EDIT: I recently found another article Hale wrote called I Hunted Feral Hogs in Florida as a Favour to the World (WARNING: graphic images), in which she says, just before she stabs a hog, "For a second I didn’t think I could do it. I considered that God had made her and me in His image, and that she didn’t deserve this unnatural death... But then I stabbed the shit out of her" and ending the article with, "Feral hogs are a bunch of monsters, and they all deserve to die." She also apparently "accidentally" killed a few of her pets when she was younger. Makings of a psychopath anyone?
ORIGINAL: I actually just recently found out about this (like, a few hours ago), and I'm appalled. But the truth is, I don't even know why I'm so appalled, or even who I'm more appalled at. No, that's not true; I'm significantly more appalled at the author. But there seems to be some deep-seeded reasons for all the creepy, unlawful things that she's done. Let me explain:
For me, this all started here: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/18/am-i-being-catfished-an-author-confronts-her-number-one-online-critic, posted by author Colleen Hoover and blogger Evie at Bookish Book Blog on their Facebook feeds.
The title of the article alone suggests narcissism. But aren't writers bred to be utterly narcissistic? We want people to read our stories so that they know how awesome we are. It becomes very apparent early on, though, that there's something not quite right about Kathleen Hale. At first, her reactions to her book being published seem decently normal if only slightly manic. She says she, "fidgeted and talked to [herself], rewriting passages of a book that had already gone to print... It felt...like one of [her] body parts was about to be showcased... Anxious and inexperienced, [she] began checking goodreads.com, a social reviewing site owned by Amazon." Nothing too crazy, right? But there are little signs of her insanity before she even gets to the stalker status. A finished copy of her book had to be pried from her hands to keep her from editing (in red pen) in the margins; she admits that her daily visits to her book on Goodreads "tallied somewhere between 'slightly-more-than-is-attractive-to-admit-here' and 'infinity'"; she describes her would-be basher as "young, tanned and attractive, with dark hair and a bright smile." (I don't know why, but that last one really freaked me out; I think it becomes especially strange after reading an article I'll mention later in the post also by Hale, and showcases a pivotal moment in her childhood). Needless to say, I saw this going downhill real fast. We've seen it happen dozens of times by now--an author so angry about a bad review from a persistent blogger that they choose irrationally--and it never leads to anything good.
Now, I can't find where this "Blythe" has her review of Hale's book posted on Goodreads (if it's even up anymore), but the article claims it began with (please excuse the language), "Fuck this." I'll just say this now; I personally am not a reviewer that swears more than a sixth grade boy would (though, I think you'd be surprised by their colorful vocabulary), so the use of the F-word seems completely unnecessary to me in any review. But we live in America, and we have freedom of speech! But I digress. Hale goes on to dissect the review further, highlighting how "Blythe" says, "'I think this book is awfully written and offensive; its execution in regards to all aspects is horrible and honestly, nonexistent.' Blythe went on to warn other readers that [Hale's] characters were rape apologists and slut-shamers. She accused [Hale's] book of mocking everything from domestic abuse to PTSD. 'I can say with utmost certainty that this is one of the worst books I’ve read this year,' she said, 'maybe my life.' Other commenters joined in to say they’d been thinking of reading [Hale's] book, but now wouldn’t. Or they’d liked it, but could see where Blythe was coming from, and would reduce their ratings. 'Rape is brushed off as if it is nothing,' Blythe explained to one commenter. 'PTSD is referred to insensitively; domestic abuse is the punch line of a joke, as is mental illness.'" Reviews of books are based on opinion; I think we can all agree on that. It's possible "Blythe" has read enough YA much like Hale's book and can make this kind of assessment. Unsurprisingly, Hale takes offence. Who wouldn't? But the way this story unfolds..."taking it too far" would be a grand understatement.
The article really started to pick up speed in its downward spiral when Hale referenced the website STGRB (Stop the Goodreads Bullies). If you want to read more about them, I suggest this article, but if you try to understand them by their name alone, you should know that they practice the opposite of what they should be preaching. One reviewer who recently wrote an open letter to Kathleen Hale said that STGRB referred to her as "'pathetic' and a 'monster'." But this blogger got off easy. The worst cases involved STGRB getting ahold of a few bloggers' personal information and broadcasting it, leading to situations much like the stalking we see Kathleen Hale admit to in her article.
The problem I see here is that she had ample opportunity to turn back. That first opportunity came when she attempted to comment on "Blythe's" scathing review of her book. Here's what Hale says: "At the bottom of the page, Goodreads had issued the following directive (if you are signed in as an author, it appears after every bad review of a book you’ve written): 'We really, really (really!) don’t think you should comment on this review, even to thank the reviewer. If you think this review is against our Review Guidelines, please flag it to bring it to our attention. Keep in mind that if this is a review of the book, even one including factual errors, we generally will not remove it. 'If you still feel you must leave a comment, click "Accept and Continue" below to proceed (but again, we don’t recommend it).'" There's a phrase that I'm sure we all know, and it goes simply, "Curiosity killed the cat." Well, after Hale ignored Goodreads' message, that was her first cat-life lost. Cats supposedly have nine, but there are definitely moments highlighted in her article that nix the remaining eight.
I don't particularly care if this "Blythe" character got a bunch of her followers to bash a fourteen-year-old girl. Yes, it's beyond wrong, especially since children are so impressionable at that age, and the internet has made bullying so much easier and widespread. I hope that little girl is okay and hasn't needed therapy, but Hale's mentioning of that in her article (whether it's even true or not, I can't be sure because no links were given in the article) just proves that Hale really only cares about herself. She's the victim here, despite the fact that she grew a true obsession for "Blythe" that graduated to full-blown physical stalking. "Blythe" is obviously the only bad guy here, because the world is so black and white (that's sarcasm, for those of you who don't speak it). First, after some sort of bashing of Hale on Twitter thanks to "Blythe," the author recounts how she "ate a lot of candy and engaged in light stalking: [she] prowled Blythe’s Instagram and Twitter, [she] read her reviews, considered photos of her baked goods and watched from a distance as she got on her soapbox... As [her] fascination mounted, and [her] self-loathing deepened, [she] reminded [herself] that there are worse things than rabid bloggers (cancer, for instance) and that people suffer greater degradations than becoming writers. But still, [she] wanted to respond." Umm, let me just point out some trigger words/phrases here: light stalking, prowled, watched from a distance, fascination mounted. Am I the only one completely freaked out by this woman?
And then, Hale must be a glutton for punishment because she decides to Tweet "Blythe," and engage with someone who she believes is a bully, and also who she's been creepily stalking. It obviously backfires and the hole she'd been digging herself into grew deeper. She made it even worse when she responded to the responses she received, proving she has a true lack of social skills when she said on Twitter, "'Sorry. Didn’t mean all bloggers, just the ones who talk shit then tweet about their in-progress manuscripts.'" Like, come on, lady, you're seriously asking for it. If you really are sorry, then just say that, and screw justifying yourself. Do NOT call a rabid dog to you while wearing meat underwear; that's common sense right there, and this dog had a whole pack of others behind her to rip Hale apart.
The realization I've come to is: who gives a crap if you were catfished or not, Ms. Hale? It really doesn't matter who this woman/man/whatever is because, once you cross that line of cyber-stalking to real-stalking, you can never come back. Who's going to buy your book now, knowing that you went to a bad-reviewer's house just because you were curious? I personally (though I know others can) can't separate easily the drama an author creates between its most lucrative readers and promoters (book bloggers) and their work. I just can't. I didn't even plan to read this book, but I sure as hell don't want to read it now, then hate it as I believe I will considering the points I've heard on many other Goodreads reviews, and fear for my life after I write my review because she might come to my house to find out who I am. I don't care if all she did was leave a book on the person's doorstep; I refuse to feel unsafe in my own home when all I did was express my opinion on a public review site. Hale did all she could on social media and should've just let it go right then and there.
But like I said before: she must be a glutton for punishment.
After her book came out and she was asked by a book club if there were any bloggers she wanted to be on her blog tour specifically, she immediately said "Blythe's" blog because, quote, "I still longed to engage with Blythe directly." Despite all being quiet on the Western front, she just couldn't let it go. The book club then (idiotically, I might add), forwarded "Blythe's" address to Hale. *facepalm* The fact that a Blythe didn't live at that address further fueled Hale's cat-killing curiosity and she then planned to rent a car months in advance. Months! I don't care if she claims it was "procrastinating, hoping to untangle the mystery without face-to-face confrontation." She was literally planning in advance to go to someone's house that she had grievances for and wanted desperately to confront. How far would she have been willing to go physically to get answers if that person behind the curtain in the front window had actually answered the door?
Then, I read this paragraph and at first glance thought she was going to realize the error of her stalkerish ways; no such luck.
I asked Rich about his catfished patients: how did they react in the months that followed their discovery? “Depression, anxiety. They tend to spend more time online rather than less.” I self-consciously x’d out of my browser window, open to three Blythe Harris platforms. “They’re hyper-vigilant, always checking their phone. Certainly substance abuse.” I reconsidered the cocktails I’d planned for that evening. “The response is going to vary,” he concluded, “but it will have a commonality of self-loathing and self-harm.”
“Great,” I said, double-checking Blythe’s address.This woman is impossible! She's basically being told she has a list of things that need psychological treatment even before she gets her big reveal, and all she does is make sure her stalkee's address is correct. She obviously has no concept of how out-of-control this obsession has become. Not only that, but she crosses that line with some nervous hands and an unsatisfactory non-confrontation, with absolutely nothing to show for it.
I think it's very possible that Hale really didn't represent PTSD the way it should've been in her book just as "Blythe" claimed, because it would seem she has a fair amount of her own PTSD that looks to have gone unresolved. We know this because of, not only her alcohol abuse and her obsessive personality, but also this article, written in 2013. She describes a very traumatic moment in her childhood, one where her mother was accused of molesting Hale's friend. The friend's testimony was the only thing the police had to go on, but they arrested the mother anyway to prove a point. Hale got the girl accuser back by pouring peroxide on the girl's head in a movie theater and fleeing the scene. The girl proceeded to make more outlandish claims, but now against Hale herself. Spoiler: there is no silver lining to this story, and in fact, the story seems to end right in the middle, and we're left wondering if Hale ever truly recovered. Though I think the answer to that is obvious. Still, one of the lines near the end of this revealing piece really stuck with me: "'Just because Lori is messed up doesn’t mean I’m not.'" Now, I'm not sure if she meant to write it that way, but from what I'm seeing, Hale is freely admitting that there's something messed up about herself to a police officer. Anyone would be scarred from her ordeal, especially since she was only fourteen (coincidentally, the same age as the girl who "Blythe" supposedly picked on). Is it possible that Hale saw "Blythe" as some twisted version of Lori, screwing up Kathleen's future over and over again with "lies"? And couldn't she have seen the younger girl that Blythe picked on as a more innocent version of herself at the same age--a damsel in distress that deserved some form of justice? You can see in both articles that Hale's version of justice isn't exactly copacetic. On that note, is Hale perpetually stuck at that age of fourteen, having never gotten the answers she'd begged Lori for? It would certainly explain her childish obsession with a person who continuously feeds her unsatisfactory lies and then refuses to be known.
How does the plot thicken you might ask? Drum roll please............ She's an author of the Full Fathom Five (sources here and here). Now, I didn't learn about the true nature of this organization until a couple days before learning about Hale, though I'd definitely heard that I Am Number Four was written by a team of people. This is that team. Basically, the founder, Frey, is a menace to the book world. According to this article, he set himself up for failure as his "supposed true life tale of addiction and rehabilitation [A Million Little Pieces] was mostly fabricated" as revealed on the Opah Winfrey Show. It was after this that he launched the Full Fathom Five, and his reputation only degraded from there. Apparently, an overlooked article in the New York magazine revealed "the brutal contracts given to collaborators on the assembly line, including a paltry $250 advance for writers and a $50,000 penalty if they admitted to working with Full Fathom Five." Yup, pretty ridiculous. What does this all add up to for Hale? Even when she finds something good, she's getting screwed over. She's been consistently punished for who she is, and that wears on the soul. I'm not saying she's justified; much of what she did is NOT okay. But I do see how her past and present could contribute to such a heinous breakdown of logic.
Bottom line: I'm not on Hale's side for most of what she did. She handled the situation with zero tact and never once tried to turn back and forget the whole thing. Talk about overshadowing what should be one of the most pivotal moments of your life (getting your book published). She let her anger and hate and narcissism grab hold of her and drag her along for this hellish ride that ultimately amounted to nothing. There was no closure; none. And while I believe bloggers could also be a little more tactful when it comes to their reviews, I also believe in freedom of speech. As an author, you would think that Hale would advocate the same.