by Cynthia Gentit
Meeting Herself. If you are a true Outlander fan that two-word sentence needs no further explanation. This is the story of how one fan girl checked “meet Diana” off her bucket list.
For the sake of those not familiar with Outlander or you’re not familiar with the title “Herself,” I’ll elaborate. “Herself” is the name Outlander fans have given Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series (presently 8 “Big Books” and several shorter novellas.) “Herself” is a twist on “Himself,” one of the many names given to Diana’s lead character, Jamie Fraser. Diana introduced us to “the man in the kilt” and his time traveling wife, Claire Randall, in her first novel – Outlander (1991.) Claire fell through the stones and into his arms – where her heart (and ours) has securely rested ever since.
Being of recent Scottish Highland descent myself, Outlander is my history, present, and past. When Jamie described Ned Gowan as “beaming red” it was like a getting a hug from my grandmother, every time I watch it or just thinking of it now gives me the warm fuzzies. So when the opportunity to meet Herself, the woman from whose brain all these wonderful tales have sprung arose, aye lassie, ye can bet your dirk not even a herd of Hieland coos could have stopped me from trying.
In December it was announced that Diana would be the keynote speaker at the Savannah Book Fair, Feb. 15th. Within my favorite circle of Outlander fans, the Outlander Sassenach Sisterhood plans were made. Excitement was high. Calendars were marked.
Over the next few weeks more information was shared, this was one of two speaking engagements Diana would do in 2018….she was in Savannah to do research for book 9….the theater only holds 1100 people…. and then, (gasp) book club members would be able to pre-buy tickets – only 200 – 300 would be available to the general public – aka, us…it was every woman for herself….
January 9th the ticket page was bookmarked and January 10th, at 9:59am, I clicked on that page and wonder of wonders – I got through! Two tickets, one for me, one for hubby (he’s also read the books and watches the show.) Few were able to get tickets, so disappointed for them but in fact, it was random luck, all tickets available were sold in 3 minutes flat and after that, the site crashed. Outlander fans are serious about their adoration folks.
Fast forward to the 15th, all tickets are general which means no assigned seats and arriving well before the 6pm engagement time. The lucky members of our group were in line by 4 and already there was a lot of activity going on. Lines were set up outside the theater – one for book fair ticket holders, one for the general admission folks and one short one right in front for the sponsors.
We were able to find out a few crucial things – first, doors would open to us at 5:15. To the left, we could buy books for Herself to sign and to the right, seating. Now the trick to this is that every book purchased comes with an incremental number and that number is the order in which you get the book signed – so the conundrum is, the earlier you buy your book, the earlier you get it signed but if you buy your book first then you miss out on the opportunity for a good seat and vice versa. But the Sassenach Sisters are canty lassies, we decided to divide and conquer. Four of us would buy all the books wanted and four of us would grab the best seats we could. And we did.
We were able to get seats in the very back row of the main floor. Now that may not sound very good but only the last 3 rows of the main floor and the balcony were available for us “generals” so we actually did quite well and we were in the first third of the book signing – yay us.
About 40 minutes later the auditorium was full and the big moment arrived. We were welcomed by a gentleman from the Book Fair. He said he would have worn a kilt in Diana’s honor but he was “not as tall as Jamie Fraser and kilts on a short man look like a Catholic school girl in a bad uniform.” After that, another gentleman came out and introduced Herself. It was rather a long introduction but being that many in the audience knew nothing about her or Outlander I could understand it. My husband was grumbling because he pronounced Murtagh as Mur-taw instead of Murta which made me laugh because 2 years ago he wouldn’t have known the difference. ;D
Finally, Herself, live and present on the stage, yup, we were sharing the same airspace and the atmosphere was heady. After a warm round of applause she began by explaining how she came to choose her subject – Jamie Fraser – and the era – 1740’s based on an old Dr. Who rerun. She said in English class the only worthwhile thing she learned was that a good story should always have conflict (she also said that tidbit wasn’t worth the 18 hours she spent in English class – lol.) It was to introduce conflict that she decided to add an English woman into the story and, originally, she was not to be from a different era but as Diana was visualizing her, “she simply wouldn’t stop speaking in modern vernacular no matter how I tried to beat her into shape.” And that was how the time travel aspect came to be. 😀 Fellow Sassenach Sister Michelle Miller was intrigued by her writing process. “Diane says that the process is very much like what she was used to in her scientific research – that in science, you make a hypothesis and then experiment to prove or disprove it. In writing, the book is the experiment. Pretty cool…” It is indeed, pretty cool.
I won’t go into great detail about the speech because it will probably be put online shortly. She spoke for about an hour and, based on what she said, went a bit over time so the question and answer period were very short. Half of them weren’t worth repeating but the two I remember as being “good” questions were: “Name one thing that’s in Bree’s bag,” which is a reference to book 9 if you haven’t gotten that far and the answer was “a book.” Not terribly explicit but if you read Diana’s daily lines you’ll know exactly which book it is. ;D The second was “Do you have research assistants?” I found her answer to be typical Diana. She said if she sent her husband to the store for hotdogs and beans for dinner that’s what she’d get but if SHE went to the store for hotdogs and beans she’d see some nice chicken breasts and say “oh, curried chicken would be nice,” and then it would be “well, what spices do I need, how about a side dish and by the way I should pick up a nice bottle of white wine.” Her analogy being if she had a research assistant all she would get was hotdogs and beans and usually, chicken curry is a lot better so no, she doesn’t use research assistants.
She finished to loud and appreciative applause and, once the room had cleared, the book signing began. A table was set up for Herself in front of the stage and aides sprang up with signs 1-25, 26 – 50, etc. and we were asked to line up according to our book numbers. I have to say the event was extremely well run from start to finish. For example, while we were standing in line an aide came along with post its and marked every book with the name of who it was to be inscribed to so it was very easy and efficient for Diana.
Now standing in line twice in one evening may not sound like fun but when you are standing in line with Outlander fans it is! The lady in front of me was a lucky lady with a great story – she met Sam Heughan in her local grocery store! Hearing about her experience firsthand was so.much.fun! Like everyone else she said he was extraordinarily kind, he realized from across the produce section that he was dealing with a fan, gave her a smile and walked right over – swoon. Here’s her tip, always carry a Sharpie! 😀 Her biggest regret was that she had nothing to write with and couldn’t get his autograph. Now she always has a marker in her purse and multiples in her car because – you never know!, ;D And of course, everything she was shopping for went right out of her mind (small wonder) and she came home minus half the ingredients she set out to buy – I guess she had hot dogs & beans instead of curried chicken that night! What a great story.
The two ladies behind me had been to an Outlander convention and had met Grant O’Rourke (Rupert) and Scott Kyle (Ross) and they were delighted to blether on aboot it, complete with pictures. I was so engrossed in their tales that the time just flew by! In fact before I knew it, it was my turn and I was feeling fair puckled. I had been asked to give her a small gift from our Sisterhood and much like the lady in the grocery store I was trying to run through what I wanted to say to her lest I be a total Numptie! The gift was one of our group t-shirts, a few small items, and a diet Coke. (She drinks them while she’s writing and we definitely want to encourage her to continue on book 9!!) Then it was my turn, I gave my phone to the assigned picture taker and plunged in.
I don’t remember what I said but I think I managed not to embarrass myself. Diana gave me a big smile when I told her there was a diet Coke in the bag – lol. Not only was I able to get my picture with her but we were able to get a quick group picture as well. Many thanks to the event runners and Herself for their patient indulgence!
And then, it was over, we all had our signed books, photos, grins from ear to ear and plenty of “ahhhhh” sighs as we thought back on our moment with Herself. In fact, I’m still grinning. I hope you enjoyed the journey and if ever you have the opportunity to meet Herself, I can only say gie it laldy and go!