This week has been a doozie. I had two clients die, one get diagnosed with cancer, my coworker’s father-in-law in the ICU with heart failure, and JaneGate. I need a drink.
I wanted to say a bit about lying, in the wake of JaneGate. Some people have said that it’s not a big deal, that she just wanted to write behind a pseudonym. That’s not lying.
I agree. Writing behind a pseudonym is not lying.
But that’s not what Jane did.
Jane ran a highly successful, highly visible blog reviewing popular and less well-known romance books. The culture she fosters was, at times, abusive toward authors. It fostered, furthermore, an atmosphere of fear about speaking up about that negativity, for fear that one would become its target – much like, as has been pointed out, so-called “mean girls” behave in high school. Or, let’s face it, it’s how bullies behave.
I agree. While I admire some of the reviewers that reviewed books for her, I kept away, for two reasons. One, once I crossed the line from voracious reader to author, I felt it’s no longer my place to have an opinion as a reader because I’m no longer “just a reader.” Also, I don’t wish to sling mud on colleagues. Writing is hard enough without people throwing rocks for doing it badly, making mistakes, or behaving in ways that, in hindsight, one might have preferred not to have done. Second, I do not condone the culture of “the writer must have a thick skin and let things roll off their back.” This attitude is damaging and a cover for abuse that, were it any other pursuit, would be nipped in the bud.
Then, this past week, we find out, from Jane herself, that she is not simply a reader. She is, in fact, a writer. Not only a writer, but an author, one that readers have liked so much as to transport her to bestseller status. She has been traditionally published and self-published. She has insinuated herself into communities that, had it been known her other identity as a reviewer, she would not have been welcome.
That is, Dear Reader, a lie.
Worse, colleagues of mine have vouched for her in those private communities, granting her access that otherwise she would not have had. It’s my belief, as well, that she used her connections and network to further her career. I don’t have direct evidence of that but anticipate that will be shown to be the case in the coming weeks. But even if there isn’t a direct A to B connection, it’s true that we all use our networks in life. That is, frankly, what they’re there for.
But lying to further oneself, to develop one’s network, is still a lie.
And for that, I am deeply, deeply troubled. This is not merely a case of an author writing, as I do, under a pseudonym. This is a case of someone knowingly, and with the collusion of her friends, trading on relationships for personal gain.
Today, I am ashamed to be part of that community. I am ashamed of that community. I am, more than ever, determined to bring a more positive light into the world of writing, to show how we can, together, build ourselves up and tell our stories. Openly, authentically, and without those lies that have so damaged us.
This community has been irrevocably changed. Lines have been crossed, alliances damaged, and trust destroyed.
And that, Dear Reader, is the biggest casualty. Trust is so fragile, and so easy to destroy in an instant. Monday, it wasn’t JaneGate. Saturday, it’s after JaneGate and, like the HaleStorm before it and Lord knows what will come after, we, none of us, will be the same.
And that, friends, is not a lie.