Kathleen Hale, Stalking and The Safety of Book Bloggers

No One Else Can Have You. Kathleen Hale. January 7th 2014. HarperTeen.
Author Kathleen Hale Stalked A Blogger Who Negatively Reviewed Her Book

I’ve already written about author Kathleen Hale who wrote a piece in The Guardian on how she stalked a book blogger (resulting in her going to that blogger’s home) all because she negatively reviewed her book.

Yes. That’s right. You didn’t misread anything.

What the hell? When I went on my unintended break from book blogging, I never expected shit to get this scary. I was already going to start putting out posts this week to mark my triumphant return but this situation has just fanned the fire inside me. An inferno, in fact.

This issue is unlike any the blogging community has ever faced before. We’ve seen authors who’ve sent pictures of someone about to be beheaded in response to bloggers criticizing her racist comments. We watch as a publishing company sues another blogger for libel after she reported on the publisher’s financial standing and allegedly not paying their authors. We’ve seen authors get on social media saying the wrong thing or refusing to let go of a negative review or comment made regarding their book. We’ve seen these things happen and we still blog. We still review. We still read.

This time, I’m actually frightened.

I’m frightened because of how easy an unhinged author can get access to my address which I gave, in confidence, to people who I expected to keep confidential. I expect books and not a human being at my door step. I now contemplate getting a P.O. box which inconveniences me because I don’t get paid to blog about books. I don’t get paid to tell people what books they should go out and support. I love to read and I love to share my experiences with people. I also work and have a life outside of the one online. There are bloggers out there who don’t want their employers to make a link between who they are with their blog. There are young bloggers out there who are underage. There are bloggers out there with families. These people use pseudonyms as a shield to protect them because have you SEEN the types of people out there? Anonymity can be used to hurt people but that same anonymity is used to protect people.

I sometimes wish I had used a pseudonym. I sometimes wish I initially used a P.O. box.

Kathleen Hale went to this blogger’s door thinking it was okay to bring her online obsession to the blogger’s door step. She thought it was okay to have her obsession affect other people. She thought it was fine to keep the identities of her friends and colleagues hidden but then out the identity of the blogger in question who uses a pseudonym. The Guardian thought it was okay to publish a “how to effectively stalk your object of obsession and then get people to pat you on the back afterwards” piece.

This is not okay. In any way. Nothing you can say can make Hale’s thought process okay.

What if Hale was a man? Would we be so quick to pat him on the back when he shows up to the house of a woman who gave him a negative review? Hale has made it impossible for me to read her book and anything else she publishes because of the stain her terrifying actions has left. I hope that the blogger in question is okay and will one day feel safe in her home.

I know fantastic authors and most of them are lovely people. I refuse to let Hale ruin this for them.

When you put your work out there, you need to understand that terrible things will be said about it. It’s no longer the piece you nurtured secretly in your home and shared among friends. It’s now one of the countless objects and ideas to be consumed and commented on by the outside world. Don’t reply to your reviews especially the negative ones. Don’t. This situation illustrates why you shouldn’t. There are other great posts that breakdown the situation: Sarah’s piece over at Smart Bitches Trashy Books which discusses the reviews and an author’s relationship to them and highly recommend Jane’s piece on why people use pseudonyms and the facts regarding Hale’s piece.

Be safe and never let your voice get stifled.

— A. A. Omer

14 thoughts on “Kathleen Hale, Stalking and The Safety of Book Bloggers

  1. Wow. Just wow. I never thought authors would go to such lengths. Then again, I’ve heard some of the stuff Cassandra Clare has done to bloggers too. Authors like that I almost keep a blacklist of, basically choosing not to purchase or read their books. Or at the very least just borrow it from the library instead. I understand authors put a lot of work into their novels, but harassing bloggers isn’t the way to go. When I’ve taken creative writing courses, teachers usually get you in the habit of receiving constructive criticism. Perhaps editors and publishers should give some author a 101 on dealing with bloggers (esp. newer authors) perhaps.

    1. In my creative writing program, our professor gets us into the habit of not saying ANYTHING while our classmates critique our work. We can’t even clear up misconceptions! Our work needs to be able to stand up for itself and, in the real world, we can’t address every interpretation on our work. We also can’t change people’s minds.

      1. Yes, I agree. I’m in a writer’s group, and we just went through a round of submissions for an anthology. So many people tried to justify the reader’s “misunderstandings” of the works that ended up rejected, and I had to keep explaining this very thing. You, as an author, are not there to defend your work, nor should you, once the binding has been set.

    2. Totally agree with this idea. When I worked at a call center for a child talent scouting group, that was one of the first things they did with the kids: taught them how to behave and respond to media and in public. I am completely blown away by how nuts this whole situation is.

      1. Having read the whole article now (from the author in question–and it’s a longggg one). I feel like both she and the blogger are at fault. Authors should have enough sense that readers will either love or hate their work, and should feel proud that if a publisher took the time to publish their work someone at least believed in them. Meanwhile, bloggers shouldn’t be cruel. There’s a difference between constructive criticism and just being plain mean. A simple solution would to block the blogger from tweeting her. And if I ever felt harassed by an author, I’d try to work it out myself or contact the publisher. Just something that wouldn’t escalate the situation.

      2. If you go to my blog, I posted a play-by-play of the review. I did not see anything within the review that directly attacked the author. The only place where Hale might have been able to claim harrassment is on Twitter, but Harris has since deleted her profile (a logical response to going viral in this way). But even so, blocking Harris should have been Hale’s response, not stalking, as you said.

        In my opinion, and I respect yours, the levels of harrassment between these two women are not even in the same ballpark.

      3. I agree. I saw Harris’ comments on goodreads. She criticized the book only and did so eloquently. She never went after the author as a person. Only thing that I can’t counter is the Twitter stuff which I haven’t seen or saw anyone pull up as proof. Regardless, there’s no equal blame. Doesn’t matter what Bythe did, Hale shouldn’t have gone to her house.

      4. Totally. I can understand that one’s more extreme than the other. I guess I’d just would hope people would just take a step back/back off before things turn out this way. I sometimes still get surprised when adults can act like children. I’m hoping the article and discussions about it with help both authors and bloggers use caution. Oh man, I can’t believe this happened.

  2. I am sorry you are feeling scared. I no longer book blog regulaarly because my time is limited, but as an author, I was scared. I am so sorry that this person was allowed (and even encouraged!) to carry on with this plan and ignored all advice to the contrary.

    1. Thank you for the comments. I feel worse for the regular readers on Goodreads who feel they can’t read her book and respond to it truthfully because they’re frightened of a response like that. It messes with the purpose of the whole reading experience.

  3. I’m so glad to have you back, Adro! This whole situation has been disturbing and embarrassing for all authors. It never occurred to me that someone would go to those lengths about a bad review. EVERY book gets bad reviews, I took my first bad review as a badge of honor. If a book only has good reviews then it makes you wonder if the reviews are real or just a bunch of fake profiles.
    I actually gave out a kindle fire during my blog tour last winter. I had to send it to a PO Box and the blogger was so anxious to get it so she emailed me every day so I could confirm when it was delivered (she had the tracking number but still wanted me to check because it was during a blizzard and she had to drive in order to get it.) I wondered why she didn’t just have me send it to her house. Now I get it. What a sad world we live in.
    Bloggers are absolutely ESSENTIAL to authors. We are LUCKY to have people who are will read our work, tell the world about it and never ask for anything in return.
    I do have a question for you. I do comment on good reviews on GR. (I never comment on the bad reviews, it’s their opinion, and I’m fine with that.) Whenever anyone gives me a 3, 4, or 5 star review I always thank them. I genuinely appreciate their kind words and want them to know I appreciate the fact that they not only read my book, but took the time to review it. Should I stop doing that?

    1. Thanks for the warm welcome! Yeah, this whole thing is insane. What’s great about these discussions is that many bloggers are still expressing love for authors because most authors are fantastic! In response to your question: you don’t have to stop. It seems like you’ve given yourself realistic rules in what you comment which are the good reviews. It seems like commenting on the bad reviews is usually where it all goes wrong. The general rule to “not read reviews or comment on them” are usually for those who won’t respond well to them.

      1. Thanks for the feedback. I really appreciate it. And I appreciate you posting this blog and getting the info out there. I can’t believe in the new developments with the situation in the UK/Scotland.

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