“There’s a reason I write long books: I like digressions.”
That’s how Diana Gabaldon started off her booksigning for An Echo in the Bone (9/23 at the Tattered Cover in Highlands Ranch, CO). Since I’m a bit of a fan girl, this was not my first Gabaldon signing; in fact, it was my fourth. So I knew some of her wandering stories. Knew that Jamie was inspired by a fetching kilted Scotsman from a Dr. Who episode, knew that she wrote everything in chunks and then wrote the bits that tied the chunks together, knew that she had gotten her start on the compuserve bulletin boards. But Gabaldon is an engaging speaker, so enjoyable to listen to that it was worth ditching choir just to hear it all again.
I did learn some new tidbits. In case you didn’t know, the image on the cover is a caltrop, an ancient Roman weapon made up of four sharp nails or spines arranged in such a manner that one of them always points upward from a stable base. Diana chose this particular image because Echo in the Bone has four primary stories/ POVs. One is, of course, Jamie and Claire’s. Claire remains the only character whose story is told in first person, though Jamie gets his side told as well. We also hear from Briana and Roger, who are now in 1980s Scotland. Lord John and William (Lord John’s adopted son, Jamie’s natural son, in case you forgot) tell the story of the Revolution from the English side. And the fourth point of view is Ian Murray, Jamie’s nephew.
The other tidbit that fascinated me: I attended the book-signing the day after the book’s release, and Diana said she’d finished the book only a month ago. That production could now happen so quickly was completely astounding. Since I read an early copy, I actually had it in my hands less than two weeks after she’d written the final word. We used to be amazed when a book could be whipped up in three months.
In case you’re wondering, there will be another book (which is something you wouldn’t wonder if you’d read it; it ends with a huge cliff hanger).
The signing was packed, and I had a number in the the high 300’s, so I knew I’d be there awhile. I enjoyed chatting with various fans, who were, predicatbly, overwhelmingly female. I sat next to a woman who commented on the homogeneity of the crowd (“We’re all women of middle years!”) then self consciously wondered whether I had to begin describing myself as a “woman of middle years”. But there were some younger women too, many who had just discovered Gabaldon. One (whom I couldn’t help but envy) read the first four books while on bed rest with a difficult pregnancy. I would have killed for that leisure time back around 1995, when the theme of my life was “What Can I Do to Amuse a Baby and Toddler So I Can Just Read Already”? I met another lady who’d read Outlander when it came out, and had to wait for every single book.
Since I was, I’m sure, the only person in the room besides Diana who had read the whole thing, I had several people ask me how I liked it, and whether there was another author like Gabaldon. The answers were yes, and no. Nonetheless, it was fun to hear the spirited conversations around books; one of my favorites was a Twilight saga debate between a passionate Jacob fan and another woman who thought the whole series was about a bunch of whiny men, none of whom she liked.
Oh, and to the lady throwing peppermint patties at people asking “How much do you love me?” You didn’t ask me, but my answer is, “Not enough to beg you to throw cheap candy at me, but thanks anyway.”