Once Upon a Time…
There lived a little girl in the Bronx, NY who loved to read. She loved to read so much that she was jealous when other people had books and she didn’t. She was competitive by nature and thus took it upon herself to read more books than anyone she knew (a practice she continues to this day). In grammar school this was great because her reading was rewarded with prizes like the mystical Scratch ‘n Sniff bookmarks. Eventually, she read so many books that she had to make due with the chocolate ones. And everyone knows that chocolate Scratch n Sniff stickers were plain yucky.
Fast forward to high school. By this time, our plucky young reader has been to Walt Disney World a few times, has fallen in love with castles, princes, and singing in forests (or anywhere else she could do so without being stoned) and the idea of traveling abroad. She’s reading educational tomes by Kathleen Woodiwiss and Johanna Lindsey, waiting to use her wiles on a pirate or highway man should she ever be captured out on the high seas or driving by herself.
When her aunt gave her Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, she thought it would be another “bodice ripper”. However, the sheer size of the novel gave her some hint of joy that it might actually be good. She hadn’t been exposed to Dostoysevsky at this point and thought that all works of fiction over 500 pages just had to be good. Otherwise what was the point of writing that much?
Our devout little reader plunged right in and was sucked up by the tale of Jamie and Claire. Her aunt had read the book, and then her mom. She felt like she had a bond through that shared reading. Even though she sure as heck didn’t want to talk about the sex scenes with her mom, of all people, she could discuss the rest of the book like an adult.
Similarly to the author she so admired, our brave reader was a pioneer on the internet circuit. She was one of the first people in her school to have a) a personal computer at home; b) the internet and c) long distance friends she met over the internet. She wrote pages and pages of stories on bulletin boards on Prodigy, taking on the role of a Dragon Rider of Pern (Anne McCaffrey’s fabulous series) before starting to write her own material.
Through all this exploration and schooling (she attended college and graduated with a degree in Medieval Studies before heading on to graduate school for a Masters in Teaching) she never lost sight of the Outlander series. While much of her time was occupied reading books she hated, but had to read, she eagerly awaited the books she wanted to read. It was a matter of moments after opening the cover that she would find herself, once again, immersed in the lives of Jamie and Claire and their family.
The books revived a longing for travel and genealogical study in our young explorer. She wanted to see the land of her ancestral roots. Our new teacher became a world traveler, exploring France, Ireland, England, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Switzerland, and Portugal. As she traveled, she always thought back to the books she had read and remembered scenes- finally able to visualize what the words had painted for her for so long.
As Jamie and Claire traveled across the Atlantic and settled in the South, so too was the love of American history re-ignited within our young reader’s breast. She’d always loved American history; been fascinated with the way current trends and traditions traced back over time to the first steps of our Founding Fathers and Mothers. While in college, she’d majored in Medieval Studies because she wanted to take that sense of tradition and society forming even further- examining how Western civilization was created during the Medieval period. The fact that much of her research brought her back to her Celtic roots was an added bonus.
Fast forward to the present day. Our gal is no longer “young” but is still an avid reader. As she says to friends, she “eats books”. Her favorite modern invention is the Kindle upon which she has over a thousand books. With the advent of social media, she can now share her love of books with others. She can get recommendations more quickly, find books more easily, and start reading within minutes. And she has made friends doing so. She has encouraged her friends to read more. She follows her favorite authors on Goodreads and on Facebook. She “tweets” at them on Twitter and is overcome with glee when they respond. Never could she have imagined, when she began reading Outlander, that she’d actually be able to “talk” to the author of such a magnificent story. When Diana Gabaldon called her fans “benign nuts” so that Sam Heughan wouldn’t worry about us becoming crazed Twihards, I fell in love with the nickname.
When it was announced that Starz was going to be producing a series based on the Outlander books, she almost screamed out loud. In fact she did “squee” all over Facebook. And then she found the Outlander groups on Facebook and started chatting with fans from all over the world. Then Sam Heughan was cast as Jamie Fraser and she started following him on Twitter and joined Heughan’s Heughligans, a group of fans bound together to support Sam in his charity efforts, as well as promote him and the series. Finally, she could actually interact with the books. They had been real to her in heart and head for so many years, now she was no longer alone in her love of reading, her love of all things Celtic, her love of men in kilts, her love of historical fiction, and her love of Outlander. I was a benign nut and happy to be so.
A fangirl was born.