"Is It Like You Thought It Would Be?" by Diana Gabaldon

OutlanderThe long-awaited adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's beloved Outlander series kicks off August 9th at 9pm ET/PT on Starz. The author shared with us her thoughts on seeing her books come to life...


Ever since clips and trailers and stills of the new STARZ “Outlander” TV show have been released, people have been eagerly asking me, “So—is it just like you imagined?” “What’s it like to see these people who’ve lived in your head for so long come to life?” “Did you ever imagine it would be like this?”

Frankly, it’s a bit like the scene in Outlander where Claire asks Jamie—immediately after they’ve made love together for the first time (and his first time ever)—“So was it like you thought it would be?” And—after making her promise not to laugh at him, he confesses, “Almost. I didna realize ye did it face to face. I thought ye must do it the back way—like horses, ye ken?”

As in, yes, it’s a lot like I imagined it (“it” being the show itself), and at the same time, quite different. How so?

1. I have friends who are screenwriters, friends who have worked in the film world, and friends who have had films made of their work. Based on everything I’d heard and read, I was expecting to have nothing whatever to do with the production myself. I was familiar with Ron D. Moore’s work, so had high hopes that it would be good, but figured all I could do was cross my fingers.

Instead, I was startled—though very gratified—at the degree of involvement offered me. Ron and his production partner, Maril Davis, came to my house and spent two days with me, talking through ideas, characters, storylines, etc. We were much on the same wavelength, and as the production got underway, they were more than courteous about including me, asking my opinion on things (though they are, of course, under no legal compulsion to take account of it), showing me scripts and footage, inviting me to the set in Scotland and generally making me feel welcome.

MyOwnHeartsBlood2. I always want to roll my eyes when people say, “Isn’t it exciting seeing your characters come to life?”—because as far as I’m concerned, they’ve always been alive. Still, I know what these people mean, and yeah—it is exciting. Is it like I expected?  No, it’s much better…

Everyone has a mental image of what Jamie Fraser and Claire Beauchamp Randall look like. I actually know what they look like. Now, plainly, no actor alive will look exactly like anyone’s mental image of a character, and I certainly didn’t expect the actors chosen for these parts to look “like” my knowledge of Jamie and Claire. And they don’t.

But. Ron and Maril sent me Sam Heughan’s audition tapes, when they cast him as Jamie. Frankly, I had doubts, having seen some IMDB photos of the man…but five seconds in, and it wasn’t Sam, it was Jamie, right there. Amazing!

See, actors do magic, no less than writers do. And beyond certain minimal physical requirements, it doesn’t really matter what they look like—only that they can be the character they play. And every single actor in this show can do that.

3. Now, I do understand what “adaptation” means, and a bit about how one translates text to a visual medium (I used to write comic book scripts for Walt Disney, and have in fact done a graphic novel (The Exile) version of Outlander). But what I didn’t realize was just how engaging a good adaptation could be.

Ron’s adaptation is very faithful to the original story; anyone who’s read Outlander will recognize it instantly. But there are the small changes, the insertions, the moving of scenes for dramatic cohesion—and all together, these “different” touches give the show a constant sense of novelty and discovery. I watch footage, knowing what’s going on—but wanting to know what happens next.

And you can’t ask more of a good story than that.

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Comments (24)

I just watched the sneak preview of Episode 1. To anyone who hasn't yet seen it - no disappointment here! I'm so grateful for Diana's ability to weave history with a compelling story so seamlessly, and for Ron Moore's passion for the project - also having Diana work with him. This is why the Harry Potter series worked so well as films (J.K. Rowling's generosity with what she shared with the filmmakers). This is why Peter Jackson could make The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings (passion for the project and a strong respect for the books, to keep as true to them as possible). I had hoped I'd live long enough to see LoTR & HP come to life - this is making my next great wish come true! To see Outlander made real is a joy. Kudos to cast, crew and the country of Scotland, for still having wild places!

Posted by: Candice Lynn | Wednesday August 6, 2014 at 8:19 AM

I kept telling everyone about these books after I listened to all 8 day and night for 3 weeks. It took a friend of mine a year of "I really liked these books" for me to get and listen to them. I liked the books so much I bought 3 of the Outlander as gifts for friends who were resistant at some level. I love the listen as it took me there and I was one of them. I am 70 here but 25 again with them. I also hope I am here for the finish but the ending of Imohb leaves a calm in my heart but still looking for the rest of the story. Please hurry Diane for your older fans

Posted by: I can't wait | Tuesday August 5, 2014 at 9:09 AM

For years my visualization of the characters was kind of fuzzy-- Jamie had red hair and blue eyes but I didn't really know what he looked like until Sam was cast. Now my mental image looks like Sam. For Claire, I recently realized my mental image was ME! With the first person narration, I was always looking through her eyes. (I also realized after the trailers were released that my Claire has an American accent. :/ But Caitriona IS Claire and portrays her so beautifully and expressively. I can't wait to see the rest of the series. Episode 1 was fantastic.

Posted by: Deirdre | Thursday July 31, 2014 at 7:23 AM

I am so psyched...just signed up for STARZ so I won't miss a thing!

Posted by: Lukie | Wednesday July 30, 2014 at 6:04 PM

Ii found that so many ladies have reread these books as I have. I have read MOBY twice since it came out! These
people are like family to me. I have loved. Hated,(Jack Randle), cried laughed, all the emotions one can have. I thank you Diana for your devotion for keeping them real. I am 82 and in poor health so I can only hope to be here for # nine. If I am not, my granddaughter will enjoy them for both of us. For now,..... Thanks.

Posted by: Peg Van Horn | Wednesday July 30, 2014 at 3:32 PM

I have been so enthused about this series of books like none other I have ever read. I've also recommended them to many others but I think they are leery of the quantity & volume of the books. I did have to order Starz in order to watch this series. Is only book one covered in this series?

Posted by: Jackie Morris | Wednesday July 30, 2014 at 11:38 AM

In March, I bought concert tickets for 8/9 and when the Outlander premiere date was announced, I later went, "Oh, wow, I'll have to sell those tickets." My husband said, "Why not just record the show and watch it after the concert?" I just looked at him. He SO doesn't get it.

Posted by: Linda Webb | Tuesday July 29, 2014 at 9:51 PM

I love the books so much, and like many of my friends, hesitant to watch the series. I've been disappointed so many times in the outcome of my favorite books to movies/series. Unlike many others, I can't "see" the characters yet in the trailers, because, like all readers, I have my own ideas of what the characters should look and sound like. All that being said, I'm going to suspend expectations and preconceived notions, and keeping an open mind, tune into the first episode. I'm hopeful, very very hopeful. I've had one successful book to movie/series, so I BELIEVE it can happen again.

Posted by: Diane Huff | Tuesday July 29, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Truly can't wait until 8/9. The characters are exactly as I imaginged them as i read all 8 books. Such a good job in casting! Hope there will be more than one book on TV. Thank you Diana.

Posted by: Sandy | Tuesday July 29, 2014 at 1:59 PM

So excited to check out the show! Ordered Starz and have it set to record. As far as Im concerned if Jamie has a Scottish accent and red hair that suits me just fine! Thank you so much for your fabulous stories I too get so sad when I finish one of the books and feel like Im losing my dearest friends.

Posted by: Gracia Brown | Monday July 28, 2014 at 10:46 PM

What I wish someone would bring up in these interviews is the fact that some people may get lazy and just watch Outlanders on TV instead of reading the books. Please if you are reading this, don't do that. You can not imagine what a fine writer Diana is. When she describes something, you are taken in and exposed to every sight, sound, texture, smell and possible taste involved in the event. She makes each scene come alive like few writers can. She writes as well as "Charles Dickens", actually better. And to think that these were her first fiction pieces is amazing! I hope watching the series will entice people to read your books and not just watch them dramatically portrayed. It is a totally different experience. Thank you DG and can't wait to see in a few years what you do with book nine (a very pleasant surprise at the end of bk 8!)

Posted by: sue schelvan | Monday July 28, 2014 at 10:02 PM

Thank you so much for the gift that is the Outlander series and the Lord John series. I love the way you utilize and manipulate the written word. I feel that I am watching a film in my imagination when reading, and your books always has the mind cinematography due to your use of language. Thank you for your patience with us over eager and demand fans. We just love your work so much, that we sometimes forget you're a person with a life and obligations apart from your career as an author. I always try to leave time between reading a novel and watching the movie version as the differences are less startling if there is space between. And I acknowledge the differences in the art forms. Most times I end up enjoying both, especially if I allow them the right to each just be what they are. I am excited to see the series on the screen. I understand they have always been alive for you, because I have felt the same way about the characters. These are my dear friends, and I can't wait for each new installment to catch up on what is happening in their lives. God bless you, Diana. You are blessing in my life and I am sure to lives of all your fans.

Posted by: Lisa M. Moody | Monday July 28, 2014 at 6:45 PM

I saw a new clip today and was blown away by how Sam disappeared and just became Jamie! He didn't even look like the same person to me. He had all the charm and charisma that the Jamie on the page does. I am so excited to see the rest of the show!

Posted by: Tracey | Monday July 28, 2014 at 6:08 PM

Thank you so much for twenty years of absolutely wonderful love of "Outlander" books and everything it is. It is, they are, and they will be. I look so forward to seeing the STARZ show. Told my husband that this is like his Michigan State football Golden Super Bowl (which NCAA doesn't have) or like his US Open golf, or the British Open. To me this trumps all. He has every year, and I have waited 20 years. I am so happy with the actors, the producer, the director, oh, and the music too. Costumes look fabulous, and I've only seen the various clips and snips here and there. My appetite is wet, indeed, and I am anxiously, yet calmly preparing and waiting. Still can't decide whether to see the August 2nd showing, or hold off until the Main Event on August 9th!
Thank you Diana, for bringing Jamie and Claire, and their families into our lives, and now on the STARZ screen. "Je Suis Prest".

Posted by: Marylou Wade | Monday July 28, 2014 at 6:06 PM

So happy for you and for all your fans, like me! You are beaming and I don't blame you! You ARE the star here and am so glad you are happy with what you've seen and experienced! THAT is what makes me KNOW I will love this show as I do your books! Excited to see what the next year brings you and the whole cast and crew! VERY exciting times! Thank you for being such an available author, keeping us posted on things so frequently, that really, you do not have to do, but we, as fans, appreciate sooooo much!

Posted by: Cyndy Argana Bensema | Monday July 28, 2014 at 6:02 PM

As I know this will repeat what has already been observed, Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! .I am sooo sad I can't get starz.I love the trailers.Thank you for sharing your gift with the world!

Posted by: Sherry Lowell | Monday July 28, 2014 at 5:16 PM

Diana, I just want to say that Claire (Caitrona) is just perfect in my mind, as is Jamie. (Sam) I am an avid reader and have been most of my life; but, I have such a hard time reading anything for a while after finishing one of your books. I cannot explain it, is it possible to LOVE these characters? I really love Jamie, Claire, Bree, Roger, Jemmy, Mandy, young Ian, Jenny, Rollo, Adso and all the rest!
It's not like I have nothing else to do; I am a RN and have a home and family. I am a fast reader and have excellent comprehension, so (unfortunately) I finish your books before I want to. (even though I did stretch MOBY to 1 month.....Hello the house!!!)
I just lost my job after 24 years as nurse mgr. in an OB/GYN office, so I just wanted to tell you that after just rereading the whole series, I especially remember a chapter in one of the books entitled "Transverse Lie," and I could really empathize with Claire's fears b/c that would have been a nightmare presentation! (C/S for sure these days)
Thanks for everything! You are a wonderful author and I am SO HAPPY to finally see Outlander come to life! I ordered STARZ just to make sure sure I could watch every episode!!!


Linda J. Mack RN

Posted by: Linda Mack | Monday July 28, 2014 at 4:52 PM

I have read the books many times, both a physical book and an e-reader. Then I purchased the audiobooks with Davina Porter as narrator. One narrator to play all parts? I thought it would not be possible. And then I listened, and was blown away by her performance. The television adaptation will be no less magical, even though different.

You know, I would not reread these books over and over again, if there was not the possibility of gleaning something new from each reading. They would be boring if they were not so complex and the writing so well done. I love that Diana is so in love with the English language.

Posted by: Elizabeth Price | Monday July 28, 2014 at 4:10 PM

I felt the same way when I heard Peter Jackson was going to film The Lord of the Rings. I thought, "oh no! It will be ruined!" I vowed not to watch it. Then I saw "The Making of..." and decided I would give it a try. I was truly impressed and loved the movies (now I can't wait to see The Hobbit movies!). I think if Diana is pleased with the filming, then it has to be awesome. I am really looking forward to watching the story unfold on the screen.

Posted by: Gail Steckel | Monday July 28, 2014 at 3:57 PM

I have read and re-read these books so many times. I am excited about the series and at the same time worried I will not like the series because I just adore the book.

Diana has created a world unto it's own. A fantastic story. It is completely full. I imagine every reader has their own view of what Jamie and Claire look like, how they act, speak, etc. This is from the wonderful words Diana has provided to us.

I will be a sad day for many when Diana writes the very last words of Jamie and Claire's love story. She will know without a doubt she has done her job well.

Posted by: Jill Toler | Monday July 28, 2014 at 3:31 PM

Wow I'm excited you did a graphic novel, I'll toddle down to the library and check it out! I've been fiddling with plot and pictures for one.

Posted by: Tricia | Monday July 28, 2014 at 2:45 PM

I can't get Starz at the moment so I HOPE they either replay it or make it available in DVD eventually. I hope that if they do release it to DVD that they have filmed some of the more x-rated sex scenes that cannot be played on TV but include those in specified versions of the release. My husband and I would LOVE that.

Glad it is very close to the books; mists of Avalon had a main plot point butchered and it was a HUGE disappointment to fans.

Posted by: carecare7 | Monday July 28, 2014 at 2:38 PM

I agree with you Diana. And I did read Exile. It was good and helped me see what the characters looked like. I will always have them pictured like I first did when I read OUTLANDER, but I think these stars have the characters personalities down pat. Can't wait to see it. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: Sylvia Fisher | Monday July 28, 2014 at 2:34 PM

I'm pleased that you like what's being done with your "baby." I am impressed with the casting, and already in love with the actors they chose. Yes, I pictured them differently in my mind, but not very much different.

I will be saving for a new DVR because I plan to wear out the current one watching the episodes over ... and over ... and over.

Thank you for being so open with your fans. You allow us to feel part of the action and we love you for it.

Posted by: Cathie Jones | Monday July 28, 2014 at 2:28 PM

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