National Book Festival 2010

Outlander One of the joys of living in Washington, DC is that a lot of things are happening and a lot of people are there to talk about stuff. This past weekend, the thing that was happening was the National Book Festival, and one particular person who was there to talk was Diana Gabaldon, author of the very popular Outlander series.

Saturday was probably the last day of true summer temperatures, and in true DC style we had a day in the 90s with sun beating down. The section of the Mall with the Festival was filled with people, and even though I got to the Fiction and Mystery tent fifteen minutes early, there was no getting a seat– it was Standing Room Only for the previous speaker, Isabel Allende, and the five minute interim between her and Diana Gabaldon’s introduction was a mad crush of people moving. I wound up sitting on the ground on the side of an aisle, but I could still see her speak from where I was. She looks very young; I wouldn’t have put her above her 30s except for the fact that she talked about starting work in the 1970s and having children who are older than I am.

Diana was, as I expected, funny and sharp, and started out by telling the story of how Outlander began. The story is probably often told and often repeated, so I won’t retell it here, except for mentioning that she (understandably) has a fixation with men in kilts. Apparently when asked, she once told a reporter that the appeal of kilted men is “knowing they can have you up against the wall in a second.”

She also discussed her new graphic novel, The Exile (which Blythe blogged about last week), and the collaborative process between herself and the artist, Hoang Nguyen. Apparently they have been working together on this book for more than two years, and only just met in person last week. She chose his art for its “painterliness,” which is an accurate description. Rather than the bright colors and two-dimensional shapes I imagine comic books having, each panel of The Exile is a detailed painting.

But on to what you all really want to know: when the next book is, and the status of the movie/TV series. She predicts book 8 will be out in 2012, though the third Lord John book, Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner, should be out earlier. And, for those of you who (like me) were never particularly interested in reading the spinoffs: this one is half in Lord John’s POV, and half in Jamie’s. Cue intrigue.

The answer to the other question is a bit more vague. As in, they’re working on it. There is a screenwriter attached to the project, which will be (as far as I could tell) a movie, if it ever truly happens.

The other part of the Festival was waiting in line for the signing. A friend of mine (who is just beginning the series–she’s on the second book now) came with me, and we snagged a spot about an hour and a half before DG was due to start signing. We also managed to get a spot in the shade, which was a blessing. For the next hour or so, we chatted with a woman behind us in line about the books, other things we like to read, some mutually favorite TV shows, etc. The time passed quickly, and if it weren’t for the heat it would have been perfect. The line tripled after we got on, so it was good timing– the wait would surely have been much longer had we gone to queue up closer to the start of her signing. So after more than an hour in line, things finally started to move… and saw DG for about 30 seconds. I ineloquently said something about how my experience in Edinburgh last fall was shaped by the books. She was very nice and gracious, but given the heat, the immense line, and the well-trained efficiency of the volunteers moving the line and passing the books, it was all over in a very quick moment.

All in all– a good day. By the end I was hot, tired, and thirsty, but I had a signed book and heard an entertaining and interesting talk by a favorite author of mine. While I wish more of my favorites were there this year, it was enough of an ordeal just to see DG. Despite the heat, I was told on many occasions: “Be glad it isn’t raining. Last time she was here, it poured.” I may have been sweaty, but at least I wasn’t dripping wet and covered in mud. Of course, that probably would have been a more authentic Outlander experience.

- Jane Granville

3 thoughts on “National Book Festival 2010

  1. @AAR Lynn: I could have sworn that Jennifer Crusie and Mary Jo Putney were at the National Book Festival in past years, but I didn’t see their names listed. Several authors who have been reviewed on AAR have appeared there, such as Catherine Coulter, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Sandra Brown, Karen Slaughter, and Philippa Gregory. However, I think they were included as Mystery or Fiction writers, not as Romance.

  2. Arg! I lived in Baltimore for four years and always had a conflicting event during the National Book Festival. Although Paradise is lovely, the literary connections are limited to RWA’s Aloha Chapter which actively promotes all genres across the islands.

  3. I have been to the National Book Festival before, and it was so much fun! My one truly major beef with the festival has been that year after year they snub romance authors. I’ve always put it down to literary snobbery on the part of organizers, but I think they would have a fabulous turnout if romance was featured alongside the other genres there.

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