Gabaldon was born on January 11, 1952, in Scottsdale, Arizona, United States, the daughter of Jacqueline Sykes and Tony Gabaldon (1931–1998), an Arizona state senator from Flagstaff for sixteen years and later a supervisor of Coconino County. Her father was of Mexican ancestry, and her mother was of English descent.
Gabaldon was the founding editor of Science Software Quarterly in 1984 while employed at the Center for Environmental Studies at Arizona State University. During the mid-1980s, Gabaldon wrote software reviews and technical articles for computer publications, as well as popular-science articles and comic books for the Walt Disney Company. She was a professor with an expertise in scientific computation at ASU for 12 years before leaving to write full-time.
In 1988, Gabaldon decided to write a novel for "practice, just to learn how" and with no intention to show it to anyone. As a research professor, she decided that a historical novel would be easiest to research and write, but she had no background in history and initially no particular time period in mind. Gabaldon happened to see a rerun episode of the Doctor Who science fiction TV series titled "The War Games." One of the Doctor's companions was a Scot from around 1745, a young man about 17 years old named Jamie McCrimmon, who provided the initial inspiration for her main male character, James Fraser, and for her novel's mid-18th century Scotland setting. Gabaldon decided to have "an Englishwoman to play-off all these kilted Scotsmen," but her female character "took over the story and began telling it herself, making smart-ass modern remarks about everything."
To explain the character's modern behavior and attitudes, Gabaldon chose to use time travel. Writing the novel at a time "when the World Wide Web didn't exist," she did her research "the old-fashioned way, by herself, through books."
Later Gabaldon posted a short excerpt of her novel on the CompuServe Literary Forum, where author John E. Stith introduced her to literary agent Perry Knowlton. Knowlton represented her based on an unfinished first novel, tentatively titled Cross Stitch. Her first book deal was for a trilogy, the first novel plus two then-unwritten sequels. Her U.S. publishers changed the first book's title to Outlander, but the title remained unchanged in the U.K. According to Gabaldon, her British publishers liked the title Cross Stitch, a play on "a stitch in time"; however, the American publisher said it "sounded too much like embroidery" and wanted a more "adventurous" title. When her second book was finished, Gabaldon resigned her faculty position at Arizona State University to become a full-time author.
As of 2014[update], the Outlander series comprises eight published novels. The eighth installment, Written in My Own Heart's Blood, was released on June 10, 2014. Gabaldon has also published The Exile (An Outlander Graphic Novel) (2010). The Lord John series is a spin-off from the Outlander books, centering on a secondary character from the original series.
A Fugitive Green (2017), a novella published in the Gabaldon collection Seven Stones to Stand or Fall.
The Outlandish Companion (1999), a guide to the Outlander series containing synopses, a character guide, and other notes and information; revised and updated as The Outlandish Companion (Volume One) (2015)
The Lord John series is a sequence of novels and shorter works that center on Lord John Grey, a recurring secondary character in Gabaldon's Outlander series. The spin-off series currently consists of five novellas and three novels, which all take place between 1756 and 1761, during the events of Gabaldon's Voyager. They can be generally categorized as historical mysteries, and the three novels are shorter and focus on fewer plot threads than the main Outlander books.
"Humane Killer", short story co-written with Sam Sykes, published in The Dragon Book: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy (2009)
"Dirty Scottsdale", short crime story set in Phoenix, Arizona, published in Phoenix Noir (2009), a collection with fifteen other authors
"Past Prologue" (2017), a short story written with Steve Berry and published in the Anthology 'Matchup'
The Outlander series has been released in unabridged (read by Davina Porter) and abridged (read by Geraldine James) audiobooks. Several of the Lord John books have been released in audiobook form, read by Jeff Woodman.
Lord John and the Private Matter reached #8 on The New York Times Hardcover Fiction Best-Seller List in 2003. In 2007, Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade debuted at #1, and the Hand of Devils collection reached #24 on The New York Times Hardcover Fiction Best-Seller List.The Scottish Prisoner debuted at #6 on The New York Times E-Book Fiction Best-Seller List in 2011, and the novella A Plague of Zombies was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America for the “Best Short Mystery Story” the same year. Reviewing the Lord John series, Publishers Weekly said that "Gabaldon's prose is crisply elegant" and that she "brings an effusive joy to her fiction that proves infectious even for readers unfamiliar with her work or the period."
^Martin, George R. R. (January 23, 2013). "Not A Blog: A Dangerous Delivery". GRRM.livejournal.com. Archived from the original on January 23, 2013. Retrieved January 23, 2013. For those who like to lose themselves in long stories, the Brandon Sanderson story, the Diana Gabaldon story, the Caroline Spector story, and my Princess and Queen are novellas.