N.B. This open letter comes as a response (among many) to recent events surrounding the author Kathleen Hale, author of “No One Else Can Have You,” a book published by James Frey’s publishing company Full Fathom Five. The author had previously had polarizing opinions regarding her work in the past, but Hale’s obsession turned to one particular blogger, which then resulted in a situation that many (including myself) have found horrifying and worth a boatload of outrage. A few good responses to peruse:
I’m opting out of writing the name of the blogger in question because I want to have some protection of her identity and not directly link to people who would be interested in maligning her character. I will say that I support her and will help in any way that I can defend her name, identity, and right to write critical reviews as she sees fit.
At the time of this writing, I do not know if Hale will see this response, but it’s dubious. I’ve blocked her on Goodreads and Twitter for my own personal reasons (personal reasons being that I do not feel safe given the turns of her thoughts and actions, and I don’t want to be used as target practice for her agendas. My blunt opinion, YMMV.). But this is food for thought and I wanted to bite the bullet and speak out like many others have been doing on this matter. The more discussions we have, the better we can do at elucidating just how wrong these actions are.
To Kathleen Hale,
You know, I don’t think this post needs any introduction other than this assertion: you need to work out whatever issues you have personally going on and you need to address them right now.
Outside of the internet, outside of writing books, don’t do anything else. Just. Stop. Listen.
Step away from whatever soapbox you’re partaking in and talk to someone in person about your issues. Your issues go far beyond one thing, and it’s not the blogger that you’re currently using as target practice. Your issues go far beyond her and you’re using her as an excuse to exercise control over…something. WHAT that is, I don’t know. WHY that is, I don’t know, but to say it’s gone too far is a sincere understatement and the person in the wrong is not her: it’s YOU.
There is no excuse for you, as a professional author or even as a human being, to be doing the following actions to someone critically assessing or just reflecting in lay terms about your work:
- Obsessively following them and their online presence and personal details
- Showing up at their alleged physical residence
- Calling their place of business and harassing them over their identity or pseudonym
- Obtaining their place of residence through extraneous and nefarious means
- Maligning their name, identity, and personal details to social media and national outlets (including the Guardian)
I don’t care if said reviewer said your book was the byproduct of a unicorn’s bum, this does not give you the right to do the things you did. You know, words can hurt, criticism can hurt, but the thing about it is – you don’t have to internalize someone’s review or assessment of your work. It may be one or may be a select group of people who want nothing to do with your work for whatever reason, but you know what a professional author does in that case? They shake it off, they walk away,they leave it be. There is nothing wrong with choosing to leave a person’s (or group’s) critique of your work at the door. Many people do and are able to go about their careers with flourish. Even with some people just starting out as authors, if they have the right attitude to take criticism in stride, they go on to have fruitful careers. It’s usually those who take it too closely and start lashing out at others that get the burn of things. It’s a battle of wills and confidence and knowing when to respond and when to let go.
Many of us know that an opinion is simply that: an opinion. A person can still dislike your work and still be willing to talk to you in a cordial way. The thing about it is, I honestly don’t think said blogger (and yes, I know, trust, and respect this blogger) was trying to denounce or defame your character in any way – or even ruin your career. She pretty much wrote a two word review, and you took it to offense. YOU took it as such. YOU were the one who kept obsessively checking up on her. YOU made it your mission to supposedly “out” her. For what, giving you a 1-star review? For using a pseudonym? For saying things that you didn’t agree with?
And yes, your actions are precisely that, coming from someone looking on the outside in: OBSESSION.
That is not healthy. This goes beyond any book discussions or reviews or anything like that. This is something more, and apparently, you’ve done this in the past. This is all on you.
This says more about you than it does about any so-called “bullies” or “trolls” or anything like that. We need to leave that dialogue aside, because those are empty labels for excuses for things that you have done that are, sincerely, messed up.
We need to stop these power wars over authors/reviewers/readers or whomever. There is not a hierarchy that makes one greater over the other. We are people, we have lives, we are creatures that have the ability to say “no, I don’t like this” and have different ways of saying that in the spectrum of the world. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH SAYING “NO” OR “I REALLY DON’T LIKE THIS.” We just have different ways and degrees of being able to say that, and we need to learn to recognize and respect that, even if it hurts.
In a previous Soapbox Saturday post, I said this measure before, and I’ll say it again: it is not always about you. People’s opinions do not revolve around you and your world and heaping praises upon whatever work you may produce. You do not have the jurisdiction to control what people say, and FFS, you need to stop trying to do that.
Why you think this blogger is the bane of your existence and you feel the need to bring her down to some uncompromising position to ruin her is beyond me. I don’t know your reasons. I wish I did, so that I could clarify and tell you how wrong it is to try to do what you’re doing to her. Doing what you’re doing at present to ANYONE, regardless of the role they may have, is WRONG.
You would think this would be common sense, but obviously in your case it’s not. It’s not. I’m not saying this to be a “bully” to you or be an “armchair professional” or control what you say or do, but I’m saying it because the dialogue and actions you have taken are toxic and affecting other people. Authors, bloggers, reviewers, even lay readers and beyond those roles, which are not in one spectrum. They are fluid, dynamic, and wide ranging identities, not the isolated, prejudiced portrait you paint them as.
Because who’s to say that the blogger you’ve targeted or the next person that somehow gets into your sights might not get hurt or killed because of what you choose to reveal just because you’re oh-so-hurt and concerned over how they’ve wronged you?
It’s not always about you. It’s not always about YOU. It goes far beyond that. You need to learn to respect your audience, even if they’re critical of the work you do. Respect their privacy, respect their boundaries, respect the fact that they aren’t going to be kissing your feet for everything that you do.
It sickens and saddens me to see and hear what you have done and honestly, I don’t know if my words can reach you. Maybe they may reach someone you care about and trust, maybe they can tell you what you’re doing wrong. I hope that you have the mind to listen to it and see the effects your actions have taken – not just on yourself, but other people and looking at the bigger picture to be had here. Why people are fearful of your actions, thoughts, and details of what you have done to this blogger. And who’s to say that you won’t repeat these things in a later spectrum?
I seriously hope you get the help you need and learn that this isn’t acceptable on any level or measure. Because seriously, your attitude, actions, and approach to this whole situation leave much to be desired. And I’d deign to sit on my hands and remain silent about it. You do not scare me, you do not control me, you do not rule me. As a reader, critical reviewer, and aspiring writer – you do not control my (let alone anyone else’s) motivations, reasons, or words for ANYTHING.
And given the actions you’ve taken, I will never read any of your books. You’ve lost a potential reader permanently. Not because I’m some heartless, mean spirited person who seeks to ruin your career, but because I don’t condone stalking, harassing, shaming and seeking to silence someone who dared to have an opinion differing yours – however strong it may be. And if that makes me a product of your ire, so be it. But at least I know and can continue sharing my honest opinion over the things I read and respect the fact that other people have that right without having so called professionals tracking their every move. Because I know there are more important things to consider, and I at least have the decency to respect other’s boundaries and know what lines not to cross. You’ve crossed too many and that is what’s going to burn you in the end. Not your books, not anyone’s opinion of them, but your own actions, prejudices, ignorance, and disregard on any respectable level.