Thursday, August 11, 2016

Diana Gabaldon on historical accuracy, Gaelic and series three of Outlander

The author visited Scotland to mark the 270th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden this week.

BY Victoria Pease


The author of hit series Outlander has visited Scotland this week Outlander

Standing on the outskirts of the historic Highland site, Diana Gabaldon is in Scotland for the 270th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden.

"I try to come to Scotland at least once every year, sometimes twice," the author of the hit Outlander series explains.

But it wasn't until the 64-year-old author had written the first Outlander novel in 1991, set in Scotland during the Jacobite risings, that she decided she had better visit the land that had inspired her stories of time travel, love and sacrifice.

"I came to Scotland after the first book, I said to my husband I really must go and see it and that's when I encountered Culloden for the first time."

Outlander, a eight-strong series of novels and television series which has just been renewed for seasons three and four, has its own nuances of time travel within its success.

Diana visited the site of the historic battle which is a major part of the story STV

The books rose to popularity in the early 90s and have been translated into 38 languages with an estimated 27 million books in print.

The television series, which aired on the Starz network in the US in 2013 and on Amazon Prime in the UK a year later, reached a whole new audience of history and romance-loving viewers.

While the 1746 Battle of Culloden is a centre plot point of the Outlander series, the historic battle is at times a mere backdrop to the blossoming romance between Claire (played by Caitriona Balfe), a married combat nurse mysteriously swept back in time, and warrior Jamie (played by Scottish actor Sam Heughan).

The series may draw in fans thanks to the chemistry between the two leads but it is the historical accuracy and intrigue surrounding battles, castles and fights that has helped Outlander become a worldwide hit, securing praise for bringing elements of Scotland's past to the fore.

The television series will begin shooting season three Starz

It's something that is vastly important to Diana, to accurately portray the real historical elements of the time period she is recreating, woven with Gaelic words and turns of phrases with a whirlwind love story at its centre.

She says: "[Historical accuracy] is very important, not only as a matter of duty to the dead but also if you are going to do odd things in your book as my husband have to make the other parts of the story be as accurate as you possibly can.

"That's what it is that induces a sense of belief and immersion for the audience. They can feel this is absolutely real because it was real and you tell it as though it were real then they will go with you when you jump off a cliff [with the story]."

When first writing the fantastical account of Jamie and Claire, Diana relied upon a tiny Gaelic dictionary she had to order from Boston back in 1988 in to bring the language to life.

While the show's dialect coach Carol Ann Crawford believes Outlander's popularity could spark new interest in Scots and Gaelic among fans, Diana reveals that it was actually a Scot who offered his assistance with her language skills years before.

She explains: "I had a nice gentleman write to me named Ian McKinnon Taylor and he said 'I'm fascinated by your books, the history is so wonderful, and it's so great to see this culture treated so respectfully.

"He said 'there's just this one thing, which I hesitate to mention, I was born on the Isle of Harris, I am a native Gaelic speaker and I think you must be getting your Gaelic from a dictionary'."

Mr Taylor went on to assist Diana with the language for her next three books until health issues forced him to withdraw. Gaelic singer and speaker Catherine Ann McPhee then helped with the series, but as a native of Barra, Diana notes that 'at that point the dialect of my novels changed'.

While the fans of the novels have been visiting Scotland to see historical sites mentioned in the books for years, the television adaptation has seen filming locations such as Doune Castle in Stirling enjoy record-breaking visitor numbers since the show aired.

"I think it's extremely strange," Diana says. "I didn't expect any of this mind you, I wrote the first book for practice so I wasn't expecting anyone to read it.

"But once it came out, people took to it and they not only took to it they started expanding you might say, there are thousands of social groups that get together over the books and they start having craft groups, doing traditional knitting and making 18th century costumes and baking."

While fans of the novels have had to wait years for the next instalment, filming for series three of the television show is currently under way, with plans to adapt books Voyager and Drums of Autumn for the small screen.

So what can fans of the series expect from Diana's archive of Scottish tales when the next series airs?

She explains: "Our protagonists were split at the end of the last season and season three, like the book, begins with them apart.

"Claire in the 20th century but 20 years on from where we left her and Jamie of course is still back in the 18th century but we pick him up immediately from where we last saw him which is here [at Culloden]."

Diana explains the narrative is braided from three different perspectives and time periods of Claire, her daughter and Jamie, but hints that a reunion will see the series return to a linear timeframe from around 1866.

But fans of the novels are also gearing up for an even newer instalment; the long awaited ninth novel.

Diana says: "I'm presently working on the ninth book in the Outlander series, luckily I have a title for it I just acquired a couple of weeks ago.

"It's called Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone. It comes from an old celtic folklore custom when people kept beehives, it was traditional to go and tell the bees all the gossip of the community.

"If someone died and you didn't tell the bees, they would become annoyed and fly away so you would always go and tell the bees when something happened."

Reading between the lines, it would appear the time travelling romance still has plenty of secrets and stories to spill.

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