Nora Roberts and Plagiarizing Books Rant – Word Theft

The story about Christiane Serruya broke last week or the week before. I’ve been ignoring most of it, getting the gist of it and carrying on because February is a busy writing and editing month for me. However, I read a post by Nora Roberts a few days ago and another yesterday which made me stop and think about this whole writing thing and word theft.

Below are my thoughts on the matter. They won’t be what others think, but these are mine. Take them for what they are worth. When it comes to the written word, the one word that screams at me is integrity.

I can’t remember the first time or the first book I read by Nora Roberts. It was long ago. I’ve read several and while I’m impressed with the stories, what impresses me most about this woman is her ability to churn out stories. She is a writing machine I wish to emulate.

When I saw a post written by her shared on Twitter regarding this scandal, I took a look. You can read it here: Plagiarism, Then and Now. It gives a good summary of her experience with plagiarism and why those who steal words are also liars. They are never to be trusted alone in a room with a book, and they are to receive no sympathy. She also gave her opinion on ghost writers hired to write fiction.

Roberts stated, “I personally don’t believe fiction writers should use ghosts.”

I can’t stress how much I agree with her on this. Non-fiction books get a pass because movie stars aren’t writers, and they need someone to piece together their stories. There are other types of non-fiction books that also need this help. Many people, including myself, understand non-fiction is more like a business book, so they get a pass.

However, fiction comes from the heart, and I want to read what comes from the heart of the author, not from some unnamed person paid to write the words. I don’t believe two different writers could capture the same essence of the heart without confusing the reader. It’d be like accidentally sleeping with the twin of your lover. Something wouldn’t feel right. If I read two books I was made to believe were written by the same person and it turned out they weren’t, I’d feel cheated on. All trust would be gone.

I understand V. C. Andrews has been dead since the 80s and new titles are released under her brand name. Readers know this, and they have the choice to buy or not. I choose not to. I wanted to know the twisted tales from Andrews’ mind, not a ghost writer’s, so I’ve read only the books she’s written.

Many also understand series are written by various people. I’m thinking of the Hardy Boys, Star Wars and such. They are a brand, and we have the option to read or not. I didn’t find much heart in these series books, so I didn’t read many of them.

Heart. That’s what it’s all about. When I read a Deborah Hale or Terry Brooks book, I’m reading stories from their heart; the characters carry a piece of them everywhere they go.

I flat out think it’s wrong to hire a ghost writer to write your novel and to present it to the world as your own words. You may disagree, but I’m not changing my mind. There’s no integrity in it.

When you read my stories, each character, each setting, every plot has a piece of me in it. The Land of Ath-o‘Lea is called that because I grew up on Atholea Drive. McGuigan has deep blue eyes and black hair because one of my good friends as a kid had that. Stones play an important part in my stories because I love stones and have gathered them all my life. Bronwyn can’t raise only one eyebrow and must raise both because I can’t raise only one. He’s left handed because my son is left handed. Liam has chocolate brown eyes because the boy I fell in love with when I was ten years old had them. Alaura knows how to use herbs because I’ve used them. Isla has healing hands because a psychic told me I had them.

There are endless links between my stories and my life no one else could capture. A ghost writer would inject their likes, dislikes and life experiences into the story, and that would not match my heart.

The second post I read was Not a Rant But a Promise. In it, Roberts writes,

“If you sit and read with a notebook, use the work and words an actual writer slaved over, you’re not just a thief. You’re lazy, pathetic, and don’t have a creative bone in your body.”

Harsh but right on the money. If a writer can’t write a story they feel is good enough, then they need to work harder, learn more or do something else with their life.

Certain phrases become common or could be just coincidence, but if a writer deliberately writes down sentences and phrases from someone else’s book with the intentions of using them in their own books, then that’s wrong. I can’t believe the writer wouldn’t feel guilty about that.

I felt slightly guilty when I wrote a scene many years ago where Alaura and Bronwyn were working on a light spell in the evening and he says, “Let’s make a little magic in the moonlight.” It came out naturally because they were making magic and it was in the moonlight. Months after writing that scene, I heard that phrase in a song, and I seriously thought about changing my words. But they were my words. I didn’t copy them. It’s what Bronwyn would say. So I left them.

It all boils down to integrity. Some people have it and some don’t.

Romance readers are ruthless, so I’m certain Serruya will be sufficiently roasted. She’s one down, but apparently there are many operating this scheme on Amazon.

Remember, when you read my stories, all those words are written by me. Every character is a piece of me even the evil ones and the ones with sailor mouth. Every place, whether that be Maskil, the Glenelg Tavern, Quoddy Mountains or Bear Brooke all have special meaning to me. No one can write these stories but me. I’d have it no other way.

19 thoughts on “Nora Roberts and Plagiarizing Books Rant – Word Theft

  1. People who do this (plagiarize) are nothing but scared, dishonorable cowards.

    Ghostwriting? Meh, so long as I know about it before I buy/read the book then I can make an informed decision about whether want to engage with it.

    Would I ever hire a ghostwriter? Nope. Like you my words are my own.

    • Scared? Possible. They are scared they might not measure up to their own expectations. I think all writers have this feeling. It’s the dishonourable cowards who go that extra mile and steal words.

      An informed decision: I agree. If we know, it is our choice to buy or not.

      I’m like you. I’d never hire a ghost writer. Good or bad, my stories are written by me. I take the credit and the blame.

      Thanks for visiting.

  2. I don’t mind the ghostwriter. If his writing is great, he probably writes under his own name somewhere. This is his way to tap into a different audience.

    But, I’m going to think a bit more on it now that you’ve brought it up.

  3. In the last year I have purchased hard cover versions of three of my favourite writers. I can’t help but feel that they were not written by the author whose name appears on the covers, writers I have loved. I tried to finish them, ended up fast forwarding and even then gave up. It was disorienting and discouraging and made me very sad, something I would never want a future reader of mine to feel. Thank you for this article.

    • Mary, that’s very interesting. You’ve invested time and money in these books. The author has a responsibility to show up for work and write them for you. Like you, I’d never want a future reader of mine to feel disoriented and discouraged by one of my books because I didn’t write it. Thank you for visiting and for leaving your thoughts.

  4. I must agree 110% with your post. I have no use for word thieves, and I love that quote from Nora Roberts. She did indeed hit the nail on the head with that one.

    Like you, there is so much of me and my personal experiences that went into my book, and I really don’t understand the whole concept of ghostwriting, other than to make money without doing any work. I don’t think I could face the public knowing there were books with my name on them that I didn’t write. It would just seem wrong. Like sleeping with the wrong twin as you said.

    • Imagine inviting an author, one who hired ghost writers to write her novels, to a conference and asking her the secrets to her success or where she got the ideas for her book, or why she wrote the story the way she did. She’s not the author of those novels and wouldn’t have a clue. Maybe she never wrote anything. She’s a fake, a fraud.

      Thanks, Doug. I take writing personally and I’ve never liked fakes. I’ve no time for them. Our books are a part of us, something that is so intertwined with who we are it’s impossible for another to capture the intimacy.

  5. Totally agree on fiction which is why I don’t enjoy some authors that I used to. I guess on one hand some think they are helping grow new writers but it doesn’t feel like the same author.

    Isn’t it amazing how Nora Roberts is so prolific. I would like to spend just a few moments in her brain. I’m sure it is never a dull moment!

    • She is amazing. This is the first year I’ve put the pedal down to see what I can do. I won’t match her, but she sets a line I’d love to reach.

      Thank you for visiting, and for leaving your thoughts.

  6. Well said and I couldn’t agree more.

    Like you, I think non-fiction gets a pass when it comes to ghost writers. My Grandmother Foote told wonderful oral stories, but couldn’t make the same magic on the page, so my cousin “translated” her history of the “Homes of Woodville” and made it an enjoyable read.

    Like you, I hope #CopyPasteCris never sees the light of day again, but I also know she’s just a drop in the bucket of there.

        • It is disheartening. She lives in Brazil, so it’s almost impossible to punish her financially for her crime. She could already have books up under another pen name. It would be the back up plan, so the money keeps flowing.

          I can only write from the heart. These stories are for me.

  7. I feel like a ghostwriter is at least morally ok if it’s less of a ‘ghost’ situation and more of a partnership. I’ve read plenty of books by multiple authors, and I feel like a ghost situation is similar enough that people should just acknowledge multiple authors. The problem with ghostwriting is the lack of recognition for the wordsmith.

    • Yes, it is the recognition that is needed to let readers know it is that person. Unless it is one of the situations mentioned above (V. C. Andrews and series such as Star Wars), then all authors should be given the credit.

      I think what bothers me most is, if I paid you to write my story and slapped my name on it, I’m not really a writer. I’m a fake. I’m a liar without opening my mouth. Also, where does the ghost writer go from there? They can’t sell a second book on the first because in the eyes of readers, they don’t have that first book.

      • It’s like with Rod Stewart and Maggie May – the guy who did the mandolin part, which is highly praised, came in and got something like 50 pounds for his work, then left. He was never paid any more for a song that made millions. At the same time, he agreed to the payment ahead of time – he had no way of knowing that he’d made a bad deal. If a ghost writer takes the job, they’re doing it with certain agreements. It may just not be a job for you, or maybe not for many other people. I don’t *like* the idea of a ghost writer for fiction, but I don’t see anything truly immoral as long as the ghost author is aware of the agreement beforehand.

        • I didn’t know that about the mandolin player on “Maggie May”. Wow. But he agreed to the arrangement, just like a cover designer who creates a cover for a book and it sells millions. I think we all know Stewart hired musicians to play and the author hired the cover designer. Ghost writers getting paid for their job is fine. Hiring someone to write fiction for me makes me a publisher of someone else’s work with my name on it. It doesn’t make me a writer. To say I was a writer while someone else wrote my novels would make me a fake, a liar.

          • Ok, I can understand that. I think it’s a weird situation with a lot of gray area, but I can see how the labeling of ones’ self as a writer could be an especially contentious point.

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