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SYFY WIRE Outlander

Author Diana Gabaldon wrote the first 'Outlander' novel in secret from her garage

The Outlander author opens up about the humble beginnings of the fantasy hit.

Outlander Season 4 Trailer

By Julie Montana

When it comes to being a writer, Outlander author Diana Gabaldon told fans at New York Comic Con on Sunday the most important part is "learning how your brain works and how to work with it.” At an author’s spotlight attended by SYFY WIRE, she shed some light on how her own creative mind functions while also revealing the true, secretive origins of her books.

Since the age of eight she knew she wanted to be a writer, she just didn’t know how to make it happen. So, she chose to start her career in research and science. On her 35th birthday though, she told herself "Mozart was dead by 36" — if she wanted to give her dreams a shot, it was now or never.

Diana Gabaldon began writing her novel in secret, not telling her husband because "he would’ve tried to stop (her) for fear that (she) would drop dead." At the time, she had “two full time jobs and three children under the age of six," taking on this project was a true labor of love. Needing a private space to get her ideas out, she took refuge in her garage which housed an old IBM XT computer.

One day, her husband came in trying to print off a document but he could not remember its name. He opened the computer directory which showed every document the system held and “up came 80 files called Jamie." After some initial suspicion, he got on board with the idea and “by the end of the evening he was standing behind (her) reading over (her) shoulder with what he thoughtfully considers to be a Scottish accent.”

But those 80 files didn’t arrive overnight. For Diana Gabaldon, "time" and a bit of self doubt "is part of the process.” “There's all kinds of things people do to sabotage themselves,” she added. “It doesn't matter how terrible it is, that's your work! You need that for positive self reinforcement. If it's in the wastebasket you can’t call yourself a writer.”

Getting her ideas on paper, she admits, involves a process that might contradict what all the writing books say to do. “I don't write with an outline, I don't even write in a straight line! I write in scenes where I can see something happening,” and then she goes back and adds in the connective tissue (a trait she says contributes to why her novels are so long).

After all those scenes of political drama, epic fights, fantasy time travel, and spicy under-the-kilt romance came together, marketing the book became a challenge in itself. “They didn't know what book on the bookshelf to put it on!” Luckily for her legions of fans, it landed on the romance shelf and eventually on the screens of millions of viewers across the world. And with a 10th book and seventh season in the works (not to mention a prequel), who knows how many more will join the Outlander clan before the saga ends.

Looking for more fantasy? Check out the entire Harry Potter film saga streaming now on Peacock.