Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The gift of the Gab

Tonight Dunedinites were treated to an evening with American writer Diana Gabaldon. There was a huge buzz of excitement in the Glenroy auditorium as a hugely appreciative crown lapped up every word from this pocket dynamo. And she was just that, very small, 5 foot 2 inches, beautiful, ageless and I finally discovered someone who can talk more and faster than I do!

Firstly, pronouncing her name. I've spent the last fifteen or so years thinking it was Ga-bald-don. But no, it is more like Gabble-dohne (rhymes with stone). Glad I cleared that one up before I make an idiot of myself for the radio interview tomorrow.

Diana entertained a capacity crowd with her energetic, generous and very funny account of how she got into writing, and in particular her Outlander series of books - or Cross Stitch series as we know them here. We learned all sorts of things, from her keeping the college football team concentrating during her anatomy lectures by giving a concise history of contraception, to her main reason for choosing a young, tall, red-haired Scotsman as a main character in her novels - Kilts, need I say more! She also shared as to why it became about time travel, because of this stroppy woman character named Claire, who insisted in talking to a room full of eighteenth century Scots (in kilts, naturally) and insulting them in modern day language.

Diana's method of writing involved just seeing where things would take her, which kept it exciting, because she didn't even know what was happening, and she was writing it. It was lovely, and inspiring to hear her talk so passionately about the characters she had created, and thrill she got in their journey.

I've been a reader of her series since the early nineties, when Cross Stitch came out, and have found Diana's natural ability at story telling, and in creating fascinating and fully fleshed out characters has meant I feel like they are my friends, and I can't wait to start into a new book, and then feel a pang of loss at knowing I've got another three years or so to find out what has happened to them next. I finished reading her latest installment, An Echo in the Bone this morning, and enjoyed it just as much as the others.

These are large books, Over 800 pages in this new book, but, when thinking about it, it all belonged there, every scene added to the wonderful sense of reading, and being part of something epic. And listening to Diana speak about the detail she loves and giving the sense of truly feeling what this was like to the reader, the smells, the texture, the colour, the sound, the harshness of life in that era, and her passion for it made it obvious why she is such a storyteller and why her books are so popular.

As for me, I look forward to pre-recording a radio interview with Diana tomorrow, I look at my recently finished copy of An Echo in the Bone, sigh that I've got to wait years for the next one, and send Diana little thought waves...stop touring...get writing, lady.


Mary McCallum said...

It sounds like one of those memorable author talks Vanda. Thank you for the post. I have never read Gabaldon - sounds like I should!

Vanda Symon said...

I'd recommend them!

You get completely enveloped in them. Only trouble is, when you finish the book you feel bereft, like you've just parted from your best friends.