Graham and Sam Yule log!
Relax fireside with our very own Men in Kilts this holiday season. Men in Kilts premieres early 2021 on STARZ
One hour long.....
Outlander Timeline Explained
Can’t keep the timeline of Outlander straight? Don’t worry-we’ve got the entire timeline explained, plus the rules on time travel in the popular series.
By Liberty Hardy Jul 28, 2020
It seems like every day we see more and more streaming services and channels being added to the roster. And logic dictates that a larger number of services requires a larger number of offerings. In their quest for content, companies are increasingly turning to stories and plots from books. The number of books being adapted into movies and television series in the past decade has grown exponentially, often to great success and acclaim.
One of the most successful adaptations of the last several years is Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Outlander is a historical romance time-travel series about British nurse Claire Randall who time travels from the 20th-century to 17th-century Scotland. There she finds love and adventure with the dashing Jamie Fraser, a Highland warrior. The first book was published in 1991 to modest success, and with each addition to the series, its popularity grew. And the release of the television series on Starz in 2014 brought a whole new legion of fans.
There are eight audiobooks in the Outlander time-travel series, with more planned. Most of the audiobooks are more than 30 hours long, which means the series covers a lot of story. And since the series follows Claire back and forth in time, and sometimes covers both her and Jamie’s timelines simultaneously, it’s a lot to keep track of when you’re listening. It’s almost as dizzying as time traveling yourself!
So here’s a breakdown of the Outlander timeline for both new fans and listeners looking to refresh their knowledge of the events in the series. This chronicles the Outlander audiobooks in order. After, I’ll point out a few noticeable differences between the books and the show. Needless to say, even though this just brushes on the events in each audiobook, there will be spoilers. So if you haven’t yet finished the series, you might want to cover your eyes.
The series opens in 1946: British Army nurse Claire Randall and her husband Frank Randall, a history professor, decide to take a second honeymoon to Inverness, Scotland. While there, Claire decides to go for a walk and pick wildflowers. She comes upon a circle of tall upright stones, a ruin dating from the Bronze Age. The stones seem to be making a subtle buzzing sound, and when Claire places her hand on one, she faints.
When you hear that the Outlander series includes time travel, you might be picturing an elaborate time machine. But the explanation for time travel in Outlander is much simpler, and much more of an occurrence of nature. It’s all in the standing stones. When Claire touches the stone, she is transported to 18th-century Scotland. There, she meets her husband’s ancestors. She also meets Jamie Fraser, a Highlander. Injured, Jamie has dislocated his shoulder, which she sets for him. Claire figures out she has traveled back in time. She pretends to be a widow traveling to France to see her family. Because of her medical knowledge, she is treated with respect by the MacKenzie clan.
But the evil Captain Randall suspects Claire is a spy. For her own protection, Claire marries Jamie. This isn’t a big deal because 1) her real husband is 200 years in the future, and 2) Claire and Jamie have incredible chemistry. She eventually tells Jamie the truth about who she is, and he believes her. He takes her to the stones and offers her a chance to return to her time, but she declines. At the end of the book, they escape to France with Jamie’s godfather to get away from Captain Randall. When they arrive, Claire tells Jamie she is pregnant.
Dragonfly in Amber
In the second book, Claire has returned to Scotland with Brianna, her daughter by Jamie, whom she raised in the 20th century with her husband, Frank. After Frank’s death in 1968, Claire looks to find out what happened to Jamie’s people after the Battle of Culloden. She meets Roger, the son of a family friend, who helps Claire uncover Jamie’s headstone. Claire tells Brianna about her birth father, and understandably, Brianna doesn’t believe her. But then Claire tells them what happened during her time in the past.
Back in France, 1744: Claire had convinced Jamie to stop a Jacobite uprising, and he set to work putting his plans in motion. But Claire has a miscarriage and Jamie is imprisoned in the Bastille for dueling. Claire rescues him, but they are eventually banished from France and return to Scotland, where Jamie kills a man to protect Claire. He sends Claire to the standing stones to return to her time before anything else can happen to her; she is pregnant once again and the Battle of Culloden is upon them. That answers the question of how she ended up back in the present day at the beginning of the book. At the end of this installment, Roger informs Claire that Jamie did not die in the Battle of Culloden like she believes he did.
This novel opens with Jamie’s timeline in Scotland in 1746. Though seriously wounded in the Battle of Culloden, Jamie does not die. (The same cannot be said of the evil Captain Randall.) He lives as an outlaw, and eventually a prisoner, before being released and fathering a child, William, who is raised by Lord Ellesmere as his own son.
Back in Scotland, 1968, Claire decides to return to the 18th century after learning Jamie is not dead. She and Jamie are reunited, though he has married again and now has stepdaughters. Jamie is almost killed by his wife, who is jealous of Claire and eventually takes a payoff to let Jamie out of the marriage. Now free to be together again, Jamie and Claire end up in Jamaica. There is more adventure and danger, and Claire and Jamie are forced to escape in a ship, which is blown off course and crashes in the American colony of Georgia at the close of the audiobook.
Drums of Autumn
Jamie and Claire, as well as Claire’s adopted son, Fergus, and Jamie’s nephew, Ian, make a new life for themselves on the coast of Georgia in 1766, where they are eventually joined by Fergus’s wife. Meanwhile in the 20th century, Brianna, who now knows her mother’s story of time travel to be true, learns something tragic about her parents’ history, and sets out with Roger, now her beau, to travel back in time to find them.
The Fiery Cross
This book opens where Drums of Autumn left off: it’s 1771, and war is coming. Claire, having traveled back in time from the 20th century, realizes that she and Jamie and their family are now poised at the brink of the American Revolution. Brianna and Roger are married with a son, and many plot lines are drawn together as the Frasers wait for war.
A Breath of Snow and Ashes
The revolution begins as the Frasers try to live peacefully in the foothills of North Carolina. But even there, war reaches them. Jamie has a hard time trying to reconcile his loyalty to the British crown with his newfound freedom in his new homeland with Claire.
An Echo in the Bone
Brianna and Roger are back in 20th-century Scotland when an ancestor from Claire and Jamie’s timeline appears- and one of Brianna’s coworkers attempts a nefarious plot to find lost gold. Meanwhile, back in the 18th century, the American Revolution has started, leading Jamie’s son, Lord William Ellesmere, to the Americas to fight for the British. There are murders, accidental killings, and blackmail schemes. Claire and Jamie eventually return to Scotland, where they reunite with Jamie’s family, as well as his ex-wife. When it is reported that Jamie has been lost at sea, Claire returns to America.
Written in My Own Heart's Blood
It’s still the 18th century in America, and Claire has married Lord John Grey for protection. But then Jamie returns, and he and Claire are reunited. Claire is wounded in the Battle of Monmouth, and she and Jamie return to North Carolina. In the 20th century, their grandson, Jeremiah, is kidnapped, and after he is found, Brianna and Roger and their family travel back to the 18th century to be with Claire and Jamie.
And that’s it...or is it? A ninth book is reportedly in the works, but no release date has been set. For now, the Frasers are all reunited in America. Throughout the audiobooks, there’s a lot of time traveling happening between the two centuries by many characters-except for Jamie. He’s never made the trip to Claire’s original timeline in the 20th century, and Gabaldon has said that he never will. And who’s to say he could? The way time travel works in the Outlander series depends a lot on the members of the Fraser family, and certain times of year seem to be easier than others. Not just anyone can pull it off.
And speaking of that, while the television series has been largely loyal to their source material, it does diverge on certain matters, both big and small. Here are seven differences between the Outlander books and the show:
• In the audiobooks, Claire’s wedding ring is stolen from Frank by the pirate Stephen Bonnet; on the show, the ring that is taken belongs to Jamie.
• Frank, Claire’s husband, is not nearly as horrible and rotten on the show as he is in the audiobooks. He’s much more of a doting, caring husband on the show, which better explains why he was willing to raise another man’s child as his own. He is also a womanizer in the books; on the show, he has a mistress he cares for very much.
• Believe it or not, there are fewer racy sex scenes on the television show than you find in the audiobooks. These are romance novels, so they do get steamy.
• Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser does not die in the Battle of Culloden on the show like he does in the books. Outlander producer Maril Davis has said that he was just too great a character and an actor to let go after the first season.
• Points of view are captured on the television show that are not seen in the novels. For instance, Jamie’s imprisonment by Captain Randall in the first book is told from his perspective. Viewers are also shown Frank’s search for Claire after she goes missing.
• The second season of the show opens with Claire’s return to 1948 instead of her life in 1968, like the opening of the second book.
• Laoghaire MacKenzie, Jamie’s wife, appears earlier in the show’s storyline than she does in the audiobooks.
Liberty Hardy is a Book Riot senior contributing editor and velocireader in the great state of Maine, where she reads 500-600 books a year and lives with her three cats, who are too young to read the Outlander series.
More on Audio... Diana Gabaldon covers so much in her characters. She has made story Novellas for many Outlander characters... here are a few stories that help us understand the Outlander books with clues, backstories, and adds, that are not in the antagonist perspective.
Virgins Young Jamie Fraser sets out for Paris France after the death of his father. Ian Murray, his childhood friend is already there fighting with French mercenaries and together they go on an adventure.
A Leaf On The Wind Of All Hallows Roger Mackenzie as a child. What happened during the war to his parents and that time travel gene!
The Scottish Prisoner Lord John visits Jamie Fraser on the property at Hellwater where he left him a paroled prisoner, and requests his help in Ireland.
The Space Between Joanie MacKimmie, and Michael Murray set out for France. Somehow Time travelers Compte St Germain and Master Raymond end up involved in the middle of Michael's attempt to help Joanie figure out how she sees the future and who's going to die
Sam is lovely to his fans but knowing the fandom, the cell company will be forever sorry for this.. when the companies cell service is broken...
Listen in to his explanation about what made him want to connect directly, and none of us are complaining about it, truly! He said he wanted to chat about projects, opportunities, and well, rubbish! (Whisky?) Anything for you Sam... after all "it is crazy"....
+ 1 310 356 3929
Here's Josh Horowitz explaining what this means. Anything happening for NYCC has to be fun! This year all the panels are virtual...
I was looking for the music sequence on the world wide web of a few cast members, Stephen Walters, Nell Hudson and Steven Cree performing a Beatles song at our Outlander in the city event in New York City. Unfortunately I found no videos but it was an incredible search.. I found instead, so many fun videos by fans from our (4) four charity events with the cast...
Outlander in the city interviews by Outlander TV news
The Sam and Cait event..
(My voice is in backround directing people. I hate the sound of my voice)
What's included: limited special edition on BlueRay
The regular DVD and Blue Ray
Deleted scenes that are featured in the collectors edition DVD and Blue Ray
Thank you to Outlander America for the YouTube videos
Blooper reel available in DVD and Blue Ray
Also included in DVD and Blue Ray
Inside the wedding...
Saying good bye to Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser...
Outlander Homepage Originals by Susie Brown
For 5 seasons now, Outlander fans have been taken on a different journey every week, as the lives of Jamie and Claire Fraser unfold before us on the screen. We have marvelled at the drama, the romance, the heartbreak and the humour that the actors portray as they skilfully bring Diana Gabaldon’s story to life. But what about the person in charge behind the camera, the person responsible for overseeing and coordinating the world that we have come to love so much? Here at Outlander Homepage, we were thrilled when season 5 director Stephen Woolfenden agreed to talk to us and give us a glimpse of this complex process.
It seems that Stephen was always destined for a career in the Arts. From an early age, he was immersed in the life of the theatre.
“Dad was a conductor and composer and was Head of Music at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford. Mum was an oboist and music publisher,” Stephen explained. “I saw lots of plays and went backstage and played with swords. When I was seven, I had an audition with the director Trevor Nunn to be one of the princes in the tower in Richard III, but I burst into tears after a few moments and ran away from the rehearsal room!”
“That was the end of my acting career but the start of something else,” Stephen continued. “I started making animations on my Dad’s 8mm camera in my teens and became really interested in films. I joined the National Youth Theatre in 1984 and did a season as an Assistant Stage Manager and Deputy Stage Manager. I loved being behind the scenes, working with actors and the adrenalin of live shows. I got a job as a stand-in for Cary Elwes on the film Lady Jane, which was, funnily enough, directed by Trevor Nunn! I was retained as a runner for the shoot and knew then that film set life was for me.
After that, I was a Production Runner on Return To Treasure Island in 1985 for ITV/Disney, produced by Alan Clayton, my uncle. He was a key mentor to me and encouraged me in all aspects of film and TV production. So I went to university in Bournemouth and studied a new degree course in Communication & Media Production, specializing in Film & Television. After I graduated I became a 3rd Assistant Director, then a 2nd Assistant Director then a 1st Assistant Director. I enjoyed life as a 1st Assistant Director on films and TV all over the world, working with and learning from some great directors – Herbie Wise, Gillies MacKinnon, Hettie MacDonald, Tom Hooper and David Yates. I got a small reel together by volunteering to direct 2nd Units on my days off. One of the last things I was 1st Assistant Director on was the the David Yates-directed ‘State of Play’. It was a great shoot and an inspiring set to be on. David and I got on and worked well together and he encouraged me to start directing full time. I got a break at the BBC on a children’s Saturday morning show – ‘The Mysti Show’ which had a drama episode every weekend that ran for two seasons. It was a great starting point and an on-the-job training ground.”
“ A few years later and with other directing credits behind me, David Yates called. He had just been hired to direct Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix and invited me to meet for the 2nd Unit Director’s job. I got the gig and have been David’s 2nd Unit Director ever since - on four Harry Potters, Tarzan and two Fantastic Beasts. We had started prep on Fantastic Beasts 3 but were suspended because of the coronavirus just before shooting was due to start. Fortunately, we are due to restart very soon.”
So how, we wondered, did Outlander fit into the mix?
“My path to Outlander came from me really liking the show, “ Stephen replied, “along with the stable of directors, crew and actors they were using. I was interested in the USA production model it had adopted in the UK. Also, I had directed a few projects for Left Bank Pictures who are the production company that service the production in the UK. I first had a Skype chat with Maril Davies and David Brown in 2016 for a block on Series 3, but the dates didn’t work out and I went on to direct Poldark instead. We spoke again in 2018. The finale of season 4 was a possibility and I jumped at it. I actually got the call to say I had the gig when I was in the Highlands on ‘Detective Pikachu’. I really enjoyed 413 and luckily got asked to return for series five.”
Next, we asked Stephen if he could describe the directing process and how he approached each episode. Is there such a thing, we wondered, as a typical day in the life of a director?
“No!” Stephen laughed. “There is definitely no typical day in the life of a director! As to my approach, it changes with each episode, but you always appreciate the writing, and challenge it where appropriate. You have to understand where the episode fits in the series and what it does to the ongoing journeys of the characters. You have to find the key scenes in episodes and use those as the building blocks for tone, character study, visuals and truth. Once you are settled on those central themes and ideas and events in the episode, then you can design that overall approach and the specifics that relate character to story and so on. From there, you communicate these ideas to the cast, the showrunner and the writer/producers, and hopefully you strengthen and develop these ideas together. At this point, you are working closely with Heads of Department and crew to bring these ideas to the set. Preproduction is such a wonderful process. Script, concepts, design, storyboards, recces, sequence planning, rehearsing, testing, scheduling, historical research and seeking out visual references are are all part of the mad five weeks you have to prep a two episode block of Outlander.”
This seemed like an amazing amount to squeeze into five weeks, particularly when the actual rehearsing and directing was still to come!
“Rehearsal is so important and on a fast moving TV series like Outlander,” Stephen said. “We simply do not get enough rehearsal time. You have to move so quickly on set on shoot days that you need to have a clear plan of your intentions, while also allowing for the organic process of rehearsal, the conditions on the day and other ideas that present themselves. A key skill is getting the balance between being very organised and having a strong plan for each shooting day, but also being flexible and welcoming to new, constantly developing ideas that take everybody’s work to another level.
Every scene you can rehearse in preproduction is such a bonus for a number of reasons. It helps build your relationship with the cast, it allows you to experiment, to test the writing and give informed script notes, and it saves so much time on shoot days. Most importantly it gives the director and the cast confidence going into the scene and that is so valuable.”
So how much is ‘not enough’ rehearsal time?
“We had perhaps a day and a half of rehearsals close to the start of shooting,” Stephen told us. “In that time, we rehearsed the wedding drinking game, Murtagh & Jocasta’s wedding night and morning, Roger & Brianna's wedding night, Claire & Jamie’s wedding night & battle morning, Roger & Brianna’s big scenes in episode 8, Jamie & Murtagh’s battlefield, the scene where Roger visits Murtagh before the battle and some sessions with new characters where possible.”
That sounded like an amazing list, so we asked how these rehearsals are run.
“They often start with a ‘page-turn’ through the episode,” Stephen explained, "with each cast member sharing their thoughts and ideas of how the episode is being shaped and to agree on a course for the characters.”
“When it comes to shooting, there is no typical day. Each one is different and has unique demands. The one overriding constant is that it is a very pleasant place to work. Outlander has a really strong company atmosphere, where everyone encourages collaboration, appreciates all the great skills on show and likes to have fun whilst getting the job done.”
Getting that job done requires a team, and Stephen explained a little about their roles.
“Most Outlander episodes have a requirement for a 2nd Unit shoot,” he said. “2nd unit shoots anything from action, title cards, dropped scenes, delayed scenes, seasonal specific scenes, cast availability issues, rewrites and reshoots. On Series 5 we had the wonderful Adrian McDowell as 2nd Unit Director, who did a great job. For instance, I wrote a battle ‘beat sheet’ for episode 507 and scheduled what we could into the main unit schedule. That still left at least two days work of battle moments in the forest, that Adrian and I discussed and planned for his unit to complete. It’s so important to communicate the look and the feel of the episode to the 2nd Unit Director so there is a seamless transition between moments. Matthew B. Roberts also directed a Splinter Unit towards the end of the shoot that worked on specific moments that needed to be enhanced, developed, matched, reshot or rewritten – mainly as a result of notes coming from the edit process.”
The 7th and 8th episodes of season 5 will long be remembered for their drama, with the death of Murtagh and then Roger’s PTSD journey following his hanging. We asked Stephen how he approached the emotions of these moments.
“It was great to be able to rehearse with Sam & Duncan before the shoot day in 507,” Stephen recalled. “That was so important. We worked in a rehearsal room and found a choreography that was incredibly simple, yet moving. Sam was keen to catch Duncan and it developed into a beautiful dance – a fall, catch, twist and the laying down by the wonderful tree. It was an intense shoot and everyone knew the significance of what we were doing. Sam and Duncan stayed in the moment whilst we dealt with special effects, blood, wasps, the sun going in and out and all those difficulties that you don’t want to encounter at such a moment! I like how this event is an almost peaceful contrast to the noise and violence in the middle of the battle.”
It certainly sounded like an intense time and Stephen agreed with this assessment.
“507 was an epic shoot,” he said. “The first time we put the redcoat on Sam on set was a real moment. Fortunately, the schedule landed in such a way that we shot 507 almost entirely before we shot anything from 508. This helped the intensity of the battle episode and helped inform us all as to the state of play of the characters in 508.”
When we commented on the effectiveness of the “silent movie” style scenes in the eighth episode, Stephen gave praise where it was due.
“To the great credit of the writer Danielle Berrow, the silent movie scenes in 508 were always in the script,” he said. “What a gift! It was such a clever, brave and creative way of communicating Roger’s PTSD. Matthew B. Roberts encouraged us to shoot a series of tests to explore the visual language and supported the process throughout the shoot.
The Director of Photography, Stijn van der Veken and I spent a day of preproduction with some stand-ins and a camera team testing aspect ratios, film speeds and special equipment to get inside Roger’s head and close to his eyes. We then spent a session editing the material, experimenting with frame, cutting the material further, grading it, and adding grain and vintage assets to help find the silent movie language. We then presented it up the line to Matthew B. Roberts who loved it and gave us the green light to use this approach. And of course, big credit must go to Richard Rankin for his detailed work throughout the entire process.”
With all the drama this season, we wondered if Stephen had any funny or memorable moments to share from his time on set.
“Every day is memorable!” Stephen replied. “I like to laugh at work, so I encourage a happy, playful set: one which is fun to be on up to 12 hours a day or night. As I said earlier, Outlander is a set that always respects and encourages hard, intense work as well as the acting and directing process, but fundamentally there is a great company atmosphere that creates a positive working environment.
“The wedding was a great way to start season 5. The entire company was together and it felt like a celebration. It was a great way to launch a 7-8 month shoot. I loved the scale of the wedding and then the intimate details of the scenes inside the houses before the ceremony. I was really moved as we filmed Caitriona with Sophie, Sam with Sophie and Sam and Caitriona doing the wedding preparation.
By contrast, one of the most adrenaline-fuelled shoot days was the start of the battle in episode 7. It was an important scene with 20 odd cast, 130 supporting artists, cannons and horses. It was always a tight day and the move from the previous location had taken time. We were standing there with half a day to go and this whole sequence to shoot - a daunting prospect. But over the next five hours, we all went at it with such energy and commitment that we finished on time: 54 shots completed with 3 cameras. Memorable!
But speaking of memorable moments, Stephen told us that it was the children that provided a lot of them.
"Working with the toddler Jemmys and other babies was new for everyone in season 5,” he explained. “It was a daily joy and test producing some very ‘interesting’ and funny moments, which the cast dealt with brilliantly. We knew very early on that very few takes were going to be possible, so there were some very tight moments. For example, when Sam was holding Jemmy in the kitchen on the wedding night, that was one take and a fantastic improv from Sam as Jemmy started crying! And remember when Jemmy does that little look on Sophie’s shoulder when everyone was dancing? That was also one take – I had actually left the monitor thinking it was all over but then something magical happened. Special mention should go to Caitriona, Sophie, John, Cesar, Lauren & Caitlin – the time and energy they spent with the children saved hours, entire scenes and in some cases, whole days. The production owes them big time! For example, Caitriona saved the ‘boar’ day by just dedicating herself to connecting with Jemmy. Sophie too had a daily workout with Jemmys. The cast often spent time off set, or in lunch break working with the children, chaperones and parents.”
And that sense of fun on set that was talked about?
“As a director, I tend to wait a few seconds to say ‘Cut’, “ Stephen said. “This was a tip from Werner Herzog. Sometimes you can just get a bit of something special: some natural poetry or some silliness. Different cast members react differently to this. Sam, Caitriona, Sophie and Richard have all given special reactions or thoughts in these brief moments – and they have also been very funny. Caitriona and Lauren were very funny when I let the camera run when they are standing over Leith Farrish’s corpse and I think some of this is in the Blooper Reel. Indeed, I have recently signed a clearance form for the season 5 blooper reel and that is another wonderful collection of fun moments. At one point, I can be seen literally dancing to keep one of the Jemmys from looking at the camera or bursting into tears!”
“I am always amused at the funny social media posts that the cast make. They are very clever at finding brief moments on video or silly stills that give so much to the fans. It’s a really important part of the show now and a great example of the atmosphere on set. As well as the gold standard social media “blackbelts” of Caitriona, Sam, Sophie & Richard, I am constantly laughing out loud by posts from Lauren, Caitlin, Colin, Tim, Maria, Kyle, Duncan et al. I wept when I saw Tim Downie make a little video in the carriage, drinking his coffee, as he left the wedding. Colin’s archive of shots and videos is like a behind the scenes video and Kyle’s photos are a great testament to the fun on set. “
Finally, we asked Stephen where he would go if he could travel through the stones and he narrowed his choices down to three.
"Firstly, I would have liked to have been a member of Bob Marley & The Wailers road crew, or the official photographer on their 1977-79 World Tour,” he said. “What an adventure this would’ve been, close to greatness! Secondly, I would have enjoyed being a student at the Guildhall School of Music, London in the late 1950s/early 1960s, to witness my parents getting together and watching them play at a time of great social change. It’s a bit Back To The Future but what a fun thing to be able to do! Finally, I would have loved to have been a member of the production team on Jacques Tati’s ‘Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot’ in 1951 France. He was a great filmmaker at his peak. The detail in this film is extraordinary and the fun making it was legendary.”
Legendary seemed like an appropriate word on which to end this interview. We would like to thank Stephen for giving us such a legendary insight into the world of directing - and hopefully, we will see more of his work in the seasons to come.
This interview was conducted by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher-librarian who lives in Australia. She is certainly looking forward to seeing a dancing Stephen on the blooper reel!
Maril Davis starts the series chatting all things Outlander with Diana Gabaldon. Wait to the end of each video for a snippet from the Untold Stories, featured in the season 5 DVD due out September 15th 2020.
Donations are being requested, while viewing End of Summer series, for Doctors without Boarders campaign....
Series video 2, Dinner with John Bell Lauren Lyle and Theresa Carle-Sanders
Series video 3, The Music of Outlander with Bear McCreary, Maria Kennedy Doyle, and Raya Yarbrough.
Series video 4, Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan... find out from fan questions, what their favorite scenes were, who they'd trade places with, and what scenes they laughed through, from season 5!
It’s a fairly well documented fact that Diana Gabaldon decided to write her first novel “Outlander” for practice, and that the character of Jamie Fraser came to her courtesy of a Doctor Who episode that she was watching at the time. Since that fateful evening of television viewing, the whole Outlander universe has been created. From Ms Gabaldon’s pen have come 8 (almost 9!) “big books”, supplementary short stories and novellas about individual characters and two Outlandish companions. But the Outlander world doesn’t end there, as adaptations have allowed for other creators to become involved. Chief among these of course, is the heralded Starz series, which will, pandemic permitting, begin shooting season 6 later this year. The success of the tv show also provided the need for another book or two - in the form of television companions to the various seasons. Enter Tara Bennett, an experienced author and journalist, who has released 2 of these companions to date: the first covering seasons 1 and 2 and the second covering seasons 3 and 4. She very graciously agreed to chat to us here at Outlander Homepage, about the process of their creation and about her fascinating career.
Since the writing of a companion book is a different process to writing a novel, we began our interview by asking Tara about this process and about how she got into the business in the first place.
“I was lucky back in the early 2000's to write for Titan Magazines which had a lot of officially licensed magazines and books,” Tara explained. “Having worked with them on several licensed magazines from 2003, I was asked to co-author The Making of the Fantastic Four movie in 2005 and that led to my solo writing four companion books for the TV series, 24. I've written, or co-written 30 official companion books since then and each one is unique. But the throughline amongst them all is knowing the topic inside and out, figuring out what the book is going to be with an editor, and creating what’s known as a flat plan (or page by page breakdown of the book to determine topics and interviews). If it's a standard ‘making of’ book, I'll conduct phone and in-person interviews (when applicable) over a span of time until I run out of time with my deadlines (which are almost always very fixed). Or, if it's an ‘in-world’ book where I'm writing in a character's voice, then I have to perfect that voice and write the narrative in a way that feels organic to the source material and honors the intentions of the creators. Both types have their own challenges and it's sometimes hard to bring the right words forth, but you power through for those moments when it flows like water and hope it's not awful!”
By those definitions, the Outlander companions fall into the ‘making of’ category, and we wondered how Tara came to be involved in the Outlander world. As it turns out, it’s all thanks to her cousin!
“I'm an original Outlander fan,” Tara told us. “My cousin introduced me to Diana's books when she bought me a signed copy of Voyager during the book's original press tour and then directed me to go read the first two books. I fell in love with them just as she had. Over the years, I kept up with Diana's subsequent releases and the many tales of the books being adapted into a movie, and then perhaps a TV series. I was very excited to hear that it was picked up to series by Sony TV and STARZ with one of my long-time favorite TV genre writers, Ron Moore, at the helm. And then I was hired to co-write the ‘in-world’ book, The Blacklist: Elizabeth Keen's Dossier (another Sony TV series). I had a great relationship with Sony during the making of that book, so I pitched myself as the author of an Outlander TV companion if they ever decided to license one. Luckily, they did and recommended me as the author to Penguin Random House. The rest, as they say, is history!”
But Tara’s Outlander companions have an extra thrill for the avid fan, as the forewords are written by none other than Diana Gabaldon herself. We asked Tara how that came to be.
“Random House is Diana's parent publisher for all things Outlander publishing, including any books, companions or cookbooks licensed around the TV show, Outlander,” Tara said. “So, when my companion book for season one and two of the TV series was commissioned, my wonderful editor, Anne Speyer, asked Diana if she would like to write a Foreword. We all knew the path to adaptation was a long and interesting one, so we all thought she might like to tell in her own words in the book. She graciously agreed and has been an incredibly generous supporter of both TV companion volumes.”
So does this mean that Diana takes an active role in the creation of the companions?
“I believe she looked at the first book to approve placement and photos for her Foreword, and her interview for her penned script,” Tara replied. “She wasn't interviewed for the second companion because of her busy schedule. I’m not sure if she ever looked at the companion for seasons 3 and 4 until she saw the final print in her hands.”
As anyone who has read the Outlander TV companions will know, the books are filled with beautiful images from the sets. We wondered if Tara had the opportunity to see any of the locations up close whilst preparing the books and which of these were her favorites.
“Well, one of the realities of writing a book around a show that is produced in Scotland is that travel to the location is not an easy thing to do,” Tara explained. “When my contract is signed, it's not always when the show is in production, or it's not always conducive to me visiting them. Case in point, the first book started in earnest in December and was written until May. If I were to travel to Scotland in winter, close to when they were finishing the production of season 2, I would have been an imposition. It's freezing, locations are already brutal and they don't need me asking for their cast and crew time between takes or when they are finished shooting. It was actually easier for me to just conduct phone interviews when they had days off or short days, and that's how the first book was done. We decided that would also be best for the sequel companion book, but I did do several interviews in person with the cast and the writers for that book because they were on hiatus for some of my writing.
As for personal favorites, I adore all of Terry and Jon Gary's work. They've made masterful costumes and sets, respectively, every single season and it was an honor to showcase just some of their work in the photos of our book. I'm sad they have both moved on now, but thrilled we get to relish their work with rewatches and in the pages of my two companion guides.”
So, can we expect a third companion once season 6 has been filmed and aired?
“In all sincerity, I'm not sure if there will be a third book,” Tara replied, much to our concern. “I always hope, but that's entirely contingent on prior book sales and if Random House can make a profit. Neither of the companions made it to the New York Times bestseller list, which is often a benchmark of financial success for books like these. But, I am so thrilled that fans have rated the book so well and their support and feedback has been nothing short of stellar. So, the reality is, if the publisher finds the sales worthy, maybe? Companion books are a funny thing. Just because audiences love a TV series, that doesn't guarantee that will translate to a companion book purchase. But as Outlander is seen on more outlets like Netflix and Amazon Prime overseas, the fandom grows. I hope the sales are there for more, then maybe I'll get to do another one. That's my fondest wish, but even if that doesn't happen, I'm really proud of what we've put together for these two companions.”
It’s a pride that is entirely justified! Given that Tara has conducted many cast interviews, we wondered how different the interview process is from the writing process.
“Interviewing and writing are very different animals,” Tara replied. “When I prep for an interview, I have to make sure I am well-researched and know in what chapters of the book the material is going to live. I know that I need to try and ask questions that haven't been asked over and over by other reporters, so the value of the book is clear for people who might consider buying it. And interviews are a conversation. The better prepared I am, hopefully, the more comfortable it is for the interview subject to relax and know that I'm treating their work, and the making of the show, with the utmost respect. So initially, it's about comfort and me being creative with what I ask, and then over time, there's a trust and rapport that comes with the interview subjects that make for even better answers.
Writing is the pain of figuring out what is kept and what has to go! A book is finite so there are always things that don't make it to the finished book just because of space. And then it's trying to tell great stories. I like to be informative, and shed light on the production parameters of making a film or television show, so the audience has a greater appreciation for what they see in the frame. I'm also a college adjunct who teaches production for radio, television and film so I'm always explaining process to my students. I take lessons from that part of my career and try to marry my ability to explain the nuts and bolts of filmmaking with clarity to the page. Hopefully, that makes for a fun read that frames real-world context with the specifics of a show like Outlander.”
But Tara’s Outlander interviewing hasn’t been limited to pieces for her companions, having interviewed cast and crew for conventions as well. Surely there must be some memorable moments to share?
“Oh, I have tons of great memories related to Outlander now!” Tara confirmed. “I've been so lucky that I've gotten to cover the TV series as an entertainment journalist, which means I covered the show from before it even premiered. I talked to Caitriona and Sam before audiences got to see an episode so it's been a really special journey to watch, and touch base with them, across the entire life span of the series to date. They have always been gracious, generous and fun whenever I see or talk to them. It's also been a dream come true to be in Diana's orbit. I've done two book signings with her in Scottsdale, AZ and to have the intimate opportunity to sit beside her on a stage, and observe how she interacts with her fandom and watch how much they adore her, has been a gift. And I got to have a late night dinner with her at Denny's. Life doesn't get any better than that, frankly.”
Given that the current pandemic has called a halt to filming everywhere, we asked Tara what she has been working on in more recent times.
“For the last three years, I've been embedded at Marvel Studios writing the history of the studio and their films,” she said. “It's been the biggest writing project of my life, gratefully shared with my frequent collaborator, Paul Terry. We've been landing the 200,000 words of that book this year so it's continued to take a lot of our time, but it's been a life-changing experience.”
And speaking of life changing experiences, we couldn’t resist asking Tara one last Outlander related question. If she could travel through the stones, where would she want to travel to, and why?
“What a great question!” Tara replied. “I've never been asked that! You know, my answer in a post COVID world is a lot different than what I would have answered in 2019 - LOL! If the stones could fast-forward me to the other side of this global mess, that would be wonderful! But I know they don't work that way in the constraints of the books, so I think I would love to see something really geeky, like have the stones plop me out on the set of one of my favorite films being made, like an original Star Wars film, or Aliens, or A Room with a View, and just observe them getting made with my own eyes. Yes, I am that much of a nerd!” she laughed.
Tara interviews Outlander cast at Comic con.....
We’d like to thank Tara so much for being so generous with her time in answering our questions and we look forward to seeing her next creations - whenever they appear!
This interview was conducted by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher-librarian who lives in Australia. She agrees wholeheartedly with Tara’s wish for the Stones to be able to fast forward to the other side of Covid and hopes that Tara, and indeed every Outlander fan, stays safe and well.