Author Confronts One-Star Reviewer, Confirms That This Is A Terrible Idea

Author Confronts One-Star Reviewer

In a bizarre, spiraling series of events, author Kathleen Hale accused a reviewer of catfishing her, then proceeded to stalk said reviewer. 

It gets weird.

Attention came to Hale when she posted this article on The Guardian website, speaking about how she confronted a 1-star reviewer. In her version of the story, a woman gave her novel a 1-star review on Goodreads. Hale was told multiple, multiple times not to respond, to avoid the reviews. It turns out there's even a pop-up warning in the Goodreads author interface that cautions authors against replying to bad reviews.

Hale read the negative review anyway. The review made claims that Hale's book mocked PTSD, domestic abuse, and rape.

From Hale's perspective, these accusations were untrue, and she decided to look into this reviewer. Which appeared, at first, to be an unusual, but brave, thing to do. Hale made some reasonable points about the fact that any author response to criticism is made impossible because it's seen as abusive. She also said that mean-spirited reviews are allowed as fair game so long as they focus on the book and not the author, which is true of Goodreads' review policies.

Hale then goes on to describe how she discovered that the negative reviewer (Blythe) was not who she claimed. Which is indeed odd. However, things begin to take a turn when Hale details the extent of her research with casual detail:

The exterior of the house that showed up on Google maps looked thousands of square feet too small for the interiors Blythe had posted on Instagram. According to the telephone directory and recent census reports, nobody named Blythe Harris lived there. The address belonged to someone I’ll call Judy Donofrio who, according to an internet background check ($19), was 46 – not 27, as Blythe was – and worked as vice-president of a company that authorises disability claims.

Hale eventually visits the reviewer's home. She writes that she considers the act a personal rock bottom, however in her next paragraph she goes on to explain how she continued to follow the reviewer online and eventually called her at work, saying she was fact-checking a story and asking the reviewer multiple questions in an attempt to get the reviewer to confess to book blogging under a different persona.

Looking at the facts in the reviewer's corner, it would seem that others agree with the reviewer's negative opinion of Hale's book. In addition, Jezebel linked to an older piece written by Hale that details another very unflattering, stalker-esque escapade.

What started out as a pro-author, take-back-the-power kind of thing turned into a mess where there's no one to root for. The reviewer definitely made some mistakes, and Hale was in a sympathetic, difficult position. However, when one weighs the reality of leaving a potentially-inaccurate, 1-star review versus knocking on someone's door, well, it's hard to pick a valiant hero.

It would seem, for now, that what everyone says is true. Ignore those reviews. Don't even read them.

Or perhaps it's time for authors to push back. 


Oh, and...please respond below. Don't come to my house.

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ravenkult's picture
ravenkult from Sweden is reading The Keeper October 21, 2014 - 2:13pm

She should write better books.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK October 21, 2014 - 3:03pm

I read this a few days ago on the Guardian, and she did come across as self-depreciating and aware of her increasingly unhinged behaviour.

That being said, isn't this just recycling someone else's news, then asking for comments? Is that not the same as Buzzfeed, or other such derivative click-bait? I much prefer columns like the one here, or writing essays, but that's just my opinion.

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman October 21, 2014 - 6:46pm

Well, as writer of both this news piece and the article linked (thank you for the kind words, by the way) I suppose I can respond to that. Although if you are looking to be stalked, just ask!

The difference between LitReactor and Buzzfeed, in terms of reader comments, it's because I do actually wonder what people think, especially the people who come here.

I agree that she was somewhat self-deprecating in her piece, although she was being self-depricating about the fact that she was behaving in a pretty heinous fashion, as an adult. She said it was a rock bottom to visit the woman's house, but then went ahead and continued to follow her online and call her at work.

I probably should have asked the question better. Really, to me, the interesting part of the story isn't who was right and wrong, but where the rights of an author end and the rights of a critic begin.

Also, this is terribly paranoid, but anyone think there's a possibility that the author is playing up this story, stalking this person and writing about it, to create more buzz for her book? It seems like a bridge too far to me personally, but possible?

@ravenkult: I did look up the book on Goodreads, and I have to say a lot of the pre-October reviews weren't super hot on the book either. 

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated October 21, 2014 - 10:46pm

Also, this is terribly paranoid, but anyone think there's a possibility that the author is playing up this story, stalking this person and writing about it, to create more buzz for her book? It seems like a bridge too far to me personally, but possible?

If that wasn't what she was doing, it is what someone will do now that you thought of it.

edsikov's picture
edsikov from New York by way of Natrona Hts PA is reading absolutely nothing October 22, 2014 - 11:22am

I follow my agent's advice:

"No good review is ever good enough, and every bad review is devastating. Don't read any of them."


Tess Sharpe's picture
Tess Sharpe October 23, 2014 - 12:28pm

The thing is, the reviewer didn't make mistakes and Hale is not sympathetic. The reviewer wrote a negative review and Hale didn't like it and spent months repeatedly trying to engage the reviewer and stalking her.

You're taking Hale's word that the blogger did all the things that Hale claims she did, when it's been proven that her side is very skewed. First of all, her twitter battle was not with the reviewer in question, but with another reviewer who had given her a 3 star review and Hale engaged her. It's already been called into question over how she actually got the blogger's address (she says she got it through a book club because she was offering books for a giveaway. The BOOK BLOG (not club) in question has posted a statement saying that not only did Hale request this blogger, but she requested her address because she claimed that she was going to send the blogger a gift (the gift of stalking, I guess).  

Considering that she is an admitted (and repeated) stalker who enjoys writing about her stalking, taking her word as gold is pretty difficult, IMO. If you look at the reviewer's status updates of the book (she has removed her review and I don't blame her, considering Hale is riding on a glory wave about stalking this woman on an international platform) she actually started out really ENJOYING the book, but didn't connect with the "humor" about PTSD and objected to the fact that there was statutory rape in the book. We all have our hot-button issues in fiction that make us go "DO NOT WANT" and we are entitled to those feelings and our own history that often influences those objections. I write controversial subjects for teens as well, it comes with the territory that you're going to piss off people. Probably more so than if you were writing a sweet romance that appeals more widely. 

As a debut YA author, we are all told by a majority of people involved in our careeers and by our more experiened peers to never engage with reviewers. As a YA Author with OCD, I understand the compulsion to obsess over reviews. That's why, if you're prone to those kind of thoughts/feelings, you need to be aware and take the steps to avoid the reviews. With blocking software, this is remarkably easy. While you can't avoid occasionally coming across talk about your work online, you can block out most of it, if you choose. It makes for a happier, healthier life where you can focus on your next book without obsessing over people's opinions about your last one. 

Hale chose to not only victimize and stalk a woman over her opinion, but she obtained her address through a huge breach of trust, and then proceeded to glorify this stalking on an international platform, changing everyone's name but the bloggers, further re-victimizing the blogger. She also cited a known hate group that doxx's women as her "proof" that the Blogger was bad. 

As someone who has survived a stalker myself, I do not find Hale sympathetic. She is not relatable. She is frightening. She gleefully exposed and humiliated another human being for...what exactly? To show how cute and funny and charming and "crazy" she is? To get some extra promo for a book that might not be selling well? To get her name out there? She shows absolutely no remorse for what she's done, she is in fact, revelling in the controversy and toxicity she's inflicted onto the book blogging community. 

Hale writes for teenagers. She is put into a position of power over them, because many readerly teens look up to their favorite YA authors like they're rockstars. That means part of her job is to interact with teenagers. If she has such poor self-control over herself that she rents a car months in advance in preparation to stalk a negative reviewer, ignores it when her friends repeatedly tell her not to engage or stalk, and continues to stalk the person after hitting "a personal rock bottom" by showing up at her house, then how in the world do we expect her not to do this again to a teen blogger who accidentally pisses her off? What if the blogger in question had been a teen blogger lying about their age? What was Hale going to do, if someone had opened that door that day? Pour another bottle of peroxide on a person's head? 

Tess Sharpe's picture
Tess Sharpe October 23, 2014 - 1:39pm

More proof that Hale's account is not accurate at all:

At the time she tweeted, asking for ideas for her next book, and the blogger responded, the blogger had not even posted her review yet. And the only comments about the book she had made were largely positive. The only one that was even remotely negative was remarking on the multiple animal deaths in the book (and it was phrased tactfully).

There was no way that Hale could have found the blogger's negative review after the blogger responded to her tweet, like Hale claims. The review (or any negative comments) DID NOT EXIST yet. 

Alex Hurst's picture
Alex Hurst October 24, 2014 - 8:33am

I wish I could respond directly to people's comments here, but yes, TS has it right. If you want the whole story chronologically, I did write a post about it (including screenshots):

In short, however: Reviews are not for the author, they're for readers. Offensive language does not constitute bullying, or libel. Harris was unfortunately targeted by Hale, and Hale sought only to confirm her own theories. She refused to look at, or bent, the truth, in order to serve her purpose.