On Kathleen Hale, Book Blogging, and Stalking

Illustration of woman fishing and a catfish in the water

I think we all need to define two words before we begin here today.

Catfish verb lure (someone) into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.

Stalk verb harass or persecute (someone) with unwanted and obsessive attention.

First, a small summary of the events surrounding this topic. Kathleen Hale, author of  No One Else Can Have You, recently wrote this post over on the Guardian. In this article, she reads a bad review of her first book on Goodreads, written by a reviewer named Blythe. She becomes obsessed with this reviewer – following her blog, looking at pictures on her Instagram – and then renting a car and driving to her house. Blythe wasn’t her real name, but just a name she used for blogging. So because of this…it made her a catfish, and therefore okay for stalking, and more than that, okay to write this post about.

Obviously, Kathleen Hale still hasn’t even learned her lesson from this. Just look at some of the tweets she posted after all this blacklash:

No, this article is not an exposing discussion about catfishing. It shows quite blatantly how Kathleen Hale stalked this person, just for using an Internet persona. Using a different name for a blog is perfectly legal. Finding their home address, calling them, and harassing them is not. Some of the lengths she went to were quite disturbing: 

“DO YOU USE THE NAME BLYTHE HARRIS TO BOOK BLOG ONLINE?” I felt like the guy on the Howard Stern show, screaming, “I exist!”

She paused. “No,” she said quietly.

An hour after I got off the phone to Judy, Blythe Harris deleted her Twitter and set her Instagram to private. A contact at a publishing house confirmed that they’d been sending books to Judy’s address all year, and as recently as two weeks ago.

I’m told Blythe still blogs and posts on Goodreads; Patricia tells me she still live tweets Gossip Girl. In some ways I’m grateful to Judy, or whoever is posing as Blythe, for making her Twitter and Instagram private, because it has helped me drop that obsessive part of my daily routine. Although, like anyone with a tendency for low-grade insanity, I occasionally grow nostalgic for the thing that makes me nuts.

These are just a few examples of what happened. No matter what – if this happened in the book blogging community or not, this is a scary story. People should be able to post pictures and talk about their lives and discuss books (or whatever topics they enjoy) without being scared that people with different opinions are going to stalk their house, call them crazily, and obsess over their entire life.

Even if this blogger was using pictures that weren’t truly of herself, that does not give Kathleen Hale any permission to go after her in such a way. What she did was, well, illegal for one thing. And after confessing, I have no idea why this isn’t a bigger problem than it already is. If I were the blogger, I would have taken this straight to the police, especially with this full confession right on the Internet.

It’s not catfishing. Why? Just look at the definition. Was the blogger trying to start a relationship with Kathleen Hale? No. She was just commenting on a book she didn’t like, a review that was not even meant for the author to read. In this review, she did not personally attack Kathleen Hale or threaten her in any way. She said that she did not like the book. That is all. Bad reviews are meant to discuss problems with a book, so that other readers can find the best books and make smart decisions about what they read. Not to take away happiness from the author. 

But what Kathleen Hale did was definitely stalking. She gave this random blogger on the Internet all of her time, obsessing over every detail of her life, even paying money for the background check. This is the direct definition of stalking.

So really…Hale is more at fault than anyone. And the fact that she wrote an essay, published it on a major news site, and still doesn’t seem to understand the problem – that might be even worse. It’s not something to be glorified. It’s not a shocking expose on how book bloggers use different names or catfish authors. Because this blogger in question never tried to start a relationship or attack the author. She put her feelings and opinions on the Internet and got stalked for it. That’s what is not okay. 

What can we learn from this? As book bloggers, it shows us how negative reviews can affect authors. It is another example why we shouldn’t attack authors. And it is a shocking fear that we know have to keep in the back of our minds. It is a wake up call to everything that could happen, something so crazy it wasn’t a possibility. And for authors? Don’t stalk us. 

There’s a blogger/author relationship that still needs to be worked out in this situation. But neither of the groups can take away privacy or security of the other. We respect you, you respect us. That is all I ask.

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11 thoughts on “On Kathleen Hale, Book Blogging, and Stalking

  1. I’m sorry that I’m not sorry for saying this, but as a published author, Kathleen needs to learn that there are going to be people who dislike her book. She should take it with a grain of salt because for every negative review, there is usually a positive review. Bad reviews happen. It’s just a fact of life, and it’s no excuse to illegally stalk someone. As a book blogger, I’m scared to post any other negative reviews, even though mine are always tastefully written. It’s a shame that we live in a world where authors can come to our house to tell us off.

    • Exactly. She’s not going to be loved by every reviewer, but that’s okay. In fact, there are plenty of four and five star reviews for her book on Goodreads. I’m always concerned about posting negative reviews, but hopefully this is just one bad example.

  2. Oh my god, why would she do that? Not everyone will like your book- I understand that reading a negative review can be upsetting, but to stalk them? What? The blogger definitely should have gone to the police with this.

  3. This is really scary! I have been stalked online and it is scary knowing that enough information is out there that they would find my home. The worst part is that the police really couldn’t do a whole lot. I did more work tracking the stalker than the police 😦
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

  4. I can’t believe those were her tweets after all of this! Horrible! I’m also someone who was stalked (transcontinentally) and this just rubs me all the wrong ways. I feel so sorry for all of the bloggers who are now scared about their information getting into the hands of people like her.

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