Author Stalks Book Blogger
Nobody is truly safe on the Internet, so all the more should online safety a huge concern. For those who still haven’t heard about Kathleen Hale and her essay that The Guardian posted, you can read it here (it’s a link that doesn’t improve its page rankings, found via Jamie.)
In a nutshell, Kathleen Hale was so upset by a particular book blogger, who had negatively reviewed one of her books, that she stalked that blogger, with the intent of confronting her.
Now, I don’t use the term “stalk” lightly. I know that in this day and age, obsessively perusing someone else’s Facebook profile is jokingly referred to as “stalking” but that is not what I mean. Things weren’t that harmless.
I am referring to full-on cyberstalking and “traditional” stalking. Hale found out all there was to know about the blogger on social media platforms. She also sought out the blogger’s address, then showed up at her door. In the end, she didn’t confront the blogger face-to-face but nonetheless, still called her.
This level of stalking required careful planning. Hale and this book blogger didn’t happen to be neighbours. Hale rented a car to drive out to the blogger’s home! I think that this is utterly unbelievable and anyone who thinks that Hale was right to do this doesn’t understand the implications of her actions and the fact the stalking is illegal.
Privacy vs. Catfishing
Through all that stalking Hale found out that the name that the blogger used online wasn’t her real name. Instead of accepting that like a pen name to preserve the blogger’s online privacy, Hale is crying “catfish!” in response. I think very few book bloggers use their full names. A lot of book bloggers only use their first names or use a different name altogether. The intent is not to deceive anyone but rather to protect themselves.
What if She Had Stalked a Teenager?
Hale insists that the blogger bullied her with the book review, yet fails to understand that she severely undermined the online safety of said blogger. What worries me even more is that Hale is a Young Adult author. She could have very well stalked a teenager. In fact, she even asked this blogger on the phone if she had children who might have been behind the blog since the names didn’t match up.
The Flip Side
The Pain of Negative Reviews
Not that I condone Kathleen Hale’s actions but let’s take a look at things from her position, shall we? Writing is not easy. Parting with a book and allowing the world to read and critique it takes nerves of steel. Of course she was upset when she came across a negative review that she felt wasn’t justified. Her ego must have been shattered and I can understand that.
Dealing with Negative Reviews
The way she dealt with the negative review however, was wrong beyond proportions. Contacting a reviewer via publicly available email addresses is well within an author’s rights. The reviewer has equal rights to decline an answer. That is where an author has to turn around and retreat to find other ways to deal with the pain.
Maybe talking to the editor or another person from the publishing house gives a better sense of whether a review truly constitutes bullying. If it does, then by all means, make sure that the channels are plugged and the review is pulled from places such as Goodreads. There are right ways to deal with negative reviews but stalking is certainly not one of them.
My Two Cents
I think any blogger who is concerned about online safety has good reason to be. Most authors know better than to show up unannounced at the house of a book blogger. But it just takes one person to mar the good standing of a group and that is precisely what Kathleen Hale did — she incited fear in book bloggers.
To make matters worse, the way we found out about this stalking incident is from the perpetrator herself. It wasn’t from a news article that reported her apprehension. Kathleen Hale wrote an essay and detailed her proceedings without any remorse. She admitted that several times she had been told to stop what she was doing but she ignored all that advice.
What I’m most curious about is how her publisher will handle this. Will Harper Teen ignore that all this happened? Will there be a statement from them? Will they still keep her under contract (if she was under one to begin with)? I hardly think that especially a Young Adult imprint can afford to represent an author who might stalk her readers again.
Responses Around the Blogosphere
The responses among book bloggers has generally been a resounding denouncement of Hale’s actions. Some have become even more concerned about their own online safety. There are people who thought Kathleen Hale’s essay riveting and some even applauded her for taking a stand but I have zero understanding for people who support what Hale did.
For those who have made dear friends in the book blogosphere, the recent events have made them reconsider just how safe they really are on the Internet. Whom can we trust? And even if we share information with people we trust, who else can get hold of the information and use it against us? These are just some of the things that have been on bloggers’ minds.
- Jane @ Dear Author noted the importance of pseudonymous activity.
- Sarah @ Smart Bitches Trashy Books makes it clear that the author is not her book. A negative book review is not a personal attack on the author.
- Nate @ The Digital Reader tried to reconcile both sides but came to the conclusion that most of the fault lies with Kathleen Hale.
- Caitlin @ Bustle considers major issues surrounding book blogging and social media that surfaced.
- Katherine @ Neon Yeti Read points out two truths: reviewers shouldn’t attack authors in their reviews and authors shouldn’t stalk reviewers.
- Ceilidh @ Bibliodaze wrote an open letter because stalking is not okay.
- Jamie @ The Perpetual Page-Turner took this time to reflect on her personal safety.
- Minday @ Magical Urban Fantasy Reads wishes she had thought to keep her identity secret when she first started blogging.
- Dana @ The Nerdy Journalist is relieved that she’s generally taken paranoid online measures, shuddering at the thought, what if she had been the reviewer Hale stalked?
- Sydney @ Utterly Bookish was reminded about the importance of privacy.
Responsive Actions Taken
- Cassie @ Happy Book Lovers altered her domain registrant information, removing her surname and other details.