Kathleen Hale is a Crazy Stalker

I’m on a nonfiction kick. Two books in a row, for me that’s a kick. I probably read one nonfiction book about every eighteen months, so this kick of mine is notable. One weekend a few months ago, two books caught my attention: The Rise of the Ultra Runners by Adharanand Finn and Kathleen Hale is a Crazy Stalker by Kathleen Hale, herself.

I have a decades-long history of learning about a book from an article, vowing to read it, sending myself an email to remind myself to get it, and then two months later, I delete that email knowing that I’ll never take the time to get the book. Right, pathetic. It’s always bummed me out that I operate like this, but not enough to change. Well, now I work at a library, there’s no longer an excuse. When I hit some down-time in my day, I get to go browse the shelves. When I see that email on Monday morning, I take some action. I’m becoming well read.

These two books are new in 2019, both came out this summer, so I wasn’t shocked to find that my library owned neither of them. No problem, in Pennsylvania, if your library doesn’t have a book, one of the other state libraries is required to loan it to you… or so I thought. I sent an email: “Hey Maria, can I request an inter-library loan for the following two books…”

A few days later I got a response. “Jeff, these books are too new. The libraries won’t loan them to us for months.” Does it seem weird that I’m emailing with my coworker? She works on the floor right below me. I walk past her desk every day when I arrive to work. Here’s the thing I love most about working in a library: everyone’s an introvert. Small talk, or really any talk, just doesn’t happen. She continued, “I’m going to put in a request for us to purchase them.”

The following week in a management meeting, Julie threw a rant. “I get all these ridiculous requests for obscure books that will only be read once and then sit on the shelf for five years until we weed them out.” (Weeding, that’s what we call removing old books.) “If we’re trying to stretch our dollars, I need to buy stuff people actually want to read.” I sank lower in my seat, didn’t make eye contact, and silently vowed to never request a book again.

And then the books showed up. The Rise of the Ultra Runners was pretty good. Definitely good enough if you have even a passing interest in ultra-running. Plus, Finn and I write for the same British magazine, Like the Wind, so I feel like we have a lot in common, a connection. I ignore the fact that he’s written three best-selling running books, runs a 2:45 marathon and has completed two races longer than one hundred miles. Yes, we’ve written for the same magazine, we’re the same person.

Last night, I read the title essay of Kathleen Hale is a Crazy Stalker. I’m not sure I can get away with calling it the ‘title essay’ since the actual title of the essay is Catfish, but it’s the story about Hale being a crazy stalker, so any way…

Here’s the back story: Hale, a Young Adult novelist, received a bad review of her novel No One Else Can Have You on Goodreads. I mean really bad. One star, and worse, it accused her of making light of mental illness and PTSD, and serving as an apologist for rape. The reviewer made note that she only read the first chapter. I personally find it Haledisconcerting that this is what a reader took away from the first chapter of a Young Adult novel, and I suppose that is the impetus for the extra bad review.

Catfish and the real life events are fairly convoluted: other reviewers read the bad review, reconsidered their initial good reviews and there was a bit of a ground-swell of book-bashing. Hale, who struggles with mental illness, including Obsession Compulsive Disorder, became obsessed with her dwindling Goodreads rating, and she responded to the initial bad review on Goodreads trying to stick up for herself. The reviewer doubled down on her sentiments; enlisted a small army of bloggers and reviewers to attack Hale’s online presence; and she successfully ruined Hale’s career as a YA author. It’s a sad story and makes me feel sorry for Hale.

In May, I got a bad review on Goodreads for my book Bad Ass. The reviewer gave the book three stars (I know, not that bad) but with the text: “Ugh, I wanted to love this book. I can’t. Decent writer and I’m sure many will like this book but I’m not one of them.” This was my only review so far. The thing that bugged me most about the review is that before he posted it, we exchanged a few emails where he called me “a good, and possibly great, writer” and acknowledged that while he was turned off by the first half of the book, he saw a lot of redemption in the end. Why didn’t he write all that?

This is where Hale and I depart. Instead of responding to the review, or emailing the reviewer directly, I took the unprecedented (for me) step of asking for advice. I tweeted to the #WritingCommunity: Should I respond or let it go? Every single person said let it go.

Hale should have let it go, too. If she did she would be a successful author with a mediocre average number of stars on her debut novel, and a promising future. Instead she was buried under a mound of internet hate. Then Hale went nuts. She hired a private investigator and got a bunch of personal information about the reviewer. With the reviewer’s real name, Hale cyber-stalked her relentlessly, piecing together all aspects of her life. She went to the reviewer’s house (but decided not to knock), contacted publishing companies to learn about the frequency of beta-reader book deliveries, and ultimately started calling the reviewer at her work. All of this makes me hesitant to leave a bad review of Hale’s story.

I just read over my last few paragraphs–blah, blah, blah. Imagine twenty pages of this. The whole time I was reading, I felt sorry for Hale’s fiancé and best friend, both of whom she references confiding in frequently during this period. I envision her rehashing the whole affair every night adding in one small new detail that she might have discovered. It’s an odd story, I’m not sure why she wrote it. She isn’t remorseful. She doesn’t really accept any responsibility, and despite the book being marketed as humor, it isn’t funny.

Probably the thing I dislike most about the story is it seems like the exact sort of thing I would do. For many people, OCD isn’t the quirky behavior we see on TV—arranging closets by color and lining up shoes by size. OCD includes a very real, and painful need to poke at things no matter how inappropriate, time wasting or harmful that behavior might be. I’ve written before about my WordPress, Facebook, Twitter loop where I sit cycling through these sites maybe pausing for ten seconds on each to see if anything has changed since I last visited… thirty seconds ago. I want to stop, and ultimately I do stop, but it takes a while to muster the willpower necessary to stop. A small benign example, imagine if it involved other people.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a satire piece. It’s a fictional email I received through my contact form from a follower who wanted to meet in real life. As the email continues, the follower becomes more and more inappropriate in her requests. It’s comes off very stalkerish. The thing is, I wrote this about myself. I’m the crazy follower. This is me in an alternate universe, similar, but slightly different. Or maybe it’s just me on a bad day. Sure it’s exaggerated, and I think clearly enough to understand where boundary lines lie, but back to OCD, sometimes we just can’t help it.

Like Kathleen Hale’s reviewer, it’s probably unfair of me to write about her book after reading just one essay, but I’m not reviewing the book, just the story and the situation. A lot of Goodreads reviews on Crazy Stalker are filled with anger and disgust that Hale is making money off of her inappropriate and threatening behavior. And even though I think I understand where Hale is coming from, I have to agree.

26 thoughts on “Kathleen Hale is a Crazy Stalker

    • As I read her book, I see that she has all sorts of problems. She hasn’t written about addressing any of them yet, just how they affect her life. If this book doesn’t have a chapter on her therapy, I might do some stalking of my own to suggest she gets some help.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I started approving or deleting comments on my blogs because of a few nasty trolls, (but I don’t mind a difference of opinion so I don’t delete those). I figured since I pay to have my blog online and don’t receive any profits, I have the right to censor mean or hateful comments; but I think once you’re asking people to pay to read your work; they’re allowed to comment and you have to have a thick skin about their dislike. This writer who stalked their reviewer is beyond my comprehension, wow.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s fairly scary. When I first started writing, I had a lot of “anti-american” things to say. I worried constantly about someone coming by my house and taking a shot at me. Now looking back, those opinions of mine seem tame. I’ve received little vocal dissent so far on my blog which makes me happy and sad. A good dust-up seems fun. But I worry that negative comments might spin me out of control like Hale.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Life seems to have amped up, rage from strangers seems to happen more now and from different sources like cyber bullying and now cyber stalking. I get paranoid that I write too many personal things on my blog, I publish and then make those posts Private after awhile. I worry that coworkers, acquaintances could secretly read and judge me or if I say something that’s not exactly PC I could risk my employment. I’m a long time liberal that is becoming more conservative, (I still dislike Trump though). It’s very subjective what’s considered offensive now, depends on the audience. I think in WP people that follow or comment don’t want to disagree to be polite. I have a feeling you won’t spin out, especially not like Hale. You have self-awareness and logic on your side.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Holy cow.
    This lady is unstable and it’s unfortunate that a publisher is publishing this as humorous (or at all) when Hale’s behavior clearly affected the reviewer (since it said in that Bustle article that they don’t blog or review anymore).


  3. Wow, that is a sad story. Doesn’t sound funny at all and I wish there was a different ending too. Oh my, I think I would love working in a library. Kid in the candy store – although I did laugh at your meeting and sinking feeling for requesting an obscure book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is without a doubt the most drama free workplace I’ve ever had. Everyone is so mellow and intellectual, and of course there are books everywhere. The only thing I haven’t been crazy about is that my first book made the rounds when people found out about it. Sort of hard to remake yourself when your old self is in print.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Can I just tell you how wonderfully refreshing I always find your writing? (I don’t know why I posed that as a question as I had no intention of waiting for your permission to ask you that.) I enjoy that you think about why you’re thinking what you’re thinking. Even though in general I’m slowing down on my reading of blogs and such, to you and yours I shall return. (But not in a stalker-y way.)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I had to smile when I read your method of reminding yourself of books you want to read. I do the same thing – only I send myself a text.

    Ok, as a woman who was actually stalked by a crazy stalker who scared the bejeezus out of me when I was younger, Katherine’s behavior is disturbing, to say the least. I would hesitate to leave her a bad review too, Jeff. I don’t think I will read the book. I don’t want to support that kind of behavior in any way.

    As always, I enjoyed reading your take on this topic! Your posts always make me think, and that’s a good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m going to have to read Hale’s essay. You’re write up is the second I’ve read about it recently, the first being Peter Derk’s article on Lit Reactor: https://litreactor.com/news/author-confronts-one-star-reviewer-confirms-that-this-is-a-terrible-idea.

    The essay is intriguing to me because of the ambiguity it illicits. Because I haven’t read it, only read about what others thought about it, I don’t know what I can say other than I should probably read it so I CAN talk about it.

    Or not. Don’t want to raise the ire of the cancel culture.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m becoming a bit of an expert on Kathleen Hale. As I wrote my piece, I went down some rabbit holes of information and I’ve been in a few since. She’s probably getting more of my attention than she deserves (when is my behavior called stalking?). It’s a scary story, but to me also intriguing. As I wrote in my post. it coulda been me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There may be a “legal” definition/distinction, but I would think it becomes stalking when your intent changes. If you’re getting information to learn more because it’s an intriguing story, it’s just curiosity. If you’re getting info to dox her, or show up at her house, or interfere with her life, it’s stalking.

        Or, I could be totally wrong. I’m probably the wrongest person to be saying, as us Aspies are not known to be the best in social communication and interactions. Ha.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well, I don’t even think if you emailed her it would necessarily be stalking. As a writer we put ourselves out there and should expect some conversation from what we write, even if it is a book.

          Again, I think it’s an intent thing, and that intent is a spectrum. But that slope is a slippery one.

          Liked by 1 person

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