For fans in North Carolina, Winston-Salem was the epicenter for all things Outlander on Sept. 10, the day of the season three premiere of Outlander on Starz. Author Diana Gabaldon was in town to act as the keynote speaker at a literary festival, and Historic Bethabara Park hosted an Outlander-inspired shindig, allowing fans to geek out before rushing home to watch the premiere!
A week has passed, and I’m still reminiscing about this awesome day. So, please enjoy a photo recap of our adventures with local fans!
I gathered my crew, and we made our way to Historic Bethabara Park, which was hosting an Outlander Day extravaganza. I grew up in the Winston-Salem area and had visited the site as a kid, but I hadn’t been there in years. It was great to be back! Historic Bethabara, the 1753 site of North Carolina’s first Moravian settlement, is a reconstructed colonial community that contains a restored 1788 church, archaeological ruins and a French and Indian War-era fort. It’s also an important location in the Outlander book series. The Frasers visited Bethabara to trade goods as they were establishing Fraser’s Ridge.
As we approached, we were greeted with a familiar tune: “Sing me a song of a lass that is gone…” Inside the fort, author and storyteller Randell Jones treated crowds to an animated Scottish history lesson. His presentation, “The History Behind the Fiction,” outlined the monarchs and politics that led to the Forty-Five, the ill-fated Jacobite uprising of 1745 that Outlander fans know so well. The aftermath of the rebellion spurred Scottish immigration to America, where a large number settled in North Carolina. Jones also detailed the Scots’ participation in the Revolutionary War.
Then, he flash-forwarded to 1956. Click here to listen to Jones explain how the heritage of the Highland Scots led to an annual celebration in the Tar Heel State.
Meanwhile, the 1788 Gemeinhaus (congregation house) was filled with the melodious sounds of traditional Scottish music performed by dulcimer player and luthier Ken Bloom, who was rocking some pretty fabulous socks. Click here to listen to a brief snippet of Bloom’s performance.
Horticultural archaeologist Dr. Michele Williams led guests through Bethabara’s medicinal garden, sharing insight into the plants Claire used for healing. And to top it off, a rent-a-kilt station allowed us to frolic about in our favorite tartan while exploring Bethabara’s grounds. We all had such a great time!
Then, we were off to R.J. Reynolds Auditorium, where we were joined by 1,800 of our best friends for Outlander author Diana Gabaldon’s sold-out speech, which served as the culmination of the 13th annual Festival of Books and Authors. This festival is hosted by Bookmarks, a nonprofit based in Winston-Salem that fosters a love of reading and writing in the community.
The line was astounding. It formed a loop around the entire auditorium. But the wait was actually fun. We met some delightful ladies in front of us in line, and we had a great time getting to know them and sharing our love of Outlander.
When the fabulous Diana took the stage, she was greeted with a standing ovation and thunderous applause. For about an hour, she shared the story of her writing career and how she transitioned from a scientist to a best-selling novelist. It struck me that there were moments in which she sounded a lot like the quick-witted Claire Fraser, which perhaps should come as no surprise.
“I knew I was supposed to write novels,” she said. “And when I turned 35, I thought to myself, ‘Well, you know, Mozart was dead at 36. Maybe you better get moving here.'”
Her advice to aspiring writers? Write 10 minutes every day without fail. Before long, you’ll have a book.
She shared a few thoughts on season three (the first six episodes closely follow Voyager, she says), and she hinted at the possibility that Frank’s work as a spy may have continued beyond World War II. “Food for thought while you’re waiting for book nine,” she said to laughs from the crowd.
She said she chose North Carolina as the setting for the Frasers’ new home because “this is where history went,” noting that many Scots came to the American South voluntarily or as indentured servants after the Battle of Culloden. And alas, she did confirm reports that season 4 of the Starz hit would not be filmed in North Carolina.
Among my favorite quotes:
“I found myself thinking about this the next day… in church.” (After explaining that Jamie Fraser was inspired by a Scotsman who appeared in an episode of “Doctor Who.” Diana found him “very fetching.”)
“I suppose it’s the idea that you could be up against the wall with him in a minute.” (Her response to a German journalist who asked her about the appeal of a man in a kilt.)
And bless her heart, Diana graciously stayed late into the evening to sign what must have been hundreds upon hundreds of books for eager fans. (Do famous authors learn hand exercises to prevent cramping?) Diana, thank you! I hope you ended your day in Winston-Salem with a hefty dram paired with Moravian cookies.
Did you hear Diana’s speech? Were you in Historic Bethabara for Outlander Day? What were your favorite moments of the day?