When An Author Stalks You…

I had a really nice little post all scheduled to go up this morning. But something happened over the weekend that I stumbled upon and I just HAD to say something about it. I haven’t usually weighed in on goings-on in the book blogging community, mostly because I always felt like a relative newbie and (thankfully) haven’t been involved in any blogging scandals. But for a couple of reasons, I just couldn’t let this one go.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with what I want to talk about today, but in case you aren’t I’ll give a brief breakdown of the situation. Blythe Harris, a book blogger at Finding Bliss in Books, gave a 1 Star review on Goodreads to Kathleen Hale’s No One Else Can Have You. I’ve read the review, and as it’s 1 Star, it obviously isn’t very positive (as I’m sure the other 242 1 Star reviews aren’t either).

Now, as book bloggers, some of us try to be as positive as possible when discussing books we’ve read. The things I would say to a close friend when discussing a book, are probably not the same things I’d write about on this blog, or on public forums. That’s not to say that I am dishonest in reviews in any way, but rather that I try not to be too blunt or sarky, which trust me, is sometimes a struggle. I try to be sensitive to an author and their creation. Some bloggers are not so censored, and fair play to them, they usually make for highly passionate, opinionated and entertaining reviews – each to their own, and Harris’ review was a little more on the blunt side.

Kathleen Hale Article in The GuardianOn Saturday 18th October 2014, The Guardian published an article by Hale, where she seems to have taken this particular review very personally, believing Harris to be out to destroy her career. Not only does Hale openly admit her actions “felt like the biggest breach of decency I’d ever pulled”, but she basically stalks Harris online, manages to get hold of her address and phone number, conducts a $19 online background check, rents a car and drives to her door after looking it up on Google Maps, calls her at work and clearly harasses the poor woman senseless.

Hale’s conclusion? That Blythe Harris is a pseudonym for another person entirely. While this may be true, people are well within their rights to write under pseudonyms, both reviewers and authors do it, and after reading about Hale’s adventures, I’m beginning to consider doing it myself for my own personal safety! Hale takes this concept further, she seems to believe that not only is Blythe Harris a pseudonym, it’s a pseudonym set-up for the purposes of destroying careers and trolling online. That story may stick, if it weren’t for the fact that Harris’ blog, Finding Bliss in Books, has been going since 2012, and has dished out PLENTY of 4 and 5 Star reviews. Sorry, Hale, but this sounds like a case of sour grapes to me.

Unfortunately, as often happens, the article on The Guardian was one-sided, accusatory and factually inaccurate (the term “catfishing” was used completely out of context). As a member of the book blogging community I felt like some issues needed to be addressed – Harris had been blogging since 2012, these profiles weren’t created with the intention of harassing Hale, and in case anyone was under a different impression – Hale’s behaviour was completely unacceptable. My comment was removed from The Guardian by moderators.

I honestly feel outraged by this whole situation. I’m disappointed in The Guardian for approving such a story to be posted on their site, and I’m shocked at Hale – not only for her actions, but for publishing them with the belief that they are justified! Books are reviewed all the time, both by “professional” critics and non-professional reviewers, and plenty of the “professional” critics can be pretty scathing. Books are published in a public domain, where opinions are rife, and as the saying goes, “You can’t please all of the people, all of the time”.

Many bloggers have written posts on the topic of author/blogger interaction, particularly on what to do if you don’t like an author’s book. Let’s be honest, it can be an uncomfortable scenario to find yourself in, but most authors can appreciate that they are not demi-Gods who get everything right, and can hold a perfectly reasonable and safe interaction/discussion with a blogger via social media or email. Hale’s actions in this case are not “normal”, and certainly not the actions of someone with a sound mind, and anyone supporting her actions are only contributing to her problem.

Kathleen Hale Twitter Image and ProfileMy final note – regardless of what Harris may or may not have written in her review, and no matter how scathing, or brutal, her review may or may not have been, it does not justify the gross invasion of privacy, breaking of the law and threatening behaviour that Hale dished out as a consequence. Ironically, Hale was under the impression that Harris was out to ruin her career. One review does not a career ruin. However, Hale’s response and subsequent article have most definitely affected her career in the most negative manner possible, with many in the book community now boycotting her books, and boycotting other authors who support her.

Hale’s Twitter account professes that she in interested in “myself, animals, and crime”. Well, Ms. Hale, I couldn’t have put it better myself.

What does this mean for Book Bloggers?

Personally, I’m going to tidy up my social media sites and blog to try and ensure there is minimal information for anyone to find me. I’d hate to think that Hale is starting a precedent. In fact, I’m pretty sure what she did is considered to be a criminal offence, and I can only hope that it is taken seriously by local authorities and used to set an example (as well as condemned by her Publisher? Watch this space). Crazed stalker-fans get sentenced for stalking, so why not semi-psychotic authors?

I also hope that this doesn’t have a negative impact on freedom of speech and opinion within the community, and most importantly that we don’t lose excellent bloggers because of this incident. Now, more than ever, we need to support each other.

Finally, I’ve been impressed by the number of authors, as well as book bloggers, who have come forward on Twitter to express their shock, concern and at times disgust for what Hale has done.

Tweets About Kathleen Hale Scandal

Disclaimers:

In the interests of full disclosure, I do not know Blythe Harris personally, and I do not know if her name is a pseudonym (I do follow her blog on Bloglovin’). I do not know Kathleen Hale personally, nor have I read her book(s). Kathleen Hale is the girlfriend of Simon Rich, writer for SNL, and son of journalist Frank Rich and Harper Collins executive editor Gail Winston. Her book, No One Else Can Have You, came from James Frey’s Full Fathom Five Book Packaging company.

Update:

On the evening of the 20th of October, book bloggers took to Twitter to vent their frustrations at the actions of Hale, and the lack of response or comment from Harper Teen, her publisher, nor from The Guardian, who posted the article in the first place. Due to this lack of response, and Hale’s apparent reveling in the attention she has been receiving, book bloggers decided to boycott Hale’s work and began using the hashtag #HaleNo. Within a few short minutes, #HaleNo was trending. Buzzfeed has done a great overview of the initial incident, and the online discussions that followed it.

Sources For More Information:

Privileged – An article written by Hale describing an attack she carried out at 14.

Catch Me If You Can ASPCA – A disturbing article by Hale describing animal abuse she carried out as a child.

Smart Bitches, Trashy Book: A Response

KGB Babbles: A Response

The Fangirl: A Response

An Open Letter to Kathleen Hale and Guardian Books

The Importance of Pseudonymous Activity

How Not To Respond To Negative Reviews

A Personal Response to a Shocking Thing that Happened

Goodreads Boycott List of Authors Who Support Stalking

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About Rachel

Avid reader & book blogger. Lover of Business. A fan of drinks & dancing. Ever optimistic. Feminist.

56 Responses

  1. Inge @ Bookshelf Reflections

    I’ve been reading up on this for the past two days, and frankly, it’s disgusting. Especially the way Kathleen thinks she’s done the right thing by “outing” a blogger. Blythe has been a Goodreads friend for many years, and I don’t give two shits about whether it’s a pseudonym or not. The fact is Kathleen was way, WAY out of line, and it astonishes me that there are people out there who condone this kind of creepy behaviour.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I completely agree with you. However, I did mention this to an author friend after I read it. Mainly because I’ve been in a similar situation with an author and I wanted to see if she had heard about the incident or anything. She said that apparently Harris had been bashing Hale on her feed and anyone else who stood up for her, before Hale went crazy. Is that an excuse for Hale’s own bad behavior? NO! Absolutely not. In fact if offered the chance to review her work I would definitely politely decline. Simply because if I don’t love her work I’m not in the mood to deal with that kind of drama. But what surprises me is that The Guardian didn’t do some fact checking and look into what started the whole problem in the first place. I’m not sure where my friend got the information about Harris bashing Hale’s work and positive reviews, so for all I know that could be something Hale has created in her own “make herself the victim” story. But it would have been nice to have the person who agreed to let her make more of an ass of herself check some of the background.
    Also I’ve been reading a lot of the conversations on this and A LOT of reviewers have been saying that incidents like this is why they only publish reviews that are 3-5 stars. Which is really messed up. Already reviewer bashing has bullied reviewers into not being completely honest. I don’t mean being mean, but honest. If they don’t like a book enough to give it 3 stars then they need to put that in a review and put why. I understand from an authors stand point that 1 star reviews completely mess up the algorethym (that’s so spelled wrong, sorry) that Amazon uses to promote books. But if the 1 star review is an honest and fair review that it has every right to be there. (I also discussed this with my author friend, and apparently you need 50 reviews before Amazon will start promoting your book, like recommending it and stuff, and a 1 star review is worth something like around 5 -5 star reviews. Which in itself is a problem, but that’s a different topic) I have mini-panic attacks before putting up any review, good or bad, I can get absolutely terrified that even if I like a book that some troll is going to come along and bash what I’ve written. Or worse, someone else who has read the book and hated it and actually has a valid point, which would make me feel really dumb if it was something obvious that I missed. I’ve already been threatened by an author, and harassed by her ‘followers’ so that alone, while it scares me, doesn’t scare me as much as it used to. However I still get nervous that I’m being overly critical and some author is going to cry because I didn’t like their book. I know I probably should stop reviewing. lol. Not thick enough skin to be mean.
    But I’m really glad that you decided to post about this. Not because I believe Hale or Harris needs any more support or exposure. But because the whole problem of reviewers being bullied into not reviewing, as well as reviewers who are purposely mean just for shock value or because they are trolls, is something that bloggers and writers should band together to put a stop to.

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      1. After I replied to your post I went in search of anything that could like or confirm Hale’s accusations. ( I know I’m just feeding the machine, but I have WAY to much time on my hands. lol) I couldn’t find anything, but I did find a lot of things out about Hale and facts brought forth that countered a lot of what she said. I couldn’t find the girl who Harris and her followers supposedly harassed about her positive review of Hale’s work. I also saw some of the tweets that HALE had made and found out that her significant other and in-laws are involved at the Guardian and are writers, which might explain the Guardian letting her write what she did and deleting comments against her. I do know that I looked for the original review by Harris, that you had a link to, and she has taken the review down and just replaced it with F***this. Which is really a shame. (She has also put up new review rules on her blog saying she isn’t accepting certain types of books/authors for review anymore, which is a shame to) I understand why she did these two things. She was sick of the drama. I get it. But it’s really a shame that she was pushed to take down her opinion and silence her own voice because of someone else not agreeing with it. What I also found amazing was this review was originally put up back in 2013….and Hale has dragged this out until now?? (I know it took a while for her to stalk Harris and for all of the actions to accumulate, but still.) I don’t agree with all reviews. I don’t agree with how all reviewers decide to word their reviews. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to their opinion. The fact that she was so stressed by it she silenced her voice is just wrong. That right there is the main reason I will not read any of Hales work. Hale has the right to write whatever she wants, be it good, bad, inflammatory, whatever. But so does Harris. If Harris really was doing the things that she is accused of there are other actions that Hale could have taken. She could have reported her comments, she could have blogged about Harris’ supposed harassment or published it in The Guardian. No instead she went mental, which I did find out isn’t the first time she’s taken matters into her own hands. The only thing that might convince me to ever give Hale a second chance is if she publicly apologized to Harris and Harris in turn accepted it, and put her review back up.

        I think that authors, and bloggers, should really look into social/media training. At least maybe a Ms. Manners course or something. I work with authors all the time. Some, not all, aren’t exactly socially blessed. So I give them tips/advice on just “talking” at blog events and facebook events. (Biggest hint: Just say hi! Fans love to just know that you ARE reading their comments and it makes them feel good. You don’t have to be eloquent or a social butterfly, just let them know you know they are there. Cause there are tons of other places they could be) The ones that I am more friends with than co-workers, I lend an open ‘ear’ to for them to vent about low reviews or trolls. Cause yes I understand even the most well written review if it is negative is stressful. But despite thinking everyone should take a Ms. Manners course, I don’t think any amount of PR training would have helped, or would help Hale, I think she needs psychiatric help.

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  3. thebookheap

    I’m one of those reviewers, sometimes, who is too blunt, mainly because that is how I am IRL. My first experience reviewing a book for an author was a bad one, ending in the author (nearly naming) and certainly shaming me all over the goodreads message boards because she couldn’t believe I had the gall to write a 1 star review and low and behold, not even finish the book. I’m still angry about her response, because I felt it was highly immature and unprofessional- but at least she didn’t stalk me, I guess! (review was Tent City by Kelly Van Hull and is up on my blog if you are interested!)

    This really is about 100 shades of disturbing! : /

    Liked by 1 person

      1. thebookheap

        also you are right btw, those with badges should look at what she did because yeah….not exactly legal.

        I hope they definitely do get back to you! I hate that they deleted your comment and I find it weird that they decided to make what Hale did seem so…normal. whut.

        haha definitely have a mooch- I have my review up and a slight subsequent discussion of what occured after…

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      2. thebookheap

        hopefully the controversy will have flagged it up one way or another to them. Most big police departments do actually have twitters though, in an attempt to engage effectively with their communities via social media- I’d be shocked if NYPD didn’t have one!

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      3. I think she thinks it is some form of free advertising. After all I had never heard of her until an author I follow brought up her bad behavior. And honestly if she wasn’t just the current face of a growing problem I wouldn’t give her a second thought.

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      1. thebookheap

        Yeah, I mean this was one of my first online reviews, so it was very short and blunt, but it was also honest, which is what she asked for.
        hahaha IKR, it really is such a bad cover! I should have! Some of the comments she made about me to those other authors though were absolutely horrific!

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  4. This was mental! I have given bad reviews before, and even though I try to be kind and mellow, sometimes I just can’t. Still, never has this happened before. I did actually get an email from a author thanking me for a 2 star review, inviting me to reread the story as they fixed it after my suggestions! If that’s not one of the points of book blogging, I have no idea what is.
    Hale is a mess and I hope this doesn’t become a norm. I get some authors agree with her, but some bloggers have also expressed support, which is insane. Try putting yourself in Blythe’s shoes! :X
    I think you are right to clean up the social media as such, I may do just that myself. You never know! :X
    I was planning on reading this book, but after this, definitely not. I had no idea it was a FFF novel either, or that Hale actually has ties in her publishing house, which just ruins everything further. -.- So done with such crap.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely understand. And that’s why something should really be done about Hale. Use her as an example or something with whatever punishment she receives. Whether it is legal or just being dropped like a hot potato by her publisher, etc.. No one should ever be afraid to express their opinion.

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  5. Wow. As an author, I’m shocked by the lengths that the author went to get revenge. Nobody wants a bad review but it happens. It’s part of the game. If you can’t handle them then maybe you should only publish your books to family and friends. Book bloggers provide a service and the ones I’ve met seem to strive to be fair and honest, while maintaining their integrity. They certainly don’t deserve to be stalked and harassed. Hopefully Hale will knock off the crap and the boycott will make her re-evaluate her behavior and apologize. I’m sure I’ll never read one of her books.

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  6. I got to say this is terrifying. I don’t presume to know the whole truth after reading Hale’s article, but from what I can gather this was a case of a lot of pride and not a lot of self-control. I don’t know the story from the blogger’s perspective, so I won’t try and comment on hear-say from the author. However, from what she did say, I cannot for the life of me see how Hale’s actions can be justified. Even if Blythe wasn’t who she said she was, for Hale to physically go to her house seems insane. This wasn’t a person who killed your cat or something equally horrible (I’m trying to think of a scenario where it would be appropriate to show up at a stranger’s house but anything short of violence doesn’t seem enough), she wrote a bad review which she is completely entitled do to. It seems like the author needed to prove Blythe didn’t exist and therefore negate her negative review and its influence on other readers. And because Hale thinks she proved Blythe wasn’t real, she seems to think the end justifies the means when it very clearly does not.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. There is definitely something off about Hale’s logic in this situation. It is ironic and probably poetic justice that she’s not going to be well-received in the book blogging community because of her behavior. What I find disturbing as well are those that are defending Hale and attacking Blythe. But when I read the article, there isn’t anything there that shows me that Blythe was some internet troll. What we have in the article is hearsay without any evidence to back it up. I then went over to read the status updates by Blythe on the book and there is nothing there that make me believe she was in anyway targeting Hale.
        And you know what’s also made me angry? The fact that Hale goes out of her way to change the real name of this blogger, but doesn’t bother to change the pseudonym Blythe used because you know her intention was to ‘out’ this blogger publicly. There is just a whole lot of hypocrisy coming from Hale and I for one will never read anything she writes. I really don’t know how any blogger will after something like this.

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  7. Having read the original article, I had a far different response than you. I am reserving my full judgement until further research, but if what you say is correct, it does change my initial thoughts. One thing Hale pointed out, and you also show a demonstration of this, is the blacklisting idea. Had Hale made a simple online response, she would have been blacklisted. She made a far more drastic response and is definitely blacklisted. I don’t approve of her actions, but I also don’t think she needs to be boycotted by the book blogging community. Harris’ review bordered on a personal attack and according to Hale contained false assertions. Also, I don’t recall thinking any of her actions were illegal. Inappropriate, yes, but not illegal. I’d have to do more investigation to be sure. Anyway, while I don’t feel Hale was in anyway right, the evidence she presents does make me question Harris’ current portrayal as an innocent book blogger. I don’t think this story is black and white. It’s grey all over, but one thing is clear: Don’t do what Hake did. No one, not even other authors, will support you.

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  8. Normally I kind of roll my eyes at the latest book blogosphere drama. I don’t generally care about authors behaving badly because sometimes this can turn into a bit of a double standard. But I find myself incredibly fascinated by this one!!! My reaction to this I find is far different than most others. I can’t say I’m on board with either party here because there are just so many questions that I don’t think have been answered, and maybe they cannot be answered. I’m not throwing support behind Hale, but I’m not prepared to boycott her books either. I just think there is a lot of grey area in this situation. Hale’s behavior was inappropriate yes, but I don’t see her actions as illegal. If she’s seeking out Blythe Harris, but Blythe Harris doesn’t really exist, has a crime been committed? Then again, I’m not familiar with federal law regarding cyber-bulling or harassment. And if Blythe Harris is in fact catfishing, why so we accept this behavior? My reaction to Hale’s article wasn’t negative. I’m not angry at her or her publishing company.If anything, I think this experience was probably more humbling for Hale– she sat behind her computer accusing another person of being a “troll”, yet her own behavior was troll-like, and she does acknowledge this at least. She acknowledges that her behavior was obsessive and border-line insane. And if anything, it’s eye-opener for the rest of us– how secure is our information really? I grew up with the internet. I feel comfortable with it, and I don’t usually think twice about the information I display. Perhaps I ought to…!

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    1. Edit: I think I may have misunderstood the pseudonym v. the catfishing insinuation. Now this scenario is far less fascinating and more wtf?! than I initially thought.

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  9. I have been reading the articles over the last few days and I’m beyond disturbed by it. Like so many others I write reviews just for the love of books and I want to freedom to express my opinions without fear of an author backlash. I’m not a snarky reviewer but I do write negative reviews. Thankfully I have had no repercussions so far but I am wary. I’m even considering not publishing negative reviews on my blog but I really don’t want to be censored in that way. I want to be honest and to express my views in their fullest form whether they are good, bad or indifferent. And more importantly just because I dislike a book doesn’t mean it’s a bad book just that it didn’t work for me. My reviews are recording my thoughts for myself personally as much as for anyone reading.
    Anyway, this has me thinking a lot about online safety and some steps I need to take to protect my privacy. I know the chances of being stalked are slim but this proves you can’t be careful enough.

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      1. I read that yesterday. It’s all gone crazy. And the more comments I read, the more I realise how many authors despise bloggers. Not the majority of them of course but a significant few. I have seen more than one comment ‘those that can write and those that can’t review’ which just makes me grind my teeth. I have never aspired to be an author and review because books are everything to me.

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  10. […] but well delivered and overall I found it to be a pretty enjoyable read. Reading this following the events of last year, I have to say, it made me consider my on-line safety and the measures I can take to try and be […]

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  11. Caitlen

    I can’t believe I missed this when it actually happened! At first I read the Guardian article, and it convinced me that the author was being harassed by the reviewer. But then I actually did the research, and saw all the blogs and articles that painted a very different picture. Regardless of whether the blogger was who she says she was (I could care less if she lied about her age and profession – it’s not like she was on a dating site or something), the author was totally out of bounds. I think she just allowed herself to obsess so much over that one review, and rather than seek counseling, she let it grow to an extreme. It seems like her friends are also enablers as well. I’m not going to throw around words like the author is “crazy” or anything like that, but I do think she has some serious anxiety issues that require professional help. It’s one thing to be nervous about bad reviews and upset when someone gives you a bad review, but it’s entirely another to engage with reviewers and go and stalk them. I actually looked up what I could find on this reviewer, and it seems that she lives in California! The author lives in NY! If that is true, it means the author went ACROSS THE COUNTRY to go to this reviewer’s house?!?! The way the author wrote the article made it seem like the reviewer must be in the next town over or something. Stalking is never OK. Though my blog itself is relatively new, I’ve been active on Goodreads for about four years, and never in my wildest dreams would I have thought an author would stalk a reviewer like this. If an author did that to me – I don’t care how famous the author is, it could be J.K. Rowling herself – I would be calling the police and filing for a restraining order!

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    1. Caitlen

      To add, it just goes to show how only hearing one side of the story can change EVERYTHING. That research, and getting info from multiple sources, is SO important!

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