Author Gets A Bad Book Review And Stalks The Reviewer
Bad reviews are part of the life of any author - or business owner, for that matter. They can be frustrating and disconcerting. But most people manage to shrug them off and get on with life.
Not so author Kathleen Hale, who decided to confront a critic of her first novel, describing her extensive and, to some, disturbing efforts in an almost 4,900-word essay in the Guardian.
Hale's first novel, a teen-targeted title called No One Else Can Have You, came out in January 2014 to some decent critical response. Publishers Weekly that while Midwestern colloquialisms "wear after a while," some mysteries "are enough to hold interest," with a "sweetly amusing romance" and ending pages that were "nail-biters." Kirkus Reviews called it a "Fargo-like debut."
And then there were the reviews on the social reviewing site Goodreads. Some said it was "awful," others liked the book's "dark humor and quirkiness." One reviewer gave the book 3.5 stars (even though Hale claimed that all the reviews were either one-star or five-star) and wrote, "Like every satire ever written, No One Else Can Have You is destined to polarize readers. I doubt there will be people with lukewarm feelings for this book."
A self-described book blogger by the name Blythe Harris was hardly lukewarm and wrote, "I think this book is awfully written and offensive; its execution in regards to all aspects is horrible and honestly, nonexistent." That became the review that hooked Hale's attention.
Hale started following Harris through her online conversations with others about the book and claimed that her "vitriol continued to create a ripple effect: every time someone admitted to having liked my book on Goodreads, they included a caveat that referenced her review." Hale also claimed that Harris began mocking everything Hale posted on Twitter.
Down the rabbit hole Hale went, deciding that both she and Harris "were obsessed with being heard." Even though Hale claims that other writers had warned her away from her activities, she became obsessed with the woman, comparing various profiles, examining photos in depth, and wondering if the Harris persona was a fake.
So she did online research and even paid for $19 background check to find the person she thought was actually Harris: a 46-year-old, not someone who was 27 as claimed, who had a career. Hale got advice from Nev Schulman, who produces the television program Catfish, which helps people confront online relationships and enemies that generally turn out to be fakes.
Ultimately, Hale showed up at the woman's door. Later, she called her at work, pretending to be a fact checker for an article.
Technically, catfishing is creating a false identity to fool one person. Harris simply blogged under a pseudonym. Hale is actually the one who catfished, as she herself noted.
Hales actions have generated significant distaste among book bloggers, as demonstrated by Jane Litte at the site DearAuthor.com.
Interestingly, this was apparently not Hale's first foray into pursuing someone she perceived as having done wrong and then writing about it, as the blog Jezebel noted. Hale wrote about running into a girl with an eating disorder who had accused Hale's mother of sexual abuse years before.
Hale avoided jail time.
But here, at the movie theater, Lori looked happy. I stared hard, caught her eye, and smiled nervously. She and her friends scurried off. I was seeing a different movie but went in after them anyway, and sat down a few rows ahead. When the previews started, I went up to Lori.
"You're fat," I shouted. And then I poured the entire bottle of hydrogen peroxide on her head.
She does have some people in her corner, according to Jezebel, including Hale's fiancée, Simon Rich, a writer for SNL and the New Yorker, his father, the famous New York Times writer and critic, Frank Rich, and her fiancée's mother, Gail Winston, an executive at Hale's publisher, Harper Collins.