National Press Club

Best-selling author Diana Gabaldon recounts launch of career

June 20, 2014 | By Joseph Luchok |

Best-selling author Diana Gabaldon told an audience in a packed National Press Club ballroom at a June 18 Book Rap that she had no idea what it took to become a novelist, so she wrote her first book to find out.

Her latest novel, "Written in My Own Heart's Blood," debuted at the top of the sales rankings, which contributed to the big crowd that filled the ballroom, including the balcony. The overflow spilled into the Holeman Lounge to watch the event on a closed-circuit broadcast.

On a hot and humid evening, hundreds of fans lined up 14th St. and snaked around the corner down F Street waiting to enter the Club for the event.

Gabaldon focused on her her development as a novelist.

A university professor with degrees in zoology, marine biology and quantitative behavioral ecology before she started writing, she decided historical fiction would be a good genre for her first a novel.

An old episode of "Dr. Who," in which he picks up an 18th-century Scotsman, gave her the idea for a setting. Research led her to the conflicts of the time. Then she decided to introduce an Englishwoman for further intrigue.

As she wrote, she found the Englishwoman kept responding in modern language, so she decided to make her a time traveler. She now had the basic elements of "Outlander," her first novel.

Gabaldon also discussed the importance of hiring an agent. She said an agent can get your book read by publishers and secure you a better contract. She landed a three-book contract, and her career as a novelist took off.

During the question and answer session, she was asked if she was doing anything to bring more men into her fan base. She said the biggest thing she accomplished was to get her books moved from the romance section in bookstores.

Heather Forsgren Weaver of the Book and Author Committee introduced Gabaldon.