You’ve been watching Game of Thrones I assume?
No, I have not. I have been, for the past six months, neck-deep in finishing the final book as well as doing a certain amount of work for—I wouldn’t really call it work, but just looking at the stuff the production people send me requires a certain amount of time and attention. So no, I actually didn’t watch television at all for about the last eight months. I’ve been saving Game of Thrones as a treat for when I finish.
Then I don’t know if you followed any of the controversies around some of the ways that Game of Thrones was adapted in terms of the sexual violence and things like that.
I catch the breezes because I hang on Twitter and all that. I don’t take part in the conversation, but I see bits of it.
But I mean, there are a lot of aspects of Outlander that are potentially controversial. Do you have any idea how those will be adapted for television?
Well, like Ron says, if it’s in the book, we’ll film it the way it is in the book. I couldn’t ask better than that.
So, for example, in the book, there’s a scene where Jamie beats Claire, right, in the first Outlander book?
Well, he doesn’t exactly beat her. He’s not punching her in the mouth or throwing her against the wall. He spanks her with his sword belt because she did something incredibly dangerous and nearly got them all killed. This was basically what the Highland justice was like. If you screwed up, you got punished for it, and then you were back in the good graces of the clan. That’s what he’s doing; it’s his duty as her husband basically to correct her, set her on the right path, and mind you, she doesn’t like it because she’s a twentieth-century woman. She’s very affronted that he’s hurting her.
But do you think that will be portrayed in the TV show the same way it was in the book?
I know it will. I’ve seen it.
What sort of reaction do you think that that will get from viewers?
There will undoubtedly be a certain amount of knee-jerk feminism from very young women. Anybody over the age of thirty-five will appreciate both the cultural conflict in that scene—it’s one of my favorite scenes, in fact, because each person in it is completely right according to his or her own view of the situation, and yet, in this untenable situation, they aren’t both going to get their way. When push comes to shove, he outweighs her by eighty pounds. Most people, as I say, above a certain age will appreciate it for the inherent ironies and also for the considerable humor in the situation.
What are some of those things that your male readers and female readers tend to see differently?
They tend to see certain situations differently. For instance, I have never, ever had a male reader even faintly upset by the spanking scene, whereas, as I said, the younger female readers just jump up and down and froth at the mouth about it. But the men, they see where Jamie is coming from; they sympathize with him, and consequently, they find the scenes funnier rather than anything else. They’re just not bothered about it, whereas some women find it deeply erotic. Well, actually, some men do, too, but that’s a similarity rather than a difference, but that would be one of the scenes.
Others are scenes involving—I’m not sure what you would call it—anti-social actions. There are some cases in which, for instance, a man comes across a young girl whose been burned almost to death when her cabin was set on fire, and he finds her near death in the ashes and, unable to let her suffer, he smothers her. Men are okay with it. They find it very deeply upsetting, and they tell me how upset they would be themselves to have to do that, but they always put it that way, “to have to do that,” whereas women write and say, “Oh, I could never do that.” It’s like they feel they have a choice and the men don’t.
I heard you say that the men are a lot more squeamish about the scene where Jamie is tortured?
I just had the occasion to explain to one of the production people regarding a line in one of the scripts about a situation in which nonconsensual buggery might have been involved, and they had the character saying, “My father wouldn’t have minded about the buggery,” to which I wrote back and I said, “Oh, I bet he would.” This is a fairly gut-level response on the part of straight men. It’s not that they have any objection to anyone doing that if they want to. It’s just that they find the notion personally repulsive. They don’t even want to think about it.
The show sounds really great, and I know everyone’s really excited about this new book. Do you want to just tell us what you have coming up? Are there any new or upcoming projects you want to mention?
There are lots of them. I’m actually on a heavy-duty book tour at the moment and won’t be able to work until I get back home. I have a two-week break in July, but other than that, it’s going to be pretty non-stop between now and September, which is finally when I go get my regular writing routine back. But I have a half-finished crime novel. There is book nine awaiting my attention. There’s a prequel volume about Jamie Fraser’s parents, Brian and Ellen, and the Jacobite rising in 1715. There are a number of interesting novellas. I write novellas to kind of fill in lacunae and beef out side stories, so there are all these little sprouts all over the bodies of the large novels. There is also the second Outlandish Companion, which is the nonfiction book that accompanies the series. The first Companion, which has been very popular, covered the first four books of the series. The second volume will cover the second four books and will include all the kinds of trivia and background information that people are interested in. That’s about eighty-five percent complete, though, and with luck, we might actually have that out by spring.