An Open Letter to Kathleen Hale & Guardian Books: Stalking Is Not...

An Open Letter to Kathleen Hale & Guardian Books: Stalking Is Not Okay.

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Dear Ms Hale and the editors of Guardian Books,

I’ve been reviewing books for about 4 years now. I’ve used my name online for that length of time but it’s not due to some desire for fame or transparency. It was more to do with youthful foolishness and my naïve trust in the people I talked to online. They were friends, right, so they wouldn’t do anything bad to me. Looking back, I can’t help but feel stupid at such gullibility, and if I could go back in time, I would immediately use a pseudonym.

I read your article on the Guardian today with a mixture of shock, confusion and genuine fear. The piece, “Am I Being Catfished? An Author Confronts Her Number One Online Critic” was not only a hatchet job full of factual inaccuracies, it was a straight up bragging fest about stalking someone who had the gall to give you a negative review. The reviewer in question (who, in the interests of transparency, I have been friendly with for many years now on Goodreads), you claimed, was using a false identity, which you took great pains to unmask. Said unmasking including gathering of her online information, subtweeting to deliberately antagonise, getting hold of her personal address to directly meet her, and more that I can’t even type here because it makes me that sick. You even refer to your activities as “stalking”, although you don’t seem to understand the weight of that term.

One of the resources you quote as an expert on this issue is the website Stop The Goodreads Bullies. If you, or your editor at Guardian Books, had done any research on this subject, like 10 seconds of Googling, you would know that this website is the epitome of everything it claims to be against. Frequently refuted and one of the most ethically bankrupt sites in online book blogging, STGRB has engaged in the most scurrilous of harassment and stalking, including gathering of the private details of several reviewers, cherry picking of incidents in order to make them look like villains, and frequent slander, referring to bloggers as bad parents, liars, crooks and a whole assortment of nasty terms. This behaviour led to one reviewer featured on the site receiving phone calls at her house. The site’s numerous displays of unethical bullying have been documented far and wide online, and appears on the first page of Google when you search “Stop The Goodreads Bullies”. At one point in the past, I was featured on that site for a review I wrote. While I was lucky enough not to have my personal details posted, I was referred to as “pathetic” and a “monster”, and every time I post a negative review, part of me wonders if this will be the review that gets me doxxed.

Do you condone this? Do you think this is acceptable? Given your own behaviour, I can’t help but think the answer is yes. The unspoken message of your piece is that privacy is not a right, but something to be stripped away when one sees fit.

The atmosphere in book blogging has become irrevocably toxic in recent years, and it’s readers who have arguably suffered the most. We don’t have the support or resources authors like you have. The Guardian isn’t going to give us space to air our concerns. Authors have editors, agents and PR teams behind them. We usually just have ourselves and our community. You have the power here. If you get a bad review, you have people and resources to help cool off, to instruct you in what to do and how to make the best impression. We have nothing like that. Most of us do this for free because we love doing it. It’s a hobby, not a career. The reason this all escalated to the level it did was because of you, nobody else. You chose to stalk someone, you chose to go to the lengths that you did, and you decided to spin this into a PR victory for yourself by going to the Guardian to write about it. The Guardian chose to give you this space to spin it as such too, and this is especially terrifying given recent events going on online with GamerGate.

No fewer than three women working in video games have been forced from their homes because of vindictive bullies online threats and doxxing them. Brianna Wu and Zoe Quinn can’t return to their own homes because of this blatant act of harassment. It is inexcusable that they have to suffer in this way and it’s inexcusable for you, Ms Hale, to act as some kind of hero for going to the extreme lengths that you did. Why did you feel entitled to stalk someone? For ethics, the same justification GamerGate supporters have for driving women out of their homes in fear? If you had been a man, do you think your actions would have been applauded?

You seem to think that having an online identity different from your real life is an act of fraud, when your actions are the perfect justification for many people doing so. It’s not a crime to draw a line between online and real life. In fact, it’s advisable to do so. Women are statistically speaking the most at risk from online harassment, and the reviewers all targeted by the bullies at STGRB were women. I’ve had to watch women receive rape and death threats on Twitter for daring to have a differing opinion, and I’ve seen a number of great journalists driven from the field because of it. Those voices were the ones we needed the most and now they’re gone. Undoubtedly, your actions will cause a great number of book reviewers to second guess their actions, to self-censor when they dislike a book because maybe, just maybe, that author will launch a co-ordinated attack of them or turn up at their house. You’ve made us all feel that much more unsafe.

For the record, I reviewed your book. I also gave it one star. Did you read my review? Did you consider stalking me? Have you already spent a lot of time watching me on Goodreads and Twitter, wondering where I live and if I’m somehow a fraud? Your book currently has 133 one star reviews on Goodreads. How many of those reviewers did you stalk? How many of them do you think are frauds? Is anyone safe anymore?

And to the Guardian’s books section, I say this: Shame on you for giving this platform to a proud stalker. Shame on you for buying into a culture that rests on a gross imbalance of power and puts countless people at risk. Shame on you for condemning the GamerGate bullies (rightly so) yet letting this go through, completely unaware of the hypocrisy on display. Since you seem to think stalkers turning up uninvited at people’s homes is okay, what else do you condone? I shudder to think.

Today, I am sad for a lot of people. I’m sad that the community of book reviewing I so dearly love has to feel unsafe again, and that authors who care about their readers will be tainted indirectly by this. I’m sad for the reviewer who dared to think she could have differing opinions without fear of stalkers turning up at her home. I’m sad that the concept of privacy and safe spaces has become a punching bag for paranoid hypocrites, and I’m sad that a supposed beacon of ethical journalism sees no problem in giving space (and probably money) to a badly researched hatchet job that condones some of the most sickening behaviour.

Ms Hale, I’ve really no more words for you. I hope you take time to look at what you’ve done, the saddening ramifications of your actions, and consider an apology as well as time off from online activities.

Yours sincerely,

Ceilidh

(And no, that’s not my real name).

107 COMMENTS

  1. I just looked at your one star review of the book. Interesting that the person taking issue with your review has only one book review to her name.

  2. Go you! Thank you for standing up for us. Having a blogging screen name is not catfishing, and it is an insult to people who are harassed and have money stolen and hearts broken by catfishes to call it that. I review books because I love to read, and I chose my name because it’s cute, memorable, and is about me. The same reason you choose any username. Using a different name doesn’t make my reviews any less honest, and it doesn’t mean I’m bullying you if I don’t like your book. It is deplorable for anyone to suggest that it is ok to stalk someone, verbally harass them, or bring them to tears–but to give them praise for doing so make me nauseous. I have not read Hale’s book, because it is a part of Full Fathom Five, so I will not condone that in itself. But this just reminds me why I don’t read those authors and don’t give them my money.

  3. Kathleen Hale’s actions are completely unacceptable and disgusting. If you have a problem with something someone has written – because this whole issue of being upset with a negative review has NOTHING to do with the actual person – surely you can find any other way to get in contact with them before, y’know, STALKING THEM AT THEIR HOMES. This is 2014. There are ten thousand ways to contact someone over the internet. You have a publicist. Patting yourself on the back for stalking and harassing someone for giving an honest opinion is complete lunacy. This woman has serious problems.

    I’ve read Hale’s book and actually enjoyed myself. This was even after previous drama surrounding her on twitter. But I’m dropping it down to a one star. She doesn’t deserve any praise from me.

    • “I’ve read Hale’s book and actually enjoyed myself. This was even after previous drama surrounding her on twitter. But I’m dropping it down to a one star. She doesn’t deserve any praise from me.”

      That, right there, is the problem, though! You can’t just drop a rating down on a book you liked, because you do not like the author. That isn’t rating the story, that’s rating the person. This is a perfect example of how so many author/reviewer wars are started on Goodreads. I’ve seen it happen numerous times.

        • I think Hale is a writer who actually cares about what her critics/readers think. While I do not condone the stalking idea, I have to say that probably more writers than are willing are admit are personally hurt by bad commentary. There is some dark humor to her piece-not sure she meant it to be competely serious-looking at her process in tracking down her critic is a bit funny in an odd way. How many of us have lurked on FB? Or gone incognito on Linked In to see how someone’s career is going that we no longer associate with? There is some creepiness here, but also truth in illuminating that we can care on a deep level about someone who hates our work. Many writers simply do not care what anyone thinks and bad press is still attention. I would think a published writer like Hale would not give a rat’s ass what the public thinks of her work.

      • ” You can’t just drop a rating down on a book you liked, because you do not like the author”

        Yes, you can. Goodreads allows readers to rate books how they like and for any reason they like, and so they should.

        If an author is attacking readers, then that’s a valid reason to avoid their books. The real issue here is authors invading a reader space and demanding that they control things. If authors stayed out of the readers’ space, there would be no ‘wars’.

        Authors have many venues and much more power to vent their spleen. Readers have limited access to public spaces, and even there, they’re not safe. Not surprising they use what venue they can to express their disgust.

        I’m an author. I review, I blog, and I absolutely deplore Kathleen Hale’s behaviour. Blythe Harris is a victim here, and readers should be left *alone*.

        • This shit goes so far beyond the pale. I think the author threw the rulebook of what’s acceptable behavior in the world of writing and reviewing out the window, and therefore has no business crying fowl now because reassessing a review based on her behavior isn’t fair.

      • Sure you can. Knowledge of an author, actor, or other artist can affect your enjoyment of their work. When I was a teen I use to enjoy one author (who will remain unnamed). After I got older I realized what a misogynist he is and have never been able to enjoy any book of his again. There are actors I refuse to watch on screen, not because of their acting ability, but because something about their personality or personal life has made them repulsive to me.

        I could Godwin this thread by mentioning that a particual genocidal dictator use to be an aspiring painter. Can you really enjoy his paintings without thinking about them in context?

      • How is this “the problem”? The problem at hand seems to be a mentally unstable young woman stalking someone for giving her a bad review. Not cyber-stalking; real life turning up at her house stalking.

      • You can’t just drop a rating down on a book you liked, because you do not like the author.

        Why the hell not, exactly?

        It’s *her* bookshelf in GoodReads, not yours.

        You don’t like how some reviewers use their shelves? Great. Don’t follow them, friend them, or read what they have to say = no drama.

        So effin’ easy, yes?

  4. YES. A million times, YES.

    The amount of people on that thread defending Hale’s actions, or praising her for stopping before it got even more disgusting makes my head boggle.

  5. This kind of stuff just makes me want to rage! I knew about Hale’s previous bad behavior, but I already had her book to review. I reluctantly reviewed it, and it was a 1 star read for me. But with the Guardian piece… jfc. I think anyone who doesn’t love love lover her book would be scared. I’d say she has more than a “low-grade” insanity.

    I too used my own name for blogging, and this sort of thing makes me wish I hadn’t. My name is quite unique, and so it would be very easy to find me if someone wanted to.

  6. Absolutely right to call out Kathkeen Hale on this. Stalking is wrong and she should have heeded all those who advised her not to engage. As a reader I look to the book blogging community to tell me honestly what they think of a book. I’m saddened that authors get obsessional to the point the reviewers can’t feel safe giving honest opinions. I know there are a number of dishonest reviewers out there, but anyone with an ounce of intelligence can discern them from others, and a reviewer who only exists to troll authors is pretty much obvious with their choice of bookshelves (on goodreads or book likes) if Hale felt the reviewer was a troll, best just to ignore and move on rather than take it to the level she did.

  7. I find the Guardian article deploring on so many levels. I think what really gets to me is Hale’s defenders. All of them claimed she had a good reason to do what she did. But her defense of Blythe “catfishing” is no justification to tracking down her address through deceptive means-basically using a contest that was supposed to be use for promotional purposes NOT tracking down a reviewer who provides lots of free advertising for her publisher purposes- and then renting a car and pretending to be some sort of super spy while she went to interrupted someone’s personal and professional life uninvited. It’s creepy what she did and disturbing. And I just love how all these defenders take Hale’s word as gold not even waiting to hear the other side of the story. Though to tell you the truth, from what I read Blythe doesn’t need to say anything to defend herself.

  8. This is disturbing. The fact that the release of private information, a physical address, being used to manipulate/stalk is deplorable. What is wrong with this picture ? Everything. If this author had the roles reversed would she be comfortable ? Why would a publication who needs it’s viewers put this article out there ? I stopped reading Ms. Hale’s work. I can not accept this level of immaturity.
    I am disappointed by The Guardian for publishing her words.

    • I’m especially disgusted by the Guardian’s hypocrisy. Hale was allowed to change the names of her friends yet Blythe’s isn’t?

  9. Jesus H. Christ. That’s creepy as hell. I’m not saying this to be cruel – I’m certain Kathleen Hale has some kind of mental illness (some of her behaviors and thoughts sound really familiar to me from my own personal experiences). She needs help, but she’s dug herself into a deep hole with her behavior and damaged her reputation. If she didn’t have a contract with James Frey, she’d have a hard time finding people who want to work with her.

  10. Yea, stalking is stalking. I read that piece when it was brought up on Facebook is book blogger group. I was a bit horrified. You make some really great points here. Thank you for speaking out about this. I am a bit new to the book blogger world, but not to blogging. I use a pseudonym and I don’t care what some author thinks about that. Especially since authors tend to write in pen names, hence the origin of that expression. I don’t even want to begin to think that someone would come after me if I wrote a one star review. You sent your book out for honest opinions and then were shocked someone didn’t like it? Some people are just really sad. I dare someone to try to come to my home (where my children sleep), look into my car close enough to describe it’s contents in a blog post later, and then drop a book off on my doorstep. They would meet the end of my 9mm quickly. She is lucky that blogger was nice. How dare this author and Guardian pass this off as a cute catfish story!

    • “Yea, stalking is stalking. ”

      Yes. Whether “online” or “in the real world”. Pretty much no ones actions were acceptable here. The difference is that the author was flayed continually for an audience and actually changed the other party’s name. [Several partys’ names, in fact, in the article]

      It is difficult to see how the blogger was “nice” in the situation, though perhaps the author was not in response to the situation either.

      Again, no one was correct here. There is little difference in stalking someone online and in the real world however, both can escalate, neither are ok. I found nothing “cute” about the story and I’m not sure the author of the article did either. It seemed she found the entire experience disturbing as well- even her own behavior, which she admits.

      I am not even sure how to take many of these comments because there is a pretty typical pattern of “ganging up”.

      ALSO: comparing this situation to the issues that the female gamers mentioned have experienced is so ludicrous it’s hard to know where to start.

      • It’s not hard to see how the reviewer was completely innocent of Hale’s actions. All you have to do is give a shit and be bothered to look. The evidence has been posted everywhere online.

        Get off *your* high horse and see it with your own eyes, complete with screenshots of all relevant status updates, tweets, etc.

  11. I’m a long time Guardian reader but I was disgusted by the article there. Thank you for writing this. I’m not a lawyer but to me, providing a forum for Hale to boast about her behavior makes The Guardian an accessory to criminal harassment. Just unbelievable that they printed that.

  12. Wonderfully written. I am new to book blogging and I use my real name. The Guardian article left me with such a yucky feeling. We are given books I exchange for an honest review. We should feel safe to do so. There is no excuse for stalking and no excuse for bullying. I would be lying if I didn’t say that for a second I reconsidered book blogging, even though I love it so far. I hope your letter is seen by a wide audience.

  13. I agree that stalking is not okay, and that her stalking was definitely worrying. But I didn’t read the Guardian piece as her being proud of herself. I read it as a “can you believe how far I would go?”-piece, kind of self-deprecating.

    • Different strokes, I guess. I didn’t read it as self-deprecating, I read it as seriously unhinged and a nasty, entirely disproportionate attack on someone who did nothing to deserve it. Even if she is trying to be self-deprecating as she claims, Blythe’s life is not her plot point to wield for personal gain.

    • I agree. I read it as a kind of confessional. To me it seemed quite clear that Hale was admitting she was no better than the person she was pursuing; in face, she seems to be trying to say, in effect, ‘hey we’re all really f*cked up humans, see how alike we are?’. It is a surprising thing to make public, to be sure, but I appreciated her honesty. If it was, indeed, honesty. Because it did occur to me that it was another public relations stunt, though perhaps not intended as such.

      I also needs to be said that seriously, whoa. She went waywayway too far. And as “entertaining” as she made the confession, I hope she’s doing some serious introspection regarding *why* was so obsessive. It’s not a healthy response. And as the beautifully written article above asserts, it’s threatening.

      I would be far more interested in hearing about her process of self-discovery regarding her reaction to the article. Instead, I read the confessional of a woman with so little self-control that she did something over and over that even she clearly saw as immoral. And that is, at best, very, very childish.

      • It read to me like she would occasionally insert some “ADMIRABLE SELF-CRITICISM” before returning to the job of slamming Blythe Harris. It’s like when people go “I know I was a total bitch for reaming out that disabled guy whose chair was in my way.” It’s very hard to say “Yes actually you were” and you weirdly find yourself minimizing it for them: “No no you weren’t he was totally in your way!!” It’s a trick used by manipulative people.

    • No, it read, “I’m disturbed”. In what world is this behavior acceptable??? She should have ignored the review entirely. It’s called maturity. She chose a field where she will always be criticized, she needs to be able to handle the bad, or get the hell out. I don’t care what the review(s) said. She was not approached or sought out by the reviewer. She had a chance to show she was above it and WRITE A BETTER BOOK.

  14. It seems “Blythe Harris” created an online persona for herself simply to so that she didnt have to take responsibility for what she wrote. Its sad that people feel the need to do this kind of thing and in this case it wasnt from fear of being “stalked” or harassed. If I wrote a review of something on the internet that someone had worked very hard on I would take responsibility for what I wrote – same as I would in “real life”. Blythe Harris acted like a troll and a bully – she got called out on it. She wasnt an honest reviewer posting a sincere review. For the record Ceilidhs review backed up her reasons for giving the book a one star review and appeared honest and comprehensive – I would guess thats why the author didnt have too much of a problem with it – despite (I assume) disagreeing with the reviewer.

    • Hi, there seem to be a lot of Adam Browns, would you mind linking to your Facebook or posting your address so you can take responsibility for what you wrote in this comment? I’d say it’s unfair if you don’t, that means that people who happen to have very common names can take less responsibility than somebody with a unique name.

        • The point is, Bella, that he’s being a hypocrite re: accusing Blythe of hiding. Why doesn’t he stop hiding?

        • Why is it necessary for a comment? It’s not. Why is it necessary for a review? It’s also not. It doesn’t matter if she used a fake name. She’s entitled to talk about the book if she wants to, without using her name. Even if that means giving it a bad review. Even if that means advising others not to read it. Even if it means making fun of things the author’s said in public.

          That’s my point. I’ve seen nothing, even in the author’s own story of what happened, that obligates her to use her real name. The author is putting something out for public consumption. The public has a right to comment, even if that commenting is belittling it. I saw no sign that the author was personally harassed or attacked… she said she had to search her own name to find out she was being mocked on twitter, it wasn’t sent directly to her. Well, guess what, that’s what happens to public figures, what they do gets talked about by people who don’t know them. And then she went on to harass and attack the blogger, directly and in person.

          My questioning Adam Brown isn’t because I cared who he was… I don’t. But he probably doesn’t truly believe that he should stand behind what he wrote in every situation. If he did, he’d identify exactly which of many Adam Browns he was in this location where most people think he’s completely wrong. But even if he did, it’s still an idiotic viewpoint, borne out of massive unexamined privilege. He’s probably never been harassed because somebody saw his gendered-name and a common interest and thought they were soulmates and then had to worry if the sicko would track them down in real life, for example.

          There’s plenty of good reasons for people not to need to stand by their real name when doing something like a comment, or a book review.

          • I must have missed something because that made no sense to me. As you can see, I don’t use my real FIRST name. It’s a nickname. It’s also easily searched and tied to my given name as I’m a blogger and active on most social media. You can find anyone if you try hard enough. That doesn’t mean you should.

            My point in all this is the author, regardless of the reviewer’s intent, crossed numerous lines. She is not well. No rational person goes to those extremes. If she can’t rise above the criticism, constructive or not, she’s in the wrong business. These small authors have no idea what the big names have endured. You don’t see them behaving this way.

          • Wow! Way to miss the point – please re-read: “If I wrote a review of something on the internet that someone had worked very hard on I would take responsibility for what I wrote – same as I would in “real life”.”
            Firstly, for the record my real name is Adam Brown. Secondly I wrote: “IF I wrote a review of something” – my comment above was not a review it was an opinion which I did put my real name to. If someone wanted to find me because they had a problem with my comment I would be happy to discuss it. If they didnt seem completely nuts then I would be happy to meet them!
            I was not making a general comment on whether people should use their real names on the internet – my comment was aimed at people who set out to write reviews, often of things they havent read or seen just to get attention within a community (or in general). This is basically a form of trolling.
            Although I understand the criticism Hale has received I dont understand people defending Harris whose behaviour was clearly wrong.

  15. I found the article that you are referring to through an author I follow on Facebook who shared the article. I don’t engage in the world of book reviewing because in all honesty I’d rather just try reading a book for myself rather than trusting another person opinion.
    Personally I found the article, the comments that followed and your take on the article incredibly thought provoking.
    I don’t believe the author did anything illegal, inappropriate yes but not illegal. Having a background check done on someone is not illegal or it wouldn’t be available through legitimate channels. Going to someones home based on the result of this background check once again is not illegal. What would have made it illegal is if the she was told “don’t come here, don’t contact me” but continued to make contact then the legality of her actions would need to be brought into question.
    As yet I have not seen any indication that the blogger requested for the contact to stop, (my understanding is the blogger upped her online security settings and blocked the author. I’ve taken similar action not because I felt stalked but because I felt life was to to short to deal with negative people.)
    I also did not find that the article glorified what Kathleen did, personally I thought it showed very clearly how easy our online actions/ interactions can get grossly out of hand and spill into real life, if we are very lucky there will not be any long term negative effects for the writer or the blogger due to the events that have transpired.
    I think one of the things Kathleen felt affronted by was that someone (the blogger) who claimed not to be posting under an assumed name was in fact doing just that. It made her question the persons integrity and is possibly a contributing factor the madness that followed.
    What I took from the article was this – Be honest. Even when using a penname. Don’t create a whole new persona, because if you can’t keep your story straight it will call your integrity into question.
    Don’t engage – if your write a review don’t engage with the author unless they come to you and ask “what could I have done to make my book better?” Even then tread carefully. If your are an author don’t engage with the reviewer unless you feel they can offer insight but once again tread carefully.
    Don’t collude – If you don’t like a book or a review do not try and bully people into having the same opinion as you. We all think differently and that is a good thing and should be encouraged,
    Last but not least – Don’t be a sheep. Judge things/ people/ books on your experiences, don’t allow other people to tell you what to think. Take the time and form your own opinion.
    At the end of the day people need to take responsibility for what they do and say online but we also need to know when to turn away from the World Wide Web.

    • 1. Be honest – Okay, listen up. I’m an online feminist fighting against GG, and there are guys who want me dead because of that. So I should be honest and let them find me and do what they want to me, right? That seems to be what you’re saying.

      2. Don’t engage – Shouldn’t this fall on Hale’s shoulders, too? Look away. I have author friends who are bigger, better people than this sick woman. They’ve been tweeted negative reviews. They’ve called it out online, or else just moved on and let the review fall down the ranks rather than get more attention.

      3. Don’t collude – There is no evidence of Blythe colluding. I just see a privileged white stalker – and I suspect you’re a follower here to try and muddle the waters – being supported against a harassed, hiding woman.

      Now, can I ask you – are you going to be honest and share your real name here? Fair is fair, right?

  16. Stuff like this reinforces my decision to use only my first name on my blog and keep it completely separate from every other part of my online life.

    But I’m not mad at The Guardian for publishing this. I’m glad they did. I think bloggers need to be aware that stuff like this goes on. I’m new to the book blogosphere and while I had heard things, I’m learning, partly because of this article, how common it really is. I’m going to be all the more vigilant to protect myself now.

  17. As a writer, I found MS. Hales article disturbing. I’ve received bad reviews before and I see them as an opportunity to look at my stories from a different perspective. Reviews are subjective and when one person doesn’t like it, I certainly would never ever think to stalk anyone. Of course it’s hard to read negative things about what you’ve written but to take it so personally is ridiculous. Among my friends we disagree on what we all read. I appreciate every single one I receive because it means people have taken the time to read what I’ve written. I’ve never understood the animosity between some writers and bloggers. I’ve made some great friends who used to review my books. Not everyone is going to love what you write and that’s okay. Personal attacks, stalking or trying to engage people just because they gave you 1 or 2 star reviews is stupid. Starting a war online is stupid and taking a bad review as a personal attack on who you are is destructive and a waste of time.
    The nastiness I see online everyday has caused me to stay away from most social media sites but I had to comment when I read the original story and the open letter. I wanted to let book bloggers know most authors are professional enough to recognize individuals rights to not love what you’ve written. Engaging in causing anyone pain or fear is never acceptable.

    • Believe me, Kelli. We realize that. The majority of us appreciate being able to interact positively with our favorite and new found authors. We feel it’s more than a perk. It’s an honor.

  18. I can’t help by feel that you’ve missed the point here.

    The issue isn’t the 1 star review. The issue is the 1 star review… which is not based on the book. The review in question cites an acceptability of rape which is not in the book.

    Further, when someone does have the nerve to offer a different view, “Blythe Harris” then rallied her coterie and subject the reviewer to cyber bulling.

    I am in no way saying that Kathleen Hale should have done what she did – I think that the idea of tracking this woman down is abhorrent, and she really needs to look at who she is and wants to be in the future.

    However, you defence of “the right to review” should be tempered with “fairly” – which was not the case in this instance.

    • Actually, I’m not missing the point. Unlike both Hale and the Guardian, I and many other book bloggers are fully aware of the context.

      First of all, Blythe’s review was accurate in its complaints with the book. I know this because I made the exact same criticisms in my review. You can still read the status updates of Blythe’s review and I can assure you that her points are all astute. If you read the comments, you’ll notice she clarifies the rape comment and accurately refers to the incident in the book as statutory rape.
      https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/640892161?book_show_action=false&page=1

      Second, there is no proof of Blythe attacking or viciously bullying Hale. All we have is the word is a self-confessed stalker, and frankly that doesn’t cut the mustard for me. What we do have is extensive documentation of Hale’s own passive aggressive subtweeting and attacks on reviewers, including Blythe. We have the tweets where she excitedly awaits getting a hold of Blythe’s address from another blog, under false pretences. We have the screencaps of her attacking a 3 star review of her book (not even Blythe’s review, let’s make that clear), sneering at reviewers who dare to want to be writers themselves one day, and goading people who dare to take umbrage with her use of offensive language. Dear Author has compiled what I would say is the most detailed account of things.
      http://dearauthor.com/features/essays/on-the-importance-of-pseudonymous-activity/

      Blythe never rallied anyone. People read her review, saw Hale’s behaviour and made decisions for themselves.

      Third, the fact that you pull the “I don’t support stalking, however…” card says a lot to me. Prefacing your attack on someone when all you know are the claims made by a woman with an agenda who confessed to stalking someone is not an accurate summary of this case. Blythe may or may not have a private online identity, that’s none of my business. Frankly, after this blatant case of terrorising a woman, I’d recommend everyone do the same. She was stalked and that’s abhorrent. She may never feel safe again and people are using this as a stick to beat those evil reviewers with, even though no behaviour justifies being stalked, and Blythe has often been a very positive critic. Her GR reviews are up for everyone to see.

      A woman was stalked and we should all feel horrified about it. We should all condemn it, no need for wishy washy “But both sides suck” nonsense.

  19. I agree 100%. As an author, I found Ms. Hale’s actions ridiculously out of order and, frankly, deeply troubling. There is no cause or reason to invade another privacy, on any level, for something like this. Even if it wasn’t “just” a negative review, I can’t believe her actions.

    The part, in particular, that really disturbed me was when the psychiatrist told her that being “outed” might lead to self-loathing or self-harm, and her response was “Great.” Who’s the real troll there?

  20. I’m a book blogger of many years and don’t post negative reviews for fear of this. I choose to politely decline. That’s my easy way out of confrontation. I give credit to bloggers who choose to read everything that they have been offered for review and share their honest thoughts with their audience. But at what cost….apparently. As was pointed out in this article, this isn’t the first instance of criminal behaviour in response to a book review. I also am appalled that Guardian Books would publish an article where someone openly admits to criminal behaviour. Do they do this in hopes that her self-incrimination will get her arrested? I hope so, as that can be the only justification for this…

    • Hale in fact didn’t do anything criminal, i.e. illegal, in this case. She ran a background check, which anyone is well within their rights to do; she accessed information that was available on the internet to anyone who looked for it (and after Blythe/”Judy” made that information private, she couldn’t access it anymore); she went to her house, yes, but without intent to harm, and she didn’t even go so far as to knock on the door (instead she left an impromptu gift in an effort to demonstrate that she didn’t mean any harm); she did not make “Judy”‘s address known to the public–not even her real name; she was never asked by “Judy” not to contact her; and she did not harass “Judy” with phone calls after the one call.

      While her actions were not commendable, they were not criminal. Nor were they unprovoked–actively attempting to smear an author’s name is not the nicest thing to do. If you have enough of a following, you can permanently damage an author’s career and livelihood that way, to say nothing of the emotional damage it may cause. Neither Blythe Harris nor Kathleen Hale were exemplary in their actions in this issue.

  21. I can think of no definition of stalking that would not include Ms Hales behaviour in this article. I understand that people feel a desire to “reply”, “confront”, “to have it out with” someone. but this search does not guarantee the last word. and certainly does not guarantee closure. Putting a name to a face does not erase the review.
    Whether the reviewers name was Blythe Harris or Judy or Chloe or Rumplestiltskin is not what matters. What does matter is how true the review is and how plausible the review is. Hunting down the person behind the avatar is ultimately a substitute for the authors desire to refute the review.

  22. I kind of hope Kathleen Hale is just an attention-seeker trying to get publicity for a book most hadn’t heard of. I kind of hope she isn’t really so troubled and disturbed as to think the way she behaved and treated another human being is acceptable and worthy of being sold as a story to The Guardian.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the case. But regardless, the woman just shot herself in the foot for ever being taken seriously as an author, and I know I won’t ever spend another cent on a piece of her writing ever again.

  23. The wildest thing to me is that her response to all of this feedback has basically been “yes i know this was wrong but i’m a little crazy!!! what can you do?!?”

  24. I think that The Guardian likely published this article and saw nothing wrong with it because of Hale’s connections. Connections which, I’d bet, will keep her cushioned from facing any consequences at Harper Collins or The Guardian for her behavior.

    Her future mother in law is an executive editor at Harper Collins. Her furture father in law is Frank Rich, father of her husband-to-be Simon Rich, aka writer for the Guardian’s ‘The Observer’ publication. Her brother in law? A novelist also featured on The Guardian.

  25. Thank you so much for your open letter and having the confidence to speak out. I found the article wildly disturbing, and it made me consider my actions and the amount of personal information we feel safe with offering online. I’m mature enough to know that being respectful to everyone you interact with online is not enough, and that sometimes people just border on the side of crazy when you offer a differing opinion, as inoffensive and agreeable as it could be.

    As a prominent book blogger, I’m incredibly disturbed at this author’s behaviour. It was a compelling story, partly because of her insane actions against online bullying and then committing the wrong doing herself, and justifying herself that it’s okay. It’s okay to stand up for yourself, to ignore those that hurt you, to not give them any satisfaction. But it’s not okay to pat yourself on the back when you commit the same thing back – by invading people’s privacy and paying to stalk and intimidate them, invading their personal space. This behaviour is not okay.

    It just makes me think, if Blythe wasn’t a catfish, would she have come out and outed her? As you’ve raised, how many bloggers has she done this to? Isn’t this the definition of harassment, exactly what Blythe did to her in return? I can see what Blythe did was wrong. I can see what Kathleen did was wrong. But two wrongs don’t make a right, and unfortunately, that is what is at play here. End of story.

    While Kathleen had the confidence to speak out about what she did, it opens the Pandora’s box of us not knowing. Who else has looked us up online based on a negative review? Based on something we said on Twitter? Who else has discovered our personal information and stalked us in person? Kathleen can’t be the only one out there. And that makes me so afraid.

    In an age so integrated with the internet, everyone feels like they can hide online and behind their computer and commit what is antisocial behaviour and would be frowned upon in real life. I feel like the internet brings out these people, and while they use the readily available tools at their disposal, it makes us feel unsafe. This is a pertinent reminder to everyone that whether we like it or not, there are people out there who will hurt us. Whether in the form of an online bully hiding behind a fake persona, or an angry author hellbent on revenge harassment, or the random you interacted with who didn’t like the way you said something.

    Us reviewers and bloggers should have the confidence to write what we need to, without being shamed out and scared that some crazy person is going to rock up at our house and interfere with our private life. Authors should have the right to write what they want without being shotgunned down by reviewers who don’t like it. Unfortunately, what I continue to see is a constant battle between those outliers who happen to forget about respect, forget there is someone else on the other side who has feelings, and forget that what they can say can hurt. That is enough to put us off book blogging and having our own opinion, which is unfortunate.

    • I disagree with Kathleen Hale’s actions, but comparing stalking and harrassment to murder is going way too far.

  26. It’s times like these I’m happy I live on the other side of the world (or.. Gasp! Do i??) because, well, I love you guys but almost all unhinged author behaviour I’ve heard of have mostly been female authors in the USA.
    I’m almost more saddened by the number of comments defending or even commending Hale’s actions though.

    • Me too! It’s actually disgusting to read people on other articles, blogs & especially Twitter DEFENDING her. Someone even applauded her for her investigative journalism- wtf? The biggest justification is the person created a pseudo personality and they had a right to be stalked. Um, sorry? NO, just NO! That is a HUGE fail. It doesn’t bother me that people choose to do that. Kathleen Hale’s actions are to me proof that maybe sometimes lying about who you are on the internet isn’t so bad, especially if it saves you from run ins with people like well dear I say it? HER.

  27. I’ve never read her book and I certainly don’t intend to now, nor will I ever be interested in reading something from her in the future. I can’t support an author who would do such a thing. Her article in the guradian basically shows she’s proud of her actions and shows no remorse for them. In fact quite the opposite, she feels justified. That’s a red flag right there.

    Also more disturbing, from reading the comments on the guardian- many people bought her account of events and applauded her. Seriously? If someone like me were to go stalk a celeb or an author I would be thrown in jail and slapped with a restraining before I could even blink but if it’s reverse as it was in this case there are no consequences? Even IF (and I’m stating a BIG if) the blogger were using a fake name or whatever the case, they are still entitled to their privacy. As are they entitled to having freedom of speech. These are liberties we all get to enjoy and should be equally protected for everyone, regardless.

    Her actions are disgusting and I really hope she seeks help. I’m not trying to be malicious but she clearly needs it. Her editor and support group did not do enough to help her prepare for how to handle negative reviews and criticism. Criticism is a part of life. I don’t like to hear from my boss in a performance review how I could do my job better, but I take it because honestly it helps to know where I can improve and grow. I think everyone recognizes that and I’m confused why this author couldn’t and didn’t. Talk about some self growth and soul searching that’s needed. I hope people realize the truth- that she lied in that article.

  28. Thanks for writing this piece. I’ve heard of Kathleen Hale but never read any of her books. I’m a book lover, and occasionally blog about them, but don’t feel like I have enough clout to call myself a book blogger. But I certainly follow a few.

    The Guardian piece had all sorts of physical reactions from me. I’m mortified and had to ask the blogger who told me about to “is this real?!” Because it read like a good story, then I realized that really happened, and got ultra creeped out.

    I use my name all over the Internet. Naive, stupid, transparent, whatever you may call it. But I have for years now. I get ARCs sent to my house. I’m part of book clubs. I tweet when I love a book, and I’m fairly active on Goodreads. But now I’m all types of concerned for people who do this way harder than I do. Because like all of your concerns, where is the line drawn? How many other people have been stalked? We don’t all have to love a book.

    And when the heck did it become acceptable to feed the trolls?! I feel like that art is lost. I’ve done it before, but I’ve never gone to the extent that Hale did. I’ve been catfished, but I’m not stalking the people. I’m also a little surprised with Nev’s response to Hale. Where’s that thin line of harassment?

    Anyways, just wanted to say excellent piece, and I’m glad I found your site. I hope you keep blogging, despite the ruckus this situation has caused.

  29. Everyone here is saying that the internet isn’t “real life.” But it is. And Blythe was bullying Kathleen and genuinely hurt her. I mean, she was contacting reviewers of Hale’s book and telling them to say that Hale is a rape-apologist. Hale is a rape survivor and went to court to get her rapist in jail, which I’ve done too. Trust me, it was very, very hard. I had people pointing cameras at me and asking very personal questions, I had the lawyers telling me I was a crazy whore, and I just wanted to fall into the carpet. After it was all done I went into a kind of numb obsession, much like Hale. I’m writing a book right now too. If Blythe started an online campaign about me and called me a rape-apologist I would track Blythe down and know her every move. It would hurt me horribly. It is my absolute right to know the identities of bullies. When people started to comment on the news online about what happened with me (she deserved it, blah blah blah) I tracked those trolls down. I know where they live now. I follow them. If anybody did to me what Blythe did to Kathleen I’d track them down too. No, it’s not healthy. But it’s real life. Everyone’s comments online ARE real life. And Hale wasn’t stalking illegally or in a dangerous way. She approached Blythe’s house one time and left quickly and then called one time and did not call again. That is stupid, not illegal. It is not psychotic, it is human reaction to being maligned online for being a rape-apologist when she is a rape victim and has gone through tremendous pain. Blythe was harassing Kathleen in real life because online IS real life. How can anyone say in this day and age that online isn’t real life? You guys were being mean, flat-out mean. You were posting stuff and continually harassing a woman you don’t know. When you’re mean to someone, real life people get hurt and respond, sometimes badly like with Hale. But honestly, I would have done the same thing. I wish I could say otherwise but I’m sensitive and scared and I might even shut down completely and not publish anything again. Blythe wasn’t just one review, she was hate-twittering her brains out and contacting positive reviewers to call Kathleen a rape-apologist. It’s cliquey and gross. And Celidh, I don’t know you, I know how painful the topic of rape can be and how it is as a rape victim and I’ve knee-jerked too with how other people have talked about domestic violence and rape, but going after Kathleen Hale seems immature and I mean…why? Why would you guys do that to some author you don’t know and who, from a simple google-search you can find out that she’s been raped and has had her life turned upside down because of it? Okay. You don’t like the book. Write the review and leave it at that.

    • Excuse me but are you seriously for real justifying stalking of any kind? For real? To inflict terror on someone else is ok, even if they did it to you? An eye for eye doesn’t work. And while I don’t agree with bullying of any kind, even if Blythe had done it, it does not CONDONE Hale breaching her rights. Even convicts have rights and people think they are scum of the Earth. It always starts out as something harmless until it goes farther. If you want to blur this line, what’s to stop it from going further next time? There is NO justification for doing that at all even if it seems on the surface harmless

    • “I mean, she was contacting reviewers of Hale’s book and telling them to say that Hale is a rape-apologist.”

      No, she didn’t.

      “And Hale wasn’t stalking illegally or in a dangerous way.”

      Hale admitted that she cybeerstakled and physically assaulted another girl with a chemical in her teen years. Who is to say she wouldn’t do the same to Blythe? Also, she obtained Blythe’s contact info by abusing the trust of a book website, which has confirmed that they were misled by Hale.

      “Blythe was harassing Kathleen in real life because online IS real life.”

      Where is the harassment? Where? A negative review is not harassment. A handful of tweets, which were NOT EVEN DIRECTED AT HALE, is not harassment.

  30. This is some weapons grade, thermo-nuclear dive off the deep end shit. I promise all you bloggers that, if I ever manage to get published, I will not say a word, but laugh along with any really good zingers and understand that you’re not talking about my children, your talking about words on a page and I am not Hemingway. <3 to the bloggers and respect their sandbox, authors.

  31. I realize that I might be part of the unpopular crowd here, but I’m just gonna say it anyway. I think both of them were a little messed up. Hale was definitely messed up for taking it so far. Cyberstalking and showing up at her house are definitely behaviors that were uncalled for. But Blythe isn’t the angel in this situation either. She doesn’t seem to remember that authors are people too and have all the same feelings as regular people. She took her reviewing and blogging platform and used it not just to post reviews of books, but to kind of spew some hatred. She created an alternate identity for herself so she could say whatever she wanted, with no consequence and no regard for feelings. I also think she didn’t so much as hide her identity as create someone who’s not real and doesn’t really exist.
    There is nothing wrong with liking a book and letting people know why you didn’t like a book, but I think it is wrong to deter people from giving the book a chance. (If that makes sense.) So Hale should be a little less crazy and have thicker skin as an author. Again, Hale showing up at the reviewer’s house was NOT okay, that’s just weird. But maybe reviewers need to be a little less mean. Sure we all have books that we dislike, but we should express what’s wrong with the book and why it wasn’t for us, instead of making a personal vendetta against the author. Just like reviewers put a lot of work into their reviews, authors put a lot of work into their books. Book reviewers can exist without authors, just like authors are useless without readers. I think there was wrong on both sides.
    I know I really shouldn’t even post this comment because I try to stay faaaaar away from the drama that happens on goodreads, blogging, and booktube. The reason that I did make this comment is because I don’t like when people with the unpopular opinion of the day are attacked. Scrolling through the comments, I see that one person who expresses the unpopular opinion and is attacked, called a hypocrite, pretty much bullied for saying what they think. That is just as wrong as anything else and you shouldn’t do it. It’s okay to disagree, but not to go on the attack.
    Just for the record: Ashley is my real name, but that’s all you’re gonna get. Call me a hypocrite if you want, but just remember that the reviewer you are defending is entitled to her privacy just as I am entitled to mine. And for those of you who say I’m supporting Hale, I’m not. She did wrong, but recognize that there weren’t really straight heroes or villains in this story, rather people that both did some wrong.
    So if you want to attack me, go ahead, but if you do then you are just as bad as the people you are railing against. That’s just my two cents.

    • I agree with you. Hale was definitely wrong in stalking Blythe, or “Judy,” as she called her in the article–stalking to such an extent is never OK. But most of those commenting on this article, as well as its author, seem to assume that the real issue Hale had was with using a false name, whereas that is clearly not the case–she used false names herself throughout the article to protect the identity of those she mentioned, including Blythe Harris. The issue, rather, is with creating a false identity (a very detailed one, even using someone else’s personal photos) to avoid all responsibility for attacking someone’s career, and that there is a “career-destroying phase” seems clear not only from Hale’s experience but from “Patricia Winston”‘s fear of being discovered.

      Hale handled the whole situation very badly–I fully agree with Ceilidhann on that count. Neither do I think that negative reviews are a bad thing, when they are genuinely concerned with giving potential readers an accurate portrayal of the book. This may have been what Blythe was intending to do, and I would commend that. But while I couldn’t find the actual tweets, (or any of Blythe Harris’s tweets at all–either her account is private, in which case I’ll respect her privacy, or I’m just new to Twitter), and so can’t verify myself, Hale’s statement that “Blythe began tweeting in tandem with me, ridiculing everything I said” seems to suggest quite a different picture.

      I love that book reviewers on Goodreads review books because they have a passion for it–they are really doing a service for people, and it’s wonderful that they’re doing it simply because they love it. I want to do that myself someday! But the distinction between a hobby and a career that Ceilidhann raised is very relevant, because authors write not only as their passion but as their livelihood, and therefore negative reviews can have a deep impact on an author’s life. I’m not saying that negative reviews are a bad thing in-and-of themselves, but reviews that attack an author are. It may seem ridiculous that Hale takes reviews so personally, since they’re about her book, not her, but what is important to remember when critiquing anyone’s work (of any kind, not just books, but especially artistic things) is that it is a part of who the creator is. A poster I found recently states this very eloquently about artists, and could just as truly said about authors:

      “When you buy something from an artist, you’re buying more than an object. You’re buying hundreds of hours of errors and experimentation. You’re buying years of frustration and moments of pure joy. You’re not buying just one thing, you are buying a piece of a heart, a piece of a soul… a small piece of someone else’s life.”

      This does not excuse stalking, but it does point to the fact that authors are people with feelings that may be easily hurt, and we do need to take responsibility for that–with or without the use of a false name.

  32. As of this afternoon on Day one the book has 297 one-star reviews, and my guess is by the time you read this it will be higher still. This is gratifying but also a window into Hale’s scrambled brain: If one-star reviews are the thing you fear most, maybe don’t behave in a way that assures an avalanche of them?

  33. One point that comes up in the comments here as well as other articles on this subject is that the ‘reviewer’ used a different name – a pen name if you will. I did the same thing when I started blogging as I was nervous about sharing my thoughts about books on a blog. At some point that changed and I blog as myself. What is wrong with using a different name for certain activities – authors do it all the time. Some do it to guard their privacy, and others do it to differentiate between the different genres they write. We rarely accuse authors of hiding and not being proud of what they write….why is that true of bloggers or reviewers?

    • Did you create multiple social media profiles for your pen name? Share pictures of your penname’s dogs? I absolutely understand not wanting to use your given name on the internet, there are a lot of crazies out there, but constructing an alternate persona to do so so that you can continue the negativity outside of the platform of the original blog post or review seems excessive to me. If it’s true that when the author mentioned the name to other people they recoiled in horror, maybe there’s a bit more to it than your average blogger or forum member posting under a pseudonym.

  34. You all need to get out in the real world some. From what I’ve read across the net, it seems to be a matter of a dispute between two people who feel themselves to be the center of the universe. Ms Hale needs to quit being so self-centered–some of the things she says in her “catfished” article about how she knows she shouldn’t but she does anyway because she just can’t help herself just make me want to smack her one.
    And this whole idea that Goodreads has sponsored of anonymous reviews being valuable is nonsense.

  35. Wow, female book reviewers have gone overboard. You are all despicable creatons, if you where male every other women on twitter would howl to have you locked up for stalking each other.

    You have created your own circle of hell and bullying.

  36. I have to say that authors like Hale are the reason I’ve stopped doing book reviews. I’ve been harassed for not reading an author’s books, I’ve been harassed for giving critical reviews–and sadly I’ve been harassed by other book bloggers.

    Honestly, the best decision I ever made came a few months back when I decided to stop reviewing. The Guardian and their willingness to give articles like that the time of day is just one more reason why.

    • Victim blaming at its finest. Someone should not be afraid that an author will COME TO THEIR HOUSE WITH THE INTENT TO CONFRONT THEM because they didn’t like a book. Not liking a book is not a crime, nor is it immoral. Goodreads is a website which allows for user-generated comments and reviews, including negative ones. In her actual comments and in the comment thread discussion her views, she explains why she didn’t like the book. Nothing she said was false, nothing she said was even directed Kathleen Hale.

      Hale was told BY GOODREADS not to read or engage. Hale was told BY OTHER AUTHORS not to engage. The only reason that Hale stopped cyberstalking was that Blythe went private, and she still–STILL–hopes Blythe will engage with her.

  37. ‘The Guardian isn’t going to give us space to air our concerns.’
    Anyone can ‘air’ their ‘concerns’ using The Guardian’s ‘Comment is free’, considering the amount of furore this story has generated I feel almost certain it would be published.

  38. Just saying – as a society we use the term “bullying” way too often. Kathleen Hale was not bullied. She is a stalker. Being a rape survivor does not justify her behavior.

    Hale did not handle this well.

  39. Why was she even allowed to publish her bragging post for The Guardian? seriously, common sense is something they need too.
    Regarding the author, I believe she’s mentally sick. She also stated this more often than once in her posts.

  40. I think Hale is a writer who actually cares about what her critics/readers think. While I do not condone the stalking idea, I have to say that probably more writers than are willing are admit are personally hurt by bad commentary. There is some dark humor to her piece-not sure she meant it to be competely serious-looking at her process in tracking down her critic is a bit funny in an odd way. How many of us have lurked on FB? Or gone incognito on Linked In to see how someone’s career is going that we no longer associate with? There is some creepiness here, but also truth in illuminating that we can care on a deep level about someone who hates our work. Many writers simply do not care what anyone thinks and bad press is still attention. I would think a published writer like Hale would not give a rat’s ass what the public thinks of her work.

  41. This squabble is exactly the reason I just cancelled my bookread account. “Catfishing” is not some benign behavior on the internet and the people who catfish are treating others on the internet as though they are game pieces to be played.

    The author Hale, went as far as she could “contacting and confronting” with what she believed was the truth about the person catfishing. After the phone call, she didn’t contact her again. From what I could tell, Ms. Hale didn’t embellish or burnish her own image in the retelling of her catfish story and she seems to have accurately reported the responses she got.

    You know, murder isn’t funny either, but the author Steven King seems to be held in high regard and murder constitutes a great deal of what he writes about. No one denies he’s got skill in telling a story. I don’t happen to like murder stories, so I’m not an avid fan, but I respect the man.

    There have been plenty of authors who write about things they personally don’t believe in or think are great societal elements. There are satirists and others who hold the things we as humans do up as a mirror to illuminate us. John Grisham has written some very fine books but recently he had some pretty shocking things to say on the subject of child pornography and the poor 60 year old fellows who get roped into jail time. If we purchased books based upon what we perceived to be the “morality” of the author “personally” I suspect our bookshelves would be very lean indeed.

    Since I cannot, as evidenced by this back and forth by someone who goes by the name Ceilidh, trust that the reviews aren’t a review of the perceived likability of the author, versus the work and further evidenced by Blythe’s review that cited events that didn’t even occur in the book (which would lead a prudent person to believe that she hadn’t read it) AND because the issue isn’t whether or not there was a bad review that the author just couldn’t let lie… the issue was that there was a reviewer who reviewed the book and cited events and occurrences that never occurred in the book and that when the author raised questions, the reviewer released a mob of their on-line henchmen and bullies to torment the author for having the temerity to question the reviewer’s all knowing perception. It is for this reason that I feel that now any review on Goodread is now suspect and I have cancelled my bookread account. I look for valid reviews not spiteful trolls seeking to command armies of trolls.

    • “Blythe’s review that cited events that didn’t even occur in the book.”

      “the issue was that there was a reviewer who reviewed the book and cited events and occurrences that never occurred in the book and that when the author raised questions, the reviewer released a mob of their on-line henchmen and bullies to torment the author for having the temerity to question the reviewer’s all knowing perception.”

      False. Blythe’s comments mentioned rape, which she further explained was statutory rape. Funny how Hale conveniently decided to act like Blythe was making up things about her book in an effort to paint her as a troll, isn’t it?

      There is no evidence that Blythe did anything other than negatively comment on this book. We have no evidence of anything other than what Hale has said. And given the fact that she a) lied about Blythe making up content and b) lied to YA Reads about her intentions in order to get Blythe’s home address, how much of what Hale says happened re: Blythe’s behavior can we trust? It isn’t Blythe’s fault that other people didn’t like the book. It isn’t Blythe’s fault that Hale specifically subtweeted a 3-star review with a sarcastic comment, and implied that book bloggers were just “aspiring” writers reviewing real ones, something she rightly received flack for.

      Furthermore, Blythe did not catfish Hale. Catfishing involves the creation of a false identity in order to deceive someone into some kind of relationship–usually romantic, but not always–with the false identity. Blythe Harris was writing reviews (by the by, only 6% of her reviews are one star, so she is not some sort of “negative review” troll) under a pseudonym for years. Did she craft a fake life with it? We don’t know. But even if she did, she did not “catfish” Hale. She did not attempt to have any sort of relationship with Hale. It was Hale, in fact, who relentlessly pursued Blythe!

  42. I hope you didn’t hurt yourself when you climbed down off your high horse. Also, what rank do you hold in the Morality Police Force?

  43. The internet does seem to bring out the weirdness in people. While I don’t condone Kathleen Hale’s actions, I understand them better than I do Blythe Harris’. I am surprised that more people are not criticizing, or at least questioning, Harris’s actions. This whole kerfluffle has clearly touched some deep insecurities in a number of people.

  44. I can see where you’re coming from, and Kathleen Hale admits herself that she was acting a bit crazy and obsessive. However, for you to come and try to re-paint her as a “stalker” is ironic when you yourself mention, in your review of Ms. Hale’s book, that you take issue with her simplistic representations of the mentally ill. You’re trying to use those same stereotypes now to convince us that Kathleen Hale is a bad, evil stalker-person like those involed in GamerGate.

    Sorry, but this isn’t GamerGate. How dare you co-opt that cause for your own. Kathleen Hale didn’t use a position of power to disrupt someone else’s life – Blythe/Judy used her position of power on Goodreads to try to disrupt Kathleen’s life. Yes, I know, an article in the Guardian means more publicity for the book, but publicity does not equal sales. Case in point, I’m not going to read it. Not being a book blogger myself, I don’t have the time to read anything that doesn’t come highly recommended, and everything else aside, it sounds like it’s no Love in the Time of Cholera.

    Let’s take a look at some of the other points you mention that are just a little off:

    “You seem to think that having an online identity different from your real life is an act of fraud…”

    When you steal other people’s photos and pretend you’re a person that you’re not, complete with fake vacations you didn’t take, don’t you think that goes a little beyond having an “online alias?” Isn’t that the definition of a “fraud”?

    “Authors have editors, agents and PR teams behind them.”

    The age of “having an editor” was gone 10 years ago. And there might be some semblance of a PR team at the smaller publishing companies, but the onus is on the authors to promote their books. You act like authors are the big, bad bullies here and you should be allowed to trash-talk them all you want, even stalk their online profiles and insult them. Your point about STGRB is valid, but when communities like GoodReads have the ability to make or break a book’s success before it even hits shelves, one influential user could use that power in an attempt to ruin someone’s career. Why would they do that? The same reason bullies bully. My point is, clearly, from the author’s perspective, and from her conversations with at least one other author, this has happened. Authors’ careers have been ruined by trying to engage with the book blogging community.

    Would great works withstand the naysayers? Sure. But there are contracts. There are deadlines. There are sales quotas. Sometimes you’re not Gabriel Garcia de Marquez, sometimes you’re just really hoping to maybe eat for the next year and then you’ll give up and go work in an office until you die.

    As a reviewer, you’re free to have an opinion, but when you come on to the Guardian and defend practices that can potentially wreck someone’s career – I have to call you out on it. You act like you’re asking for freedom of speech. Two things here – one, freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from repercussions. Authors can respond if they feel like it, and you’re going to have to deal with that, hopefully in some more productive fashion than leaping on them like a pack of rabid dogs, which, judging by this open letter, seems to be your modus operandi. Two, you’re not asking for freedom of speech. You’re asking for the freedom to manipulate the market. Like it or not, in your GamerGate analogy, authors are the game makers – you’re the hackers.

    Let’s take a look at another of your not-quite-true assertions:

    “The reason this all escalated to the level it did was because of you, nobody else.”

    Have you ever heard the phrase “it takes two?” Blythe Harris baited Kathleen Hale by subtweeting her incessantly, and yes, it’s true, Kathleen Hale should never have taken the bait. But negatively subtweeting an author simply because you didn’t like their book crosses the line from book reviewer to antagonizer. At the very least, both parties should share the blame.

    In conclusion, ma’am, you make a poor case for yourself, but I see the choir is already singing your song back to you, which. let’s be honest, is really all you wanted, wasn’t it?

    • “Blythe Harris baited Kathleen Hale by subtweeting her incessantly”

      Where is your proof that she subetweeted Kathleen Hale incessantly?

      Funnily enough, on the other hand, there are screencaps of *Hale* subtweeting a 3-star review with a snarky comment.

      “But when you come on to the Guardian and defend practices that can potentially wreck someone’s career.”

      And what practices are you talking about? Even according to Hale’s own post, all she could “pin” on Harris was: a negative review and tweets that were not tweeted at Hale but apparently mocked her. And if you actually read Harris comments on the book, they are nothing scandalous. She even liked the book at first. In a thread discussing the comments, she explained her opinion thoroughly. We don’t know the context of the supposedly mocking tweets… can we even trust Hale’s version of events? She lied by saying that Harris claimed there were things in her book that weren’t true (Hale says she claimed there was rape–Harris explains in her comments that she’s talking about statutory rape, which is in the book). She also intentionally misled a book website in order to get Harris’s personal information. Where is your outrage about that?

      • alex-hurst.com/2014/10/21/kathleen-hale-vs-blythe-harris/

        In fact, this write-up has screenshots of Hale incessantly sub-tweeting someone who didn’t like her book. Where’s your outrage, Jacob?

  45. I know nothing about Kathleen Hale or “Blythe Harris” or you. All of this has just convinced me of one thing, the one thing I was sure about before and more so now — never write expecting to get a good review. With reviewers (also known as self-appointed judges who know nothing about you and think they can dictate what the rest of mortal earth should buy from the bookstores), it’s simply a matter of personal taste. Sometimes I think it’s a matter of either laziness or arrogance. A tiny fraction is discriminatory, a tinier fraction is just plain transparent ignorance. Writers shouldn’t give a damn how you rate their work but should continue with what they’re doing, nonetheless. Same with reading. None of you will convince me to read Hale’s book or not. I’ll decide that for yourself; and when I do I’ll rate it whatever I want to rate it. You’ll have nothing to say about that AT ALL.

    • OH MY GOD.

      You not only missed the point, you have inaccurate assumptions. Expressing dissatisfaction is an act of arrogance? Laziness? I can’t even compute the latter fact. If reviewers are lazy, then why the fuck would we both reviewing in the first place? Writers DEPEND on reviewers. You clearly don’t understand the process. ARC’s aren’t given off because they printed excess books and though,”oh, shucks! what shall we do with these, let’s give them away to random persons because the economy is sosoSO great.” It required time and patience and hard work to review books. And DUH it’s personal taste. OF FUCKING COURSE IT IS. THAT IS WHY OPINIONS DIFFER.

      You accuse us of being discriminating and judgmental, while doing the same yourself based on inconclusive/nonexistent evidence and prejudice.

      And ultimately, it’s always the reader’s decision whether to go for a book or not. Reviewers don’t coerce their followers aggressively or passively into not reading an author. We don’t disbar readers who love books that we don’t. We don’t control the supply/demand of books, maybe influence it a tiny bit. We DONT judge readers on what books they love. And we sure as fuck don’t care AT ALL if you read a book or not.

      You rating a book is the same as you passing judgement on a book based on what you thought is the same as us reviewing a book based on what we thought; where the fuck do you get off, condemning us for being expressive in more expansive ways?

      And how do you explain positive reviews? Just repeated flukes because as sure as fucks are not only fucks, it can’t be because reviewers are not capable of liking something.

  46. Hale wrote in her Guardian article: ““DO NOT ENGAGE,” she implored me. “You’ll make yourself look bad, and she’ll ruin you”.
    Hale engaged (Guardian article) — and look at the response — here and in other blogs. A reviewer reviewed her, then baited her, and KH responded in kind. Readers can read and review books, but authors can’t respond. Where is that written in the rule book? In an online world if you take a stance (in what some might see as profane langugage) is the other really not allowed to respond?
    Suck it up book reviewers.

    • Hi Lillie,
      So if I share my thoughts on a book that I’ve read and someone takes offense to my words, it’s ok for that person to do some investigation, find my address and show up on my doorstep? Really? Maybe you want to live in a world where that is ok, but I don’t.

    • I take it you aren’t aware of the actual timeline, just the one Hale imagined?

      “A reviewer reviewed her, then baited her, and KH responded in kind. ”

      While it may look like that that is most certainly not what happened. The “baiting” as you call it was a simple tweet of two words – “sleep paralysis” – in reply to Hale asking for weird ideas for the next book. And it happened before the review was actually written. In fact the reviewer was only partway through the book and the only negative comment in a bunch of “I’m really enjoying this” status updates was that the reviewer was not liking all the animal deaths in the book.

      The next tweets, not @replied to Hale, occurred much later, when Hale was harassing and subtweeting about a three star review. Our twitter was actually involved in that, not the reviewer in question.

      Responding in kind would have been… what? Sending a two word tweet back at the reviewer?

      Certainly not months of obsessing, online stalking, obtaining information under false pretenses, taking the stalking offline and into the real world before writing an article that rewrites the timeline and paints Hale as the victim instead of someone engaged in illegal acts.

  47. I don’t know why any of this is still in dispute. Katherine Hale lied. It has been shown repeatedly that she lied. She twisted another tweetcomment made and she thought Blythe Harris said it. She also seems to think that status updates from Goodreads not tweeted at her by the way but about her book means the person was tweeting at her. She has a persecution narcissistic personality. Everyone is against her but she is too self involved to think of others and what her actions would mean to another person.

    She stalked a reviewer who did not like her book. The reviewer did not tweet, email, or disparage HER. The reviewer did not care for her book and had what to me eyes was a rational discussion about the book with other readers who disagreed with her and that came into her space on Goodreads to talk about it. She wasn’t going around and criticizing those who liked it.

    Nothing she did at all raises it to an acceptable level to be stalked by from all accounts an unhinged personality. I don’t care if Blythe Harris is not the same age, in the same occupation, or has a different picture than the one she chose to show the world at her personal space. There are still way too many people out there looking for anything to justify what Hale did to Harris and honestly enough is enough. Harris did not bring this onto herself and I am loathe to call her a liar since the person who first brought this up was found to lie about every significant thing except for her attempts to get her address from the blogger site (that she rudely called a book club). You can see in every utterance in that article, how she behaves on Twitter, and apparently her woe is me stuff on Facebook she doesn’t get why what she did was wrong and trying to wrap this in journalism is laughable.

  48. I think I am going to have to play devil’s advocate here. Ceilidh mentioned in this article that this is just a hobby for her and that this is a career for the authors. True. And with that being said, a negative review can impact that authors career. It is only natural for an author to want to defend it. If you don’t like being ridiculed for bad reviews then take it off of your hobby list or write in a diary about it. I don’t think it’s wrong to write a negative review, but it is important to understand that if you put yourself out there and provide negativity, you will receive negativity in response. It’s only natural.

  49. Also, dropping a review of a book down to 1 star because of your view of the author despite actually enjoying the book is not a REAL review (cite Reviewer post 10/29/14). It’s just vindictive and shame on you for making sure readers, who may actually enjoy it, never read it simply because of your personal option on the writers personality.

  50. A bad review of your book? Ok, sucks, but not everyone is likely to enjoy your [intentionally public] work. We’re not 10 years old, we get over it.
    Showing up at said reviewers house after months of obsessing and lying to get personal details? Absolutely bat-s@#t crazy, borderline-illegal, and should require hospitalization. How could any mature, normal, adult think to defend the latter? Astonishing.

  51. Someone should write to the Guardian and explain that the points in Hale’s article are not all factual and that they (the Guardian) are in effect giving a platform to a criminal. I assume they are ignorant of the fact.
    (I wanted to write to them, but then I saw you first have to go through a tutorial on “how to complain” and then ugh, i gave up. Someone more motivated than me should go ahead and do that. :) )

    This whole thing, Hale vs Blythe, has seriously scared me. Wondering if I should stop reviewing, maybe delete online profiles (because fake ones clearly don’t deter the psychos) and… lastly… sadly… it has made me wonder if I have a thick enough skin to become a writer, a dream I’ve had for a long time. Because once it’s out there, you lose all control of it.

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