Diana Gabaldon : The author of the Outlander series, which continues with ''Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone,'' feels no sense of obligation or shame in her reading life : ''I don't really consider books as social accessories.''

.- What books are on your night stand?

The 1,500 plus that are on my Kindle.

.- What's the last great book you read?

Saeed Jones's ''How We Fight for our lives.''

.- Describe the ideal reading experience [ When, where, what, how ] 

In my old family house in Flagstaff, Ariz., alone, with heavy snow falling outside, the old floor furnace crackling and the makings of roast beef sandwiches in the refrigerator.

.- What do you read when you're working on a book? And what kind of reading do you avoid while writing?

It depends where I am in the process. [ I tend to have long processes ] Early on and through the middle, I read anything and lots of it. In the final few months to a year, though, I can't risk reading anything I can't put down to work, so I tend to read good, but less gripping books - or, if gripping, short ones.

[Just recently, reading Vol. 1 of the Inspector Maigret Omnibus by Georges Simenion and David Ebershoff's ''The 19th Wife.'' Also ''The Big Blue Jobbie,'' by Yvonne Vincent. Yes, I do read more than one book at once, unless it's really gripping.]

Early on, though, I like to read fiction with a strong poetic feel, because the sense of beautiful language is catching [ see '' How We Fight for Our Lives,'' noted above ]. Not necessarily literary fiction, as such, but authors who routinely play with language - I reread all of Reginald Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe novels while writing the most recent book.

Now that said book is finished, though, I have a deal with one of my favorite booksellers, to read  ''Swann's Way'' together. We haven't started yet, but we've both been rather busy.

.- Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?

Well, now, there's a fraught term. I've generally felt mildly miffed when people refer to my books as guilty pleasures, feeling that the implication is that the reader considers them in the same light as cotton candy : delicious and fun to consume, but ultimately fluff.

However, I mentioned this briefly somewhere online, and someone replied, '' Oh, no! When I say that, I just mean that your books are so addictive I can't stop reading them, and end up neglecting all my responsibilities.

That's what I feel guilty about!''

Which I suppose just goes to show that one oughtn't to leap to conclusions about what people mean, at least not without further conversation. On the other hand, perhaps she was just trying to spare my feelings.

.- What moves you most in a work of literature?

Honesty. Emotional honesty, in particular. Granted, an author is [ more or less by definition ] not only taking liberties with reality, he/she/they are deliberately manipulating the feelings and thoughts of the reader. Still, emotion that doesn't ring true will kill a book for me.

.- Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?

I kind of a think a good book should do both. Even the lightest of escape fiction needs to have an intrinsic sense of structure, self-awareness and intelligence. On the other hand, I totally consider laughter to be an important emotion.

.- What kind of a reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

Omnivorous and dedicated. The sort of kid who gets in trouble at school for reading a book on the playground instead of risking her neck roller skating. [ I was and am Completely Uncoordinated]. I liked everything but was completely fond of series :

Trixie Belden, the Hardy Boys [ never cared for Nancy Drew, who I thought was a simp], Danny Dunn, the Oz books [ especially the Oz books!],  and two long series of biographies of famous people, intended for children.

Also ''The Moon Spinners'' and ''Man-Eaters,'' which were certainly not intended for children, but I read both in the sixth grade and enjoyed them immensely.

.- What was the last book you recommended to a member of your family?

''The Shape of Ancient Thought : Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies.'' Also ''Horton Hears a Who!'' [Not to the same family members, I should add.]

.- What do you plan to read next?

Well, to be honest - ''Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone.'' ''You read your own books?'' someone said to me in amazement recently, when I remarked that I was looking forward to getting my author copy of the book so I could read it.

''Of course,'' I replied. ''It wasn't a book when it left me; it was this huge cloud of sparkly fragments that I've been juggling inside my head for the last few years. Being able to read it straight through [I don't write with an outline and I don't write in a straight line] is always a thrill.''


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