CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Best-selling author Diana Gabaldon knew she wanted to be a writer from the time she was 8 years old, but she ended up as a scientist at first.
So how did she switch back to her first idea for a career?
"Easy. I wrote a book," she said Sunday afternoon at the 10th annual West Virginia Book Festival. "You don't have to have a license or anything."
Gabaldon spoke to an overflow crowd of a few hundred fans, who greeted her with a standing ovation, at the Charleston Civic Center. They came to hear her talk about her latest project, the graphic novel "The Exile" - which has been at the top of the New York Times graphic book bestseller list since it was released a couple of weeks ago - and to hear her read from the as-yet-unnamed eighth novel in her hugely popular historical romance-science fiction "Outlander" series.
That book probably won't be ready for a couple of years, but the next installment in her "Lord John" series - "Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner" - should be ready next year.
Gabaldon contrasted Sunday's crowd with her early days as an author, when she would come home from similar events and say to her husband, "We had a great crowd. We had 15 people."
When Gabaldon decided to write a novel, she first considered mysteries, because she read a lot of them. But she thought, "Mysteries have plots; I'm not sure I could do that."
She decided that historical fiction would be easiest for her to write, because her scientific background meant she was a good researcher.
"It seems easier to look things up than to make them up," she said.
But she didn't have any historical training - other than the six hours of Western Civilization they make you take in college.
Her inspiration for setting her books in 18th-century Scotland came from a strange place - an episode of the British science fiction TV show "Doctor Who," where a time-traveler picks up human companions from various eras. In this episode, the doctor acquired a young Scotsman from around 1745.