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DON’T DO THIS EVER (An Advice Column For Writers): “Stalking The Hands That Feed You” edition

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I was out of town this weekend, and when I got home, I had all sorts of messages on twitter and Facebook. “Have you seen this?!” followed by a Do Not Link link. “I have to know what you think about this!” Well. I feel sick. And scared. Every time an author has a meltdown at a blogger, we all shout the same things into the social media vortex. “Every book gets bad reviews!” “Bad reviews can sometimes sell the book better than a positive one!” “It’s a matter of personal taste.” But then another author v. reviewer interaction comes along, more extreme than the last. Sites like Stop The GoodReads Bullies encourage abuse of and retaliation towards bloggers, stoking the flames so that each new “drama” is more radical and perplexing. I’ve long said that a site like Stop The GoodReads Bullies was going to get someone killed. And I am not exaggerating or being histrionic when I say that I fear that author Kathleen Hale’s actions have opened the door to that possibility. I don’t say that lightly. By Hale’s own admission, she stalked blogger Blythe Harris. In a long, unhinged essay for The Guardian, Hale tells the story about how a blogger caused her mental anguish significant enough to justify not only online stalking, but a premeditated visit to the blogger’s home, followed by the article exposing Blythe Harris as a blogger using an online pseudonym. The opening of the article draws on the time-worn cliche of “book babies” (with a tasteless comparison to Post-Partum Depression) in what is a transparent plea for a level of sympathy that excuses the actions that will be recounted in the rest of the tale:

“In the months before my first novel came out, I was a charmless lunatic – the type that other lunatics cross the street to avoid. I fidgeted and talked to myself, rewriting passages of a book that had already gone to print. I remember when my editor handed me the final copy: I held the book in my hands for a millisecond before grabbing a pen and scribbling edits in the margins.”

As an author, I find this to be worrying behavior. I’m not a mental health professional, so I can’t diagnose or declare someone mentally ill, so I won’t. But I will say that if one of my author friends were behaving this way, I would be gravely concerned for them, even if they were inexperienced or anxious over the release of the book. At first read, I assumed this description–and the following anecdote about her editor pulling the red pen from her hand–were humorous exaggeration. As the article continued, I began to doubt. According to Hale’s recounting of the story, she was approached by Blythe Harris on Twitter:

Her name was Blythe Harris. She had tweeted me saying she had some ideas for my next book. “Cool, Blythe, thanks!” I replied. In an attempt to connect with readers, I’d been asking Twitter for ideas – “The weirdest thing you can think of!” – promising to try to incorporate them in the sequel.

The order in which these events are listed is disingenuous; Hale makes it sound as though Harris contacted her to suggest ideas apropos of nothing, when in reality, Hale invited conversation, a fact that is dropped in as an afterthought. Hale’s curiosity led her to Harris’s GoodReads profile, where she found a one-star review of her work, with some harsh words expressing Harris’s dislike of the book. Hale writes about the warning that pops up when an author tries to leave a comment on a GoodReads review, but she doesn’t admit to leaving a comment. Whether or not she did, I have no idea; Harris has since made her GoodReads profile private.

“Blythe appeared on a page called Badly Behaving Goodreaders, an allusion to Badly Behaving Authors. BBAs, Athena Parker, a co-founder of STGRB, told me, are “usually authors who [have] unknowingly broken some ‘rule’”. Once an author is labelled a BBA, his or her book is unofficially blacklisted by the book-blogging community.”

Athena Parker is a pseudonymous identity that convincing evidence has linked to author Melissa Douthit. As STGRB has routinely stalked, threatened, and doxxed bloggers, using Douthit as a source in an article about stalking is either hilariously contradictory or tragically appropriate.

“In my case, I became a BBA by writing about issues such as PTSD, sex and deer hunting without moralising on these topics.”

I have to argue that the rest of the events in Hale’s anecdote are what make her a badly behaving author, not her choice of subject matter. She describes an “attack” Harris made against a fourteen-year-old GoodReads reviewer. Some authors and readers have pointed to Harris’s interaction with the teen reviewer as “bad behavior on both sides,” of this issue, but Hale’s obsession didn’t start with seeking justice for that incident, it was incited by a one-star review. As far as I can tell from Hale’s own account, the only action taken by Harris that justified Hale’s relentless stalking was that single review. The process of retaliation began the moment Hale engaged with STGRB. According to Hale, she was advised by a friend who was an editor to reach out to other authors who’d received negative reviews from Harris. I find this claim dubious in the extreme, but perhaps Hale found the one editor in publishing who feels engaging with a critic is a sound decision. She contacts several authors and finds only one who will speak, under condition of anonymity:

“She responded – “Omg” – and immediately took our conversation off the record. “DO NOT ENGAGE,” she implored me. “You’ll make yourself look bad, and she’ll ruin you.””

This is the advice Hale should have heeded. Instead, she continued to monitor reviews, following a “ripple effect” in which she implies that Harris’s review tainted the opinions of others. After searching her name on Twitter, Hale finds that Harris is “ridiculing” her:

“Confronting her would mean publicly acknowledging that I searched my name on Twitter, which is about as socially attractive as setting up a Google alert for your name (which I also did).”

Authors, if you are unable to handle dissenting opinions of your work and your public statements, never search your name. Never set up a Google alert for your name. But what truly troubles me about this paragraph is Hale’s concern that publicly announcing her vanity searches would not be “socially attractive,” yet she seems to find nothing unattractive about publicizing her methodical stalking of Harris. Does this mean that Hale finds her own actions acceptable? Hale describes what she did next as “light stalking.” This included tracking down all of Harris’s social media accounts, and consuming material that was unrelated to Harris’s book blogging. Months later, against the advice of the anonymous author she again contacted, Hale requested that Harris interview her for a book club. Hale doesn’t admit openly to requesting Harris with the goal of obtaining her address, but she is provided with the information. Hale used it to find Harris’s home on Google Maps, to ferret out her phone number and even check census records in order to learn more about her. What she learned was that Harris was using a pseudonym–not a crime, even if Harris did once make a claim to the contrary. Hale makes plans to confront Harris personally, at Harris’s home. Though the anonymous author once again pleads with Hale not to, Harris reserves a car for a date months away. She continues to stalk Harris via social media, collecting information to prove that Harris was not what she seemed, and that Hale was being “catfished.” She attempts to back up her paranoia with professional opinions; one must wonder how the sources cited feel about their words being used as vague justification for Hale’s actions. But Hale wasn’t being catfished–Harris had been reviewing books as Blythe Harris before she reviewed Hale’s book. Harris had not concocted an elaborate persona in order to trick people; many bloggers review under pseudonyms to avoid having their public hobby linked to their private lives, much in the same way that authors use pen names to separate themselves from their work. Hale concludes her self-pitying narrative by explaining how she went to Harris’s house and confronted the person who lived there, a woman named Judy who made excuses for her links to Harris. Or, when looked at from a different angle, a woman named Judy who, unnerved when a stranger from the internet showed up on her doorstep, tried to protect herself. Hale continues to contact Judy and Harris via social media, until both of them block her and make their accounts private, a step that Hale sees as an admission of guilt, rather than the actions of terrified victims withdrawing to avoid further contact. The details are presented in such a straight-forward, unflinching manner that it becomes painfully clear that Hale, despite calling the personal visit a “low-point,” has no remorse, and expects sympathy and understanding from the reader.  She received it in spades; Neil Gaiman leapt into the online fray to declare Hale’s article fascinating, though he states that he doesn’t condone her actions. Anne Rice (predictably) praised Hale, although one has to question one’s actions if Anne Rice approves of them. Comedian John Mulaney is also a fan, and Frank Rich, a fellow Guardian writer and her future father-in-law, threw his support behind the piece as well. Danielle Paige presumed to speak on behalf of all authors in an incendiary tweet that sparked dozens of replies:


Others blamed Harris, or insinuated that her behavior was equally as disturbing as Hale’s. I am forced to reiterated that the only thing Harris did to set this stalking behavior in motion was to write a one-star review for a book she didn’t care for. Hale was not catfished. Hale is not a victim. She is an author obsessed with public reception of her work, and comes across as a deeply troubled figure. The victim in this story is Blythe Harris, whose privacy, both online and off, was grotesquely violated by a woman who was repeatedly advised to disengage. All this, for the crime of disliking an unstable writer’s book. For her part, Hale seems to view this essay as a comedy piece, stating:  

I have to assume that were the roles reversed and a persistent blogger had visited Hale at her home, she wouldn’t have such a blasé attitude toward stalking. But as Twitter user @Bibliodaze eloquently explained:


In the coming months, I suspect that fewer blogs will host book tour giveaways with physical prizes that require an author to receive an entrant’s address. I suspect also that fewer bloggers will accept physical ARCs, and for a while, author/blogger interaction will be more guarded than it has in the past. There is no way for them to discern which authors will cross the line and visit their homes with accusations. There is no way for them to discern which might go further. I expect a few pseudonymous bloggers to stop reviewing books altogether, even as Hale supporters backpedal from their threats to reviewers:

Hale’s actions have harmed not only the book blogging community, but authors who will now be viewed with suspicion and caution by bloggers. She’s limited opportunities to reach out to readers via book blogs, not just for herself, but for all of us. The most troubling aspect of this story is that Hale, after writing an in-depth admission of stalking, is receiving any support or accolades at all. What she has done is not brave. Perhaps it’s not serious enough for the law to become involved, but the behavior itself, the stalking and intimidating, is at the very least a prelude to a crime. Hale didn’t go as far as assaulting Harris, but her supporters have, through their pseudo-intellectual praising of her bravery and “fascinating” retelling, normalized and rationalized the abnormal, irrational behavior that will one day lead to a violent altercation between an author with a wounded ego and a faulty moral compass, and a blogger who reviews the wrong book. I hope that those closest to Hale will view this article for what it is: a confession of dangerous behavior perpetrated by a deeply troubled person. I would have thought this would go without saying, but the lesson here is: Don’t do this. Ever. For more information on Hale’s essay, visit Dear AuthorSmart Bitches, Trashy Books, and this Storify of relevant tweets.  

80 Comments

  1. O.M.G.

    This is unbelievable! I have yet to publish a novel or anything, but I was in journalism and every once in a while someone would write a public letter to the editor or simply send me something privately to tell me I sucked (this happened only two or three times), so I’m pretty confident in how I would react if I were in Hale’s position — I would either take what the poor review said and use it to improve or (if I disagreed) laugh it off and move on.

    I think those are rational, healthy reactions. I hope.

    October 20, 2014
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  2. Honestly, I think that the thing that offends the most is that a reputable news outlet published what is a clearly a hit piece. It has no news value. And if you, Jenny Trout, not related to Simon Rich, Gail Winston, Nathaniel Rich, Frank Rich and the rest of the NY literati, had approached The Guardian and asked to publish your personal story of how you stalked some woman – to her home and workplace – who once said mean things on the internet about your book, they would have asked to leave while quietly calling security. Then they might consider taking out a pre-emptive restraining order because who the hell knows what someone who is that crazy might do when they are denied a platform for their lunacy.

    She gets away with this because of who she is – an unstable pampered publishing princess with more connections than character. She will continue to publish (I would imagine being married to Gail Winston’s son has a lot of perks). Frank Rich will continue to use his circle of influence to send readers her way.

    It is the rest of you who will feel the repercussions. She is so far above all of us in her social strata that she won’t even notice that she is a pariah amongst the little people.

    October 20, 2014
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    • ginmar
      ginmar

      Anybody else read Jezebel’s piece on Richard Brittain, that tv quiz show guy who wrote an even MORE disturbing piece about HIS stalking of a young woman? He got a bad review and flew to the reviewer’s location and allegedly hit her over the head.

      October 21, 2014
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      • I read that piece and then I read the follow-up where he allegedly hit someone over the head with a bottle and then I checked out the news story from any source but a Jezebel blog that took the “victim”‘s story verbatim without questioning it. Brittain has not been arrested or even questioned for the crime.

        Even more importantly, Brittain’s reaction to the negative feedback from the “harmless stalking” post has been to assess his behavior and talk about how stalking and misogyny is a major problem in today’s society.

        About the only independent news story concerns a woman who was hit over the head in a Scottish grocery store, but there is no indication that either the reviewer or Richard Brittain were involved.

        The most likely case is that the reviewer wrote a terrible GR review (it is really smarmy and awful and includes jpgs) and then wanted attention so she saw the stalking post and made up a story about Brittain making a stop over at her place to give her a head wound that would incapacitate her for weeks.

        November 16, 2014
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        • Ilyas
          Ilyas

          Yo, Tim, you obsessively left this kind of comment all over the internet. I was wondering if you’re ever going to address the fact dude has since CONFESSED and is now in prison.

          Also you’re really invested in protecting this guy. Are you friends, or do you just see him in you?

          November 10, 2015
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  3. Gray
    Gray

    This bothered me more than I thought it would. I just don’t understand how this kind of behavior is made to look funny, or even admirable. My sympathies go to Blythe Harris, who was portrayed as the villain in Hale’s semi-artistic recounting of her stalkery. She seems to have forgotten that Harris is a real person, with real feelings, and a real life outside of her book reviewer persona. Shame.

    It kind of bummed me out that Neil Gaiman is in this fray. I respect him so much.

    October 20, 2014
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    • Toya
      Toya

      Gaiman stated that he misspoke in his original tweet by calling it fascinating. He took down the original tweet and posted the link to the Guardian article with a subheader “A Study in Obsession”. I want to believe that he made a mistake of word choice as I really do respect his opinion. He received backlash for calling the article a study in obsession from people who said that him speaking out against Hale would hurt her reputation because of his considerable reach. His reply was that he has to right to call it obsession and stalking when Hale herself used the words.

      He, Scalzi and Wendig appear to be criticizing Hale’s actions but unfortunately I can’t say the same for Anne Rice :/

      October 20, 2014
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  4. A. Non. Mouse
    A. Non. Mouse

    I had one of Danielle’s books on pre-order. After seeing that tweet, I canceled it. “The one thing we all want to do”? Uh, no. I don’t want to stalk and harass people.

    October 20, 2014
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  5. pghbekka
    pghbekka

    When I first read the article on facebook, it suggested other articles to read (as it do). One of them was a piece on medium where she detailed stalking someone when she was younger as well. Different circumstances, same disturbing behavior on her part.

    October 20, 2014
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    • stompanie
      stompanie

      Jenny linked that earlier piece (“Privileged”) right at the end, and I decided to read it because I didn’t think anything could be as bad as the Guardian article she wrote. “Privileged” is seriously scary; she’s looking back- as an adult, over TEN YEARS LATER- at this horrible behavior, and can not see anything wrong with how she acted. All of us did some stupid stuff as a teenager, but Christ, most of us grow up and/or get help at some point.

      October 20, 2014
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      • goddesstio
        goddesstio

        Yeah I read that bit at the end and I found it hilarious how she said that “In Lori’s written statement to the police, she drew arrows pointing to supplementary exaggerations, underlined certain half-truths for emphasis, and wrote in the margins to fit everything she needed to say. The finished piece succeeded in making her into more of a victim, but was nevertheless false. It was very imaginative, though. Sometimes, when I am feeling gracious, I think that maybe she should have been a writer.”

        And then I marvel at the fact that she doesn’t realize that she is a writer now and DOING THE EXACT SAME THING.

        It’s honestly stunning, the way some people think.

        October 20, 2014
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      • Verlaine
        Verlaine

        Going by “Privileged”, Hale already has a record with the police for stalking and harassment, and is surrounded by people who won’t tell her that this is reprehensible behavior. The question isn’t if she’s going to do something like this again but what poor soul is going to be her next victim. I’m sickened that people are validating this vindictive sociopath.

        October 20, 2014
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      • Robin
        Robin

        Jesus Christ, I want every person who thinks this is just because a blogger was a gangster bully (or whatever crap Anne Rice calls people who don’t coddle perfect little snowflake authors) to read this story. This is a clear, admitted record of her being dangerously unstable since a very young age. Also, switching the victim and the bully seems to be her general life philosophy.

        Seriously, just… Holy crap. She minimizes eating disorders (which kill 1/5 people that have them), she attempts to paint an alleged victim of molestation as a monster *who does not deserve to be happy even briefly.* I honestly just can’t even with this woman. She really needs a lot of help, and I hope she realizes it someday beyond flippantly saying she knows she’s crazy.

        October 21, 2014
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        • Robin
          Robin

          Oh, and also the part about being turned on by her mother’s police report that detailed her mother allegedly molesting someone. I’m sure she was going for “transparent and honest to a fault,” but I mostly just got “ick ick ick.”

          October 21, 2014
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          • the-great-dragon
            the-great-dragon

            That part disturbed me so much. All of it disturbed me so much.

            October 25, 2014
  6. sharonmaasbooks
    sharonmaasbooks

    “did that thing we all want to do!” This disturbs me no end. Really? She wants to do that? Had Hale given her courage? Is this the start of a new trend? I was going to reply to that tweet but she seems to have deleted her account — or something. I usually am not interested in these Goodreads kerfuffles but this one really gets under my skin. It’s downright dangerous to see the Guardian giving a platform to someone this crazy.

    October 20, 2014
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  7. Ilex
    Ilex

    This whole thing is so weird. After reading the original Guardian article, I zoomed over to Goodreads to try to find all these positive reviews that “apologize” to other reviewers for liking the book, and I’ve only come up with one. And most of the negative reviews merely talk about how the book just wasn’t the reviewer’s kind of humor. Before this article, most of the “will not read ever” objections to this book I’d seen expressed at GR were because it’s a Full Fathom Five novel, and a lot of people have reservations about that whole deal. (Now, of course, there are a zillion one-star reviews in response to this crazy article.) Also, I’ve never run into this Blythe Harris person over on Goodreads, so she seems to make herself awfully scarce for someone so powerful.

    Honestly, at the risk of sounding like a cynical jerk, I have to wonder a bit if this whole article isn’t some kind of weird publicity stunt. How many people who would never have had this novel on their personal radar are now going to go out and look for it and possibly purchase it?

    Truly, I don’t know what to make of this.

    October 20, 2014
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    • the-great-dragon
      the-great-dragon

      I’m wondering the same thing tbh. But this author seems clearly disturbed, at least based of “Privilege” (which seemed fictional to me, but how knows. I mean, maybe it’s all part of a ‘character’ she’s building. Like, this is the image she wants to have as an author enhance her stories – kind of like Lemony Snicket, but terrible.)

      October 25, 2014
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  8. This is from a Goodreads discussion about this and it cracked me up:

    “Another GR reviewer commented that she didn’t like the book — she’d read it back in January or so — because so many of the characters seemed psychotic. And my first thought was, ‘Well, maybe Kathleen Hale followed the old writer’s advice to write what you know….'”

    October 20, 2014
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  9. Cami
    Cami

    I have never published or written a book but I would like to, even though I know I’m not very good at writing it’s something I want to do. Still, even if I were better, great even I know that you can be the richest peach in the entire world and there is always going to be someone who hates peaches. It’s a fact, books can have problematic things that people won’t like or it can be perfect and people are going to have a problem with that.
    I have to admit that once I was looking at a friends Facebook page
    (not stalking just checking out) when I found a joke made at my expenses, it wasn’t nice and it was worse because I considered this person to be my friend. I considered engaging, write a witty response to their mockery but I realized that there was really no point, I hadn’t been the perfect friend and if they did that, mocking me behind my back I didn’t want anything else to do with them so the next day on school I talked with them and we lost contact. Would I do that with someone that is a complete stranger and that said something negative about me? No, I would consider what they say (perhaps take it as a opportunity to grow and change) but if it’s a lie or something I don’t consider a problem I will be a bit hurt but soon forget about it and move on.
    It’s horrible that people are encouraging this woman and saying that they want to do that themselves.

    October 20, 2014
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  10. Wow…I had a rough go of it when I upset an author with what she saw as revealing the ending of her book in my review (she’s a relatively new, and, I believe self-published, author who solicited reviewers via Twitter). She got very pissy initially, but she did end up apologizing for trying to control the content of my review. I get that writers are emotionally invested in their works because of how much of themselves get poured into them, but if you can’t handle criticisms, don’t read the reviews!

    October 20, 2014
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  11. Nina
    Nina

    Christ Allmighty. I think I agree with Moonlight Leader. It’s because she’s married to editor’s son. Otherwise nobody would publish such bullshit. Still it’s horrible. So what even if someone dislikes your book? I write a lot of fanfic and I’m kinda insecure about it but I do not stalk reviewers. My insecurity is my problem not theirs.

    October 20, 2014
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  12. Ah, this is the first place I’ve read that Hale is Simon Rich’s fiancee! That explains A LOT: How the piece got published and why there’s been an outpouring of support from writers who should know better. (But not Anne Rice. She’s batshit.)

    October 20, 2014
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  13. Ilex
    Ilex

    Also, why does the author of the Guardian piece consider using a pseudonym/nickname for online interactions to be “catfishing”?

    Most of us have been taught that online interactions are safer under a nickname. I use a pseudonym here, for instance, and I use a different nickname on Goodreads, and a different one again on another online forum. But I’m consistent with my name in each context. I’m not trying to “fool” anybody, I’m just being cautious. So, I assume, are many of the rest of us here.

    October 20, 2014
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    • Lieke
      Lieke

      Yes, thank you.

      I would wager that many people don’t use their actual name on the internet. I don’t either. Not because I have nefarious intentions, but because others might and I don’t want (possibly creepy) strangers to be able to easily gather personal information about me.

      But apparently that means that we’re all catfishing each other all over the place.

      October 21, 2014
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    • the-great-dragon
      the-great-dragon

      I would never use a pseudonym. I, a real life dragon, couldn’t imagine it. (Maybe I should change my name to the-great-catfish…)

      Yeah, that part confused me loads. Catfishing is a relatively new term for me, but even I know that’s not what catfishing is. Even if the reviewer was using a fake account to be malicious and she message Kathleen Hale to draw attention and instigate drama like Hale claims, it wouldn’t be catfishing, it would be sock puppetry.

      October 25, 2014
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  14. Marvel
    Marvel

    Wow. This woman needs some serious help.

    October 20, 2014
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  15. AWExley
    AWExley

    What really concerns me (apart from the obvious whacko author stalking a reviewer) is the outpouring of support I have seen from other authors to Hale. Some have gone as far as to say the blogger “got what she deserved”. It makes me sick to my stomach and I want nothing to do with those special snowflakes. Everybody is free to express their opinion of a book, that’s why there are so many social media sites to encourage it! If authors insist on reading reviews and can’t handle honest opinions they should stick to writing for their family newsletter… :/

    October 20, 2014
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  16. Jilliterate
    Jilliterate

    The Guardian piece is so deceptively written that it removes any empathy I might have had for Hale, because I’m constantly doubting her every word. This part in particular really bothers me:

    “Why do hecklers heckle? Recent studies have had dark things to say about abusive internet commenters – a University of Manitoba report suggested they share traits with child molesters and serial killers.”

    I’m going to assume she’s referring to the study by Buckels, Trapnell, and Paulhus, which made its rounds online back in February (You can read the study here, and an associated info-graphic can be found here.

    At first I found it kind of strange that she didn’t just hyperlink the study within the Guardian article, since the article is littered with various links already. Most likely, it’s because she doesn’t want anyone to actually go read the study, since she just misrepresented its content. The study never draws a connection or comparison between trolls and child molesters or serial killers — it states that are “similar patterns of relations between trolling and the Dark Tetrad of personality: trolling correlated positively with sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism . . .” In fact, the words “child”, “molester”, “serial”, and “killer” don’t appear in the article at all.

    Hale isn’t incorrect in the technical facts — pedophiles and serial killers frequently do exhibit Dark Tetrad traits — but she uses wildly dramatic imagery and rhetoric to paint a picture of herself as a victim. If there was a genuine worry that her harasser had the potential to be a serial killer, why on earth would Hale go to her home?

    This article gets more and more upsetting the more you read into it, to the point where I feel nauseous. I’m aware nepotism allowed it to be published, but nonetheless, how on earth did anyone allow this piece to happen? I could go on and on about every point in this that feels “wrong” — I really do feel genuinely sick about it. The obsessive stalking that Hale’s clearly justified in her own head; the deceptive acquisition of Harris’ address; the constant comparison to “catfishing”, as though a reviewer’s wish to offer their opinion anonymously is in anyway comparable to deceptive dating tactics; the fact that she felt it was acceptable to call this woman at her work; the wildly inconsistent portrayal of “Judy,” who goes from stammering to eating, “unruffled” in just three sentences.

    I’m not shocked that someone like Hale exists. Harsh reviewers and trolls have likely driven mad even the most stable. What shocks me is that anyone would support Hale at all. This isn’t a satisfying tale of an author who one-upped an unfair reviewer or persistent troll. This is someone who tells a story with no conclusion or closure at all, admitting of harassing and stalking someone who may not have even been her reviewer, and then closes with admitting “although, like anyone with a tendency for low-grade insanity, I occasionally grow nostalgic for the thing that makes me nuts”, because apparently if you’re self-deprecating about your mentally unstable behaviour, it’s cute and forgivable (But if you’re an internet troll potentially suffering from psychopathy, then watch out — you’re basically a child molester). And people are applauding her? How? I just — I don’t — how?!

    October 20, 2014
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    • Afflixi
      Afflixi

      YES! I completely agree with EVERYTHING in your comment. I had forgotten about the alleged correlation she made between predators and trolls. It’s as though she wanted to give a pseudo-scientific foundation for painting Harris as a villain that would excuse all the crazy that Hale would later throw at her.

      October 22, 2014
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  17. I feel my anxiety rising from reading that article on the Guardian. Poor Judy. You never know how to react when interacting with people like Hale, but I would probably not respond at any question and ask her to leave me alone. And I would block her on all social media of course. Hale should really see someone because this behavior of obsessive stalking is not normal.

    I also just sneer at authors who go with “the book is my baby” route. Well, why publish it then? You could keep the manuscript forever in your home, cherishing it without no one to criticize it and improving it daily until it’s perfect (that means never). I work for an indie game dev studio which publishes games on mobile devices. And I learned that once a game is published it’s out of your control how people will react to it. At the first games, I checked the store reviews, but I couldn’t reply to them. But I started to care less and less, especially since most reviews were one liners like “stupid”, “loved it”, “boring”, “can’t open”, etc. I realized that there’s nothing I can really learn from these reviews and I should spend my time concentrating on doing what I love. And I guess, that’s what authors should do. Stop reading reviews and hating the one-star reviewers and concentrate on what you love, which should be writing.

    October 20, 2014
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  18. Mitzy247
    Mitzy247

    Stalking a reviewer?! No. Just no.

    October 20, 2014
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  19. AWExley
    AWExley

    Not an isolated event unfortunately I’ve been sitting on this one (as charges are pending against the author) but if you scroll to the end of this review… the special snowflake author stalked the reviewer, found out where she worked, travelled from London to her workplace in Scotland and physically assaulted her 🙁
    https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1056564898?book_show_action=false&page=1

    October 20, 2014
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    • obsidian blue
      obsidian blue

      Omg that poor woman!

      Regarding Hale I am saddened so many authors and other people I liked are taking up for her. I don’t get how anyone thinks what she did is OK or funny. Who knows what would have happened had she reached her target? Do we really believe that a woman that thought it was OK to stalk her victim would have left it at leaving a book at the front door? I don’t.

      I use my pseudonym across various social media. I don’t divulge much details about myself online because people are crazy. I don’t believe that makes me a dishonest or crazy person but prudent in these times.

      And to echo what someone said above if this was a male author he would be getting ripped for this. Having a vagina does not equal you are exempt from consequences of your behavior. I don’t find what she did cute or fascinating. I see it as a straight up criminal act that should garner some real life consequences for her

      October 20, 2014
      |Reply
      • Laina
        Laina

        Having a vagina also doesn’t make you a woman.

        October 20, 2014
        |Reply
        • Lieke
          Lieke

          I know what about the comment bothers you, but I don’t think the poster meant it that way.

          For a long time having a vagina WAS what made you a woman and I find this new landscape very hard to navigate. While I understand (and support) that being a woman has become more about how you feel and how you identify than about your body, I also find it confusing. Perhaps we should just do away with this whole gender nonsense? ‘Cause I don’t really feel overwhelmingly female. It’s just that I have a female body. But I don’t feel male either. I’m just… me.

          October 21, 2014
          |Reply
          • Laina
            Laina

            It doesn’t take very much time to use inclusive language and not erase people, or misgender them. Women can have penises, men can have vaginas, and sometimes people who have either are neither. And also intersex people are a thing. We, don’t, actually know if Kathleen Hale has a vagina. Assuming she does is cissexism.

            “Genderqueer” and “nonbinary” may be things of interest to you.

            October 21, 2014
    • Germaine
      Germaine

      I wasn’t sure what I clicked on with your link, so I just started reading her review. To be honest, it annoyed me. She just went on and on about the book’s cover and blurb. Like really? You’re not even gonna read the book and give an honest review? If I were the author, sure, I’d be annoyed with that. BUT HOLY FUCKING SHIT ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? HE WENT TO FUCKING LONDON AND ASSAULTED HER? IS THIS REAL? IS THIS REAL LIFE!? WHAT THE FUCK.

      October 20, 2014
      |Reply
      • AW Exley
        AW Exley

        There is a long history with this author. He bullied & harassed numerous people on Wattpad to the point admin had to remove him (and his multiple sock puppet accounts). And yes, he travelled from London to Scotland and attacked the woman. Luckily he was arrested before he visited anyone else on his little list of reviewers he didn’t agree with.
        Regardless of the content of a review, how do you extrapolate that to it being ok to assault someone in their workplace?

        October 20, 2014
        |Reply
  20. majoline
    majoline

    I was going to start doing book reviews online, after watching a friend blog for a year, but now I’m not so sure.

    October 20, 2014
    |Reply
  21. Jemmy
    Jemmy

    I read that article, it popped up on my twitter feed from a site that spams stories on my feed. I read it as a cautionary tale to authors, basically a warning of how becoming too obsessive with reviews/reviewers can cause mental instabilities (although like Jenny I don’t like to armchair diagnose people). The early paragraph Jenny flagged where she is writing edits in the margins of the published book was the first red flag for me that the writer was unhealthily invested in her book as an ongoing work she could control.

    I honestly thought the blogger’s name was changed to avoid identification, because all the other names were. It never occurred to me that the writer would ‘out’ someone’s true identity or that it would be allowed to be published with that information in it. It went from a cautonary tale to a horrible attack once I realised that is what had actually happened.

    At no time did I feel what she did was worthy of any applause, The support she needs is getting her some professional help in dealing with her extreme reaction to a single negative review and the lengths she went to over a long period of time. She states clearly that months go by and she is still investing her energy in hunting this person and hating her. Surely she should have been pouring that focus into her next book?

    I do think if there is a group of reviewers who make a special effort to attack people, that isn’t a great thing to exist. However, I don’t know if that is accurate because eveyrthing in the article is clearly coloured by Hale’s unhealthy focus on negative reviews. For all I know, it is a perfectly harmless group of bloggers who have had their actions twisted because Hale can’t handle negativity.

    Finally, I hate the comparison of books/art/games to babies to imply they should be immune from negative comments. You know what, if there was a developmental issue with my baby, I’d sure as hell want someone to tell me. Not pander to my oversensitive feelings.

    October 20, 2014
    |Reply
    • Flo
      Flo

      I don’t know when the tides changed in regards to criticism and any form of creative arts, but I know when I was a competitive photographer, I was told by many successful before me that if you can’t accept criticism of any kind, find another field. Not everyone is going to love your work, nor is everyone going to hate it. Be happy about what you are doing, take the criticism for what it is and either learn from it or “fughettaboutit!” In all the time I competed, I only found ONE judge who seemed to agree with me 100%. The rest was hit and miss. Did I go crying to mommy about it? Uh, no. Interestingly enough, the photo that did the best was one I didn’t even like, but people kept seeing something in it that I apparently didn’t. I made some money off it, collected my awards and shrugged my shoulders a lot.

      I also know of many people in the performing arts who have been told many things–you’re too fat, you don’t have what it takes, you mumble-the list goes on and on and on. It goes with the territory. While you may think you have talent (and I’m not saying someone doesn’t) there are plenty of other talented people out there as well. I would rather someone was honest with me and told me I sucked so I could either improve or move on to something else. I don’t get all this coddling bullshit.

      October 21, 2014
      |Reply
      • “I would rather someone was honest with me and told me I sucked so I could either improve or move on to something else.”

        THIS, THIS, THIS.

        I write. I know I’m pretty good at it, but I am always looking to improve. I actually get annoyed when people have only good things to say. That doesn’t help me improve. I’ve become my own worst critic, but someone has to do it!

        October 21, 2014
        |Reply
        • Ilex
          Ilex

          I actually get annoyed when people have only good things to say.

          THIS, this, this!

          I got my first editorial letter from my agent yesterday, and sheesh, now I wish my beta readers had been a little harsher and asked more questions. I might have ignored them :-), but at least I would have had the chance to fix this stuff before querying. (Agent seems firm about still loving the book despite pointing out all its flaws, but right now it just looks all wrong and broken to me.)

          October 22, 2014
          |Reply
  22. This whole thing was just so…bizarre. I didn’t read the whole article (once I saw what it was about I stopped) but it read a bit like a blog-post about a Goodreads kerfuffle. But the fact that the GUARDIAN published this…stuff is just…
    I mean, I didn’t know her father-in-law was the editor. That makes the whole thing make a whole lot more horrible-horrible sense.
    It really is disappointing that Gaiman got mixed up in this too. I like him, and it sucks that he’s giving this creep validation. 🙁

    October 20, 2014
    |Reply
  23. Laina
    Laina

    This is so terrifying. It just is.

    And you know what’s really bad? I think EVERY reviewer has a story like this. Obviously not as extreme, but almost every reviewer could tell you a “never do this thing” story.

    October 20, 2014
    |Reply
  24. Sometimes I think that Internet access should be a privilege only to be allowed in conjunction with therapy.

    October 20, 2014
    |Reply
  25. Tori
    Tori

    You were the first person I thought of when I saw this story, you know, because I trust you to be a bastion of sanity (at least where these sorts of things are concerned :D). She’s frightening, and the fact that she thinks it’s ok to behave that way is really, really sad. Unless a negative review says the author touches kids and lists their home address, leave it alone. And even then, get a lawyer, because if it’s ACTUALLY libel, that should be dealt with by them, not the author.

    October 20, 2014
    |Reply
  26. Some Hussy
    Some Hussy

    I read both the pieces she wrote and I find her actions incredibly disturbing especially taken together as an emerging pattern of behavior. There is absolutely nothing apologetic or regretful in her writing towards her victims. She comes across as feeling fully justified in her obsessive stalking of these individuals. And, as others have said, it makes me queasy to see such support for her actions.

    October 20, 2014
    |Reply
  27. Lovell
    Lovell

    I read your post this morning and couldn’t find the words, besides “this is reprehensible.” Who thinks for a second this stalking behaviour (and support of it) is a good idea???

    Then my bf directed me to a Tech Crunch article (not linked) where the writer of the article conflates whats happened in gaming news with what this author did. Through the lens of #GG the article writer took Hale at her word and claimed “trolls be trolling” and “good for you for confronting” … which … SERIOUSLY??? Especially through the lens of GG that sort of reaction is INEXCUSABLE. It *should* put Hale in the same leagues as the GGers than the harrassed. (And really, running Hale’s story along side all the anti-GG pontificating really should raise ALL the eyebrows)…

    October 20, 2014
    |Reply
  28. Volha
    Volha

    What is it ?? Institutionalized abuse in the literary world ?? and with such a pride, Kathleen!! WOW..you showed this nasty blogger her place, we should probably all be proud of you ! Hell/Hale no !!!

    SNL should do the funny reenactment of this whole « stalkery incident ». With Kristen Wiig as Kathleen Hale. Not because I hate Kristen Wiig – it’s all the contrary, she’s my hero – but because Kristen Wiig plays psychos sooooo well, think of Penelope. I didn’t yet decide on who would play poor Blythe. Maybe Kathleen herself ? just to stress once more that « the piece is self-deprecating » ?

    Volha from Paris

    October 21, 2014
    |Reply
  29. Nonnie
    Nonnie

    Yeah, saw this bouncing around facebook. It makes me want to punch people in the face for allowing this bullshit to slide, but I don’t do that because, oh hey, some of us don’t give in to every little impulse we have. Because I’m not a toddler.

    And really, that’s what Hale is. A psychotic child that can justify all of her own actions while vilifying anyone who makes even the littlest slight against her. And I guess the people in her life keep treating her like she’s a child too or else someone would have been like, “Hey, you should grow up.” Or “You need help.” It’s just really, really frustrating that no one (That she can’t intimidate) has gotten in her face and told her this shit isn’t okay.

    October 21, 2014
    |Reply
    • Lieke
      Lieke

      It definitely seems like Hale’s environment enables her. I mean, her mother wanted to run a background check on the reviewer. On the basis of a negative review and some tweets? No, no, no, no, no.

      October 21, 2014
      |Reply
  30. I just keep thinking more and more about this. There are one-star reviews of ASOIAF on Goodreads. Some read like the person has never read the books but others clearly did and just really, really didn’t like them. That doesn’t seem to have affected GRRM’s success even a tiny bit. Why does Kathleen Hale think she’s so special?

    And WHY is her family not only not helping her get the help she needs, but encouraging and pulling strings so the whole world can see this? If someone you love is on the edge, you pull them back from it — you don’t push them over!

    October 21, 2014
    |Reply
    • drmaggiemoreau
      drmaggiemoreau

      I think even To Kill A Mockingbird and Shakespeare have gotten negative reviews. They’re still awesome.

      October 14, 2015
      |Reply
      • There are a lot of people who hate Shakespeare with a steaming passion! Somehow, I doubt he cares much!

        Heck, I can’t stand Jane Austen, but people have been reading, analyzing and enjoying her books for hundreds of years. Pretty sure my opinion doesn’t mean much in that case.

        October 14, 2015
        |Reply
  31. Flo
    Flo

    When I first read this article, I couldn’t help but think “is this for real?” As someone else questioned, was this just a publicity stunt? The whole thing is creepy beyond belief, but the other thing that shocks me is that she was getting support for what she did. I think if the tables had been turned and it would have been the reviewer stalking the author, the people who supported her would have been appalled instead. Double standard?

    All I could think of was a reverse version of “Misery”!

    Also interesting that she blames Harris for her poor book sales. Go in and read current reviews and you can see how she shot herself in the foot with this article. I don’t think anyone will ever take her seriously again, or even write ANY review, at least not an honest one for anything she writes in the future.

    October 21, 2014
    |Reply
  32. Karla
    Karla

    It a small, weird thing, but the one detail that has bugged me is Hale saying she used census reports to track down Blythe. In what world are there recent census reports available to the public that would give anyone specific information about an individual?? The 1940 census enumeration was just released a few years ago because there is a wait period of DECADES for that very specific info to become public. I’d already called bullshit on Hale’s recollection of events prior to that, but after that point it was like reading some poorly-researched fiction.

    October 21, 2014
    |Reply
    • Flo
      Flo

      I never thought about that, but as someone who was working on some genetic research, you are spot on about the census records. Hmmm…

      October 22, 2014
      |Reply
      • Karla
        Karla

        If Hale wasn’t insisting that this was a piece of journalism, I’d think she was passing this column off as the delusions of an unreliable narrator. But this totally false detail was a pretty shoddy way of masking just how obsessed she was at tracking Blythe down to her doorstep.

        October 22, 2014
        |Reply
        • She said she paid one of those online search companies. I never used one, but I believe they claim to use census records in their search. It may be she’s just spitting back the company’s claim in this case.

          They always looked pretty shady to me when I came across them.

          October 22, 2014
          |Reply
          • Karla
            Karla

            If any internet background check company is able to get hold of that, then that’s either troubling or, more likely, they’re out-and-out lying in their claims to be able to use such records:

            By law (92 Stat. 915, Public Law 95-416, enacted on October 5, 1978), individual census records are sealed for 72 years prohibiting the release of personal information during individuals’ lifetimes.

            However, I think Hale simply didn’t do her homework and got an editorial pass on the whole thing. Maybe she wrote her article under the influence of bourbon as well. She muddies the timeline a bit: the referral to the phone directory and census records precedes the mention of the internet background check she paid for.

            October 22, 2014
          • Karla
            Karla

            PERHAPS she means a “grand list” held by the town clerk, but that’s not the same as a census record. I don’t know if California (where Blythe was) has those on the internet or even keeps such records because the state is so large. My state has them on the internet and are way more detailed than I’d like. O__o

            October 22, 2014
  33. Afflixi
    Afflixi

    I just read the article on Storify and I cannot effectively put into word how infuriating I found the comments claiming that both parties were at fault. A visual representation of my anger would probably involve a flame-thrower, maniacal laughter and a crescendo of heavy rock music. We are not dealing with kindergardeners, where all the comments made about a specific work need to be uplifting and complimentary of their effort. A book, as beautiful or terrible it might be, is a product and people should have the right to collect all possible information before they choose to consume said product. Urgh! I can’t even

    October 21, 2014
    |Reply
  34. Candy Apple
    Candy Apple

    The English language contains a wealth of empowering words, some of which I am going to share right now with Ms. Hale, as I assume she will be stalking reading this column as well. This magical, empowering phrase is capable of exorcising all manner of personal demons and grants the person who repeats it true and lasting freedom. I am going to share it with no cost to you whatsoever, Ms. Hale. The next time someone says something mean about your work, repeat this mystical incantation out loud: “I don’t give a fuck.” Someone criticizes your plot? “I don’t give a fuck.” Someone doesn’t like your hair? “I don’t give a fuck.” Repeat this phrase, and you will always be free, Ms. Hale. You’re welcome.

    October 21, 2014
    |Reply
  35. I want that woman arrested so bad. If this had been a male author showing up at a woman’s house, he would be in jail. I can’t believe ANYONE is supporting this nut.

    The ONLY time I would care about a one-star review (well, I’d care about all of them, but I wouldn’t do anything) is if they left huge spoilers, like, DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME, ALLISON DIES IN THE END. In that case, I would beg people to review it and throw copies of my book at people to get them to review it honestly just to push that review down where everyone who goes to buy my book won’t see it at the top of the review pile.

    October 21, 2014
    |Reply
    • drmaggiemoreau
      drmaggiemoreau

      If it’s any consolation, I still read books after I’ve been spoiled. Case in point- Snape kills Dumbledore.

      October 14, 2015
      |Reply
  36. I’ve been reviewing books online for nearly a decade, and I’ve written my share of negative reviews. (Probably more than my share. It’s easier to be negative than positive–there are only so many ways to say “It’s fun! Read it!”, but there are *loads* of different ways to say “It sucks, and here’s why.”) Over the years, I’ve had polite arguments with several authors, but every writer I’ve ever spoken to directly has been civil and receptive to criticism, even if they continued to disagree with my point. The very few times I have made serious allegations (of plagiarism, for example), the writers in question totally ignored me, as I expect they are instructed to do. This is why I lean toward agreeing with the people above who wonder if this is some kind of publicity stunt. Hale isn’t a self-published author with no support (seriously, just check out her book’s legitimately great cover art), so it’s tough to believe that no one in her personal or professional life sat her down and said, “Honey, you’re acting like a total headcase, and your behavior could have legal repercussions.”

    October 21, 2014
    |Reply
  37. A. Noyd
    A. Noyd

    Wow, but there’s a lot of idiocy gushing out of the Hale supporters. Like everything @edyngrey said on that Storify, especially that bit where she admitted, “I just want there to be blame on both sides.”

    Well, lah-dee-fucking-dah for you, @edyngrey, but you don’t get to rewrite reality because you’ve been fooled into thinking there’s some virtue to false balance. This sort of shit has made our society sick and feeble. Book reviews might be relatively unimportant on the scale of things, but this same mentality really harms us when it comes to things like social welfare or climate change.

    Or there’s this from Dzoni on the Guardian article comments: “All I know about this story is in the article above, so I’m afraid I have to take the article at face value”

    For fuck’s sake, this is why religion maintains such an absurd amount of influence in the modern world. No, you do not have to take the only side you’ve been presented with at face value. You can perfectly well doubt an account without a conflicting one to go along with it. In fact, every honest, rational person has a responsibility not to take one-sided accounts at face value, but to hold them up against reality. (Though, I’ll bet this charmer’s credulity does an about-face into hyper-skepticism whenever a person of low social status accuses a higher ranking person of something untoward.)

    At least there are a lot of articulate, incisive folks confronting the spurting stupidity-spigots, and they all deserve cookies that are as delicious as the one I ate tonight was terrible.

    October 22, 2014
    |Reply
    • Let’s say we do simply take this piece at face value without ever hearing any other side. What is the conclusion?

      Harris went onto a site that exists solely to track and review books one has read. No one is going to like every book and no book is going to have universal praise. Some people will love it, some will hate it. So Harris wrote a negative review about a book she didn’t like and the author TRACKED HER DOWN and showed up unannounced and uninvited at her front door (assuming it was even the correct person).

      So take everything Hale said as gospel truth, isn’t it still batshit crazy and wrong? How does this guy think anything else?

      October 22, 2014
      |Reply
      • Jemmy
        Jemmy

        I’m not seeing how taking it at face value can result in any outcome other than – Hale stalked a woman over the course of a number of months, went to her house, called her and made contact on social media despite knowing that contact was unwanted.

        That’s harrassment. Hale’s own account is an account of her taking extreme steps to go after someone. There’s nothing to justify that kind of vigilante mindset in a book review.

        October 22, 2014
        |Reply
      • A. Noyd
        A. Noyd

        Apparently by taking Hale’s justifications at face value, too, and maybe extrapolating a bit from her failure to understand her wrongdoing. There are a scary number of people who think Harris deserved to be stalked just based on Hale’s word. I think the Guardian bears some of the responsibility for that; they’ve given her voice a whole extra level of legitimacy. It’s like a version of the Milgram experiment.

        October 22, 2014
        |Reply
    • Candy Apple
      Candy Apple

      I love you so much.

      October 22, 2014
      |Reply
  38. Sophie
    Sophie

    That author needs serious help, and the people in her life need to stop normalising her behaviour and enabling her. I feel so sorry for the reviewer, she has been stalked and intimidated and now she’s being painted as the bad guy for using a pseudonym? I just can’t understand why anyone would think publishing that article was a good idea. Or how anyone reading it can think that the author is in the right, or only partly to blame for her outrageous behaviour. I think the reviewer should press charges, her stalker confessed in a national newspaper!

    October 22, 2014
    |Reply
  39. Sushi
    Sushi

    Oh my God, why would someone do this? Why? Why did nobody sit this woman down when she got her one-star review and show her the Amazon pages for Stephen King and J. K. Rowling and point out that even the biggest authors out there get them too?

    October 22, 2014
    |Reply
  40. Range Girl
    Range Girl

    And here’s the longer story on the attack in Scotland in case it hasn’t been posted: http://www.wattpad.com/75997400-what-really-happened. I saw the pictures of the reviewer’s injuries separately (accidentally while searching for the article to show my husband BTW), and they’re pretty gruesome so I won’t link those here. Richard Brittain had blogged (on 10/14/14) about stalking another woman (romantically) at the same time, calling himself The Benevolent Stalker, but he’s now deleted that post and blogged this instead: http://richardbrittain.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/a-re-evaluation-of-romance/. Stalking of any kind is scary. Once you’ve crossed that line, what’s to say you won’t cross the line into violence. There is no “light stalking.”

    October 22, 2014
    |Reply
  41. AWExley
    AWExley

    The attack on the reviewer at her place of employment was reported in a small local newspaper at the time, although they did not know the identity of the offender then. The author was subsequently arrested and released on bail pending his trial. The victim cannot say anything publicly due to legal proceedings.

    I’m not sure what angle you are working here and I assume you are the same “Tim” who made similar comments calling the victim a liar/supporting Brittain, on the reader’s GR review.

    November 16, 2014
    |Reply

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