Each of her Outlander novels, Diana Gabaldon emphasizes, contains enough backstory that it can be read either as a stand-alone or as part of the series—which she recommends, however, is best read in chronological order. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Delacorte, Dec.), the eighth volume in what Gabaldon promises is a nine-book series, continues the epic saga of Claire and Jamie Fraser, time-crossed lovers, who for the past seven novels have been ricocheting between his world in the 18th century and hers in the 20th.

The story, which began in the Scottish Highlands in 1945 and moved back to 1743 after Claire stepped through a circle of magic stones in Outlander (1991), has taken her and Jamie from Scotland to Paris, London, and even North America. While close-mouthed about Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, Gabaldon reveals that it opens in Revolutionary War–era Philadelphia in 1778. The story picks up with the triple cliffhangers that concluded An Echo in the Bone (2009), but she adds only an enigmatic “we’ll continue from there.”

Most authors writing a series, Gabaldon says, maintain the same tone, style, and structure in every book they write, but she doesn’t. “I just don’t like doing things I’ve done before,” she insists. In fact, she adds, Outlander originally was conceived as a “practice” novel, to see if she could write one; she had no intention of showing it to anybody. It only became an ongoing series, she recalls, after her agent sold Outlander to Random House, and also promised that there was much more to Claire and Jamie’s time-tripping love story.

Since then, the Outlander franchise has practically become a cottage industry: the novels, a spinoff series of four Lord John Grey novels, short stories, novellas, a graphic novel, and The Outlandish Companion, Vol. I. There’s even a prequel about Jamie’s parents in the works. And, of course, there’s Outlander: The Musical, plus a television miniseries currently under development by producer Ronald Moore.

Despite the millions of words Gabaldon’s written for the past 20 years about Claire, Jamie, the ancestors, and the descendants they encounter during their time travels, she says it all boils down to telling a simple, age-old tale—a story about two people involved in a long-term relationship, in love and married for 50 years, give or take that two-century travel time.

Gabaldon is one of the speakers at today’s book and author breakfast, 8–9:30 a.m., in the Special Events Hall.