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"Outlander" Author Diana Gabaldon: Mom and Inspiration

I've never really outgrown my teen dreams of fame and fortune. I wanted to be a movie star and a novelist, instead I became a librarian, an extra in a couple of commercials and a blogger, which while obviously glamourous, certainly doesn't come with the perks of stardom. Now that I am about to become a mother (49 days to go!) I've been worrying that my life is going to be only about our son and that the old me will just be... gone.

Last month, going to hear my favorite author speak made me realize motherhood doesn't have to mean the end of my creative dreams. Diana Gabaldon, mother of three, is the author of the best-selling novels that have been turned into Starz's hit new show "Outlander." The books combine multiple genres, romance, historical fiction, adventure, mystery and science fiction. It's the story of a World War II nurse flung back in time to 1743 into the arms of the hottest fictional ginger of all time.

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If you haven't seen the show you are missing out. Not just on Sam Heughan's fine derriere running around 18th century Scotland, but on a fantastic engaging story with an admirable heroine, well developed characters,a fascinating historical plot, time travel, costumes to die for and smoking hot sex scenes. The 16-episode first season concluded this Saturday and—no spoilers—it was gripping, gut-wrenching, groundbreaking television and I can't wait until next season! I've been a fan of the books since I was in high school so when I saw that Diana Gabaldon was giving a talk entitled "An Outlandish Evening" sponsored by one of our local libraries, I sent the link to my husband and he got us tickets. There were about a a thousand middle aged women in the crowd drinking wine and buzzing with excitement. My husband looked around and whispered in my ear, "I think I'm the only man here." I privately congratulated myself once again on picking such an excellent mate and felt young and full of vigor.

Diana entered accompanied by a kilted bagpipe player and all the old ladies swooned at the sight of the author and presumably at the thought of what a Scot wears under his kilt. Ever since Gabaldon was a girl, she wanted to be a writer, but knew her family would never approve of such a career. Instead, she earned three degrees in science: Zoology, Marine Biology and a Ph.D. in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology. She spent 12 years as university professor with an expertise in scientific computation.

She makes me feel like it's not too late for me to realize my creative dreams even though I'm about to have a kid.

In 1988 she decided to give novel writing a go. She approached it rather scientifically, deciding to write a practice novel so she could learn how novel writing worked. Gabaldon decided to try her hand at historical fiction because she thought that would be easy as the plots were already in place. She picked Scotland after watching an old episode of "Dr. Who" which featured a young red-headed character in a kilt who she found fetching. She chose the Jacobite rising of 1745 to provide conflict but ran into the problem that her heroine's voice was just too modern. So Gabaldon decided to make her a time traveler, figuring no one was going to read the book anyway and she had promised herself she would finish the book to make sure she knew what it took to write a novel.

This was in the early days of the Internet and she was part of a writing community on Compuserv. She posted an excerpt of her writing in response to an argument she was having online with a man on what it feels like to be pregnant. Many of the writers liked what she had written and asked for more, so she began posting bits and pieces of what would later become "Outlander." Through the Compuserv community she got a literary agent and even though her manuscript was unfinished, she was offered a book deal for three books—a writer's fairy tale.

For me, the most magical part of this story is that while she was writing this book she was a wife and mother of three children. She kept the project hidden from her husband and family by writing in the garage at odd hours and pretending to leave the house only to sneak back into the garage to write in peace. When she had to go to the bathroom she drove to the mall! Gabaldon didn't want her husband to know she was writing the book because he was starting his own business and she didn't want him to worry that she was doing too much between working and raising their children. He accidentally discovered the project because they shared a computer and she had her files titled "Jamie." He wanted to know who this Jamie was and the jig was up.

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I love the books, I love the show and I love the momspiration. She makes me feel like it's not too late for me to realize my creative dreams even though I'm about to have a kid. Diana Gabaldon began her writing career later in life and has been a smashing success with legions of fans and now the hit series which has brought even more attention to her wonderful writing. She even made a cameo appearance on the show and of course I was thinking, oh that could be me if I ever write something that gets adapted for the screen! She is a creative inspiration and role model to mothers and writers everywhere; no matter how outlandish something may seem you never know how it could take the world by storm.

Image via Rebekah Henderson

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