Highlands & Islands

Outlander author Diana Gabaldon on her love of comics

Image copyright Starz/AP
Image caption Diana Gabaldon wrote scripts for Walt Disney comic books when she was in her 20s

US author Diana Gabaldon writes the best-selling Outlander books, which have now been adapted for a new TV series in the States.

In Scotland to promote the latest book in her series, she has told BBC News Scotland of how she wrote comic book stories about Disney's Scrooge McDuck and was courted by the home of Iron Man, Captain America and Guardians of the Galaxy - Marvel.

When she was three years old, Gabaldon's mother Jacqueline set out to teach her young girl to read.

Walt Disney comic books played a big part in those early lessons.

"Among the books she read to me when I was three were comic books, and I continued to read those books through to my late 20s," said the writer during a break in her tour promoting her new book, Written In My Own Heart's Blood.

A brief guide to Outlander

Image copyright AP/Sony
Image caption The Outlander books have been adapted for a US TV series

The novels are among several books written by Diana Gabaldon, a former university professor with three science degrees who has previously written scientific papers on computer software.

The Outlander series follows young Englishwoman Claire Beauchamp Randall who, during a second honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands, is transported back in time from 1946 to 1743.

Gabaldon drew some of her inspiration to place her time travelling tale in Scotland after watching a re-run of a 1960s Doctor Who episode starring Patrick Troughton as the time lord and actor Frazer Hines as his Scottish, kilt-wearing companion.

Written In My Own Hearts Blood is the eighth novel in the series.

A TV series adapted from the books is showing in the US.

In her late 20s Gabaldon went from consuming the books to writing the scripts for the stories, after first writing what she describes as a "very rude" letter to the comics' creator, Del Connell.

She said: "I wrote: 'Dear Sir, I've been reading your comic books for the last 25 years and they've been getting worse and worse. I don't know that I could do better myself, but I'd like to try'."

An amused Connell invited her to submit a script and while he did not commission the work, he explained how Gabaldon could improve on it.

Connell did buy the aspiring writer's second attempt at a script and, for two to three years, she wrote the stories for Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse comics.

Another of the characters Gabaldon took on was the Scots accented Uncle Scrooge McDuck.

Image copyright Hoang Nguyen
Image caption Illustrations from the author's graphic novel The Exile

She stopped writing comic book scripts when Disney decided to re-run older stories.

Gabaldon said: "Marvel Comics had heard about me and asked if I would write for them.

"While I absolutely believed in Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck, I didn't believe in Spider-Man, so I didn't write for Marvel Comics."

Years later, while in the midst of negotiating film rights to her Outlander books, Gabaldon was approached by an editor, Betsy Mitchell, about writing a graphic novel based on the same characters.

What emerged was The Exile.

Vietnamese-American artist Hoang Nguyen illustrated Gabaldon's story.

Image copyright Hoang Nguyen
Image caption Hoang Nguyen's sketches for The Exile
Image copyright Hoang Nguyen
Image caption Gabaldon was impressed with the artist's style of illustration
Image copyright Hoang Nguyen
Image caption The Exile features characters from the Outlander novels

The writer said: "He has a very painterly style, and is very talented at creating landscapes and giving characters different expressions. Often comic book characters have a few stock expressions - frowning or screaming as they go into battle."

Gabaldon would like to write another graphic novel script, but said the next few years will involve getting four more books written.

As she nears the end of her latest book tour she will be coming to Inverness and making a trip to Culloden Moor, the site of the 1746 battle between the armies of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the government.

Large parts of the Outlander stories are set in the 1700s.

Gabaldon said: "I have been to Culloden many times. It is a deeply haunting place."

Related Topics

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites