Exclusive:Author Diana Gabaldon says 'weird' Outlander was almost never published
Ms Gabaldon was speaking ahead of the Outlander Conference at Glasgow University which will examine the impact and context of the blockbuster series, which is partly set in 18th Century Scotland and has sold 50 million books worldwide.
The writer, 71, from Arizona, said she wrote her first Outlander book “as practice” and selected historical fiction given it was the “easiest” genre to tackle due to reference material available.
But Ms Gabaldon said her publishers almost cancelled the book given the difficulty in categorising the time-travelling fantasy which follows a Highlander and his English wife over several centuries and continents.
She said: “It took the publishers 18 months to decide what to do with it. They came quite close to cancelling the book and giving me it back because they couldn't decide how to sell it.
“This was before Amazon, a book only had one slot, it had to be in a bookstore, it had to be on a shelf, the shelf had to have a label.
“My agent finally called me up and said they have decided to sell it as a romance. I said ‘What?’ I don’t think that is what I wrote’.”
She added: “My first editor said these have to be word of mouth books because they are too weird to describe, which is completely true and that is also true about the word of mouth.”
Ms Gabaldon is now writing her 10th novel, which she earlier claimed would be the last in the series. Now, however, she is not certain this is the case.
She said: “I never really know if the book I am working on will be my last. The only difference is now I am 71, I don’t know how much longer I will last, so I would actually like to bring the story to a reasoned close. But I might get to the end and I might have a lot more stories.”
The conference, which will run until Saturday, will bring together scholars from across the world to discuss Outlander-related topics such as Jacobite history, Scots and slavery in the Caribbean, Gaelic language, fandom and sustainable screen tourism.
Ms Gabaldon, who described Outlander as a “social phenomenon” said she received contact from several hundred thousands of fans a year. The show has also driven large increases in visitors to historic sites in Scotland as fans seek out locations used in the televised series of the books.
The volume of Outlander fans visiting Culloden Battlefield previously led to erosion around the Clan Fraser grave marker, which fans have associated with lead character Jamie Fraser, and reports of fans taking selfies on the memorial.
Ms Gabaldon added: “I wish they wouldn’t, as someone who cares about the past. A lot of them don’t really understand that it is a historical place, they feel moved, they want to make a gesture and that seems to be the only thing they can do. I appreciate the emotion around it but it is rather a fragile landscape.”
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