Well, it isn’t the first time I’ve been misquoted or misunderstood—human nature and the limits of communication and context being what they are, it’s bound to happen now and then, and over the course of 25 years, you run into some doozies.
Generally speaking, I just tactfully ignore such occurrences, as often enough, an attempt to clarify or correct things starts a discussion that draws attention to the original misconception, as much as it does to the correction. So I’m of two minds about doing it now, but as more than one person has drawn my attention to mentions of it—and since it goes back to something I’ve already talked about—I thought I would.
I saw a fairly nice review of the PaleyFest panel on a well-known website, listing ten things the reader probably didn’t know about Outlander, but was taken aback that #10 was an item saying I had a weird sense of humor. I do, as anyone who’s read anything I write is well aware, but this reviewer specified that I had made an off-color joke that caused the audience to gasp in horror, though following it up with a compliment to Sam and Tobias.
I’m glad he mentioned that compliment, as otherwise, I’d have no idea what the heck he meant. I mean—I don’t make off-color jokes. Edgy ones, sometimes, but…what?
Tracing it back, apparently this person was referring to a remark of mine in answer to a question, wherein I referred to something I’d said more than a year ago, at the first Fan Event for the show in LA, in January of 2014.
At that 2014 event, one questioner asked the panel (me, Ron, Sam and Caitriona) which scene each of us was most looking forward to seeing on the screen. In the way of panels, one of the answers took the conversation down a different path before it came to me, so I didn’t answer that one. I had been _ thinking _ what to answer, though—and therefore, when another person asked me, specifically, that question later, I answered truthfully.
I turned to Sam Heughan and said, “I trust you’ll take this in the spirit intended, Sheugs—but I really want to see you raped and tortured.” This got a loud roar (of laughter, not offense) from the crowd, topped immediately by that in response to Sam’s come-back: “I’m quite looking forward to that myself.”
We were—of course—both referring to the challenge of acting those particular scenes. I’d seen only a couple of months of the show’s dailies at that point, but enough to know just how capable and powerful an actor he is. Seeing someone who’s Really Good at something _ do_ the thing they’re Really Good at is a great thrill—and that’s why people pay money to watch professional athletes and entertainers; it’s a rare thing. And seeing someone make a basket from center court with 1 second on the clock is a lot more thrilling than seeing the same person make a good layup shot with a long lead.
Now, there were one or two people who asked me—directly, online in various venues--_ what _ I had meant by that, and I explained, as above. Noting also that I was not (as one or two suggested) “being mean to Sam.” We’re friends; the thought of being mean to him would never cross my mind. But I do appreciate his quickness of mind, which I’ve had occasion to admire, and I _ knew _ he’d have a good comeback to that.
In fact, he beautifully illustrated the deeper point: the reason why Bad Things happen to people in my books is not to excite the reader in a watching-a-train-wreck ghoulish sort of way. It’s to reveal the true nature and deep character of the person to whom the bad thing happens—in a way that you simply don’t get when a person is responding to the normal vicissitudes of life.
Now, over the last 25 years, I’ve had not a few people express horror at the Wentworth Prison scenes, and ask me _ why _ I felt it necessary to put poor Jamie through such awful things. I’ve always replied that 1) that’s what happened; I had to write it down, and 2) it’s necessary; it completes the arc of Jamie and Claire’s bonding and love. (I’m going to put up a piece tomorrow that’s about that, specifically, but don’t want to overwhelm y’all with a lot of Stuff today.)
Ron naturally appreciated the reason behind those scenes, which is why they’re in the show—and _ beautifully _ done. But my point here is—look how Sam responded to my remark. The people who saw him do that came away with a much greater appreciation for his coolness, quickness and wit than they had before he said it. Pressure brings out the best in people.
So. During the PaleyFest panel, someone asked me about those scenes, and I prefaced my answer by referring to the earlier event, saying, “As I once famously said to Sheugs there, I was looking forward to seeing him raped and tortured…” and then went on to say how remarkable those scenes were, and how much I admired Sam and Tobias. Those were _ not_ easy scenes to play, and it took a lot of courage, as well as immense talent, to do what they did. And that’s what I said, and that’s what I meant.