By Rebecca Monks
November 25, 2015 To The List newspaper
In a small, dimly lit room under Stirling Castle's Great Hall, Diana Gabaldon is holding a lecture.
- I'll take another Coke light, if it's possible?
She asks if it is possible? But after all, she is the author of Outlander, a series of novels that have had such an important impact on Scottish culture and tourism that she is now a literary royalty. This coke light could be served in a crystal cup filled with jewelry and everyone would find it perfect!
For those who do not know, the Outlander series follows the story of Claire Randall, a WWII nurse who travels through the stones and the weather, from 1945 until 1743. Claire leaves her husband Frank at Twentieth century. and ends up falling in love with an 18th century highlander named Jamie Fraser.
The Jacobite rebellion is getting ready, and it generates a lot of romanticism and sexual tension.
The story of Claire and Jamie is told in eight novels (another is on the way), and the second season of the TV adaptation of Starz is currently in production.
The series stars Caitriona Balfe as Claire, Sam Heughan as Jamie and Tobias Menzies in the double role of Frank and the villain of history, Black Jack Randall. Although the series is only available on Amazon Prime, it is still a huge success and is driving a huge boom in tourism.
Scottish tourist houses have reported a 44% increase in the number of summer visitors to Doune Castle, which plays a key role in the show as Leoch Castle (and this is just one example).
People who come specially to visit some old buildings used in the show are known as 'Outlander Effect', and Diana is no stranger to it.
'It follows me everywhere,' she said.
In this regard, she tells me about her day spent filming somewhere in Scotland (no, she would not say where).
'A friend and a writer went to the tea shop around the corner,' she says. We bought some snacks and gave them a £ 20 bill. After a rather banal discussion, the owner realized who I was. Suddenly, she said, 'I just saw your name on your headphones, I just wanted to tell you that we offer you everything you want in the store in thanks for all the good deals we've done through you during last months and years. '
Laughing, she tells how her husband teases her for her economic contribution to Scotland, but tourism is not the only thing her writings have generated.
'Everyone who comes to me with my books seems to be living this flourishing creativity,' she says. They want to make t-shirts or pictures related to the books or the series, or they want to make videos.
- At some point, a few years ago, a gentleman had in mind to make the musical Outlander, she says again. His idea was to start with a CD of what you call a cycle of songs, with a dozen highlights of the series. It started well but it did not succeed.
Even though the musical Outlander will not see the light of day, the TV series is extremely popular. Caitriona and Sam are famous as Claire and Jamie!
Does Diana feel that there is a cross between the actors and the characters they represent?
- With Caitriona, it's pretty divided. There is Caitriona and there is Claire, she says. This is partly because she is not physically like Claire. She's a wonderful actress and she's a very good person for Claire, but there are Claire's elements that do not translate on the screen. For example, some people notice that Claire does not seem to have the same sense of humor in the series as in the books, which has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the script or the very good acting of Caitriona is to do with Claire's form of humor, which is based on what she thinks. On screen, you can not do it without constant voice-off, which would be very irritating. But it is true that it contributes to the fact that the Claire played by Catriona is distinct from that of the book.
This is not the case of Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie Fraser, idol with red hair and sexy kilt.
- Sam, was the first actor found for the series. They sent me his audition tape and said, 'We think we found Jamie.' And this, only four days after they began to search. I was surprised because we thought it would take six months.
- As I was on the road, I did not wait to watch the audition tape so I looked for it on my iPhone while I was still on the way. He still had little video of his film experiences and on his page was a series of extremely bizarre still photos. He was a very magnetic, charming young man and a very chameleon actor, but he was different, physically, in every aspect. Some of his photos were really strange! I sat there typing a text: 'This man is grotesque, what are you thinking?' Now it's a joke between Sam and me.
It did not take long for the word 'grotesque' to disappear (and rightly so), and as the fans of the series can attest, it is difficult to imagine that this adjective is applied to the actor !
- Once arrived, I loaded the computer without knowing what I was going to see, she explains. Five seconds later, I said to myself: 'He does not look like his pictures, he is superb!' Five more seconds, and I had chosen it: it was simply Jamie Fraser. He had perfectly successful this particular scene. He had the right combination of threat, sex, everything!
And that's perhaps what Outlander understands itself: a winning combination of threat and sex, plus a good deal of history and romance.