Victim or Perpetrator?
The Guardian recently published a piece called “Am I Being Catfished?” An Author Confronts Her Number One Online Critic. In the article, author Kathleen Hale describes her anxiety after her first book came out, how she obsessed over Amazon and Goodreads and other review sites. I can definitely relate to this part. Book #10 comes out in January for me, and I expect I’ll still be auto-refreshing the Amazon page every 15 minutes…
Hale asked Twitter for ideas about her next book, as a way to “connect with readers.” A woman named Blythe offered suggestions, which led to Hale checking to see if Blythe had read the book, and discovering not only that she had, but that she’d apparently given it a harsh one-star review and was warning other readers away from the book.
Yeah, that sucks. Especially if a reviewer is complaining about stuff that you don’t think was even in the book. (My favorite bad review of The Stepsister Scheme compares it to an S&M porno. WTF???) Hale’s mother pointed her to the Stop the Goodreads Bullies site, where Blythe was listed along with more than 150 other reviewers, for crimes ranging from participating in organizing attacks on authors to “derogatory shelving” to reviews considered to be “bullying.” One of the StGB founders talked to Hale about her reviewer, no doubt reinforcing Hale’s belief that she was the victim of a bully.
Foz Meadows has a blog post about why the StGB site is…problematic.
Blythe apparently began tweeting about Hale online. And Hale began to engage in what she describes as “light stalking.” She eventually pulled herself away, but then a few months later, when a book club wanted Hale to do an interview with a book blogger, Hale suggested Blythe. Because she “longed to engage with Blythe directly.” This also involved doing a book giveaway, which allowed Hale to get Blythe’s home address.
I’ve done giveaways myself, which involves readers trusting me with their home addresses. I’ve also sent books to reviewers’ home addresses. I consider this a matter of trust and privacy, which is one of many reasons I get very angry about what happened next.
Hale dug into Blythe’s identity, questioning whether “Blythe” was a pseudonym. She rented a car and, in what she describes as “a personal rock bottom,” drove to Blythe’s home. She called Blythe at
home work, pretending to be a fact-checker. She called again, this time identifying herself as Kathleen Hale and confronting her.
Blythe unfollowed her on Twitter, made her Instagram private, and blocked her on Facebook, essentially cutting off Hale’s options for online communication.
Dear authors: don’t do this. Just don’t.
When I tweeted about this, one woman told that Hale is the real victim here, and accused me of victim-blaming. She compared Blythe’s tactics to those of GamerGate (though I’m having a hard time finding where Blythe threatened to rape or murder Hale, or drove Hale out of her own home).
Online bullying is a thing. Trolling is a thing.
Bad reviews are also a thing. Hating someone’s book is not bullying. Sharing your opinion, suggesting others stay away from a book or an author, is not bullying. It might cost you some sales, and that sucks, but it’s not bullying, nor is it an organized campaign to destroy someone’s career.
Hale’s account does not convince me that she was a victim of online bullying. But even if she was, there comes a point where she crossed a line from victim to perpetrator. She admits to stalking Blythe online. She then began stalking her in real life. She showed up at Blythe’s home, called her on the phone.
Blythe criticized Hale’s book and probably cost her some sales. Hale stalked Blythe, presenting herself as a very real threat. She went to Blythe’s home. She called her to say, “I know who you are.”
Not okay. Even if someone said mean things about your book. Even if you’re anxious and depressed.
Which leads me to wonder why the Guardian published this piece in the first place. My friend Barbarienne sees it as a cautionary tale. She also sees it as a warning from the author: “Don’t do what I did.”
I disagree. While I see some recognition that maybe Hale made mistakes, and that she was personally in a bad emotional space, I don’t see any understanding or awareness of the lines and boundaries she crossed, or how serious those violations were. Nor does the Guardian provide any sort of context or acknowledgement of the same. Hale ends her post with the nostalgic admission that she still wishes from time to time for confirmation that Blythe has seen those old messages. There are people reading this article as if Hale is a hero standing up to the bullies of the internet.
She’s not. She’s someone who stalked and harassed a book blogger and reviewer. Someone who, to my reading, still doesn’t seem to recognize the lines she crossed. Someone who leveraged her harassment into an article for the Guardian.
October 19, 2014 @ 12:38 pm
And she got the best advice at the start and didn’t heed it:
_“DO NOT ENGAGE,” she implored me. “You’ll make yourself look bad, and she’ll ruin you.”_
October 19, 2014 @ 12:39 pm
I have absolutely no sympathy for Ms. Hale. A little bit of digging and research shows that she blew this entirely out of proportion, and it was in fact her that was harming Blythe. This isn’t even the first time where she’s shown this type of unhealthy, obsessive behaviour.
This article gives more details: http://dearauthor.com/features/essays/on-the-importance-of-pseudonymous-activity/
Then this one shows how she felt it was entirely ok to physically harm someone, and stalk them when she was a teenager: http://thoughtcatalog.com/kathleen-hale/2013/02/169836/
My understanding is that reviewer was the victim here and Ms. Hale needs to seek help.
October 19, 2014 @ 12:52 pm
I agree with you, Jim. When we got to the part about her going to Blythe’s house I got *really* uncomfortable. And the persistent, adolescent mantra of “I just want to have a conversation with her” bullshit convinced me that Hale is in need of some kind of counseling. That is drama-making of the most puerile sort. Perhaps the Guardian ran it as click bait…
October 19, 2014 @ 12:53 pm
I tend to see things in terms of what I should learn from them, so that certainly colors my interpretation. 🙂
I absolutely agree that Hale doesn’t seem to have learned the right lesson herself. Her distress at the end is that she didn’t get the resolution she wanted (i.e., for the reviewer to date–er, I mean, become friends–with her). Hale clearly still thinks she was justified in her actions.
Jim C. Hines
October 19, 2014 @ 1:34 pm
I think we’re mostly on the same page. And you’re right about Twitter not being the best medium for this kind of conversation.
October 19, 2014 @ 1:41 pm
Her behavior is really terrifying.
Taking it in the context of her own story of having stalked and assaulted someone as a teenager, this is part of a disturbing pattern of behavior. It’s not just that she wrote about having assaulted someone with peroxide–she also describes being confronted by police for harassing her victim (after assaulting her with peroxide) as if they were unfairly persecuting her for telling her to leave her victim alone. I can’t read that as anything but a fundamental lack of understanding of why people have a problem with what she did.
I hope her victim is taking whatever precautions she needs to in order to protect herself, and I hope that no one is shaming or gaslighting her about it. With only her own words as evidence, it’s pretty clear to me that Hale is really, seriously dangerous.
October 19, 2014 @ 2:00 pm
Every time something about Goodreads bubbles up on one of my feeds or another, I feel a little relieved that I never signed up there, and a little sad that I feel that way. The high school level ‘my deathless prose’/’my precious ego’ garbage that always seems to be at the core of whatever’s burst is bad enough when you’re releasing for free on a site like DeviantArt, but as soon as the assumption of publishing money comes into play, the knives come out in profusion.
October 19, 2014 @ 2:25 pm
That second link is chilling – and after reading these articles, so is the title of the author’s first book. She certainly seems fascinated by stalking behavior.
I have to admit that seeing this mentality — the willingness to deliberately set aside introspection to instead obsessively speculate about someone else’s psychology — presented through a first-person non-fiction narrative is kind of fascinating. You can actually see the writer describe what’s she’s doing as if she’s being overcome by uncontrollable impulses, impulses distinct from the part of her that owns the speaking voice, and then just assume those impulses are justified because she feels them. At the same time, she assumes the actions of her targets are completely calculated and unified behind some greater coherent intent to protect themselves and cause her harm. I’m no psychologist, but assuming she needs it, I certainly hope she finds some help.
(I was considering the idea that maybe these articles could be some kind of performance art to promote interest in her book, but upon further reflection, I think entertaining such thoughts is kind of the source of these sorts of problems.)
I wonder what Gavin DeBecker’s take on all this would be.
October 19, 2014 @ 3:04 pm
Hale’s behavior crossed a line that, IMNSHO, should have led to legal action against her. I’m appalled at the Guardian for running this piece as is.
My son and I find Goodreads valuable for seeing what our friends recommend, which is what I always thought of as its purpose. But if you can’t handle bad reviews, don’t go there or Amazon. Getting bad reviews is part of life.
Serendipitously, yesterday I stumbled upon NK Jamisin’s blog post on how to constructively use bad reviews. A very healthy perspective:
October 19, 2014 @ 4:46 pm
What a mess. Even if Blythe was engaged in bullying, two wrongs don’t make a right. Going to someone’s home without their permission is just creepy. This is a great example of a lose-lose situation, and continuing to engage once you end up in one of these spirals is only going to dig you in deeper. And deeper. And deeper.
I don’t understand what the Guardian article was supposed to do. It doesn’t have a great reputation as papers go, does it (most of my British friends don’t seem to think so, anyway). If it was trying to make Hale look sympathetic, though, it failed. It did serve as a reminder of why it’s a bad idea to engage with reviewers, no matter how unfair or specious they may seem. They’re not really writing for the authors anyway. Whether or not an author even wants to read those one star reviews in the hopes that at least a few of them might contain useful feedback is a very personal call.
October 19, 2014 @ 7:56 pm
Jesus. This is completely over the top, batshit behaviour. Stalking your reviewers? Holy fuck.
October 19, 2014 @ 9:13 pm
Well, in a culture where the media weeps and mourns and moans about how a promising athlete’s life is damaged by the rape he commits and the victim who is selfish enough to ruin that rapist’s life by coming forward instead of quietly accepting her responsibility for not preventing him from raping her, I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised and disgusted that the media is turning a writer into a tragic heroine for stalking and harassing someone who didn’t like her book and said so in a review.
October 19, 2014 @ 9:32 pm
How about this bit of the Dear Author piece:
“I’m not sure why Hale assigns the moniker of #1 critic to this particular Goodreads reviewer because Hale’s book is the subject 170 one star ratings on Goodreads.”
One cannot help but wonder if these other 14 dozen people on GoodReads who also gave the book a bad review are in danger of being stalked by the author.
October 19, 2014 @ 10:33 pm
The comments on the Dear Author site explain how she got away with this and got this piece published: her fiance’s mother is a big-wig at her publisher, and father is big-wig journalist with ties to that paper.
She literally has the power of two major industries behind her, yet is so insecure she has to stalk some nobody over a bad review.
Amanda June Hagarty
October 19, 2014 @ 11:43 pm
OMG! Wow. At a certain point Hale may have been able to claim to be a victim, but these actions erase it all. There is a very apt addage that is so relevant here it’s almost like it was made for this situation: two wrongs dont make a right.
October 20, 2014 @ 7:01 am
Blythe is such a well respected reviewer in the YA community. Most of the YA community has been built from the ground up by bloggers like her and early adopters of cross posting to Goodreads. These are the readers who keep YA advances in the high numbers. They are the book pushers. If we alienate them, we chip away at that fan base that they created for us.
Many of Blythe reviews revolve around her Army experience and she often writes about the survival techniques in books. I am a fan of her thoughtful critiques. Her name should have never been put on a worldwide platform.
October 20, 2014 @ 7:21 am
I would also point out that bestselling YA author Jennifer L. Armentrout (@JLArmentrout)has screenshots of Hale’s behavior from January(Hale’s interaction with Blythe was 6 months ago) reposted on her timeline. Hale insulted the bloggers who objected to her snarking about their 3 star reviews of her book. Hale’s mother began to follow everyone in the conversation. Hale started to berate all bloggers as wannabe authors and other insults. All these bloggers have screenshots. One is a college age teenager living at home.
And again these aren’t bullies, this is the core fanbase of about 100 major reviews who cross post to GRs. They basically live tweet what they’re reading which is the update feature on GRs. Blythe Harris has many many positive reviews on Goodreads. She is wickedly funny and she gets people reading.
Anyone looking at her blog would know she also writes. So maybe Hale’s intent was to sabotage Blythe’s chances in the publishing world. Blythe would have built up a solid platform to launch from her pseudonym.
October 20, 2014 @ 9:14 am
As an online reviewer since 2008, I find this entire situation horrifying. I’ve received nasty comments on reviews I’ve written from authors and reviewers alike, but while bothersome, you learn to shrug it off and eat a chocolate bar or whatever. But this – to physically violate someone’s personal and work life in what I see as a threating manner because they don’t like what you’ve said about a book they’ve written is criminal.
What I also find disgusting is the comments condoning this woman’s behavior and lashing out at the reviewer. I saw one “tweet” in which the reviewer was called a sociopath! If this wasn’t so completely reprehensible it would be laughable.
Other authors take umbrage to the fact many of us use an online pseudonym for privacy reasons. One has to ask why we wouldn’t given the type of irrational behavior described in that author’s Guardian article? It would seem that a pseudonym provides absolutely no protection anyway.
While I recognize the vast majority of authors learn to deal with book reviewers/critics in a private manner, are for the most part appreciative and do not engage in online warfare with the reviewer. However, it only takes a single incident such as this to cause some to make changes in their online participation. I’m one of the cautious ones – I will not risk the privacy of myself and my family because I’ve chosen to share thoughts about the books I read online. In that vein I’ve closed my Goodreads account and transferred the reviews to a more private civilized online platform with a smaller audience but I don’t care. Any I’ve posted on Amazon will be deleted as well.
The sad thing is I think I’m a fair reviewer and always keep in mind that a reviewer’s opinion is subjective and what I don’t like another reader will love and that reader may choose to try the book based on my feedback. In essence I’ve tried very hard to respect an author’s work.
In future I will only accept books for review consideration from authors I know and trust, from my editor at the site where I contribute and from publicists from well-known publishing houses.
I’m will continue to review books for the blog where I’m a contributor as we only share thoughts about books we’d recommend to others since it would seem that sort of site won’t attract the irrational.
The only reason I’m sharing this information is that I’m not the only reader/reviewer out there who is deeply disturbed by this incident and I’m sure others will consider implementing measures to safeguard their privacy and security. Unfortunately it only takes one to ruin a good thing for the many.
October 20, 2014 @ 9:36 am
Kathleen Hale, by her own words, is unhinged.
Anyone who believes, from Hale’s own account of obsession and stalking, that the reviewer somehow “got what she deserved” is predisposed to believe that authors are somehow above the law. That authors are different, special snowflake people, a class apart.
If a reviewer called Hale at work (does she work?) or showed up at her house and then admitted doing so publicly, how many seconds do you think before that person was the subject of a criminal complaint, and before all the people supporting Hale as victim now would support Hale as victim then too?
October 20, 2014 @ 11:15 am
As a reader, I have always approached critiques of books as something that is aimed specifically at me. I don’t believe that anyone writes a review of a book for the author of that book. And yes, I do find negative reviews invaluable. I often read those first because I think of them as warnings for things in the books I may not like. If I have problems with certain issues (like spelling and grammar or child killing or rape), then I prefer to be warned about them in the review, rather than surprised after I’ve bought the book. Also there are some things that reviewers may hate in a book, which makes me enthuisastic to pick it up. In other words, I try to be rational and discerning when reading reviews. I think most readers are the same way.
I’m not sure these authors quite understand how reviews work. Most of the problems I see seem to stem from people who seem to be under the impression that the reviews are written for them. I think they are the ones trying to bully people out of writing negative reviews. And with the proliferation of self-publishing I think we’re going to see a lot more of this kind of behaviour from people who have no idea, how crtitiquing and publishing works, or how to professionally conduct themselves in public forums.
This week in Authors Behaving Badly | angelahighland.com
October 20, 2014 @ 11:25 am
[…] come up at the Bitchery over here, and shortly thereafter saw posts go up at Dear Author and on Jim Hines’ blog as well. All three posts and most of the comments in them are in accord that Ms. Hale went so far […]
Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard
October 20, 2014 @ 11:28 am
As a blogger, this is scary stuff. I’ve been lucky: In over three years on Goodreads, and over five years as a book blogger, I have never had a bad experience with an author. I freely admit that my lack of bad experiences is probably in part because I rarely rate books with only one or two stars. . . not because I don’t come across them on occasion, but because I don’t bother to finish them when I do. My personal experience is that the vast majority of authors are good and decent people, who may be hurt or upset by a negative review but wouldn’t dream of stalking or threatening the reviewer. But clearly, there are a few who are less well-balanced.
When I see stories like this, I always wonder about a couple of things. First, would the author have reacted in the same way to a professional review, say in Kirkus or the NY Times? Probably not. Professional reviewers have more power, and an organization behind them. Their professional status may insulate them from this sort of response. So what makes a blogger different? We’re ordinary people; we don’t have status or the power of a professional organization behind us. In other words, we’re perceived as simultaneously having the power to decrease an author’s sales and the lack of power that makes us “safe” to harass.
Second, I wonder about the review that provoked the response. I’ve seen well-written negative reviews that point out the flaws in a work (often with examples) without attacking the author. I’ve also seen some reviews that call the author nasty names and compare the work to excrement, without citing any reasons other than the reader’s own reaction (not many, but some.) Let me be clear: even the latter sort of review is no excuse for harassing, bullying, or stalking a blogger/reviewer. But reviews that get personal like that don’t paint bloggers in a very good light. I haven’t seen Blythe’s original review, so I don’t know how it came across.
There’s another point here that I think may be being missed. Hale is not the only one who engaged and escalated the conflict. Again, I’m not condoning Hale’s actions. By her own admission, she became obsessed and essentially stalked Blythe Harris. But Harris, apparently, also escalated the situation via tweets. The fact that she’s a blogger and reviewer doesn’t automatically make her own actions praiseworthy. They don’t justify Hale’s actions, but Harris doesn’t come across as a saint here, either.
And there have been complaints of bloggers bullying authors in the past; I don’t know the particulars, but since bloggers are as human and fallible as authors, it’s certainly possible that some are guilty of author-bullying. It seems to me that “don’t engage,” “be civil,” and “behave professionally” are probably as applicable to bloggers as authors. If both camps heeded that advice, maybe situations like this one could be avoided.
I’ll go back to what I said about authors in the beginning, but this time I’m including bloggers: Most authors and most bloggers are good, decent people who love books and generally behave civilly toward one another, even when they disagree about a particular book’s quality. Unfortunately, there are a few “bad apples” in both camps. I’m very grateful I’ve never come across any personally, on either side. By following my own advice, I’m doing my best to keep it that way (even though I know it’s no guarantee.)
Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard
October 20, 2014 @ 11:49 am
This. Exactly. And it’s how I try to write reviews: Here’s what I liked, here’s what didn’t work for me or I had problems with. I try to be objective about my subjectivity, if that makes any sense. I try to give reasons, and to be clear about whether it’s a personal reaction or a more objective complaint (for instance, “I dislike the too-stupid-to-live moves on the part of the heroine” vs. “The book could really have used a copyeditor and proofreader; there are a number of spelling mistakes and several continuity problems.”) But ultimately, I’m saying “This is my reaction.”
As a reader of reviews, I assess them much as you do. I look at negative reviews to see if the things the reviewers didn’t like are things that I really dislike also, and I contrast them with the positive reviews. I also privilege reviews by reviewers I’ve come to trust. If someone whose taste aligns pretty well with mine thought a book was awful, I probably won’t read it; if she thought it was fantastic, I probably will. And I discount reviews by people who always write negative reviews, or who don’t back up their negative opinions. “This book sucks” doesn’t tell me a thing.
October 20, 2014 @ 11:52 am
Lark, what proof, other than Hale’s words, do you have the Blythe engaged in escalation?
Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard
October 20, 2014 @ 12:00 pm
I’m sorry you feel you have to leave Goodreads and delete your Amazon reviews, but I understand your concerns.
Re pseudonyms: Personal privacy is only one reason some of us use them. People in various professions may prefer not to be judged by clients, coworkers, or bosses on their choice of reading material. (This is particularly true of women who read romances, still a somewhat stigmatized genre.)
October 20, 2014 @ 12:16 pm
The only cautionary tale I can see in this? One with a chilling effect – if you review, your privacy is up for grabs. It doesn’t matter how fair or polite your review is – despite Hale’s feeling about this one reviewer I have read many, many online author complaints about reviews that I’ve read and at most are snarky and a bit rude. Something authors have experienced hundreds of years – it’s not new.
That some people think that a bad review of any kind could justify stalking behavior – when I suspect they’d have a HUGE problem if this was a reviewer showing up at an author’s house and peeking in the windows? I do NOT understand the reaction. Creepy behavior is threatening for a reason. If the stalker goes on to a more violent outcome, how many people will immediately comment “well, the signs were there she should have taken precautions!” Because sadly, you know someone would say that.
October 20, 2014 @ 12:23 pm
One more weird thing for people insisting to two sides – in Hale’s writing, multiple times she points out that she’s over-reacting, or people are trying to dissuade her. There are lots of these points to pick out of the piece that should make the reader seriously question what it is she’s trying to do with this confrontation. It’s really fascinating that people – authors even – brush that off as honesty, and mean that this story is truthful since some of it puts the narrator in a bad light. When er, well, let’s just say that a psychologist could come up with other terms.
Plus, hello authors, unreliable narrator? It’s kind of a thing in literature, but also in life. I can’t tell if the author herself is knowingly playing on that trope, or honestly realizes that her actions are not within social norms. Or is trying to lash out at the reviewer. Maybe all of that. But this is not a simple Standing Up To A Bully story.
October 20, 2014 @ 12:25 pm
Shoot, I was going to comment about how all WTF I found Hale’s behavior, and then you said this, and now there’s not much left to say.
But seriously. So unbelievably not cool.
October 20, 2014 @ 1:07 pm
sounds like some normalization of sociopathy going on here. realize, there are members of the global populace who are mentally unhinged. and yes, some of them have talent. why is everyone talking about bullying, when the discourse should be the lack of awareness of the different mental illnesses propelling people? this woman sounds just a few steps from hurting someone. stop seeing “normal” where it doesn’t exist, or trying to “excuse” someone’s sociopathy or psychopathy as just bad manners or stepping over boundaries.
Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard
October 20, 2014 @ 2:26 pm
Escalated was the wrong word. Engaged is closer to what I meant, in reference to Blythe’s tweets – which at least in Hale’s mind appear to have led to Hale’s escalation of the situation. Since I haven’t read Blythe’s tweets, I don’t know what they contained; they may have been completely innocuous. I did assume that there were tweets, because nowhere so far have I seen anyone denying they existed at all, or that Hale made them up. I didn’t assume they contained the content Hale ascribed to them, only that they existed. If she did tweet about what was going on, then to some extent Blythe engaged in the. . . I don’t even know what to call it. Conflict? Dispute? Conversation? None of those really seem to fit. What I was and am trying to say is that perhaps, just as an author ought not to get drawn into an argument over a negative review, it might serve bloggers better to avoid getting drawn in, as well.
Again, I don’t condone Hale’s actions AT ALL. And I’m not blaming Blythe for any part in this. But I think “don’t engage” is probably good advice for both sides.
October 20, 2014 @ 3:40 pm
The only indication that BH engaged in any way comes from Hale’s piece. As far as I’m concerned, nothing Hale says about BH’s behaviour can be trusted.
Until someone provides screenshots of any tweets from BH that remotely related to what Hale describes, I’ll remain convinced that Hale made the whole thing up.
October 20, 2014 @ 3:45 pm
“why is everyone talking about bullying, when the discourse should be the lack of awareness of the different mental illnesses propelling people?”
Because the issue on display is a combination of bullying and stalking. The person being stalked can’t know if it’s due to mental illness or they have a shotgun to go along with the threat. The cause for unbalanced behavior doesn’t matter when there’s a stranger at your door over reviews or tweets. First, you protect yourself. Then it’s the mentally ill person’s responsibility to get help not the person they’re threatening.
A bad review is not a threat. It just happens and is part of writing. If you can’t handle bad reviews, writing is probably not a good path because every writer has a stinker of a book in them. The good writers drown out the stinker with all their good stories.
– answer question or thank for review: good
– argue points of review: bad
– respond a second time to reviewer you want to teach something: very bad
– try to get personal name or address to ‘speak’ about a review: insane. If you have any urge to do this. Take a day off, take a month. A review you didn’t like is not worth jail time.
If authors can use pen names for whatever reason, there should be no reason that bloggers and reviewers cannot do the same. We’re all here to talk about books and writing, not mow the yard or carpool to the office. Have a tantrum for a bad story or bad review and it will not go away. She’s tarring her own reputation far more than ANY bad review could. Writers want reviews, that feedback makes the lonely hours writing and revising bearable. But writers like her will chill ANY reviewers for her in the future. (and then she will complain about no reviews)
October 20, 2014 @ 5:43 pm
this woman just sounds scary to me, not withstanding her acting out on a bad review. i wouldn’t want her around children, even her own. if she doesn’t have the stability to realize that she has crossed the line by stalking someone, showing up at their home, then she really needs some counseling and/or medication. i don’t want to read later that she harmed anybody during one of her “peeves.”
October 20, 2014 @ 6:40 pm
If Harris contacted Hale for a happy conversation with her — and there’s not much reason that Hale would have been particularly fixated on Harris if Harris hadn’t frankly — then Harris was the one who initially engaged in stalking. You don’t try to be online pals with an author to whom you’ve given a crushing one star review. Having found that out, it was natural that Hale would want to check out who Harris is online. And Harris does apparently have a reputation for doing scathing reviews and remarks online about authors’ books.
Which is Harris’ right. Bad reviews actually don’t have that much effect — readers don’t necessarily trust them, which is one of the many reasons that authors need to relax about them. But it was also understandable that Hale initially got upset and started checking with other authors about how much disruption this reviewer who had contacted her while hating her work might be.
But logically, that should have been the end of it. Hale could simply tell Harris, should Harris contact her again, that she didn’t feel comfortable talking to Harris. Even if Hale made the rookie author mistake of going online to try and argue with those making negative remarks about the book or her, that would have been an author life lesson in what not to do she would hopefully learn from. But Hale instead decided that she needed to “engage” with this woman. She decided Harris, a woman, was an object who should be forced to give her time and attention to Hale, if Hale wanted it. Just because Harris contacted her and did a negative review of her, didn’t give Hale the right to turn around and bug Harris, and certainly not try to pin her down at her home and engage in weird behavior and harassment.
Hale seems to know this but also felt that discovering that Harris might be a persona merited investigation. But this wasn’t really a matter of exposing a catfisher, even if Harris had contacted her one time. It’s a poor justification and it’s weird that a newspaper would put something with that much liability into the paper, never mind the in-laws.
Authors have to understand that once you publish a book, you have no control over any reaction to it, or to you as an author. You are not the boss of them because they read or even only heard of your book. As long as no one is accusing you of a crime, you stay out of it. And reviewers have to learn that just because authors are a lot more accessible online does not mean you go play games with them. (And no, I’m not blaming Harris as having earned Hale’s behavior towards her; I’m talking purely about contacting Hale after trashing her book.) And that Hale’s publisher gave her the reviewer’s home address should never have happened.
The Internet is going to snarl and insult both women because they are women. But Hale’s behavior is certainly disturbing in someone who did a YA novel involving PTSD (a novel that got a lot of good buzz initially.) Hopefully, other authors will see it as a case study of what not to do.
October 20, 2014 @ 6:51 pm
This will be rather tame compared to Harris’ experience but this summer my phone rang and on the other end was an author I had given a 1 star rating to. I gave her this rating because she had done some rather dubious things to get her book noticed and blew off all the good advice of other authors who warned her not to.
She was rude and arrogant and believed that as long as she couldn’t find a rule against it (or claimed she couldn’t) that whatever she did was fine. It wasn’t. I wasn’t the only one who rated her 1 star but because I review under my own name, and always will, she managed to find my cell phone number.
I tried to explain to her why so many people found her actions rather loathsome but she would have none of it. She wanted me to pull or change my rating (later review after I finished her book) and make my friends stop talking “mean” about her or she would give my phone number to anyone who wanted to call me and complain about how mean I was being.
I took to my blog, GR, BL, KDP, and Twitter to spread her words and she then followed me all over like a starving stray trying to convince others that I was lying. It was wearing. And there were people who didn’t think she had done anything wrong.
Hale has offered no solid proof of Harris “harassing” her and her words alone aren’t going to convince me. This is a woman who thinks nothing of obtaining a private address by misrepresentation and then trespassing on private property because you cannot convince me that Harris would ever give permission for Hale to set foot on her lawn. She has no credibility and yet so many are willing to believe everything she posts.
The creepiest part for me was Hale insisting that paying someone a visit wasn’t illegal because my little BBA claimed that making a phone call wasn’t illegal.
October 20, 2014 @ 7:37 pm
Jim, it’s nice to see for a change someone who knows what bullying is, and what it is not. I get so tired of people who think any sort of negative review or interaction is bullying. You get it. Kathleen Hale does not.
Tabitha (Not Yet Read)
October 20, 2014 @ 7:42 pm
Thank you so much Jim for writing this post. Book reviewing and blogging is a fun hobby for most of us book bloggers and every time something like this happens I know many of us wonder if a hobby that we love is worth the risk of possible harassment. The rift that is sometimes there between authors and reviewers often saddens me and this author’s poor behavior was so unacceptable that it really means a lot to see that authors I like agree that it was out of line.
October 20, 2014 @ 9:40 pm
You rock, ma’am. You totally rock.
October 20, 2014 @ 10:40 pm
Just a quick note late in the comments. You wondered why The Guardian published this piece? Let me clue you in:
Kathleen Hale is engaged to Simon Rich. He writes for Pixar, and has previously (as recency as March of this year) written a monthly column for The Observer, which is The Guardian’s magazine. His brother is Nathaniel Rich, a novelist. Her father-in-law to be is Frank Rich, a well know columnist and critic who currently writes for the New Yorker. Her mother-in-law to be is Gail Winston, executive editor at Harper Collins. Which is, not coincidentally, I’m sure, Hale’s publisher.
Much of Hale’s support is coming from the NY literati. It is my opinion that they simply do not see Blythe Harris as a human being. She is a middle-class wage slave (either a teacher or a claims adjuster or something like that) who lives in a town somewhere. She didn’t grow up in Manhattan, didn’t go to Harvard.
This was, in my admittedly completely irrelevant opinion, nothing less than an insider hit piece. It smacks of nepotism, and is an egregious abuse of power.
October 20, 2014 @ 10:48 pm
IOW, this has been incubating for some time, and nobody close to her thought to do anything about it?
October 21, 2014 @ 1:27 am
[…] Jim C. Himes Post regarding recent Author Stalking a 1 star reviewer to her doorstep and the Guardian’s article where the author explains in graphic detail, how she did it. Victim or Perpetrator […]
October 21, 2014 @ 4:32 am
A note for anybody who thinks this is printed as a cautionary tale in any way, shape or form: this piece appeared in the Saturday Guardian Magazine, Weekend. The cover has a number of headlines about what is inside. The one concerning Hale’s piece is “I tracked down my troll”.
Perspective, you are doing it wrong. | Her Hands, My Hands
October 21, 2014 @ 7:03 am
[…] Kathleen Hale at SmartBitches; see On the Importance of Pseudonymous Activity at Dear Author; see Victim or Perpetrator by Jim C Hines on his blog; see the detailed Storify of the shitstorm curated by Kat Mayo, as well […]
October 21, 2014 @ 9:00 am
Returning to what Mahala posted, the author who stalked her is Maggie Spence. A google search should reveal all the details.
When Manipulation Masquerades as Memoir: The Kathleen Hale edition - The Dead Writers Society
October 21, 2014 @ 10:12 am
[…] Jim Hines: Victim or Perpetrator […]
October 21, 2014 @ 10:50 am
I don’t think it went down the way Hale claimed at least according to the blogger that claims they were the one that released the address and why. Harris didn’t instigate anything. http://www.yareads.com/my-side-of-the-story/news/13970#comment-688348
October 21, 2014 @ 1:37 pm
How Hale got Blythe’s address:
Does Blythe sound like the terrorizing villain Hale makes her out to be? I think not.
October 21, 2014 @ 1:53 pm
Actually no, it doesn’t clear up anything except that it explains how Hale got Harris’ address (thankfully not from the publisher,) and confirms that Harris eluded Hale on the interview she’d agreed to do as Hale said she did. It does not prove or disprove that Harris contacted Hale initially after giving her a one-star review. Nor does it explain why Harris would have given a mailing address that wasn’t actually correct (or was correct but she didn’t want it known,) so Hale could send her a gift. There seems to be a lot of confusion and obfuscation about the early days of Hale and Harris interrelating, and the assumption that Hale is lying about that part as she knows it isn’t really backed up by anything.
But none of that changes what Hale did after that, which was stalking. Hale has justified it to herself as investigation, but she’s not a journalist. Whatever Harris’ real story is, Hale had no right to do what she did, even if Harris did initially contact her. No one has to listen to Harris’ reviews or commentary, and Hale’s claims of persecution were unfortunately very common among new authors but also groundless.
October 21, 2014 @ 2:14 pm
There’s a HUGE problem with framing what Hale did with being like a journalist (I keep seeing this here and there) – and it’s AMAZING that no one in that industry has said much. It’s not “journalism” to look up info and go to people’s houses unless you have a story in the public interest and, hopefully, with public reasons for benefit. So if a politician spends most time living outside the area they claim to live in and represent – there’s an obvious claim for reasons of investigation there. Which STILL do not allow for wandering around their yards and peeking in houses because there are still laws against trespass and privacy. (Local laws vary by country, state, etc.)
Bias is a thing. Journalism seeks to avoid it, when attempting to present a story. (I know, it’s always subjective, but that’s why disclosure exists.) If a journalist has a personal relationship – even if it’s that they’ve been critiqued/reviewed by an individual – it is not that journalist that goes to interview that individual if they become part of a news story. An editor (following normal standards) sends someone else because of potential bias. Also because private citizens have recourse against press harassment – that’s why journalists tend to be careful about these things, and consult lawyers.
Journalists usually call first, or attempt contact in some way that’s not just showing up at the front door. They especially don’t show up to just wander around someone’s yard. And if they do so they have to tell their editor and/or legal, because lawsuits are always possible. Of course, this is the way it was supposed to work (and didn’t always) when there was a vague structure in place for media. It doesn’t now. But there are still standards that most in the industry understand. And there are still laws that are in place.
Simply because you plan to write about it doesn’t give you the right to suddenly dub yourself an investigator/journalist, and that doesn’t give you all sorts of abilities the rest of us don’t have – like going to people’s homes to snoop around. Law enforcement folks can also tell you about why this isn’t a good idea.
October 21, 2014 @ 11:37 pm
Since when is tweeting at an author with a public Twitter account considered “stalking”?
Stalking is digging up a book reviewer’s IRL name, address, and phone number, and then contacting said reviewer.
Only one person is stalking in this situation and it is not the reviewer.
As neither an author or reviewer, I have no horse in this race; to an objective outsider, Hale appears unhinged.
October 22, 2014 @ 1:32 am
I agree that Hale seems to have problems and did stalk and harass Harris. That is something that I don’t think should be in dispute and find it odd that folk would defend that behavior.
Re the two women’s initial contact, however, the reality is that female authors online are regularly subject to abuse and threats from folks who have declared their dislike of the authors and their work. So if you’re a female author and a person who is a reviewer and blogger comes and has a friendly chat with you about your work and you then find out that this person hated your book in her review and on Twitter, etc., it would be reasonable to be fearful and concerned about this person and what she might do and what agenda she might have, and want to know more about her. Stalking was perhaps not the right word to use for that, but if Harris did it, it was dishonest and it triggered concern.
That doesn’t excuse or justify anything that Hale did in trying to contact, stalk and harass Harris. And a lot of people don’t believe Hale’s statement that Harris did contact her, but as far as I’m aware, no one knows one way or another, and it would seem strange that Hale picked that one one-star reviewer out of others unless Harris did in fact contact her. Does that mean that Harris earned her harassment? Absolutely not. But it does show the complicated situation on the Net that both reviewers and authors are navigating, in addition to Hale’s very clear and unjustified stalking of Harris.
October 22, 2014 @ 6:13 pm
Here is a google cache of their twitter exchange. Hale asked a question and Harris answered, among many others. It was completely innocent.
The rest of the tweets that Hale refers to re: review updates, were tweeted by Harris but were not sent to Hale. At this point Hale was watching all of Harris’s social media activity, so she saw the tweets.
I think we can look at the history of both of these women and deduce which scenario is more likely. Harris has been reviewing for several years and has not once trolled authors or sent them negative reviews. Hale, on the other hand, has a long history of attacking negative reviews of her work and insulting reviewers.
October 22, 2014 @ 7:49 pm
Harris gave Hale a one-star, blistering review of her first novel. If you feel that way about somebody’s work, you don’t logically then go chime in when that person asks about what she should write next as if you’re a fan of Hale’s. There was no reason for Harris, who didn’t like Hale’s work, to be noticing Hale’s tweets or respond to them. So it was not illogical for Hale to notice Harris among the other one-star reviewers when Harris contacted Hale. And it was not illogical for Hale to be concerned when finding out that a fan who contacted her was actually not a fan at all, given a lot of what happens towards women authors on the Internet.
I am not a fan myself of turning these things into some kind of sports competition and insisting that Harris be a spotless person who cannot have done anything of questionable judgement, as if she has to earn the right to be seen as a victim of Hale’s stalking by being a perfect person. She does not have to be a perfect person. There is no justification for what Hale did, and Hale’s claim that it was journalism is ridiculous. It does not matter if Harris did something that disturbed Hale or if Harris lied. She’s still a victim of stalking and harassment. We don’t have to turn her into a saint for that to be true.
And we don’t have to add things, as if Hale’s bad behavior wasn’t really bad unless she did everything else bad too. The claim that Hale must have lied about Harris contacting her first that some people have made is shown not to be true by that cache. We don’t have to pretend that what happened didn’t happen. Harris was still stalked and harassed and that makes her a victim whether she contacted Hale first or not. So we don’t have to change, ignore or wave away the facts in understanding what Hale did.
October 22, 2014 @ 8:20 pm
I’m not “waving off the facts”. I am simply pointing out that Hale left out a lot of information in her article. She said that Harris contacted her first, implying that Harris tweeted her for no reason. She then goes on to imply that Harris was tweeting her updates of her negative review. It was a lie by omission. Heck, you originally believed that Harris had tweeted Hale several times. It was ONE freakin’ tweet. One which had absolutely nothing to do with her review.
You can keep repeating that what Hale did was wrong, but at this point you seem to be trying to find anything that paints Harris as culpable. First, she was tweeting several times to Hale. Well, that’s been proven false. Then it was your questioning why the heck Harris would agree to an interview with Hale. Now it’s questioning why on earth she would tweet her at all.
It doesn’t matter. You can point to it and say, “I wouldn’t do that!”, but there is nothing in Harris’s behavior that implies she was in any way out to get Hale or instigate anything.
Harris has been in the blogging community for a long time. A lot of her friends on Goodreads are authors she has negatively reviewed. So, logically, she probably thought it wasn’t a big deal to tweet Hale. Context and background matters in this case.
October 23, 2014 @ 2:51 am
Engaging with reviewers in general is a mistake (someone said of my first novel that it was like watching paint dry; you do just have to suck it up). If the person issues death threats, go to the police and let them go round to the threatener’s house if they see fit: that’s their job. It is easy to see a situation, especially in the US, where trying to sort it out yourself by confronting them at home could just escalate into gunfire.
October 23, 2014 @ 11:04 am
I think you’re right. All the battle lines being drawn have the stench of elitism.
October 23, 2014 @ 11:19 am
I can very well imagine that after she agreed to the interview, and perplexed why an author she had 1-starred wanted to be interviewed by her specifically, she may have googles Hale and found out about the attack on the 14-year old girl. And got scared out of her pants! I know I would be scared in her position. That’s probably why she backed out of the interview. But Hale couldn’t let go, could she….
October 23, 2014 @ 11:34 am
@KatG: you wrote: “Harris gave Hale a one-star, blistering review of her first novel. If you feel that way about somebody’s work, you don’t logically then go chime in when that person asks about what she should write next as if you’re a fan of Hale’s. There was no reason for Harris, who didn’t like Hale’s work, to be noticing Hale’s tweets or respond to them. So it was not illogical for Hale to notice Harris among the other one-star reviewers when Harris contacted Hale. ”
However, I just checked the timeline, and I believe Hale is lying, as usual. The tweet exchange re “I want some ideas!” all took place in early November. Harris had NOT finished her updates at that point. She had started out by loving the book, and said so. She had only written one vaguely negative sentence about the book: “I could REALLY do without the multiple animal deaths in this one…” and that was on 10th November. So, at that point Harris had not yet formed a negative opinion on the book, so we can assume the interaction was completely innocent.
Then, for her article, Hale reframed the interaction to make it seem that Harris had contacted her AFTER she had written the rest of her updates, which just isn’t true! In fact, a damned lie!
Here again is the Tweet screenshot of the initial exchange:
Note the dates.
And here again the actual review:
Again, note the dates.
Hale is lying through her teeth. She did not, at the time of Harris’s initial contact, go and check and found a bad review. She found a predominantly GOOD review at that time. Much later, she changed the timeline so as to make Harris look like the evil stalker.
October 23, 2014 @ 1:43 pm
I think the reasoning for the article is a lot simpler than people realize.
Hale figured out she crossed a line, and being the educated, if entitled, person that she is, she realized that she’d done something that wouldn’t be as easy to get of as it was when she was a teenager. So, just in case the blogger decided to press charges or something, she wanted to make sure she had a fortified position, and struck first.
Now, instead of the insta-rage being on the blogger’s side, which is what would have happened if the reviewer had blogged about this first, Hale cried “Bully-victim!” to get fans and contemporaries outraged and on her side as a protective barrier.
She’s a spin doctor.
October 23, 2014 @ 11:55 pm
Diane: “She said that Harris contacted her first, implying that Harris tweeted her for no reason.”
No, Hale didn’t. She said quite clearly in her article that she asked people for ideas about her next book and that Harris was one of the people who tweeted her about that. So Hale did not say that Harris contacted her for no reason as one person alone.
Again, my point is that Harris is not culpable for Hale stalking her. But the insistence that Hale must be lying about everything in the article because she stalked Harris is a form of victim blaming towards Harris. It centers on what Harris did or did not do, as if that’s the key thing concerning the stalking, when it is not. Harris’ contact may have concerned Hale. That does not translate that Harris is then to blame for the stalking. That’s the sort of link analysis about women we need to stop, where we ignore or change facts because we think the victim’s behavior should affect how the action against her is perceived. Is that clearer? You keep talking about Harris being a good person, as if that’s the key determinant about whether she’s a victim or not. She may very well be a good, nice person. But it doesn’t matter if Harris is a good, nice person or not, because that has nothing to do with her being a victim of stalking, which she is.
And Sharon now raises this other point. Are you saying, Sharon, that Harris did two reviews of Hale’s book, one positive and one negative? Is that usual for Goodreads? That seems rather strange. Usually a person reads a book and writes one review after they finish.
October 24, 2014 @ 12:30 am
OK, sorry. Not “for no reason”. But she DID say that after that tweet from BH, she checked BH’s review and was surprised it was a bad one, implying that BH was being underhand. This is not at al true. At that point BH LIKED the book.
No, I’m not saying that she wrote two reviews. I’m saying that in her reading update, her first comments about the book were positive. Only in mid-November (long after the Twitter exchange about ideas for next book) did it turn negative. So, Hale is lying when she says she looked up Harris at the point of the Twitter exchange. If she did do that, she would have found a reviewer who had read part of the book and loved what she had read so far. This is not what Hale claims in her article. She twists the timeline around.
October 24, 2014 @ 12:35 am
PS KatG At no point to I say that Harris is a good person. I do not know her. Let’s stay on track. I said she had written a good review at first, as in, her first comments on the book were that it was a great book. This has nothing to do with whether or not she was a “good person”, which is totally irrelevant. I’m saying that Hale lied about the timeline to imply that Harris’s first contact with her was underhand. THAT is my point.
October 24, 2014 @ 1:08 am
“But the insistence that Hale must be lying about everything in the article because she stalked Harris is a form of victim blaming towards Harris. It centers on what Harris did or did not do, as if that’s the key thing concerning the stalking, when it is not.”
No KatG, bringing up Harris’s behavior at all is tantamount to victim blaming. Her actions are completely irrelevant. But, pointing out that Harris is innocent of a lot of allegations against her, doesn’t mean it makes her a more sympathetic victim. It’s because many of us don’t like the things being implied about Blythe. She has been stalked. Pointing out how some of her behavior was questionable or that she could have done some things differently only victimizes her further.
“Re the two women’s initial contact, however, the reality is that female authors online are regularly subject to abuse and threats from folks who have declared their dislike of the authors and their work. So if you’re a female author and a person who is a reviewer and blogger comes and has a friendly chat with you about your work and you then find out that this person hated your book in her review and on Twitter, etc., it would be reasonable to be fearful and concerned about this person and what she might do and what agenda she might have, and want to know more about her. Stalking was perhaps not the right word to use for that, but if Harris did it, it was dishonest and it triggered concern.”
You seem to be saying that Hale had every right to be afraid of Harris, but she went too far. Harris did absolutely nothing to cause fear in Hale. We now know there was no “chat”. It was a two word tweet. I won’t get into the timeline, because Sharon explained it pretty well. Simply look at the dates in the screencaps Sharon provided. At the time that Harris sent her tweet to Hale, her updates were relatively positive regarding Hale’s book. It wasn’t until a few days later, when she decided to start reading again that she found problems. So, Hale is lying when she says the review was negative at the time of Harris’s tweet. It wasn’t.
When someone is caught in several lies and half truths, then their entire story comes into question. So, yes, I feel very comfortable saying that Harris did absolutely nothing to threaten or scare Hale. The very idea that Hale went out of her way to find out Harris’s identity due to fear is ludicrous. Hale was angry to the point of obsession. Frightened people don’t stalk their attackers.
October 24, 2014 @ 1:54 am
I will also add that there is not a doubt in my mind, after seeing the timeline, that it was not the single tweet that made Hale curious about Harris. It was Harris’s updates of her book days, even weeks later, that set her off. She found Harris’s tweet after searching through her social media history. I doubt she even remembered the tweet.
October 24, 2014 @ 6:07 am
Now that we know that a lie is at the very foundation of all her claims against Harris, who can believe a single further word of hers? It is all fiction, fabrication. There was no harrassment. She became obsessive on the basis of a review, tracked Harris down, and that is it. Is anyone still claiming “they were both wrong”?
October 24, 2014 @ 11:27 am
“Her actions are completely irrelevant.”
Yes, that’s my point too.
“The very idea that Hale went out of her way to find out Harris’s identity due to fear is ludicrous.”
That wasn’t what I said. Hale’s attempts to find out Harris’ actual identity and home information were part of the stalking, not the initial contacts. Checking out who Harris was on Goodreads and asking other authors about her as a reviewer are not stalking. They are actions that some authors take when they aren’t certain about who they are dealing with. Hale then went into stalking and harassing behavior toward Harris, which she had no right to do and was in no way justified or caused by any contacts and reviews of Harris’.
From what you and Sharon are saying, it seems like Harris reviewed the book in stages? The initial period in which Hale became aware of Harris seems to remain a confusion. So I’m going to drop it, as it is clearly upsetting folk too much to talk about, and is, as we all agree, irrelevant to Hale’s harassing behavior.
October 24, 2014 @ 11:32 am
Sharon, to clarify, I was talking to Diane at that point re the good person remarks and responding to her earlier post, not to your post. I am not entirely as clear as you are about the initial timeline, but I appreciate you providing more facts. There’s no question that Hale’s behavior was stalking and harassment, and there is never any justification for that.
October 24, 2014 @ 12:54 pm
Hm, I’ve read through my posts several times and I never referred to Harris as a good person. I still can’t figure out where that came from. The only thing I can find that might imply that is when I mentioned that she had never trolled an author or tweeted negative reviews to an author. Which is true. Other than that, I’m flummoxed.
What Harris posted on Goodreads was not really a review. There is a feature on GR that allows readers to post their thoughts as they are reading. For example: ” 10/24/14: Chapter 1: I am really enjoying this book so far! Great characters.” This is what Harris was doing.
The timeline is simple. Harris’s reading progress updates on Hale’s book before 11/10 were relatively positive. On 11/10 Harris began posting negatively about the book. It would seem that as she read further, she began to find some things that bothered her quite a bit.
Harris’s tweet to Hale was on 11/5. If Hale had checked Harris’s updates at the time of the tweet, which is what she claims, she would have seen a positive response to her book, not a negative response. Ergo, Hale is lying.
It’s fairly obvious that it was Harris’s review, not her tweet, that made Hale begin looking into Harris’s social media.
October 24, 2014 @ 9:54 pm
Unfortunately, there are plenty of people still trying to shift blame to BH, yes. Reviewers, particularly those who use pseudonyms, are inherently evil, don’t you know, their only purpose being to destroy authors.
It amazes me how quickly those leveling that accusations forget that reviewers love to read.
Paper Puffs (39) | Paper Breathers
October 25, 2014 @ 12:31 pm
[…] Jim C. Hines: victim or perpetrator? […]
October Reading Wrap Up | Books and Musings from Downunder
October 30, 2014 @ 7:45 pm
[…] http://www.jimchines.com/2014/10/victim-or-perpetrator/ […]