Berry seamlessly relayed the characteristics and personality traits that were indicative to each author’s beloved character. Believe us when we say, “You will not be disappointed by this unique collaboration!”
Seven Stones To Stand Or Fall
The next area of discussion was Diana Gabaldon’s newest collection of short stories. As she introduced the topic, the crowd demonstrated moments of elation knowing that two highly anticipated stories will be included in this collection. Here is what she had to tell us:
- Do you know the term Salmagundi? This term can be described as an ornamental dish, originating in the early 18th century in England, comprising of different types of cooked meats, seafood, vegetables, fruit, leaves, nuts, or flowers and dressed with oil, vinegar and spices. The true beauty of this dish, we have learned, is in its presentation that included layers or other geometrical designs that created an ornate display that was visually pleasing as well as wonderful to eat. Diana Gabaldon stated that this dish inspired her to use this term as the title for her newest collection of short stories. However, it was quickly dispelled by her Editor and the title Seven Stones to Stand or Fall was subsequently chosen.
- I always enjoy hearing about her writing process. Diana Gabaldon explained that her approach to writing the novellas is the same as when she is writing her larger books in the series. For example, she forms one scene that may consist of 5-60 pages that also usually consists of a cliffhanger ending. She never anticipates the pathway in which her stories will form. Rather, she builds upon a historical timeline – “playing tetris in her head” – as she sees the shape of the piece that is forming and fills in the spaces as she goes along or includes late blooming ideas.
- The discussion of this writing strategy led to one of the most enjoyable parts of the conversation. She informed us that she has felt that it is important to always be mindful of the reader. As an author she always builds in breaks during her stories. “Restroom breaks” was the actually term stated, leading the audience to break into smiles and laughter. Her humor always catches audience members in the most unique and unexpected ways. This is what we love most about her conversations.
- This newest collection of stories will include five novellas that have already been published within the anthologies of the Outlander series. These stories include The Custom of the Army, The Space Between, A Plague of Zombies, A Leaf On The Wind Of All Hallows, and Virgins. The two newest stories added to this collection are entitled A Fugitive Green and Besieged. You can read about their descriptions by clicking here. These novellas are guaranteed to be wonderful reads and a great addition to our growing literary collections.
Insightful Questions Lead to Educational Answers
I love how Diana Gabaldon always teaches her fans something new. She becomes a teacher, and I gladly become a student – intrigued by her immense level of knowledge and details of research that embody the foundation of the Outlander series. In my opinion, this is also one of the greatest gifts this series can offer. Diana Gabaldon has not only created a remarkable series that secures her readers through poetic and vivid storytelling, she also inspires them to search for the true pieces of history upon which the series was based.
As the time arrived for the audience to engage in interactive discussions, several questions were asked that led to some great answers and commentary by Diana Gabaldon. I even braved my own insecurities to ask a question! Here were some of my favorite moments:
- As an author, she described she is already looking beyond to the following book. However, to a reader their current book is real and immediate. This type of analogy can also be placed upon the key characters as well. For example, throughout the series Claire is a character that will grow and change, allowing her to encompass a different space or attitude of the mind. She continued by stating that you can never fully tire of Jamie and Claire, due to the fact that you relearn about the characters in the different stages of their lives – this is what always make them intriguing to the reader.
- One fan then asked if she has had readers, like herself, that have been shocked by certain scenes within her books – citing the marriage between the Beardsley twins and Lizzie Wemyss as an example. Diana Gabaldon expressed that she has had a few throughout the years. However, she informed us that she fully recognizes that she cannot satisfy all her readers, as each one brings their own history, perceptions, and beliefs to her books.
- Interestingly, in cases such as these, she has offered her readers this advice: “Read the book again in 5 years, and tell me if you feel the same.” She noted that a few readers have actually followed through with her advice, and they have reported back to her that their opinions strangely changed over time. The same emotional response to these types of scenes had diminished, leading to the realization that not only the characters evolve and change – so do we as readers.
- Another wonderful moment was captured when a fan requested that Diana Gabaldon inscribe a quote onto a print she had copied, based upon the original cover of Outlander. Pausing for a moment, Diana Gabaldon swiftly asked the audience if anyone had a copy of Outlander she could borrow. Sitting right in the front row, we quickly responded by providing her with our first edition copy we were planning to get signed. We observed her as she quickly sifted through the pages and we couldn’t wait to see what she would write. The quote that Diana Gabaldon chose is magical within its own right and as we read it together – there was a unanimous sigh from each and every one of us. This passage, filled with undeniably passionate words, capture a wealth of emotions no matter how many times they are read. Here is the quote she had inscribed, again demonstrating the power of the spoken word.
“I meant it, ye know,” he said softly. “I will protect you. From him, or anyone else. To the last drop of my blood, mo duinne.”
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, page 228
- Of course, I must admit, another one of my favorite moments was when I was able to ask Diana Gabaldon a question. I had listened to questions regarding filming, production, and her specific writing process. However, I have always had a great affiliation for history. So I thanked her for always sharing photos of her travels, specifically when she was able to go behind the scenes of an upcoming exhibition held at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. This exhibition entitled Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites will show the true history surrounding this tumultuous time of war and loss. When asked what her favorite moments were when she was able to receive a private showing before the exhibition opened, she stated that she was intrigued by the tartan suit worn by the Jacobite supporter Sir John Hynde Cotton and Bonnie Prince Charlie’s silver travelling canteen. You can see her exploration of these items at Edinburgh’s National Museum of Scotland by clicking here.
The End to a Fantastic Day: Friends and Great Food
At the end of this marvelous evening I was filled with emotion, knowing that great sacrifice was made to come to this event. Yet in the end, the rewards for making this trip were insurmountable. From learning directly from Diana Gabaldon about her recent literary projects to her perspective on her most recent Outlandish travels, I am so thankful I was able to be present in this moment as all of my confirmations for my addiction were once again reassured. Diana Gabaldon continuously inspires us all to be avid readers and researchers, always supporting the expansion of knowledge and understanding. I could not have anticipated a better weekend!
Our time in Scottsdale was soon to end. However, before we could leave to head back home we had to stop at our favorite cafe, Arcadia Farms. We love the wealth of farm-to-table choices and pastries that this unique cafe offers. We enjoyed our breakfast, freshly brewed coffee, and pastries while sitting outside at an ornate table in the early morning before the Arizona heat arrived. As my friend and I cheerfully reflected upon our adventures at The Poisoned Pen event and meeting Diana Gabaldon, we realized we had formed so many memories that would last a lifetime. We experienced spontaneity, adventure, expansion of knowledge, re-awakening of our spirits, confirmation for our love of Outlander, and, most of all, the belief in each other that friendship is the most valuable thing of all. I certainly will never forget this opportunity and will always remain eternally grateful for my friend’s invitation. We are friends inside and outside of the Outlander fandom. I can only imagine what our next adventures will hold as San Diego Comic-Con draws near. Needless to say – watch out Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe – here we come!
All photos from our blogs are owned by Timeless Sass3nach Journeys, unless noted or attributed. The use of our photos is not permitted unless consent is given.
References as of June 24th, 2017