OK. I’ve only had 3 hours of sleep but I’m back up and totally jazzed about finishing this blog post. Why does this never happen when I get 3 hours of sleep on a work night? But, yet again, I digress. Where did I leave off?
A moment in the sun (of Diana’s presence)
Oh, yes! Lunch! But wait, there was this other little thing that happened before lunch. As a part of signing group D, I waited my turn to get Diana to personalize my brand new copy of MOBY! Happily, the line moved pretty quickly as attendees were limited to having their copies of MOBY personalized with just their name. Being the lovely gracious woman that she is, Diana signed my copy for me in the Acknowledgements section where my name appeared. I was thrilled to have another few moments to have her sign the book, thank me for my help, and have my picture taken.
Still basking in the glow of my moment with DG, I headed up to grab some lunch. Some of us who have blogs and fan sites had deliberately maneuvered our way into the same signing group so that we could have lunch together and plot strategies for getting new subscribers for Starz. This is important: New subscribers will be one of several key drivers for the success of the Outlander TV series and determine whether it is renewed for subsequent seasons.
Entering the Armory food court, I found it to be a hub of activity. Apparently, in addition to our own event, there was also some kind of Filipino cultural celebration being held. Skirting the resultant crowds, I scoped out my options and settled on Pies! I figured a savory meat pie would be the closest meal I could come to one that Jamie and Claire likely will eat in MOBY. The Cheeseburger Meat Pie was delicious. (I really wanted the English Meat Pie, but there weren’t any ready when I ordered and besides, I was afraid that would brand me a Sassenach forever.)
After our strategy session wrapped up and lunch was devoured, we headed back down to the Fisher Pavilion for the continuation of the afternoon events.
First up on the roster of afternoon activities was a demonstration of Scottish dancing. Seattle’s Royal Scottish Dance Society delighted attendees with their performance of Scottish country dances in both soft and hard shoe. I was also delighted to hear several tunes that I recognized as staples in the Cape Breton, Nova Scotia musical repertoire. Cutest of all were the littlest costumed members of the group. I caught some lovely pictures and a few short videos to give you a taste.
After the dancing, I spent the next hour pleasantly conversing with many Outlanders I heretofore had only known through social media while valiantly ignoring the siren call of MOBY from the depths of my Random House tote bag. Next up was the hour for which we had all been waiting. It has to be something good if a sign like this shows up, right?
Reason to Believe
The penultimate event on the schedule was a panel discussion including Diana and several others who have been with her on this Outlandish journey. Those on the panel besides Diana included her most recent editor Jennifer Hershey, Theresa Zoro from Random House, Barbara Peters from the Poisoned Pen Bookstore, Kristin Fassler from Random House, and Karen Bailey, Senior VP of Original Programming for Starz. The panel began by showing all the fan-submitted videos for the Retreat event. Some were funny, many were touching and all were heartfelt. Diana was treated to a ‘This is Your Life’ moment as kind words were read from figures from Diana’s publishing past including her first editor, Jackie Cantor as well as from her current agent.
Barbara from the Poisoned Pen also shared the story of how she and her staff first knew Diana only as a voracious reader but started to wonder when she started placing unusual orders for strange books about Scotland. They were thrilled and pleased when Diana brought in Outlander and they have been stocking it and promoting her books ever since. Barbara was also one of the first to point out that Diana’s 75,000 word ‘short story’ about Lord John Grey was, in fact, a regular sized novel which became Lord John and the Private Matter!
Jennifer, Diana’s current editor shared some thoughts about what a thrill it was to be working with Diana on her last few books after being such a fan of them for so long. Kristin, a social media director with Random House, chimed in with some additional thoughts about the social media efforts that have been accomplished over the last 6 years. She also pointed out that the work isn’t done. She, and we the fans, won’t rest until every single person in the world has read Outlander.
Next up was discussion of the journey from published novel to Starz television production. As she has done before, Diana told the stories of previous option owners who had tried and failed to convert Outlander into a 2 hour movie. Nothing was able to work though until Ron D. Moore showed up with a 3 season pitch to Starz for Outlander as a premium cable TV series. (So we now know for sure at least 3 seasons have been discussed, if not yet green-lighted.)
When asked what made the Outlander book/TV relationship different from other franchises, her explanation was the fan base. No other book/show had such a large, enthusiastic and unique fan base PRIOR to a TV series airing. Outlander is often compared to Game of Thrones, but the TV series has driven sales of the books in that franchise, not the other way around.
Finally, after a protracted contract negotiation, production was ready to begin! Karen Bailey from Starz related the trials and tribulations of casting Jamie and Claire. As we all know, Sam Heughan was cast early on. Karen explained that they found him so early and felt that he was so great for the role, that they almost didn’t trust themselves. Diana talked once again about how different he has looked in all of his roles and even from scene to scene in Outlander. However, Diana said she did tell Sam that she has no idea what he really looks like but that he has a distinct physical vibe and ‘I’d recognize that anywhere!’
Alas, casting Claire was definitely not as easy as Sam, as those who suffered with me through ‘Claire Watch’ know. Karen explained that even with a worldwide casting search, they were beginning to despair and fear that the production schedule would have to be delayed because no actress they tested was Claire. They decided to go back to the drawing board and take a fresh look at all the casting tapes that were submitted. Soon, the production team (independently, I might add) were looking at a self-taped audition from a little known actress name Caitriona Balfe and there, suddenly, was Claire. After some chemistry tests (and wasn’t Sam the lucky lad), it was official. Claire was found! The production schedule didn’t have to be altered and we are all now eagerly counting down the days to August 9.
Karen also mentioned how lucky they were to have so many great Scots actors available to play Scots roles in the production. She even related that Graham McTavish joked with her, safely after contracts had been signed, that he would probably would have done it for free.
Now to the moment for which we had all been patiently waiting. It was time to see some new footage. First up was a new introductory feature about two and a half minutes long with lots of interview footage of Sam, Cait, Ron and Diana. There was also lots of new footage from the series. This appears to be the same video that was released by Starz yesterday afternoon and you can watch it here:
I have to tell you my reaction to that video was tears and chills. And, I probably owe an apology to @LallybrochLaura because I’m pretty sure I grabbed her arm hard enough to leave bruises as I got more and more excited throughout the video.
After the first video, Karen proceeded to show some great new cast photos of Sam, Cait, Tobias and the rest of Outlander gang. I really hope these show up on the Starz web page soon because they were just spectacular. After oohing and ahhing over the excellent new photos, we found out we had yet another treat in store for us. There was another Behind the Scenes video shown!
The second video featured great new footage describing and showing the care that was taken in recreating the Outlander world in modern-day Scotland. There were so many wonderful things shown that I can’t possible remember and relate them all. However, there are a few standout moments I have to share. First of these was Maril Davis (@TallShipProds), who had her own cheering section when she came on-screen, Claire hair and all, describing the casting of stones at Doune Castle to be used to create the indoor Great Hall studio set. Another great moment was seeing Àdhamh hard at work giving lessons to the cast and even writing Gàidhlig on the board like the wonderful teacher we know him to be. But for me, by far the best moment of the entire video was seeing and hearing Sam and Graham performing Gàidhlig lines in character. I couldn’t help but be so moved and so convinced that this show is going to be absolutely spectacular. Don’t worry. I feel sure this video will make a public appearance in due time and you can judge for yourself.
With nothing left but an enthusiastic standing ovation for all of the footage and great stories, the panel discussion wound to a fabulous close.
But wait there’s more…
I really appreciate your patience in sticking with me this far! There is more to come, but like Diana, I feel I should stop while you can still lift it. Stay tuned for Part 3 tomorrow where I talk about the Afternoon Mixer and a terrific dinner with a view and stimulating company on top of the Space Needle.