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.