Recently on our radio show, the Outlander Gab on the Air, co-hosts Sam Kraupner and Alyson Bailey and I were very pleased to chat with author Tara Bennett about the brand new Making of Outlander Seasons 3 & 4! You can listen to the entire nearly hour-long interview (and another hour of our broadcast) here, but because we were so excited to be able to chat with her – and because Random House sent us several copies to give away, I wanted to give some tidbits from the interview and some previews of the book.
And – we have THREE copies of the book to give away! Look at the bottom of this post for contest entry! Big thanks to Random House for providing us with all of these great books!
The new book is chock full of behind the scenes stuff – with a foreword by Matt Roberts, interviews with stars, writers, directors, features on each one of the episodes. There are tons of photos, including behind the scenes and production pictures, Terry Dresbach’s costume sketches. Pictures from hair and makeup, set building and dressing, spotlights on many of the key actors and crew. This, like the earlier Making of Outlander Seasons 1 & 2, is not a thumb through it book – it’s an ignore the kids, curl up with your beverage and Post-It Notes kind of book.
Here’s a few bits from our radio show chat with Tara.
What went into the book? Tara and her Random House editor made sure that they put together something you couldn’t find in everyday coverage of the show – these aren’t episode reviews, since you can get those from many different sources. She wanted to bring different tastes of process, how episodes came together, what was challenging, directors’ takes on each episode. She created layers from episodes with “boxouts” – short comments, interviews, sidebars, and more.
The format was often based on things outside of Tara’s purview – keeping it similar to the first book, looking at how do the books work together on a shelf, they didn’t want to make the books too different so that you have continuity between the books. They had to be concerned about page count so it’s not too pricey, and wanted to make sure not to go across the exact same material with same departments . There was a bigger focus on CGI, since it was used more in 3 & 4. Some sections were repeats – sections on Terry and her costumes, lots of her sketches, building the sets.
What’s the process for a book like Making Of? How do she know what to include – is she given points that the show wants her to cover? “The first one was complete blank space. I presented an outline of things that were important for fans, and looked at other elements that were necessary. I pitched, I don’t want to do a recap book.That felt unnecessary to purchase. I thought it was vital that the writer and director were included, that’s the collaboration that’s important. Especially for a fandom that’s incredibly savvy.
“I have to know what other people are doing. What have I read, who is being interviewed, how often are they interviewed, is it too much. There’s only so many ways I can say the same thing. It’s hard thing for an actor, there are finite ways for them to tell the same story. My questions are based on what I think hasn’t been covered. The writers and directors have very unique anecdotes from the shooting of those episodes. They’ve got a wealth of great day to day stories that haven’t been told. That gives me diversity in stories, or another way of telling an anecdote that people loved. That’s how I approach going into interviews. I don’t want to be intrusive.”
Were interviews in person? “With the first book, the opportunity to go to the set was in February, but February in Scotland was not when anyone wants a writer bugging them, asking them questions in the freezing cold, so we did phoners for the first book. Of course, the writers room is here in LA, so most of the writer interviews were in person. For the second one, it was a better time of year, but the logistics were never good, me being around is not helpful, so we decided the strategy would be the same.” More cast was available locally, so she did more cast interviews face to face, but still lots of phone interviews. Sony was aware of who was available, who had gone on to other things. “A lot of times they weren’t available in the window I had to turn this around. We have a finite amount of pages, so sometimes we had to make those hard calls. We upped the page count for Richard and Sophie because their arc was more important in these two seasons. The internet is infinite in its pages, but a book is not.”
What is she particularly intrigued by? The writing of any show is important – she’s a writing teacher, and loves writing about what writers do, the process of writing. Because Outlander is an adaptation, she’s fascinated by how they do that – it has to be relevant for viewers. It’s an interesting “dance” that writers have to do -they can’t move too far away from the original material, but there is a large contingent of fans who have never read the books, so it’s interesting balance of adaptation and innovation. A TV show needs to move quicker than a book, and it has to tell a lot of story in a short period of time. It’s a fascinating process – how they distill the story down, decide what to include, what to use in a different way. “When you transition from one medium to another, you have to respect the medium you’re working in.”
She covers a lot of different shows – how does she choose which projects she’ll do next? “I wish it was as easy as choosing,” she says. She has written 30 books as author or co-author, and has a long history of working in the business – as a PA “carrying lights, working until 4 in the morning, making things myself.” She transitioned in 2003 to writing and freelancing, and “I could take everything I learned in talking to people in the business, I understood how all of these departments and services worked, because I’ve worked in TV shows myself. It has given me insight on how to talk to people in their own language.” She built her career based on that. Her first book was The Making of Fantastic Four, and she worked with other writers.
Her first solo books were companion guides for 24. “Sometimes I get offered books, sometimes I try to put them into the world. For Outlander, I had worked with Ron for years covering Battlestar and Star Trek. We had created a rapport, he knew who I was, Sony could see a long list of books,I’d written. I was well recommended. It’s very important to understand and respect that making the show is the most important thing. When I pitched that, they were looking to do one, and Random House hired me to be the author and developer. The better a book does – I’m a freelancer. I get paid a flat fee and that’s it. As well as these books do, or as well as they don’t do, I don’t see any money for that. It’s all about doing a great book so that my reputation is, if you’re going to see my name on top of the cover of a book, that translates into worthiness of you as a purchaser, saying I like her books, I’m going to buy that book. My name is my value, that’s how some of the books come to me.”
Are there any shows she would LOVE to cover? “The nice thing is that I am a freelancer, I write for a lot of outlets, I have a name for genre writing.” So she gets to write about a lot of the shows she loves. “I’m nerdy, I’m geeky, in that sphere I usually get an opportunity to pitch stories. I have a relationship with so and so, I know so and so, it gives me the opportunity.” She loves The Good Wife and The Good Fight, and is is excited about that group’s new show Evil. Damon Lindeloff, producer of Lost, “I love his shows” – and she’s looking forward to his new one coming out this weekend – Watchmen. “I’ve handed books over to other people, because I’m not the right person to do this one.”
What was her favorite episode? “When you’re writing a book, you don’t really enjoy very much – there’s a tremendous amount of material, it’s the worst puzzle in the world. Once you finish the interviews, do the transcripts, place them all where they belong, and then see what’s missing, what needs to be boosted, what I have too much of, all of that tangles.” For Season 3, there were a couple of episodes she really liked – “in A. Malcolm, Matt did a great job with that. But a couple of the early ones, where we saw them separated… Sam did some terrific work in the early episodes of Season 3. And then for Season 4 – I would say, I really did enjoy toward the end of the season with the First Nations, if you’re a history nerd, if you love period pieces, and I totally love period pieces, they really landed a lot of that. There were some really great pieces with Roger and him being with the First Nations actors, to see what they built with that, and being really authentic with that.”
Is she a fan of Outlander? Is this a show she would watch even if she weren’t writing about it? Once she heard that they were making a show of it, she was ready. A cousin bought her a signed version of Voyager, when it first came out Diana was doing a book tour for that book, and her cousin gave it to her. “You can’t start here, she said, start with Outlander and then get to this one quick, because I need to talk about it,” the cousin told her. “I’ve been with the fandom all the way since Voyager. Voyager was my entry point. At that time, TV wasn’t really an adaptation medium for books, but we’ve had this golden age of TV, especially in the last 10 years. Books that need this kind of time to service it well – I was really hard core – you want to make a show of it, and you want to make a book of it, and I’m the person for that.”
Tara’s career is so varied – writing, teaching, interviewing, podcasts. What does she like best? “I went to college for television, produced TV on the east coast, found that I loved the creativity of creating a television show – I worked in public affairs, never a scripted show, but my career is now doing a lot of production. It’s creative in presentation for the final product. But I’ve had a long time of learning to make the best interview I can, I try to find a genuine connection in terms of my interest, I always want to hear a great story. I always have a healthy respect because I know how hard it is to make something. They all live in a kind of synergy with each other.”
Will we see a Making of Season 5 & 6? “It literally depends on how this one sells. If people from the fandom show up around the same numbers that the first one sold, which absolutely is what made this one come about, then I hope so. It would be my deepest and fondest wish that Sony is happy with it, it would be nice to have a 5 & 6 with it on the shelf. We exist because you guys say yes with your wallets. I have a house full of things – I have 5 bookcases in an apartment, I put my money where my mouth is. It’s a big choice to have some of your expendable income go toward things you want but don’t need.”
What’s upcoming? Tara and her writing partner are working on the history of Marvel Studios, and been embedded for two years, The book will be 500 pages, 300,000 words, a “lap breaker.” (It’s currently available for pre-order.) “It’s an exhaustive history and insider’s history of everything they’ve done, warts and all. It’s been a real career high, one that’s almost killed us. Hopefully people will enjoy it next year when it comes out.”
Would you like to win a copy of this book? We have THREE more copies to give away, after the two that we had for the radio show’s contest. Sorry, because of mailing costs, this can only be sent to US addresses. To enter, go to the Rafflecopter box below! The contest will end Sunday, October 20, and prizes will be mailed out that week. If you have trouble entering, try another device or browser – problems are almost exclusively related to one or the other. Good luck!
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