- Outlander -Outlander Author Diana Gabaldon Tells Us Her Thought Process For Book 10
"You can ask, but it won't get you anywhere." That's what Diana Gabaldon tweeted to a fan who teasingly asked about the status of Book 10 in the Outlander series after the author had announced that she had just finished the ninth book. But did I let that — or her hashtag of #Iwouldntbotherreally — stop me? Nay! For when you're given the opportunity to question Gabaldon about the final Outlander book, you take it.
Gabaldon and I spoke in April, two weeks after she had finished Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (Bees). I had promised I wouldn't ask when she intends to begin writing the unnamed tenth book, but I was curious to know if finishing Bees provided any clarity for her on the final installment of Jamie and Claire's story.
"Well, see, the thing is, I don't plan these out in any kind of detail before writing them, the detail happens while I'm writing them," she says. "I haven't even begun to mentally engage with Book 10 as yet."
Over the years, Gabaldon has shared quite a bit about her writing process. She doesn't create outlines. She doesn't map out events. She works on parts of the story where she can "see things happening" and then pieces it together — once referring to it on Twitter like a game of Tetris. She has admitted online that this strategy might not work for every writer. But it certainly works for the former university professor with three science degrees turned prolific fiction author.
So when she claims there's still a lot of uncertainty surrounding what will occur in Book 10, you tend to believe her due to the way she writes. "I literally have no idea how much stuff there might be in it," she says. "I know the people that I am dealing with. But it's a matter of who do I intend to focus on? And how many of them?"
Since Gabaldon previously told me that Claire is definitely, maybe, probably not dying in Bees, Claire and Jamie will get their page time. The author also knows how their story will end, saying on Twitter in 2018 that she "wrote it sometime ago," so their happy (albeit flood-inducing) ending is guaranteed. But it's all those other characters' storylines that she needs to figure out.
"For instance, there's Fergus and Marsali, who are working as printers during the American Revolution, which was deeply interesting and very risky," Gabaldon says. "So do I want to spend a fair amount of time with them exploring what happens to them and so forth? Or do I not?"
"Would I rather be back on Fraser's Ridge dealing with the impact of what happens in Book 9?" she asks. "Of course, we'll do some of that. But how much of it?"
"And then, of course, there's William and Lord John and where do they come in? I have ideas about where they come in given what happened to them in Bees. There's things that will obviously need to be attended to, but I don't know how complicated that might be."
Bees will be published on Nov. 23 and although Gabaldon releases her Daily Lines— and her American publisher Penguin Random House just posted the entire first chapter in the newly launched Official Outlander Book Group on Facebook — she's not one to spoil her story. So she's understandably a bit vague about the events of Bees and how they'll influence the tenth and final book. But one thing she's willing to reveal is that Book 10 will finally see the end of the Revolutionary War.
"I only know one thing about Book 10 at the moment and that's something that happens at the Battle of Yorktown," Gabaldon says. "It was the last and conclusive battle of the American Revolution." Yorktown occurred in September and October of 1781 and it "will probably be quite late in that book." With Bees ending "somewhere in the early part of 1781," the year 1781 seems likely to be a busy one for the Frasers.
As for other loose ends she'll need to tie up, one biggie is the whole reason Claire was able to meet Jamie in the first place — her ability to travel through the stones. "There's the time travel element as well," Gabaldon says. "How much, if at all, does the future obtrude?" The released Bees opening chapter has Roger saying the MacKenzies are back home on the 18th-century Ridge "for good." But there's a whole wide world of time travelers out there that could cause problems for the family. Or, perhaps, as one fan theory suggests, Claire might find herself being forced to leave the 1700s for her own time by the end of the series.
The last thing in the final Outlander novel will be how Jamie's ghost appeared in Inverness in the 20th century — something Gabaldon and I have gone over quite extensively in the past. But obligation to the ghost-loving fandom drives me to ask her about it once again. She confirms Jamie's specter will be there to close out the story, but... "That's extremely brief," she says. "It's not going to impact anything coming up up to that."
But let's not put the ghost before the horse and rather, embrace the novel that readers have spent the last seven years waiting for — Bees. Because Gabaldon isn't jumping on starting Book 10 right away. As she stated in an email update following our phone conversation, she intends to carve out at least a portion of her summer to "relax and enjoy grandchildren's birthdays." Other items on her agenda? "Closet cleaning (bear in mind, mine haven't been thoroughly cleared out in four years or so...) and being able to read the pile of great books I've accumulated (but been unable to touch, for fear of being sucked in and not being able to put them down again to work...) over the last two years." She'll also be signing tens of thousands of preordered copies of Bees and there are events, like a sold-out storytelling cruise, and possible book tours that will come in the fall 2021.
Even with a packed schedule, she was enjoying the feeling of being finished the ninth installment when we spoke, noting her obligations now are "different than the act of creation. I mean, you're not digging it out of your bone marrow." So when it comes to wrapping up Jamie and Claire's intensely passionate and fraught story, the author might be feeling an echo in the bone for years to come.