I ‘met’ Connie online a couple of years ago, through Twitter, and we’ve been friends ever since. I wanted her to tell her story, so I asked her to take part in my “Outlander – the fans who make it” series.
I hope you enjoy it.
- Please tell us about yourself
I’m Connie Sandlin (@Yr_Obt_Svt on Twitter – that means “Your Obedient Servant” as I’ve sometimes seen it abbreviated in novels and documents).
Me, as drawn by Girlfrog aka @thenewredplaid
I’m a woman of a “certain age”.
I was born in Dallas, Texas and am a 5th generation Texan, but my life took a huge turn in 2008 when my husband and I moved to Costa Rica in Central America (not to be confused with Puerto Rico. We don’t live on an island, but we get asked all the time “How do you like living on an island?” We don’t live on one!) I studied Spanish in high school and it was my minor at university or it never would have crossed my mind to live in a Spanish-speaking country. My husband was a linguist in the US Air Force, so even though he had never studied Spanish, I knew he could learn!)
Me and hubby Dick (a/k/a Ricardo) a few years ago on vacation in the mountains of West Texas
My profession? Um, I’ve had many – mommy, secretary, substitute teacher, desktop publisher, office manager, day-care licensing inspector, and a lot of volunteer positions.
My hobbies? Well, therein hangs a tale. My parents became interested in birds when I was 5 years old and it became a family pastime. Time jump forward to the 2000s and I was a volunteer on the board of directors for the Dallas chapter of the Audubon Society. As Vice President for Field Trips, I organized a field trip to Costa Rica at the very end of 2007. Having spent one week in Costa Rica and asking zillions of questions as I am wont to do, I decided that I wanted to live there. Fortunately, my husband was willing to try it and it suits us both, right down to the ground.
Other than birdwatching (which also includes attempts to photograph them), I enjoy reading, watching television, travel, cooking, and interacting with other fans on social media. And I can organize events and information. (Did I mention that I was also the VP Communications for Audubon Dallas for 4 years?)
- What made you decide to become the encyclopedia of the Outlander story? Have you done this for other shows as well?
Decide? to become an encyclopedia? Me? I’d say more that all kinds of bits of trivia and knowledge stick to my brain like adhesive notes. I have a fairly good, but not perfect, memory and things like dates and facts about the books and TV series and the cast and crew seem to adhere to random parts of my brain. Also, I find associations between Outlander (the whole book series and the TV series) with many, many other topics and can turn almost any conversation to Outlander!
I’ve never been as obsessed with any other show or book series, although I will admit to being very well versed in the whole “Oz” series of books in my childhood and could have told you many story details and relationships back then.
- What made you decide to start Outlander tours in Costa Rica for the fans? Tell us a little about your first tour?
I’m an admin for a regional fan group (Texas Outlander Fans) and one of the members (Kathryn) asked me whether I might consider setting up a tour for other fans. That didn’t take much consideration – I quickly said “yes”. Sharing a (possibly) life-changing experience with other like-minded fans was a great prospect, and the actual week was full of adventure, self-discovery, transformation, and shared humor and outlook for all involved.
I just returned home a few days ago after escorting my first group. There may be more, if other fans are interested. Using my 10 years of experience living here, my background with nature and the Costa Rican culture and the language, and my common Outlander “language” to show others some of the wonders of this great country was a deeply moving experience for me. There were several typical tourist activities included as part of the package, but I added more Outlander-focused bits and pieces. Last week, we enjoyed group discussions about Outlander characters, plot points, speculations, TV/book differences, anticipation of upcoming scenes in future seasons, casting choices, and more while soaking in volcano-heated hot springs. We also had fun playing Outlander Bingo with prizes related to Outlander or Costa Rica. Any time you get a group of fans together, you find you share a common frame of reference that is a short cut to friendship and bonding!
I hope to escort another group in September 2019 – that plan is currently in development, with some of the same elements as the recent trip plus additional features. It worked out so well and so harmoniously, that I’m excited to contemplate another great experience. If there’s enough interest, I will once again coordinate, escort, and translate. I have set up a group on Facebook for those interested to learn more: https://www.facebook.com/groups/OutlandersReturnToCostaRica/
- How much time do you spend every day on Outlander?
I spend about 8 hours a day on Outlander, mostly on social media. Also, a shared activity I enjoy with my husband is reading various novels aloud to him. We just started “A Breath of Snow and Ashes” this week after a couple of other novels and it was like coming home, sliding into the comfort of well-loved and comforting surroundings. We enjoy well-crafted detective / police-procedural stories such as those by Michael Connelly, but Diana Gabaldon has “ruined” us for authors who just can’t compare!
- What do you like most about the Outlander books and show? What do you like the least?
I like the books and show because they are immersive experiences that really boil down to classic themes of good vs. evil, sacrificial love and fidelity, and how actions have consequences.
What I like the least is how long it takes for Diana to write the books, but they’re worth the wait. Quality takes and deserves time, both for the books and the TV series.
- Which character in Outlander is your favourite?
That’s like asking which child is my favorite! Jamie, of course, and Claire, plus Roger, but many many more could be named. Animal character favorites include Bouton and Rollo, with the White Sow for comic relief!
- How has Outlander affected your life and/or lifestyle?
HUGE effect on my life: when my husband and I were considering moving to Costa Rica shortly after remodeling our home and getting some new furniture, he was “But this is our home, and we just did all this work!’ and I was “You are my home” and he was “Yeah, okay.” Thank you, Diana Gabaldon.
As to affecting my lifestyle, other than moving to Costa Rica (to my version of Fraser’s Ridge at 4,000 feet above sea level from flat Dallas (about 450 feet above sea level), having friends all over the world on social media has been a big blessing to me, in emotional, psychological, and practical ways.
When my brother sickened (and died) suddenly and unexpectedly last October, it was, in large part, my social media friends who came to my “rescue”, picking me up at the airport in Austin and taking me to his hospital, and “sitting up” with me online during the difficult night when his condition worsened, to figuratively hold my hand and keep my spirits up.
And Jamie’s stolid, bone-deep faith and Catholicism, via Diana’s writing, added to my journey to become “officially” Roman Catholic.
Oh, and I drink a bit of whisky from time to time. <grin>
- Is this the first fandom you are a member of? What made you decide to join this fandom, rather than any other one? What do you like and dislike about this fandom?
My first fandom was the Beatles, but I was young and didn’t really do anything in any organized way. Once the first Outlander L.A. Fan Event was held on January 11, 2014, I joined Twitter shortly afterward. I like having people I can meet online and then meet in real life and become friends with. I also appreciate the generosity of the fans in supporting the actors’ charities. Melissa Balsam (met via fandom) and I hosted an Emulsion screening in Austin, Texas in November 2014 and raised money for Bloodwise via a raffle and by auctioning Sam Heughan’s coat and hat, graciously donated by writer/director Suki Singh. Melissa and her adorable husband Richard have since become close friends with my husband and me, and we have been guests in their home.
Me with Sam’s coat and hat from Emulsion
I think it was Will Rogers who said that strangers were just friends he hadn’t met yet. I feel most other Outlander fans are part of my **family** I haven’t met yet.
- Have you met Diana or any of the actors of Outlander? If so, which personality did you enjoy meeting the most? If not, who would you like to meet the most?
I have met Diana only and briefly, at a book signing years ago at a Borders book store in Plano, Texas, but I interact with her from time to time via DMs on Twitter. I try to not pester her too much! I would love to meet Costume Designer and creative genius Terry Dresbach, on the Outlander crew. I think Sam Heughan and I have a tiny bit in common about the transcendent feeling being in “nature” gives one, but that’s not easy at any time to put into words, so I would just want him to know that I appreciate that about him.