Casting Claire (or How To Stop #Outlander Casting Bashing)


Wait…are her eyes brown in this picture?

Her hair is brown, curly, and rather unruly.  Her eyes are the color of whisky; they are hawkish and observant[i].  At 5”6, her nose fits neatly in the hollow of Jamie’s chest.  Despite her generous bum and her full bosom, she is trim.[ii]  In the first book, Claire responds to Jamie’s blurted inquiry of “How much do you weigh, Sassanach,” with the unguarded answer of “Nine stone.”[iii]  These are the physical attribute of Claire—this is what she sees when she looks in the mirror.  Although, to be fair, considering the fictional life she lives, she doesn’t always have one to hand.  But that’s perfectly fine, because more often than not, Claire does give a rat’s ass if she looks “proper” or not.

Besides her lack of preoccupation with appearance, one of the things I love best about Claire is that her appearance is not static.  It changes.  She changes.  During times of trial and hardship, she loses weight; her stomach becomes nearly concave.  One cold winter, when activity is understandably limited due to the weather, Claire describes herself as “squidgy.”[iv]  Her hair starts to turn, some strands fade to white while others take on a silvery sheen.  Her ankle is marked by a broken vein.  Faint stretch marks are a testament to her feminine form.

And yet, based on (or in spite of) the words on the page, readers undoubtedly find themselves in Claire:

She is tall like me (…or short like me…)

She is curvy, like me (…or thin, like me…or has a round rear-end, like me…)

This seeing ourselves in the characters may be one of the reason that readers be so emotionally invested in the appearance of their beloved book characters when they do finally make an appearance on the screen.

Unfortunately, whenever a character is cast, it seems that the Appearance Police make their own appearance…

Hmmph, Brianna’s hair is so not that shade of red.  Cant’s they just use the dye they use for Jamie?

Claire’s eyes should be whisky colored.  Seriously, how hard would it be to wear contacts?

Brianna should be taller.  Geez, can’t she just, like, wear some platform shoes?

Roger’s hair should be blacker.  *produces bottle of hair dye and waves it threateningly*

Claire is too thin (…or too curvy).

Jamie’s hair is too short (…or long….or red…or curly…or fuzzy…)  Because, you know, they totally had some great hair products back in the 1700s… Bear grease, anyone?

Admittedly, it seems like the screams of outrage are louder for the casting of the female characters.  Maybe I missed it, but I don’t recall having heard too much drama over the casting of Dougal (Disclaimer: I love Graham.  Seriously.  Not hating on Graham.  But, if you want to get picky, he really doesn’t look like Book Dougal.  And yet…no drama.  But geez, let poor Catriona rock her own eye color rather than some boozy hue and OMG! The Skye[v] is Freakin’ Falling!).

It seems that of All The Things I Stage Whisper To My Husband While Watching Outlander, none of these things are about physical attributes.  Mostly, because I tend to read characters and develop a “sense” of them rather than a mental image.  So I’m kind amazed when I see how absolutely rabid some[vi] of the Mental Imagers have with regard to the casting.

I just don’t get it.

But as I read all of the Twitter (and Facebook) outrage over the latest round of castings, it made me want to understand.  The best I can come up with is this:  maybe those qualities that the Casting Blasters believe they share with the main character weren’t retained, and it makes them sad to miss that perceived connection.

Maybe not.

I dunno.

But I do know that Jamie loved Claire when she was bony and when she was squidgy.  He loved her when she was his brown haired lass, when glints of white shone in her curls, and even when her head was shaved.  He loved her pre-stretch marks, and he loved her even more when the marks—these tangible evidence of the life they created– wove their silvery web across her stomach.  He loved her unconditionally.  Because Jamie loved the essence of Claire…not her appearance.

While lovely, Claire was so much more that that.  Jamie knew it.  Hell, even Lord John knew it:

“When he began to speak of you, both of us thought you were dead,” he pointed out.  “And while you are undoubtedly a handsome woman, it was never of your looks that he spoke.”

To my surprise, he picked up my hand and held it lightly.

“You have his courage,” he said.

 *Clears throat.*

*Wipes tear.*

*Drains whisky glass.*

So, I am thinking that maybe it would help if instead of Casting Bashing, we channel our inner-Jamie and wait and see how an actor/actress actually acts before we judge him/her.  We need to give them time to “show us what they got,” so to speak.

This approach works really well with fictional characters…come to think of it, it works pretty well for Real Life People, too.



[i] “She turned to Roger, her gaze an unsettling amber.  Her eyes always reminded him of hawk’s eyes, as though she could see a good deal father than most people.”  Voyager.
[ii] And this is where I would tuck in the quote about her flat belly that I recall from Voyager, when she is appraising her appearance and wondering how she will look to Jamie, after all these years… or at least this is where I would put the quote if I had book to hand and could find it at the moment
[iii] Or 126 pounds.  I rather like that she “owns” each pound; her answer is neither coy nor self-conscious.
[iv] To which Jamie responds something like, “I like ye fat.”  A response that made me crush on him pretty hard, and which every male would be well advised to learn and use when needed.
[v] See what I did there?
[vi] Please notice that I said “some,” not “all.”  If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t assume I am trying to shove your foot into it.

As Real as it Gets

I spent my summer writing.  (Big surprise!)  I was writing a novel that I had every intention of publishing under a pseudonym.  It was different from what I had written before.  It was still a bit strange, and quirky, but it was…different.  And different can be scary.

So I came up with a pen name and spent all summer creating a blog for Ms. Fakey Pants (a/k/a Terri 2.0).  I built her a Twitter following and secured her email accounts and did all of those things that one does when creating a fakity-fake-fake.  The problem was, I didn’t want to be fake.

I finally feel comfortable in my own skin, and damn if I want to hide behind some persona.  I really love this book, and the characters, and the quirkiness, and the paranomality (is that a word) of it.  I also like the sexy bits.  Sexy bits are good.  So…why?

Maybe because for as long as there have been writers there have been people throwing in their unsolicited opinions about what we should write.  Whether it is well-meaning relatives or nosy co-workers or fans who desire The-Series-Which-Never-Ends, there is always someone telling us “You know what you should write?”

Um, actually, yeah.  I do.  I should write whatever the &%$#@*^ I feel like writing.

So I am.

And I am going to own it.  No pen name, no persona…just me.

So, in the spirit of going au natural, I am posting a picture of myself sans make-up and glasses.  Just me and my naked face.  (No make-up?  No problem.  No glasses?  Well, yeah…that makes me feel naked.  And blind. Reeeaaaalllly blind)

The best part of not wearing my glasses is I can’t see any snarky comments!

The Quiet Grace of a Forced Reprieve

Last year was The Summer of the Move.  The first part of the year seemed to be shaping up into The Year of the Medical Maladies.  However, (knock on wood) things seem to be settling down a bit, so I am hopeful that the remaining part of the year will be known as The Year I Finished My Novel.

Where I sit and write…or at least think about writing.

While recovering from surgery, I wrote.  A lot.  That is the good thing about writing, even if you are unable to move around much–as long as you brain is fairly clear and your fingers function–you can work on stories.  Depending on the amount of pain medication the doctor prescribed, there may be a bit more revising that normally required, but at least you can work toward your word count.

The novelization of The Collector is progressing.  I hate to speculate on an estimated draft date, because every time I do that Life explodes all over my meticulously crafted spreadsheet and then days pass without pen being put to page.  No, it seems that I do better when I try not to tempt fate.  When I write quietly, sneaking in words when no one is looking, that is when I make real progress.

If you notice my relative quiet on Facebook and Twitter, it is because I am adding words towards my story rather than into the ether.  If days, or a week, or even two (ahem) pass without a blog post, it is because a plot point has suddenly become clear, or a character needs my attention.

I go to sleep thinking about the story, and I wake up with snippets of dialogue in my head.  I drive to work plotting out scenes, and I spend my lunch typing them out.  It is a comfortable kind of routine, and it is yielding progress.

However, truth be told, I am grateful for the forced reprieve of the past few weeks.  I am blessed with amazing friends, a good surgeon, and a family that repeatedly humbles me with their love and dedication.  My husband and kids have taken such good care of me, and my mom and dad have surrounded me with love and prayers.  Yes, I am definitely blessed.

Nothing like a cancer scare to make you reassess and prioritize things.

Birthing a Novel

I am both pleased and humbled that my short story “The Collector,” has been well received.  And I am even more humbled that readers seem to want to read more about Junie Rae.  To be honest, I always wanted to write more about her…and about Granny Enid.  I wanted to tell more about what actually happened to Junie’s mother, about other people that helped Junie, and about those who wanted to exploit her and her abilities.

At first, I thought I would write some more short stories and offer a collection.  And I did write more short stories, and I will offer the collection very soon.  Only…the short stories weren’t about Junie, or about Granny, or even about Crankston’s Landing.  They were about other dark, twisty things.

Don’t get me wrong…I did write a lot more about Junie Rae.  But I realized that Junie really, really needed a novel of her own.  My readers seemed to think so, too.  So a novel is what Junie shall have.

The cover for the short story all of its glory!
The cover for the short story collection…it all of its glory!

Since I am not one to waste words, the collection of assorted short stories will be offered very soon, and it WILL include a slightly revised version of “The Collector” short story that is available on Amazon.  The version in the collection represents the beginning of the novelization of Junie.  The initial setup is trimmed down just a bit to get the reader into the action sooner, and several key scenes are fleshed out a bit more.  The collection also contains “Counting Crows,” as well as many shorter works.

For those of you who are clamoring for more Junie Rae, her novel will start out with the revised short story, and her story will continue from there.  You will get to find out what happened to Junie’s mother, why Junie was sent to Granny Enid, and how she is going to deal with her abilities and those who want to use them for their own, selfish purposes.  So, to all the readers and commenters who asked for MORE…you shall have it!  I am finishing the first draft now, and the summer will be spent editing.

When the leaves begin to turn and the air turns brisk, I want a cup of hot tea, a flickering fire, and a pile of book!   This autumn, you’ll be able to add the Junie Rae novel to your pile.  (Yes, it will be available as a paperback as well as on Kindle.)