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BRITS BITS: 10 'Outlandish' facts

Outlander is a time travel story that begins in the Highlands after World War II and then sees the main character, Claire Beachump Randall Fraser transported back in time through an old Druid stone circle. The saga began more than two decades ago yet has continued to capture the attention of new and loyal readers alike. Begun quite by accident, author Diana Gabaldon spins a tale immersed in history and laced with intrigue, romance, survival and suspense. (Courtesy photo)

Outlander is a time travel story that begins in the Highlands after World War II and then sees the main character, Claire Beachump Randall Fraser transported back in time through an old Druid stone circle. The saga began more than two decades ago yet has continued to capture the attention of new and loyal readers alike. Begun quite by accident, author Diana Gabaldon spins a tale immersed in history and laced with intrigue, romance, survival and suspense. (Courtesy photo)

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- The saga began more than two decades ago yet has continued to capture the attention of new and loyal readers alike. Begun quite by accident, author Diana Gabaldon spins a tale immersed in history and laced with intrigue, romance, survival and suspense.

The first book in the series, Outlander, begins in the Scottish Highlands after World War II where Claire Beachump Randall, a former World War II nurse, is getting reacquainted with her husband, Frank Randall. Claire, who had previously developed an interest in botany, explores the plants surrounding the old Druid stone circle of Craigh na Dun. As her interest in a particular plant peaks, Claire falls through the rocks and is thrust back through time into 1743 -- Jacobean Scotland. Upon regaining consciousness, Claire finds herself directly in the middle of a skirmish between the Clan MacKenzie and English soldiers from a Dragoons regiment stationed nearby. It is here that Claire meets James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, her second - or first if you consider the dates - husband. Throughout the story, Claire battles with the decision to either stay in Jacobean Scotland with Jaime Fraser or travel forward to her original husband, Frank.

Below are some interesting, and perhaps not-so-well-known, facts about this international bestseller.

1. Writing novels wasn't the author's career. Gabaldon has a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology, a Master of Science degree in marine biology and a doctorate in quantitative behavioral ecology. She also wrote comic books as a freelance writer for Walt Disney in the late 1970s. After this, Gabaldon was hired as a professor at Arizona State for 12 years. During her time as a professor, she ran a scholarly journal called Science Software. A modern-Renaissance woman, Gabaldon then began writing a novel in her spare time just to see if she could. This novel would become known as Outlander.

2. Gabaldon didn't set foot in Scotland prior to writing Outlander. Although Gabaldon writes a very descriptive story based in the Highlands during Jacobean Scotland and after the close of World War II, she did not visit Scotland until the manuscript was accepted by a publisher.

3. Outlander has grown to include a series of eight books and a Lord John Gray series. The series, in order, is as follows: Outlander; Dragonfly in Amber; Voyager; Drums of Autumn; The Fiery Cross; A Breath of Snow and Ashes; An Echo in the Bone; and not yet released, In My Own Heart's Blood.

4. There's also a comic book, The Exile. Officially, this book is a graphic novel. The series is told from Claire's perspective. However, in The Exile, the graphic novel describes Jaime's view of events from the Outlander that Claire didn't see, didn't understand and didn't know.

5. In the U.K., the first book is titled Cross Stitch. Since this is essentially a time-travel story, the title refers to the phrase, "a stitch in time." It was a play on words and it was a success with the British audience. Also, Gabaldon had already decided that Claire would "cross over" between times twice, therefore effectively making a cross stitch.

6. My brown one - a term of endearment, or is it? In the first two books, Jaime calls Claire "mo duinne" referring to her hair. In Voyager, Jaime no longer calls her this; instead, he refers to Claire as "mo nighean donn." While "mo duinne" is technically correct, the emotional translation is not the same. Gabaldon, striving for accuracy, corrected this once the error became known to her.

7. Jaime is an outlaw and assumes a separate identity. Known by several names throughout the series, Jaime assumes the name of Jaime McTavish to safeguard his identity from the English patrols in the area. Throughout the series, readers will discover that Jaime has assumed several names throughout his lifetime.

8. Geilis is named for a real witch. King James of Scotland wrote a book on witches called Daemonologie. In this book, there's a "real" female witch from the 16th century named Geilis Duncane. Geilis is actually a time-traveler just like Claire and from the same time. Her real name is Gillian and she took the name Geilis deliberately as she was familiar with witchcraft and practiced it while she lived in the future.

9. Claire meets the Loch Ness Monster. Claire meets the infamous Nessie while going to the loch to collect water. Gabaldon later explains during interviews the monster is actually a dinosaur - most likely a plesiosaur -- that has crossed over from ancient times to the 16th century using a vortex located in the loch. Being a time traveler, too, Claire feels a certain kinship to Nessie.

10. Outlander has been earmarked for the small screen. Avid Outlander enthusiasts have fantasized who could play their favorite characters if the books ever made it to the big screen. Next year, fans will get their wish. Starz, a premium television channel, has teamed up with Gabaldon to bring Outlander to television in the form of a miniseries. Already cast into the leading role of Jaime Fraser is Scottish actor Sam Heughan.

Whether it is because people like to reinvent themselves in fictitious tales or can see themselves in the characters or relate to the storyline, the Outlander series has struck a chord with readers. For many, retracing Claire and Jaime's steps is of particular interest. Many will plan their vacations around touring the Scottish Highlands and places of note described in the book. There are many tours that cater to this niche of devotees - a place that is quite literally in your backyard if stationed in the U.K.!

(Information courtesy of www.dianagabaldon.com)