Monday, January 21, 2008

Plagiarism in the Romance World Again!

Since it came out lo, these many years ago that Janet Dailey had cribbed entire chunks of Nora Roberts' books, I have not bought another Janet Dailey book or allowed her books to be in my house. I've been very regretful about that, because there were some of Dailey's books that I really liked (mostly in her Harlequin Presents Americana collection).

Well, now it turns out that historical romance author Cassie Edwards has done something similar, although her choice of material to copy is much older. Edwards has plagiarized material for her western romances from some text published early in the 20th century. Her publishing house stood by her at first, denying that it was plagiarism, but as the details came out, had to admit that one of their bestselling authors had, indeed, copied entire passages from this older source.

I've seen the text, and it's clearly copied, right down to the word choices. Yes, she made minor variations here and there, but an author of her experience could have not doubt that what she was doing was cheating. Unlike Dailey, who had the chutzpah to copy one of the bestselling novelists in the world and then be kind of huffy about it when caught (including giving a throwaway "apology" that managed to offend many who read it), Edwards ripped her material from a more obscure source, and must have been fairly confident that she would not be caught out.

Unfortunately, the publishing world is smaller than ever due to the internet, and people have access to a lot more material than ever before. It's just crazy to think you can get away with this type of thing in this day and age.

I'm deeply grateful that I've never been a big Edwards fan, having read only one or two of her books. Nevertheless, she will join Dailey on my list of authors who, under no circumstances, will be allowed in my house. What a pity.


Anonymous said...

I have always been a huge Cassie Edwards fan and will continue reading her books regardless of what happened. As for the other author never read her books any whos. Sorry you feel the opposite towards what has happened.

Mellanie C. said...

Thanks for your comment. I'm not able to be as forgiving toward authors who "cheat," especially when they're so popular with their readers. I LOVED Janet Dailey before her plagiarism, but she was not repentant and acted like she was offended to have gotten caught. It was easy to write her off.

With Cassie Edwards, I have mixed feelings. In some ways, I feel more harshly about her case because she used an obscure source which she probably thought would never be noticed.

My problem is, it's hard enough as a writer to come up with an idea for a story and follow that plot through to completion. When an author has done all the work, and someone else comes along and uses it and attaches their own name to it, they've stolen something beyond just the simple words. They've abused the trust of their readers, and they've broken an unspoken contract between authors to support each other and defend the work.