Days prior to submitting the draft of my upcoming book, TAKE IT FROM ME, an interesting and relevant article entitled Who Is the Bad Art Friend hit the New York Times. In a nutshell, one author accused another of stealing personal elements of her life story (which she told that writer and others in various author chat chains) and then using it in later fiction without permission or credit. The accused author first denied doing so, and then denied that it was wrong to do so. The article itself is so well written, as a reader, I found myself switching sides every couple of paragraphs.
Why was that article relevant? Because in my book, one of the two main characters (Harper) is a formerly successful writer who is in a rut when she moves to a suburban town to research ideas for her next book. She decides not to tell anyone her pen name or anything about her career, and is fully prepared to use whatever gossip or other information she can get out of people to help her spark a good narrative. Of course, the waters get murky quickly as friendship begins to bloom, which leaves Harper in a lose-lose situation of her own making.
After reading the Times article, I emailed my editors about the serendipitous timing. I wondered if I should make some reference to it in the book, knowing there’d be about a year between the release of that article and my book (I chose not to in order to preserve the fictional world I’d created).
Now, however, as we are entering the run-up to this book’s early fall release, I’m thinking about that article again and wondering how readers feel. I suspect most are aware that authors are champion eavesdroppers and consider most tidbits more or less fair game as story fodder. But surely there are lines, such as when a friend mentions something in confidence. Absent such a bright line, where would YOU draw that line?
If someone is sharing a personal story in a public place, is that okay to use? What if that same info was shared in a slightly less public forum, like a private Facebook group? Does it matter if the author uses fictional names and fake settings? Is it okay if the author is a relative stranger but wrong if she is an acquaintance or friend? How about family? Arguably family events also belong to the author, but does that give him or her cart blanche to use it for profit? These are the kind of questions that make for a juicy book club discussion, which was my intent insofar as this part of the goes.
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Also, I’d really love you to shelve the book on your Want To Read shelf, or better yet, preorder it here.
A humorous and heartwarming novel about friendship and all its little secrets by Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jamie Beck.
Wendy Moore hides her collection of pilfered bric-a-brac from everyone, including her husband. He thinks she licked her kleptomania in therapy more than a decade ago. Therapy did help, as did focusing her attention on motherhood. But now Wendy’s gardening and furniture-refinishing hobbies fill up only so much of the day, leaving the recent empty nester lonely and anxious—a combination likely to trigger her little problem. She needs a project, fast. Luckily, Harper Ross—a single, childless younger woman in desperate need of highlights—just moved in next door.
The only thing Harper wants to change is the writer’s block toppling her confidence and career. Then a muse comes knocking. Sensing fodder for a new antagonist, Harper plays along with Wendy’s “helpful” advice while keeping her career a secret so Wendy keeps talking. Sure, she’s torn about profiting off her neighbor’s goodwill—especially when Wendy’s matchmaking actually pans out—but Harper’s novel is practically writing itself.
Just as a real friendship begins to cement, their deceptions come to light, threatening Wendy’s and Harper’s futures and forcing them to reconcile who they are with who they want to be. Easier said than done.