Gabaldon, Diana 1952-
Gabaldon, Diana 1952-
Surname pronounced "GAB-uhl-dohn"; born January 11, 1952, in Williams, AZ; daughter of Antonio (Tony) and Jacqueline Gabaldon; married Douglas Watkins (in construction and real estate), c. 1977; children: Laura Juliet, Samuel Gordon, Jennifer Rose. Education: Arizona State University, B.S., 1973, Ph.D., 1978; University of California, San Diego, M.S., 1975.
Home and office—Phoenix, AZ. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, novelist, and educator. Northern Arizona University, laboratory technician, 1972-73; University of Pennsylvania, researcher, 1978-79; University of California, Los Angeles, researcher, 1979-80; Arizona State University, Center for Environmental Studies, Tempe, AZ, 1980-92, began as field ecologist, became assistant professor of research; full-time freelance writer, 1992—.
Best First Novel Award from B. Dalton Bookstores, and Best Book of the Year Award from the Romance Writers of America, both 1991, both for Outlander; Quill Award, 2006, for A Breath of Snow and Ashes.
"OUTLANDER" SERIES; HISTORICAL NOVELS
Outlander, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1991.
Dragonfly in Amber, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1992.
Voyager, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1994.
Drums of Autumn, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1997.
The Outlandish Companion: In Which Much Is Revealed Regarding Claire and Jamie Fraser, Their Lives and Times, Antecedents, Adventures, Companions, and Progeny, with Learned Commentary (and Many Footnotes), Delacorte (New York, NY), 1999.
The Fiery Cross, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2001.
Lord John and the Private Matter, Doubleday Canada, 2003.
A Breath of Snow and Ashes, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2005.
(Author of introduction) Thomas Paine, Common Sense, Bantam Dell (New York, NY), 2004.
Also author of comic book scripts for Walt Disney Productions, 1979-80. Contributor of software reviews to Byte magazine. Contributor of articles to scholarly journals and periodicals, including Infoworld, BYTE, and PC Magazine. Science Software (a scholarly journal on scientific computation), founder and editor, 1980s and 1990s. Author's works have been translated into several languages.
Diana Gabaldon is a former biologist and university professor who has become the bestselling writer of the "Outlander" series of historical fantasy novels. Gabaldon's writing career began with two unlikely endeavors, considering the eventual direction of her career. While she was an assistant professor at Arizona State University in the 1980s, she became an expert in the use of software programs for scientific research. This led to her founding the scholarly journal Science Software, which she ran and edited. While this experience gave her a good deal of writing experience, she credits her freelance work writing comics about Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Uncle Scrooge for Walt Disney Productions from 1979 to 1980 for teaching her "most of what I know about the mechanics of storytelling," as she states on her home page.
The Disney work and other freelance assignments provided Gabaldon with additional income for her family, and she began to believe that she could succeed as a full-time writer. "From the late 70's to the early 90's, I wrote anything anybody would pay me for," she said. "This ranged from articles on how to clean a longhorn cow's skull for living-room decoration to manuals on elementary math instruction on the Apple II … to a slew of software reviews and application articles done for the computer press." When her contract expired at the university in 1992, Gabaldon decided she was ready to take the plunge and become a full-time writer. But instead of continuing to write nonfiction, she started to write a historical novel set in eighteenth-century Scotland. Using her knowledge of computers, she joined discussion forums, where she eventually found an encouraging audience for her forays into fiction. She also made contacts online that helped her finish her first novel, Outlander, and find an agent and publisher.
Outlander was published in 1991. Its protagonist, English nurse Claire Randall, visits Scotland in 1945, hoping to rekindle a marriage stressed by separation during World War II. Occupying herself by collecting plant samples while her husband studies history, she accidentally touches a stone in an ancient circle similar to Stonehenge, and she is transported to the year 1743. The novel then recounts events leading to the Second Jacobite Rising through her modern eyes. While in the 1700s, Claire marries outlaw Scotsman Jamie Fraser, and she eventually must choose between returning to her husband in the twentieth century and remaining with Jamie. Outlander garnered awards from both the Romance Writers of America and B. Dalton Bookstores in the year of its publication. A Publishers Weekly reviewer hailed Outlander as "absorbing and heartwarming"; and Cynthia Johnson of the Library Journal lauded the book as "a richly textured historical novel with an unusual and compelling love story."
Gabaldon followed Outlander with Dragonfly in Amber. This novel recounts Claire and Jamie's desperate attempt to alter history by preventing Charles Stuart from instigating the Jacobite uprising that led to the slaughter of the Scots at the battle of Culloden. When they fail at this, they use Claire's knowledge of history to prepare Jamie's family and clan for this disaster as best they can. However, Dragonfly in Amber also deals with a second story in a different timeline—Claire's trip to Scotland with her daughter Brianna in 1968 to tell her about her real father, Jamie Fraser. A Publishers Weekly critic commended Gabaldon's "fresh and offbeat historical view" and asserted that Dragonfly in Amber is "compulsively readable."
The third volume in the saga, Voyager, appeared on the Publishers Weekly hardcover bestsellers list in January 1994. In this installment, having discovered that Jamie did not die at the battle of Culloden, Claire returns to the eighteenth century to be with him. The years spent apart are recounted, and adventures lead the couple to America in pursuit of Jamie's kidnapped nephew. Roland Green, reviewing Voyager in Booklist, praised its "highly appealing characters" and "authentic feel." Locus contributor Carolyn Cushman felt that Gabaldon "masterfully interweaves" plot elements separated by two centuries, "crossing time periods with abandon but never losing track of the story."
Though a Publishers Weekly reviewer labeled Voyager a "triumphant conclusion" to the story of Claire and Jamie, Gabaldon was preparing a fourth book that would carry the characters through the American Revolution. Drums of Autumn leapt onto the bestseller lists as soon as it appeared in 1997. Set in the New World, the novel finds the two lovers building a life as the Americans set about building a nation. Jamie and Claire first arrive at Charleston, South Carolina, then join other Scottish exiles along the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. Troubled by events there, the couple moves inland to the mountains in search of tranquility. The couple's attempts at avoiding conflict and an impending war give the book an epic quality. In the view of one Booklist contributor, "Gabaldon is clearly trying to write on the same scale as Margaret Mitchell, and in terms of length and of thoroughness of research, largely succeeds." A reviewer for Maclean's noted that "the meticulous period detail is in contrast to the serendipitous development of the central premise: the love story of a modern woman somehow flung into the past."
This quality of Drums of Autumn reflects its author's approach to all of the books in the series. In an interview published in Heart to Heart, Gabaldon discussed some of her feelings about the series she began with Outlander: "Part of my purpose in my books has been to tell the complete story of a relationship and a marriage; not just to end with ‘happily ever after,’ leaving the protagonists at the altar or in bed…. I wanted to show some of the complicated business of actually living a successful marriage." Concerning the history depicted in the first four novels, Gabaldon revealed that she "wanted to show the changing face of the world at that time, moving from the ancient feudal system of Highland clans to the violent upheavals of democracy in the New World." She further noted that with "Claire's perspective as a time-traveler, we see the events of that time through a modern eye, and can fully appreciate their significance to the future that will come."
Four years after Drums of Autumn, Gabaldon completed the next installment of Claire and Jamie's adventures in colonial America with The Fiery Cross. Taking place in the years 1771 and 1772, the novel tells how Jamie, who is now a landowner, is asked by the governor of North Carolina to form a militia in preparation for what looks like the upcoming war against the British. Reluctant at first to comply, Jamie is convinced by Claire, who knows the Revolution is inevitable, that this is the right thing to do. Although the initial crisis is averted and the militia is dispersed, Claire and readers know that war still lies ahead. People contributor Bella Stander claimed that new readers to the series will not know "who the characters are, how they got to the colonies, and why we should care." On the other hand, Johnson praised the novel in the Library Journal, asserting that the writing "is superb—lush, evocative, and sensual, with a wealth of historic detail and a good deal of humor."
A Breath of Snow and Ashes returns to Claire and Jamie's world in 1772 as the American Revolution is about to unfold. Jamie has been asked to assist England suppress the revolution, but he is reluctant because Claire knows the eventual outcome of the revolution. Jamie is additionally stunned when he discovers an obituary dated 1776—his own obituary—suggesting that he will die at the culmination of the revolution. Against the tumult of the formation of the United States, Jamie and Claire struggle against the implacable force of history that has yet to happen and the inevitability of events they cannot change. Gabaldon makes her time-traveling themes convincing and her plotting "plausible because her research is so meticulous and her characters so sympathetic: heroic, yet attractively flawed," observed Kathy Weissman, reviewing the novel for Bookreporter.com. Weissman commented that "there is something so honest, rich, and complete about the alternative worlds Gabaldon creates that I think she is a kind of genius."
"From the moment she penned her very first novel in her best-selling Outlander series back in 1991, it was clear that Diana Gabaldon wrote her own rules," observed Bron Sibree in an Asia Africa Intelligence Wire review. In addition to building a vast and appreciative audience, Gabaldon also tested her abilities and stretched the definitions of overlapping genres, creating stories that effectively combine elements of science fiction, fantasy, romance, and historical fiction. Gabaldon "rankles at the categorisation of her novels as women's fiction by some booksellers and bristles at the merest mention of the word ‘romance’ in conjunction with her novels," Sibree noted. This is a principle that Gabaldon adheres to steadfastly; in 2003, for example, she declined to conduct any book signings in Barnes and Noble stores until the chain agreed to move her books from the romance section to general fiction. In addition to her determination to reach both male and female audiences with her work, what Gabaldon "very consciously brings to her fiction is a scientist's penchant for observation, and the ability to draw patterns out of chaos," Sibree concluded.
Because her series has grown into quite a complex tale, Gabaldon has written The Outlandish Companion: In Which Much Is Revealed Regarding Claire and Jamie Fraser, Their Lives and Times, Antecedents, Adventures, Companions, and Progeny, with Learned Commentary (and Many Footnotes), which explains the "Outlander" series for fans, including plot synopses, character backgrounds, how time travel works in her stories, and even provides information about her personal life.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Arizona Daily Star, October 24, 2006, "Outlander Author to Talk Here," profile of Diana Gabaldon.
Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, November 12, 2005, Bron Sibree, "Breath of Fresh Air in Fiction Stakes," interview with Diana Gabaldon.
Booklist, November 15, 1993, Roland Green, review of Voyager; November 15, 1996, review of Drums of Autumn; February 1, 2006, Neal Wyatt, review of A Breath of Snow and Ashes, p. 74.
Heart to Heart, September-October, 1994, review of Voyager, pp. 3, 8-9.
Library Journal, July, 1991, Cynthia Johnson, review of Outlander, p. 134; January, 2002, Cynthia Johnson, review of The Fiery Cross, p. 152.
Locus, January, 1994, Carolyn Cushman, review of Voyager, p. 29.
Maclean's, February 17, 1997, review of Drums of Autumn, p. 71; August 9, 1999, "Tying Up Loose Ends: A Best-selling Novelist Pens a Reference Book to Answer Her Fans' Queries," p. 21; January 14, 2002, "Over and Under Achievers: Teaching the Ropes of the Rock," p. 6.
People, April 14, 1997, review of Drums of Autumn, p. 64; December 24, 2001, Bella Stander, review of The Fiery Cross, p. 39.
Publishers Weekly, May 31, 1991, review of Outlander, p. 59; June 22, 1992, review of Dragonfly in Amber, p. 49; December 20, 1993, p. 52; January 17, 1994, p. 2; January 6, 1997, p. 50; January 13, 1997, p. 18; November 19, 2001.
Swiss News, November, 2005, review of A Breath of Snow and Ashes, p. 61.
Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (August 22, 2001), transcript of online chat with Diana Gabaldon; (December 5, 2006), Roz Shea, review of The Fiery Cross, and Kathy Weissman, review of A Breath of Snow and Ashes.
Diana Gabaldon Home Page, http://www.cco.caltech.edu/˜gatti/gabaldon (November 11, 2002).
Ladies of Lallybroch Web site,http://www.lallybroch.com/ (December 5, 2006).
Writing-World.com,http://www.writing-world.com/ (December 5, 2006), Susan Perry, interview with Diana Gabaldon.