• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

Historical Sex Scenes

Historical Sex Scenes

Now, don’t start hyperventilating. This isn’t about how to write historical sex scenes (though I might show you a sort-of one, in a bit*). It’s a solicitation. {g}

I was going to start out by saying that I have no idea how this happened, except that I do. I just don’t remember who to blame for it. What did happen was that six(ish) years ago, the Historical Novel Society (of which I am a member) held its biannual conference in Albany. It was the first conference of the HNS that I’d attended, and in my usual amiable way, I’d told the organizers that I’d be happy to do whatever they liked, in the way of panels, etc.

So they put me on three or four panels, and one of those was a panel on writing sex scenes. There were six people assigned to the panel—which is kind of a lot, really; you get a great variety of input, but with such a large number, it’s hard to have a good discussion.

Anyway, the six of us conferred via email as to the best way of managing the panel, traffic-wise, and someone (actually I think it may have been me, maybe I am to blame for this, what a horrifying thought…) said that it’s really hard to talk about the techniques involved in sex scenes without having examples to refer to.

So someone (and it may have been Chris Humphreys…then again, it might have been me…) suggested that since there was no conceivable way in which six people could read sex scenes in an hour, and then have any time in which to talk about them, that we see if the conference would allow us a separate session, outside the regular programming, during which any panelists who liked to could read one or two samples. That way, attendees who really didn’t want to hear sex scenes could avoid them and just hear about techniques, whereas those who wanted the…er…full experience (so to speak), could listen to the samples, which we would then talk about the next day.

Well, the organizers were willing (and it was Chris Humphreys who suggested it to them, I know that much), and they scheduled the Saturday Night Late-Night Sex-Scene Reading, after the official banquet.

I think five of the six panelists agreed to read sex-scenes—a couple of us came in nightwear (I almost always change into a yukata covered with cranes—I have three, in different colors—after the official part of a conference day, because while I’m happy to go on socializing into the wee hours, I’m not doing it in an underwired bra and high heeled boots, after wearing such clothes all day); Chris wore a suit, I seem to recall—or it may have been the pirate shirt open to the waist.

Anyway, two-thirds of the conference attendees came, and a Very Good Time was had by all, let’s put it that way. {cough} (The hotel kindly kept the bar in the dining-room open for this event, and when I staggered up afterward for a glass of much-needed wine, the bar-staff applauded and insisted on giving me the drink for free, which was nice of them.)

Anyway, the long-term effect of this public spectacle was that I’ve been urged (and/or dragooned) into doing it twice more—once as another team effort for the last HNS conference in Illinois, and a solo appearance for The Poisoned Pen bookstore—and now find myself not only booked for a reprise at this year’s HNS conference in San Diego, but charged with running the event.

Chris (that’s C.C. Humphreys, btw, whose Jack Absolute series is on my Methadone List, and I recommend it highly for fans of the 18th century, the British army, adventure, and/or Mohawks) tells me that he and Gillian Bagwell (MY DARLING STRUMPET—which I also really enjoyed (life of Nell Gwyn), and gave a cover quote to) want to do a team-reading of a scene from her book, which he described as “one of the best blow-jobs in fiction.” (Bear in mind that as well as being an excellent author, Chris is also a professional actor. I’m looking forward to this. He did just say “reading,” mind…)

To get to the point here, though—

In order to insure variety and the increased pleasure of the audience {cough, cough}, we’ll need a few participants besides Chris, Gillian, and me. SO—

If you are

1) A published author of historical fiction (traditional publication, please, not self-published)

2) Who will be attending this year’s HNS conference, and

3) Has a good sex-scene (the scene can be from an unpublished manuscript, if you like), and

4) Relatively few inhibitions about reading it aloud in public (costuming (including mask) optional)…

Let me know. {g} Email me at dgabaldon@aol.com, or find me on the Compuserve Books and Writers Community board.

I don’t think we will have to hold auditions {g}, but we’ll see how many volunteers we get.

*You’re sure you want to see one? Well, OK. I’m going to put it here, because not everyone likes to read excerpts. This is—I think—the beginning of SCOTTISH PRISONER, even though my husband, who read it, wrote in the margin, “Are you sure you can print this?!?”

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98 Responses »

  1. Love it!!!
    This sample from “The Scottish Prisoner” is the type of writing that has made me fall in love with your books and your writing. You write your style which has not steered you wrong. you are awesome!

  2. That book cover is framable art…and what the title and they keys represent….freedom, honour, love, sacrifice…an echo in the bone, indeed.

    Actually, in a lewd sort of way – an echo in the bone resonates with the opening chapter, too.

  3. OH Man….Jamie…. hmmmm. :)

  4. Write! Write! Write! Can’t wait to read Scottish Prisoner….and the next Big Book!!! Three cheers for DG! (and Jamie)


    That is such a sad way to begin this book. D.H. Lawrence once wrote that “In masturbation there is nothing but loss.”, and with this scene you have captured Jamie’s loneliness and desolation caused by all that he has lost. It is so sad to see a man such as Jamie reduced to this state.

    I was very moved by this extract, from the second paragraph on. I did find the first paragraph a bit confusing – why was he having trouble finding his cock when it was in his hand? I know he’s just woken, but after the dream he was having I would have thought he would have been all too aware of the location of that part of his anatomy :)

  6. Oh yes – by all means – you CAN start a book that way and they WILL print it because it’s riveting and enthralling and arresting and excrutiating in its poignancy and pathos. But an excerpt? AN EXCERPT!?!? Now that’s just wrong! Wrong and depraved, and mean and nasty – and just plain CRUEL! (Anda good part of the reason we love you so!) Can NOT wait!!!

  7. Yes, yes you can start a book this way..but can you keep it up…sorry.

  8. Love it! I may or may not have given a deep sigh after reading this excerpt. Alas, I’m at work and husband is too. I’ll have to save it for later. I’m wondering, what is a yukata? I tried google but nothing.

  9. Love, love, love your books, Diana! I’m a published author – The Landlord’s Black-Eyed Daughter, Stars of Fire, and the pending Heaven’s Thunder – a Colorado Saga – all written as Mary Ellen Dennis. I will be at the HNS conference, and I eagerly…subtly?…begging-ly?…volunteer. I mean, how many times do I get to read one of my sex scenes to an audience? Counting on fingers. Correction: Counting on finger.

  10. Wow…wish Jamie yearned for me in that way! Claire is (was?) one lucky lady!

  11. Yes Yes Yes wonderful start…certainly grabs your attention…great cover. Cheers Joan-in waiting for the next book.

  12. Hey Diana,

    I thought it was a great piece. I think you can do whatever you want and we’ll keep wanting more.

    I am a long time fan, since the first printing of Outlander, I’d say, and I’ve read every one of your books and have most of them on my shelf (some came via the library). Whenever I am asked about my favourite series, my favourite author, it’s Outlander and you. I want to congratulate you on the excerpts of Book 8 and the third Lord John novel as they are all fantastic! I can’t wait to read both of these books. I think the idea of a prequel is great, too! Please keep doing what you’re doing, because I am enjoying reading your work so much I would hate it if you stopped :)

    I am saddened to hear that you were on a tour of Canada this past fall and I missed it! Hopefully next time you’ll come to Winnipeg?

    Many thanks for all your hard work!


  13. Wow!! Loved the way you want to start the book, it grabs your attention for sure! Love your books Diana. Re-reading the Outlander series waiting on book 8. Can’t wait!

  14. If ANYONE started a book that way, I’d finish the whole thing, regardless of how well it was written. That’s one heck of a hook! I suppose it helps that Jamie Fraser is also the Scottish man of every woman’s dreams…

  15. Oh My Goodness is ALL I can say…………..I can’t wait for the book, Thank you, Thank you, thank you Diana, for NEVER disapointing me!

    As usual,
    Your number one fan!

  16. Such an evocative excerpt. Poor bugger, I really felt for him…right up until the ‘end’ so-to-speak.

  17. Beautiful cover and fantastic excerpt. Can’t wait to read the whole thing.

  18. Writing a sex scene that took place, hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago is NOT easy! There are so many modern words and terms you cannot use, but you seem to do it so eloquently, and with the greatest of ease!


    • One of my biggest pet peeves in Historical romance books…but then again many of the writer’s are not the caliber of Diana!

  19. Diana..you are my hero! I await each book nearly marking off the days literally!

    Of course I adore all the Jamie and Clair stories…but I now also am in love with the Lord John Grey stories as well!

    I have all of the books on disk and tape..and listen to the stories over and over…wearing out the tapes rapidly!

    The unabridged versions from Recorded Books have two readers, Davina Porter and Jeff Woodman..both of whom do such excellent jobs of bringing the character to life via their wonderful usage of accents and voice…that you know which character is speaking at all times!

    And they make the sex scenes even steamier by their inflections!! IF such a thing is possible!! LOL

    A true match made in heaven for someone as addicted as I am to all of these stories!!

    Thank you Diana..you have made some truly awful times in my life more bearable through your wonderful stories. I can unabashedly say I adore you!

    Please never stop writing…every story gives me something to look forward to!

    Genie Kerr

  20. I loved it. I loved the idea that although Jamie and Claire were parted for a very long time, that in dreams they were still together. It made the whole time somewhat more ‘bearable’ to me. It is an excellent beginning to a book I cannot wait to read.


  1. Updates, we have updates | Historical Novel Society ~ 2011 Conference

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