I don’t want to rehash this forever and ever, so I’m choosing to post this on Friday rather than on Monday, so everything is contained within one particularly bad week. Then next week, things can be positive and happy and shiny and new.
On Saturday night, I was not acting in my right mind when I deleted my earlier post and tweets and apologized for the harm I caused the subject of the article. I was at the beginning of a serious mental health crisis, manic, paranoid, and out of touch with reality, and I assumed responsibility for a situation that I did not cause. I retract any statements made over the weekend and hope everyone will substitute them with these, instead.
I will not back down from my condemnation of the other author’s behavior. I’m also not going to use her name or my old one. In fact, I would prefer if, from now on, people never mentioned either to me again. I would ask, with full respect to the transgender community and apologies for borrowing your term, that everyone treat my old name as if it were a dead name and consider the psychological harm that hearing it or seeing it in print does to me before you use it.
- It wasn’t about a first name. Jennifer was the most common name for girls in the United States in 1980. I have never felt harmed by not being the only Jennifer in the room. I’m mildly surprised when I am the only Jennifer in a room. During my first years as author, another Jennifer, Jennifer Rardin, had a vampire series out as well. I never felt harmed by the existence of her name nor her books.
- It wasn’t about a last name. The last name isn’t common, but it isn’t entirely rare. There is a woman with my exact same birth name, down to each and every letter, who lives in my area. With the exception of the time we both used the same credit union and they accidentally merged our accounts, I have never felt harmed by sharing a name with her. I have been online friends for years with a woman whose name is the other spelling. She is also a writer but in an entirely different field. I have never felt harmed by sharing a name with her.
- It wasn’t about a cover. My book Such Sweet Sorrow has a cover that is extremely similar to Lia Habel’s Dearly, Departed. We have joked about it and even posed holding the “wrong” book on Instagram to promote an event we were attending. As far as I’m aware, she doesn’t feel threatened, jealous, or abused as a result, and that feeling is mutual. We’ve known each other for years and it’s never been a point of contention between us.
- Coincidences happen. In 2006, my debut novel, Blood Ties Book One: The Turning came out at the same time as Lori Armstrong’s Blood Ties. We were seated beside each other at the Romantic Times convention book signing. I did not feel threatened, jealous, or abused as a result. There are hundreds of romance novels titled Boss or [verbing] The Boss or even, yes, The Boss. I have never felt threatened, jealous, or abused as a result. I am not a person who gets upset at small coincidences. In fact, I usually give people the benefit of the doubt.
It’s when a pattern of behavior emerges that I find it more difficult or sometimes, like now, even impossible, to extend that benefit. The name alone is not an issue. The cover alone is not an issue. In fact, those two things are the most minor of the allegations contained in the article; I found myself sitting here saying, “Jesus, at least it was just my name. It could have been way worse.” Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And hypocrisy; I can state with absolute certainty that if debut author J.S. Ward wrote about two demon-hunting brothers who criss-cross the midwest in a classic car and occasionally hang out with an angel and God himself, but claimed to have never seen Supernatural, they would be roasted like a squirrel on a gas-fired grill.
I have been accused of “blaming” my mental health issues on the other author. I have never done so. I have stated that the situation has, historically, exacerbated my symptoms. I have been in and out of psychiatric treatment since the second grade. This situation didn’t make me crazy and I’ve never said: “this author made me mentally ill.” She could come to me tomorrow, look me in the face, say, “My name is Martina Horowitz and I did this to you intentionally,” and I still wouldn’t blame her for the fact that I’m mentally ill. Because that’s preposterous. The situation has been detrimental to my already poor health and I’ve been honest about that as part of my ongoing attempts to be transparent about mental health issues and what I experience as a result of them. Whether the actions that caused the situation were intentional or not, I own my experiences and I am not obligated to minimize or dismiss them.
As a result, I’m going to be taking some steps to protect my health.
- Removing myself from the romance “community” on social media for as long as I deem necessary. Note: this doesn’t mean I won’t write anymore. I’m going to keep writing and publishing, just like I have been. It’s my calling, and I won’t allow it to be taken from me. But I won’t be engaging in any other “issue” in the community. Plainly put, it’s because it’s been made clear, through the words and actions of several of my colleagues, that I am not a part of the community. So, when I see people shouting their heads off over the latest drama, I won’t be lending my voice to condemn or support. I had already scaled back my involvement after the Fiona Haskins incident and my overall health and productivity improved, so it won’t be difficult to let it go the rest of the way. I do, however, want to point out that we didn’t adequately mock Jimmy Thomas for comparing himself to a cheetah.
- Unfollowing, blocking, or muting people on social media if they express support for or promote the author. Again, sounds harsh. Sounds like I’m saying, “You have to pick her or me!” Nope. Not at all. What I’m saying is, anything to do with this woman can trigger my depression, anxiety, OCD, imposter syndrome, self-harm, and suicidal ideation. You could be the most awesome person in the world, but I still have a duty to care for myself first. If I unfollow you or block you or I don’t respond to you and you think it’s because I muted you? It might not be personal at all or me hating you or something you said. It might just be necessary. You have a right to do whatever you want to do and again, it’s not personal at all and I don’t expect anyone to swear their allegiance to me. It’s protection for myself, not a comment on your value as a person, an attack on you, or what I think of you.
- Unfollowing and muting anyone who attends or promotes the author’s conference. Again, this is not personal and I’m not issuing an ultimatum. Cons are expensive and they’re necessary to further your career and broaden your readership. I don’t expect anyone to suddenly cancel their plans or scrap their promo. I simply have to minimize (hopefully eradicate) my awareness of her existence if I’m going to continue to do the job that I am good at and that I was put here to do. I cannot allow this person to take up space in my head that I need to create my own, authentic work. I want everyone to succeed, but I want to continue to succeed, too.
- No longer attending or participating in conventions or events. The fact that my brief interaction with one author led to her claiming familiarity to try to gain control of the narrative on Twitter, and another brief, professional interaction between myself and the subject of the article was used to suggest I’m not allowed to have or express my own anger over the revelations in that article have convinced me that it’s simply not in my best interest to socialize in those types of situations. I’ll still do things for libraries. Obviously. I’m not a monster.
Does this all seem extreme? Oh well, I guess? Does it seem like I’m threatening to take my toys and go home? Okay, if that’s how you’d like to frame it. But what this really is about is the deep sense of betrayal I felt when these allegations, which would have buried an author of lesser standing, were brushed aside, while the person who exposed them was crucified. That article revealed years of gaslighting, not just from the author but the industry and my own brain. And it was dismissed as unimportant. A non-issue. And loud voices behaved as though it was my job to stay quiet, push down my pain, and even apologize.
I do not owe strangers the comfort of my silence. But I also don’t owe anyone my anger. So, this, and not my deleted post, should be considered my last words on the subject from here out. I’ll see everyone on Monday.