On Saturday the 7th of June I attended a book release party with my mom and sister, and it was a fantastically good time! The book in question is Written in My Own Heart's Blood, the 8th novel in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. For those of you unfamiliar, the Outlander books are an epic series of historical fiction mixed with a little time travel, a little romance, lots of medical education, and battle-heavy strife and turmoil. They're set in 18th century Scotland and expand greatly from there. I highly recommend them to any person I know. The books are actually being turned into a TV series, with the first season premiering on Starz this August 9th. The 16 episode run will cover the entirety of the first book, and subsequent seasons based on the other books will depend on the show's reception.
I had never attended a book release party and wasn't entirely sure what to expect. Outlander first released on June 1st, 1991, and each book following has been a huge success. With the hysteria surrounding the release of Written in My Own Heart's Blood (here on out referred to as MOBY) reaching a fever pitch after a few unexpected setbacks, and the highly anticipated announcement of the Starz show release date, Random House and Starz decided to team up and do something special for the fans.
Attendees were promised an appearance by Diana Gabaldon herself, accompanied by a signing session and opportunity to have your photo taken with her, an early release copy of MOBY (the book released officially on June 10th), a goodie bag, cocktail mixer with light snacks, and a handful of unannounced surprises. Simply getting the book and a chance to meet one of my favorite authors was enough of a draw for me.
We arrived bright and early at 9 am for registration. We were given Random House emblazoned tote bags, time slots to have our books autographed, hard back copies of MOBY, name tags, 'Outlander Retreat' drinking tumblers, posters, short bread (naturally), and morning snacks. There was a craft table setup so that attendees could make themselves permanent flower arrangements, or flower crowns (which is the route that my sister and I took).
A local book shop had made a pop-up store that contained additional copies of MOBY available for purchase as well as the entire backlog of Outlander books. They even had the specially bound 20th anniversary edition of Outlander and the Outlandish Companion reference book. Since Herself (a fan favorite name for Diana Gabaldon) is an avid reader and loves to make suggestions to others, there was also a small selection of her current favorite books for sale.
I picked up a 20th anniversary edition copy for myself and proceeded to carry two VERY hefty books for the rest of the day. Worth it!
The day truly kicked off with Gabaldon's amazing key note speech wherein she regaled the audience with the tale of how she began to write Outlander. She is a highly entertaining speaker and it was an absolute delight to listen to her in person. She has such personality, such unique flavor to her words! Anyone who's read something of hers could tell you that, though. Fun fact: while casting around for a setting for her novel (which was originally intended to be for fun only) she happened to see an older Doctor Who episode with the young Scottish companion Jamie. This is where the 18th century Scotland setting comes from, as does the name of the male lead in Outlander. I guess we have Doctor Who to thank for so very many things!
After the morning's key note, Random House had organized a few other events. A local improv group performed a retelling of Claire and Jamie's story (the two main characters in Outlander), and there was a presentation of traditional Scottish dancing. My mom, sister, and I took this opportunity to snap a few fun photos in front of the giant promo picture and then go find some food.
While my sister and I were taking goofy photos we caught the attention of a representative from Starz who asked if she could take a photo of us for the Outlander Starz Facebook page. We gave a resounding, "Hell yes!!"
[**DISCLAIMER** Legitimately NO disrespect to the character Claire or, more importantly, to Caitriona Balfe, the actress playing her. This is Claire's story, and Caitriona Balfe is looking so far to do an incredible job of portraying her. We were just being silly and we are jealous that she gets Jamie all to herself ;)]
When we returned in the afternoon we waited excitedly for our turn to have our books signed by Herself. There were roughy 500 lucky attendees and the line had been moving steadily all day. Unfortunately, since there were so many people, each guest only had a brief moment to say hello, get a picture (and cross all your fingers and toes that you weren't blinking), then have their book quickly personalized before being shuffled, stumbling and dazed, away from the table.
When tickets initially went on sale I remember thinking to myself, "Only 500 tickets? That's nothing!" but since experiencing the event I am now of the opinion that this sort of event should have had even fewer people. Random House and Starz put on something spectacular and special for fans, but people and buildings have their limitations, and I think everyone and everything was stretched incredibly thin. Really, don't take this as an insult to anyone or any company involved: they were brilliant.
There were decorations, activities, places to sit, phone chargers everywhere, food, drink, entertainment, souvenirs, and the most gorgeous buffet line feast ever. I just wish, naturally, I could have had a few more seconds to give a bigger "Thank You," to the author. Alas, maybe some other day!
Thank you to Starz, Random House, and especially Diana Gabaldon herself for putting on such a wonderful event for the fans. It was a great day for my mom, sister, and me! I am working on a second read-through of the series so I can't even start MOBY just yet, but I am excited! And don't even get me started on my anticipation for the show because it is off. the. charts. In conclusion, I would totally go to another Random House organized book event. It was awesome!
Any other Outlander fans out there who are pumped for MOBY and the Starz show?