This evening (Saturday) at 9 p.m. Starz epic series “Outlander” returns. I must admit, after more than a year, I couldn’t wait, and ended up watching it last night instead of working on last-minute revisions for “At This Moment.”
So what does this have to do with me or with my books? Actually, there is a very real connection here: Sex.
When I first began writing the words flowed rather quickly, but there was one part I was struggling with. I’d never written anything like that before, but sex was very key to Kate and Billy’s story. I’d never been a romance reader — or at least not a fan of the old-fashioned bodice rippers. (I’ve since come to love well-written romances of all kinds, thanks to being introduced to some very talented authors who know how to bring the sizzle without once mentioning any “throbbing members,” or worse.)
I expressed my discomfort about writing sex scenes to my friend Liz, an English teacher who’s about a fraction of an inch away from her doctorate. “Read Diana Gabaldon,” she said. Never heard of her, I said.
I ran into my friend Kerry one day at Hallmark. She asked how the book was going, and I told her the same thing. I was stressing over the sex scenes. Kerry, also an English teacher, told me to read Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander.” Hmm.
Later that summer we were visiting family in Maine (Hint: book three in the series, “All I Ever Wanted,” takes place in Maine.) My cousin — yep, another English teacher — read several scenes in the book. When I repeated my mantra, “I don’t know if I can write these sex scenes,” guess what she said. “Read Diana Gabaldon.”
There was a pattern there.
So, in October of 2013, I picked up “Outlander” and fell in love. It’s true. At first I was just looking for the sex parts, and I was pretty amazed. They’re well-written and they fit into the story beautifully. Just as Liz, Kerry and Amy told me, Diana writes those scenes unapologetically. It’s a story that involves two people who love each other deeply, passionately. And guess what? They have sex. It’s part of their story, just like it’s part of any other loving couple’s story.
After I finished reading “Outlander,” I bought the next book, “Dragonfly in Amber.” And since I’d bought my first copy of “Outlander” as a paperback, I also bought it as a hardcover, because yeah, I’m a book snob. I devoured the first seven books — and if you’re not familiar with Diana’s series, each book is between 850 and 950 pages. She and George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) breakfast together once a month — go figure. When her eighth book came out, I tore through that as well.
While getting a bit of a tutorial on writing about sex was my primary reason for reading “Outlander,” it’s not the most important thing that came out of it. Yes, I’m really comfortable writing those love scenes now — maybe even a bit too comfortable, but that’s a story for another day. The best thing that came from it was the sense of community.
I became so enamored of these books, I wanted to connect with others who felt as I did. There were a few online groups, so I joined them. Other groups popped up on Facebook in light of the television series; some were interesting, and I joined those as well. Some were, seriously, a bit wacky, so I pulled back. But on the night “Outlander” premiered on Starz, one of my friends decided to create a spin-off celebrating the work of one particular character. Of course I was on board. This community, which now measures over 800, has come to feel like family.
What surprised me most, is that these friendships have moved beyond the confines of the Internet. Among these women I have found some of my most trusted and valued readers, critics and cheerleaders. And dare I say, my first fans?
It’s pretty heady stuff to know that there are fans of Diana Gabaldon and her wildly popular “Outlander” series who have read my books and tell me that they loved them as well. (So I’m bragging a little. I can’t help it. These girls keep me going when I feel most lost.)
Tonight, even though I watched the first episode of season two last night, I will make myself comfortable at 9 p.m. and tune into Starz. I’ll be raising a glass to Diana, Sam, Caitriona, Tobias, and Duncan, and most of all, 800 of my closest friends.