Editorial: The Robin Lee Hatcher FiascoDabney Grinnan2017-06-23T08:29:24-04:00
The Robin Lee Hatcher Fiasco
April 21, 2002
On April 11th, I received an email from an extremely popular romance novelist providing a link to an interview in The Idaho Statesman with Robin Lee Hatcher. Following the link, the author wrote, “I think it is sad that a former president of RWA has to bash a genre that provided her an income for so many years.” My curiosity piqued, I took the link, read the article, then visited Hatcher’s web site to verify some of what was said in the article. My own response to the Hatcher interview was negative, but not as visceral as that of the unnamed author who alerted me to the piece.
Thus I began a thread on our Reader to Reader Message Board entitled “An article about Robin Lee Hatcher that may surprise you.” Although at times I act in a straight “reporter” capacity at AAR, this was an instance in which I was not; I acted as a commentator with an opinion (as I often do) and so made the following post from my perspective as a romance reader:
“An author just sent me a link to an article in The Idaho Statesman about Robin Lee Hatcher. In it she talks about her move from writing romance to writing inspirational women’s fiction. She also basically disowns her romances; the article says she lists her romance books on her Web site under the caveat that she does not recommend them. The author who sent me the link mentioned that she thought it was sad that a former RWA President would denigrate the genre in this manner.”
I’d like to share with you how this initial post unfolded into roughly 200 messages. Over the course of a few days readers and authors (and an agent or two) squared off on different sides. Nora Roberts, in the first of three different posts, shared that she was offended by Ms Hatcher’s comments. When one of the posters asked if another author might respond, I took the article to RWA and asked for their “official” response. After Ms Hatcher posted a point-by-point refutation of the article on our message board, I went to the Life editor of the Idaho Statesman for the paper’s “official” response. After all, if Hatcher was indeed misquoted and/or had her comments taken out of context, shouldn’t the paper print a retraction? (The editor’s response btw, can be found at near the bottom of the page.)
The article states: “Hatcher said women can develop addictions to sexual fantasies in romance fiction, and that writing them seemed to her almost like serving a drink to an alcoholic.”
I remember the discourse from which the above was taken. I was relaying the comments of some of my readers, women who had reported to me that this was *their* experience. At the time I spoke strongly on behalf of the romance genre, stating my belief that it is often unfairly criticized. I stated that romance fiction, as a genre, is about women winning and about men and women forming committed relationships. Unfortunately, by virtue of what was omitted, probably due to article length restrictions, it seemed I was criticizing the romance genre as a whole rather than supporting it.
The article stated: “Still, she lists her romance books on her Web site under the caveat that she does not recommend them.”
What my web site says is: “My career as a novelist (and my life) took a sudden turn the day I recognized God’s call on my heart to write for Him. The stories I’ve written since and the ones I’ll write in the future are decidedly different from those I wrote prior to that significant moment. Many of my earlier novels contain elements that are contrary to what I hope to share with readers today. Therefore, the following list (in order of release dates) is provided simply as a record of publication and not as any sort of recommendation.”
Nowhere on my site do I criticize the romance genre. My lack of recommendation for my older titles is because I have something different to say to readers now from what I said to them five or ten years ago. It has nothing to do with my older titles being romances. Some of my new novels are romances as well (including the one I am currently writing), just with a different focus, and my Web site clearly displays my affiliation with Romance Writers of America as well as my romance writing awards.
The author started off the article by saying that I “kept a secret.” In actuality, my discomfort with writing love scenes in my books was never a secret. My friends knew it. My editors knew it. My agent knew it. I did feel pressure to include scenes I wasn’t comfortable with, so I did, indeed, compromise my own values. For those choices I made, I take full responsibility.
Again, I do appreciate the feature article and the work of the author, but I hope that these corrections can be made to the record.
Author Lori Foster found my taking this to the newspaper beyond the pale, posting I was unprofessional and that she was “sickened” and “stunned” by this action, as though people ought not ever believe what they read in a legitimate, non-tabloid newspaper. She was apparently so sickened by my “desperate bid for more dirt” that she sent out a call-to-arms of sorts to her online mailing list, asking that anyone who reads her letter should “share it with your groups.” Indeed, we’ve since seen it on at least one other web site and didn’t have to look very hard to find it.
Things degenerated further when an author friend of Ms Hatcher’s – Rosalyn Alsobrook – posted that she found it impossible to believe that Nora Roberts was indeed the author of her posts. Two of those posts were sent to me in email form, with Roberts asking that I post them on her behalf as she was traveling at the time and a third post was made directly by her. Given that AAR guards against fraudulent posts very strongly and that it was I who transferred Roberts’ email into message board posts, I called Ms Alsobrook on her statement that she “choose to believe someone else wrote that letter.” She maintains after several posts back and forth that she is not calling me a liar, even though two of the Roberts’ posts appear with my name attached.
Before continuing, I’ll mention parenthetically that Robin Lee Hatcher has been reviewed five times at AAR – twice before she switched to inspirational fiction. One of those pre-switch romances had a sensuality rating of “kisses only;” the other had a “subtle” sensuality rating and was granted Desert Isle Keeper status at AAR. The three books we’ve reviewed since her switch have all received grades in the B range. Lori Foster wrote three Desert Isle Keepers for AAR some years ago. The grades she has received at AAR for her series titles include one DIK, four B’s, and two C’s. For her anthology contributions her grades range from A to C-.
From my perspective, I’ve done what I’ve always done at AAR – brought information to readers that they might have an interest in. Although I did mention that I have a hard time believing any author who has been interviewed many times in her capacity as an RWA president wouldn’t be extremely careful in any interview situation, I do not believe I did anything in bringing this article to our readership to humiliate Robin Lee Hatcher or to damage her reputation. As for for mud-slinging, dirt-digging, or – and this is my favorite one – dishing the dirt to gain more hits so I can hit up our advertisers for more revenue, I say I could earn more money serving hamburgers and french fries at the local McDonalds than I ever have in the running of this site.
What follows are a sampling of the posts made to our Reader to Reader Message board, after which are statements from RWA and The Idaho Statesman, followed by my closing thoughts. I’ve attempted to organize the message board posts into readable chunks and did not include posts wherein a poster is essentially agreeing with another. Of the 200 posts made, just about one-quarter are included.
(Please do not attempt to respond to any of the posts as they are not set up for anything but viewing.)
I think it’s sad (and perhaps dishonest). After all, it was her experience and her exposure as a romance novelist that allowed her to switch genres and keep writing. One statement in the article really upset me. “Hatcher said women can develop addictions to the sexual fantasies in romance fiction, and that writing them seemed to her almost like serving a drink to an alcoholic.” I am afraid my first reaction to this statement is ‘Long live sexual fantasies’! My next thought is what an awful comparison it is. My friend’s father was an alcoholic and she used to read romances to escape from his abusive reality. This sounds like a continuation of the “women who like sex are sluts” age old theme? I must strongly disagree.
I was a little surprised to RLH’s reference to ‘addiction to the sexual fantasies’ in romance books. I am considered to be quite intelligent and try to live my life according to biblical principles, AND I read romance novels. I think what really bothers me is the fact that RLH has generalized the whole of the romance genre and those who read romance. Some may ask me, because I’m a christian, why I don’t read inspirational romantic fiction. I can honestly say that with the exception of Dee Henderson, I have been unable to find authors in the inspirational market who can write ‘reality based’ inspirational romances. Some of the hokey phrases and Pollyanna prose in the inspirational novels I have tried had me rolling my eyes and laughing with disbelief. People don’t behave or talk that way in real life. So for RLH to basically denigrate and disown the genre where she gained her reputation, and for her to ‘worry’ about the poor, misguided, brainless women who might be ‘led astray’ (my words) by blurring fantasy with realistic expectations in life, is an affront to my intelligence first of all, and in my opinion, gives christianity a bad name. There. I have said it. I feel better now. Just my opinion for what it’s worth.
I took this article so different than the rest of you. I don’t believe she was a hypocrite for writing books for years with which she wasn’t comfortable and then, after a life changing event, determined to write in a different genre – something that was more in concert with her own faith and values. It would be no different than a recovering alcoholic who admitted that s/he knew for years that she was addicted, but it wasn’t until x happened, that she made a real change in her life. It would be hypocritical for her to be spouting these credos now and still writing sex scenes in her books. I don’t agree with what she says about women becoming “addicted to sexual fantasies,” nor do I believe that romance books need to have sex in them in order to be popular or well written. But, I believe that if what she is doing now is the path of her heart, more power to her.
She’s ashamed of her romances, but she doesn’t want her “romance fans seeing this and shooting” her? Us romance readers are such a violent and scary bunch. She should be ashamed, not of her romances but of not having the integrity to stand up for her beliefs. There are tons of romances that have Christianity in them (I should know being an atheist and trying to avoid them) and the only ones I can recall that even touch on a different religion are JAK’s which have a slight Buddhist element. Even the ones that deal with Native Americans try to imply that they actually believe in God.
There are also tons of romances that can be categorized as “kisses” and “one foot one the floor”. Being one of those addicted “to the sexual fantasies in romance fiction” I also try to avoid those. I think her real problem was not that editors forced her to put sex in and take religion out, but that she knew they didn’t sell as well if they didn’t have sex in them and instead of sticking by her beliefs, she compromised them to sell more books.
Why do you insist on stirring up crap? Leave her alone. She ain’t the only one in this great big world to stick her foot in her mouth. Go read your books and enjoy them. I certaintly don’t feel betrayed.
Why should this article be brought up? Because Ms Hatcher is a past president of RWA, a position she actively sought. A position she continues to use in all of her press, that gives her words a bit more weight than the normal romance author. That is a betrayal of the genre.
None of Your Business
LLB, you’re quite the little busybody, aren’t you? Alerting everyone to an article that has twisted an author’s words beyond recognition, running to RWA to tell tales, etc.
I’ve been friends with Robin for many years. She always has been and always will be extremely supportive of the romance genre. Her books are still romances, contrary to the opinion of a few of you on this board. She is one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. I’ve read The Idaho Statesman for most of my life. If there’s a way they can twist a story to fit their own opinion, they’ll do it. Sounds like you’re the same way, LLB. Apparently you’ve got some misguided personal bias against Robin.
Robin, and many other authors who are misquoted by the media, do these interviews with a view toward helping the romance industry. They want to give romance more publicity. They want to fix the poor image it has in many circles. Unfortunately, the interviewer/journalist most often changes the author’s words to fit their own misconceptions and bias. They write the article they want, and only interview an author to give their own opinions credibility.
Shame on you all for being so mean and petty and hurtful. Get a life! The romance industry doesn’t need or want people like you to read or write for it. You obviously don’t have a clue what it’s all about. Romances are about lifting people up, not tearing them down as you have done on this board.
p.s. I remain anonymous not because I won’t stand behind my words, but because you people are obviously not worth it. I can’t believe I wasted so much time composing this post to people who are too small-minded for it to make any difference. I only hope this pricks your near-non-existent consciences a bit.
From what I read, it sounded to me that Robin was unhappy that the spiritual element of her storytelling was not welcomed by her publisher, and that she was always uncomfortable writing sex scenes. What I didn’t understand about that, is that she NEVER had to include sex scenes in her writing and the spiritual element was always available to her. There is a sub-genre for “sweet” romance as well as inspirational romance that she could have chosen to write for, and I’d be curious to know why she didn’t. The cynic in me says it’s because mainstream romance is more financially lucrative, but maybe there was another reason. But what I really don’t get is a writer writing what they don’t want to write and blaming it on the publisher.
I’ll certainly be waiting for the retraction in the paper that Robin didn’t say some readers were addicted to the sex scenes. That was a major insult to readers. I agree that a newspaper can twist the meaning of a comment, BUT the past president of RWA should know better than to make ANY comment that could be spun that way. As for her moving to another genre, I have no problem with that, just the condesending behavior toward the genre that provided her with a livelihood for so many years.
I really dislike her assumption that romance readers are “addicted to sexual fantasy.” Where does she get that idea? Sure many readers love the genre . . . but “addicted?” And since when is romance *as a whole* classified as “sexual fantasy?” Ms. Hatcher, I beg to differ. Most of the readers I come into contact with are well able to differentiate between reality and fantasy and are not “addicted” to anything more dangerous than chocolate. Women today lead very stressful lives. They go to work, raise their families, deal with the daily drudgeries of life and, if they’re lucky, find a great book that will make them smile, grin, get a little teary-eyed, and warm their imaginations and lift their spirits. What on earth could be wrong with that?
I haven’t read Ms. Hatcher’s books, but I read a LOT of romances. I love the RELATIONSHIP. That’s the part of the book that lures me. And yes, sex is part of a relationship (or so I hope!) and thank goodness for that! Most romances that I’ve read I wouldn’t even categorize as “sexual fantasy.” Especially not when there are 389 pages of a book and less than 10 pages comprise the sex scenes — how could ANYONE consider that “sexual fantasy?” Certainly sex is a part of the book, but not even a main element when you look at the pages devoted to it.
But I digress . . . my real concern is with the belief that there is something wrong with women who read books that contain sex scenes while general fiction has as much or more than many romance novels but no one says a word. That seems grossly unfair and a slap to the face of all romance readers. Sheesh! You all have gotten my dander up and let me tell you — here in Tennessee, we don’t like having our dander up. It disturbs our lovely, poofy Baptist hairstyles.
I found Robin’s comments offensive and disturbing and disappointing on every level–as a reader, a writer, a woman, an RWA member. For a former president of RWA, and a writer who built her foundation in Romance to distill the genre down to sexual fantansies, and to compare readers to addicts is appalling to me. To compare writing love scenes with giving a drink to an alcoholic is beyond insulting. Alcoholism is a disease. With the illiteracy rate in this country, every book picked up and read for pleasure should be a celebration. On tour I often, still, have to deal with some media people who like to skewer the genre, or the (mostly) women who read it. I’ve just spend two weeks standing for Romance–I’m not looking for a medal, even a pat on the back. I’m not saying anything I don’t believe strongly. But I wasn’t looking for a knife in the back either, from a fellow writer.
Romance isn’t all about sex. It’s all about relationships, and sex is a healthy part of a healthy, adult relationship. And we readers are not morons. We know the difference between fiction and reality. The books are our entertainment, our relaxation, our pleasure, and we’re entitled. We are hardly sheep, as can be witnessed pretty much daily on sites like this one. We don’t agree on what we like, what we dislike, what we want, what we don’t want in the books or the genre. But, for the most part, we agree we enjoy reading Romance.
It would have been smarter, and certainly more gracious, for Robin to have said she’d decided to persue another avenue of fiction because of her personal beliefs and creative needs. Period. Why smear the genre to make whatever point she sought to make? I have no doubt she’ll regret the remarks, and kick herself for not being more careful in her answers and statements. Interviews are tough. I’d give her the benefit of the doubt on this one if she hadn’t been so clear in her opinion, and so detailed.
I’ve got another interview myself this afternoon, and more in the coming week. I really hope none of the reporters reads Robin’s article and uses her comments in the mix.
Nora said you weren’t sheep, but I see people jumping in to echo her sentiments. Dare I disagree with Nora Roberts? Yes, I do think I dare! I am not a sheep.
“With the illiteracy rate in this country, every book picked up and read for pleasure should be a celebration.”
Are you sure you mean EVERY book? Please think about this for a moment and how it sounds. Should we start handing out racist or hate books simply because *any* book is somehow helping illiteracy? I’m not talking about romance books. You said EVERY book. I want to know if you truly mean that.
Also, women do get addicted to porn, to reading romance, and to a host of other things. Just because it may be rare doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t make romance BAD, it makes the addiction bad. Please understand that the romance doesn’t cause the addiction, and that we do need to be sensitive to others who may suffer with an addiction to something in their lives.
I have to ask who the mysterious LLB is who posted this article in the first place. Why too afraid to admit who you are?
“I’d give her the benefit of the doubt on this one if she hadn’t been so clear in her opinion, and so detailed.” And you’re sure that detail is hers, are you? As a writer of SO MANY books and one who’s been interview many times yourself, you should know not to make a statement such as this. I bet YOU are the one who will be kicking herself!:)
I hear lots of GREAT things about you, btw. Should I believe them or let your words here represent who you are? Maybe I will give you “the benefit of the doubt.” I don’t even have proof that Nora Roberts wrote this! In fact I don’t believe she did at all. I think she’s far more intelligent than what this post represented.
Nora is precisely correct here. One of the things Robin’s interview mentions is that she “has 5 million books in print and 40 titles to her name.” I’d make a large wager that most of those millions of copies and 40 titles are romance novels. Writing romance is how she achieved enough financial success and name recognition to make the switch to another genre. Kicking the romance industry in the face serves no purpose, and gee, look how many angry people we have here. She certainly didn’t look unhappy (or ashamed) the night she won the Rita in Chicago–I was in the same elevator with her and she seemed proud enough of her accomplishments then. I’m sorry that Robin couldn’t move forward to a new phase of her career without burning the bridge to her old one.
I will admit to knowing people who are addicted to romance novels for the sexual fantasy aspect of the books; and they do try to avoid them at all costs for their own very personal reasons. At one time I was addicted to a series of four books that had me so caught up in the story I neglected my duties for a week and a half; and yes I felt guilty about it. Whether it be work, food, the internet, television, etc.; too much of anything (especially stuff that’s not good for you) is a bad thing. I wouldn’t take what this author had to say so personally. She is just someone that did something in her life she regrets and she would like to undo it. Whether it be for religious, moral or personal reasons; she has that right.
What the article says is this: *Hatcher said women can develop addictions to the sexual fantasies in romance fiction*(this is not in quotes by the way) . This is a TRUE statement and it doesn’t read – Hatcher said all women who read romance fiction become addicted to the sexual fantasies.
Excuse me, but I would really like for either the above poster or the author interviewed in the article to give FACTUAL evidence of this TRUE statement. Please provide links or publications where romance novels have been studied and linked to sexual addiction. Or where women have been studied and found to be addicted to sexual fantasies because of their reading material. I have never heard so much hooey in my life. And I am not the only author who is aghast that there was NO evidence, no footnotes, no studies quoted to back up this bull.
Robin Lee Hatcher
Well, it appears that a real storm is brewing. I wish I had been notified before today, but it never occurred to me that a small article from a small Idaho newspaper would create such a brou-ha-ha. I have not taken the time to read the posts contained herein. I was already told that I was being tarred and feathered. Thank you to the few people who posted words in my defense, knowing that I have always been a strong supporter of the romance genre and remain so.
Prior to the publication of the article, I told my local RWA chapter that I was very worried. The interviewer didn’t understand romance or the Christian book market, and some of his questions made me nervous because I know how easily an interview can be manipulated. I have no idea why he contacted me to do the interview. It wasn’t arranged either by me or my publisher. The interview lasted two hours and was then boiled down to what you read. Many of the statements were taken completely out of context.
Paragraph #1: “And through it all, she kept a secret.” That wasn’t true. It was never a secret that I didn’t enjoy writing or reading sex scenes. My friends knew it. My editors knew it. My agent knew it. I never told anyone else they shouldn’t write them nor did I tell readers they shouldn’t read them. Just for me, they are not why I read/write romance.
Paragraph #1-3: These three paragraphs make it sound like this was a huge deal in my writing career and the main reason I moved to CBA fiction. It wasn’t. In fact, it had *nothing* to do with the change in career direction.
Paragraph #8: “…she compromised her values in writing sex scenes…” This is an accurate statement, but again was not said in a way to denigrate romance. It is simply a fact, that for me, I knew what I set out to do and I didn’t stick with it.
Paragraph #12: “Hatcher said women can develop addictions to the sexual fantasies…” Oh boy, was this taken out of context. I defended the genre, saying it was not porn for women as was suggested, that the romance genre is about women winning, about one man and one woman being able to form a lasting, committed relationship. When asked if I considered myself a “reformed romance writer,” I laughed and said, “No, I have tremendous respect for the romance genre.”
Paragraph #12: “…like serving a drink to an alcoholic…” The comment has come to me from readers who have told me they ceased to do anything else, ceased having a life, because of their “addiction to reading” romance novels. Taken out of context, it doesn’t sound the same as what I was saying to the reporter at all. I did NOT say that all romance readers are addicted, to sexual fantasies or otherwise, but that is definitely what the article got boiled down to.
Paragraph #15: “…she lists her romance books on her Web site under the caveat that she does not recommend them.” That isn’t quite accurate. My web site highlights the books that I’m writing now. For my older titles, I have the following: “My career as a novelist (and my life) took a sudden turn the day I recognized God’s call on my heart to write for Him. The stories I’ve written since and the ones I’ll write in the future are decidedly different from those I wrote prior to that significant moment. Many of my earlier novels contain elements that are contrary to what I hope to share with readers today. Therefore, the following list (in order of release dates) is provided simply as a record of publication and not as any sort of recommendation.” I don’t believe this statement denigrates romance; not mine or anyone elses. It simply says, “Here, I want you to read what I’m doing now instead of what I used to do.”
So, for what it’s worth, those are my comments. For those who have decided to be angry and assume that what the article said is what I really said/believe/feel, then there is little I can say or do to change your minds. For those who actually know me, who know how I have unfailingly supported both RWA and the romance genre, perhaps it will clarify things a bit for you.
I think before we flame Robin, we should remember that interviews are not perfect things, and we are often misquoted, often with the best of intentions. And while I may not agree with her comments, I would like to point out that she’s a good writer, with a good heart, who has done a great many good things for the romance genre, including the entire fundraising effort on behalf of literacy (which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years). If she is now uncomfortable with writing steamy sex in the past, she might have phrased it more delicately, but I don’t want to see her lynched because of this. I know her personally, and she truly is one of the most loving, generous human beings on the planet. I am absolutely sure she meant no harm with her comments.
I want to second Barbara’s thoughtful words. Robin has proven her respect for the genre through years of dedicated service. I know her well and have *never* heard her speak dispargingly of romance, the readers, or her fellow authors. Her comments were taken out of context, many of them given a completely different meaning. Unfortunately, too many of us have had the bitter experience of having our words twisted by reporters in search of an “angle.” And of course, the reporters win every time because there is little we can say in our defense. Out of respect for the service Robin has given to RWA and to literacy over the years and for her courage in standing up for writers’ rights when others wanted to pretend nothing was wrong, I believe we should give her the benefit of a doubt. She is a person I truly admire. And I hate the idea that a reporter’s misquotes could ruin her reputation.
I too hate the idea that anyone’s words would be taken out of context. I’d like to add, though, that I’ve been interviewed by non-romance journalists a couple of times and am always extremely careful of every word I say because I assume those outside the genre will look for any way to disparage it. My assumption from all the authors I’ve interviewed over the years is that even though they know I’m in the genre, they too are careful. My further assumption is that they are even more careful with outside journalists for the same reason I mentioned. Finally, any author who was an RWA past president is interviewed many, many times during her presidency by outside journalists. No conclusions, just further ruminations.
I think you mean RUINations, don’t you? Someone mentioned to me that there was an issue here and I came to visit. Before I read Robin’s response I was shocked Laurie, that you would post the initial message as you did without even contacting Robin. How unprofessional. And further disappointed that so many authors and fellow readers are willing to accept at face value what one source (and a romance-clueless one, at that) has to say. The romance genre gets enough grief from people outside of it. I would think that those of us within it would be willing to do a little more research and checking before hanging someone who has contributed so much to it.
Exactly, except flip it around. The genre gets grief, so I would think a professional and former president of the RWA would know how to handle interviews more ablely and cautiously, and be more savy or careful with her media public relations. It was her publicity event, not just something she did for the good of all of romance. This is *her job*. It’s not ours. There’s this ‘you all need to take things with a grain of salt’ type of attitude that is annoying. The onus is not on the readership of any published article to ‘dig deeper’ or ‘do research’ or anything else to make sure the professional giving the interview is seen in the right light. That’s her business to make sure it is done right the first time. The onus is on her; if she was uncomfortable beforehand or duing the several hours of the interview, she should have taken steps, as someone mentioned. If she’s been this seriously misquoted, then she can demand a retraction. Personally, I find enough of what she said in the interview off-putting that, whatever the context in which it was said, it’s hard to dismiss that much on misquoting/context problems.
While I’m on the subject of professionalism, I’d like to point out LLB’s only professional duty was to her readership here. Posting a publicly printed article from a high-level author in the field, on the subject of romance, is *exactly* her business. But as far as contacting the author beforehand–why should she? One has to assume if the author did the interview, she meant it for public consumption. By saying she should have contacted the author, you seem to be implictly acknowledging there was a problem with what the author said. But it wasn’t LLB’s responsiblity, just as it’s not the article’s readership’s responsiblity, to bend over backwards trying to work out what she might’ve meant.
I think people are missing what some people have such a problem with. Overall, it comes across as someone who spoke against the genre, or elements of it, because it was now expedient to do so. That might not be exactly what she meant, but that’s what it seems and feels like–a slap in the face to a genre that she’s earned a livelihood working in, and to readers who care about the genre. I would’ve expected better from a past president.
LLB, I think you make a very good point. As someone who has spent years dealing with the media on the most adversarial basis (I started out in political PR), you learn early to watch every single word that comes out of your mouth. You also learn to never ever go off the record. If you don’t say it, they can’t quote you. With that said, I do not know any savvy professionals who don’t tape record their interviews. I always put my handy dandy panasonic mini right there on the table next to the reporter’s. That way, if there are any disputes over content, context, wording, etc., I have my proof and — in a few instances — my retraction. It seems to me that if the reporter was as clueless about the romance genre as Ms. Hatcher indicates, then she would have been doubly wary of everything she told him.
It is not up to me, or anyone, to judge and decide anyone else’s reading choices. And yes, that means reading anything, even if I personally loathe the choice. Robin may very well have been misquoted in the article. It happens. If, however, those sentiments, those details were not hers, it seems reasonable and necessary for her to demand a retraction. If the reporter wrote statements Robin didn’t make, he was beyond unprofessional. I couldn’t begin to count the number of interviews I’ve given over the last 20-odd years. Have I been misquoted or had statements taken out of context? Oh, you bet. But to this extent? Nope. Not ever.
I just lost a large measure of respect for Nora Roberts if she did indeed write the letter. I just hope this letter was a hoax and not something she really wrote for I’d hate to think ill of someone I’ve respected until now. IF IT IS TRULY HER LETTER, it just proves she’s moved herself to a different plane than the rest of us (romance writers) and no longer “knows” who her fellow writers are inside. Anyone who knows Robin personally knew from the moment she read that ridiculous article that it was a hatchet job done by a reporter who’d already set the angle of his story before he ever bothered to interview Robin.
As I’ve said elsewhere, we’ve almost all have had that done to us. I’ve never in my life been a “bored little housewife” nor have I ever stated I was, but that was the whole spin of a story done about me (at a time I worked full time and was in a lot of civic organizations) by a reporter for a major newspaper. Those who knew me, knew I’d never say I started writing romances because I was a bored little housewife. I started writing romances because of my love of the genre. Those that know Robin as a person knew immediately she’d been duped by a narrow minded reporter with an agenda. It saddens me that Nora Roberts fell such easy prey to this reporter’s scheme–having had a few such hatchet jobs done on her by reporters in the not so distant past. I truly choose to believe that Nora Roberts has not turned her back on the rest of us so readily. I choose to believe someone else wrote that letter.
Not to kick a dead horse, but two of the three posts made by Nora (two which she asked me to post for her, the third she posted herself), were made by me. If that’s a “hoax,” than wouldn’t I be the perpetrator? We take fraudulent posts darn seriously at AAR. Given that I run the place, if someone posted as a “hoax” using my name, do you think I’d keep those hoax posts online?
I’m not sure. Have we met? I’m sorry to say, but there are lots of people out there who put false information on the Internet. I’d have to know you personally to know if you are one of those people or not. I’m not someone who believes everything that she reads (having had plenty of false things written about me). But, I am someone who likes to give the benefit of the doubt, which I can do here. But even so that doesn’t matter much when it comes to how I feel. It still saddens me that Nora was so quick to fall prey to that reporter’s gambit. Sorry, but you just can’t change how I feel.
While I totally defend her right to feel any way she pleases, it deeply saddens me that Robin would feel uncomfortable with the lovely books she wrote prior to entering the Christian market. In some ways, those books may have been just as much an influence for good because the print runs in the secular market are so much higher. Plus you’re not always “preaching to the converted”. I know the Christian music market has to deal with this dilemma, too. If only other Christians are buying and listening to your work, then the people who most need a positive, uplifting message in their lives may be missing out. However you feel about Him personally, Jesus very much got out into the world and walked with all men, not just his followers. But a romance author who makes this switch may also be caught between a rock and the Christian Bookseller Association because unless she makes the distinction on her website that Robin did, some of her new readers may stumble on her old books and be offended by the explicit love scenes, however subtle. Having been misquoted myself a few times in my career, I’m certainly willing to give Robin the benefit of the doubt regarding the interview, but it does make me sad that she’s not proud of her former work and the good it accomplished.
Robin Lee Hatcher
FYI, I have sent the following letter to the features editor of the Idaho Statesman
Dear Ms. Ashwill:
While I appreciate the feature article about me by Mike Butts that appeared in the Statesman on April 11, 2002, I feel I must write to correct a few misunderstandings that appeared in it. In the course of not including some things I said during our interview and taking some things out of context, I’m afraid some wrong impressions have resulted.The article states: “Hatcher said women can develop addictions to sexual fantasies in romance fiction, and that writing them seemed to her almost like serving a drink to an alcoholic.”I remember the discourse from which the above was taken. I was relaying the comments of some of my readers, women who had reported to me that this was *their* experience. At the time I spoke strongly on behalf of the romance genre, stating my belief that it is often unfairly criticized. I stated that romance fiction, as a genre, is about women winning and about men and women forming committed relationships. Unfortunately, by virtue of what was omitted, probably due to article length restrictions, it seemed I was criticizing the romance genre as a whole rather than supporting it.The article stated: “Still, she lists her romance books on her Web site under the caveat that she does not recommend them.”What my web site says is: “My career as a novelist (and my life) took a sudden turn the day I recognized God’s call on my heart to write for Him. The stories I’ve written since and the ones I’ll write in the future are decidedly different from those I wrote prior to that significant moment. Many of my earlier novels contain elements that are contrary to what I hope to share with readers today. Therefore, the following list (in order of release dates) is provided simply as a record of publication and not as any sort of recommendation.”Nowhere on my site do I criticize the romance genre. My lack of recommendation for my older titles is because I have something different to say to readers now from what I said to them five or ten years ago. It has nothing to do with my older titles being romances. Some of my new novels are romances as well (including the one I am currently writing), just with a different focus, and my Web site clearly displays my affiliation with Romance Writers of America as well as my romance writing awards.The author started off the article by saying that I “kept a secret.” In actuality, my discomfort with writing love scenes in my books was never a secret. My friends knew it. My editors knew it. My agent knew it. I did feel pressure to include scenes I wasn’t comfortable with, so I did, indeed, compromise my own values. For those choices I made, I take full responsibility.Again, I do appreciate the feature article and the work of the author, but I hope that these corrections can be made to the record.
These messages were made in a second thread begun by a reader here.
(Please do not attempt to respond to any of the posts as they are not set up for anything but viewing.)
Well now that most of you have disected Robin Hatcher, do you feel so good??? What a bunch of ,well I dont have words for it.. I want to compliment Cathy Maxwell and Lori Foster. I am also going to buy every book they have(I already have Cathy’s. I dont buy Nora any more any way She has grown to big big and I had every book she ever wrote. She jumped in too fast to slam an fellow author So disgusted
I’ve been interviewed many times, and not once has it been entirely presented as I said it. I’ve had my words twisted and taken out of context so many times that I’m very wary of doing interviews now, and I await nervously for each result. I heard from Robin, and indeed, her words had been horribly twisted. She’s hurt by these attacks as anyone would be, especially since what she said, and how it was said in the interview, are two very different things.
She has always been, and continues to be, a champion for romance. And just to be clear, I had never met her and now I’ve only emailed with her twice. I respect her, but she’s not a close friend I feel compelled to defend. She’s a person, and I hate seeing anyone unfairly persecuted. But the thing is, I’m 43. In maturing I learned a few things along the way – like not to jump the gun, not to believe everything I read, not to join in on negativity before I had all the facts… and to give people the benefit of the doubt because most of them are just like me – a nice person who is trying to do the best she can.
I’m so glad I did some further investigating. It was more time consuming than joining the crowd, but the right thing isn’t always the easiest to do. Before Laurie posted that thread, it would have been nice and certainly it would have been professional if she’d touched base with Robin too. ::shrug::: Might not caused so much hoopla though…
I’m sorry, but I disagree. I do not believe it was “unprofessional” to accept at face value an interview presented in a non-tabloid newspaper. Had the article appeared in the National Enquirer, that would have been one thing. But it wasn’t – it was presented in a mainstream newspaper.
I’ve learned there’s a balance between not “jumping the gun” and in having to do someone else’s fact-gathering work for them, especially on the kind of scale you imply–a scale including everything ever printed, therefore a scale I find to be quite impossibly unreasonable, which is partly why there are conventions of journalistic professionalism to begin with. Otherwise who would bother to read anything in the news, if at the end of the day one would have to gather all the information all over again? If your view holds, it would be easier to research everything for myself up front, and bypass the mainly untrustworthy journalistic media altogether. I’ll go over to Afghanistan and fact-gather for myself, shall I? I’ll go run down and personally question Nora Roberts or Linda Howard or John Updike or President Bush. I’m sure they’ll be happy to cooperate with everyone, everywhere, everytime, so we can personally investigate the facts. Excuse the hyperbole, but, really.
I disagree that initially taking the majority of the facts in any given article in print at face value is bad, and thus that not agreeing with an author as quoted is “jumping the gun.” If you’re saying I’m to assume everything I read in print very likely might be wrong, then I feel you’re trying to shift the balance too far to suit your argument. While I do, in fact, keep in mind the limitations and biases in our media when I read, and often try to cross-check news outlets with one another, etc, I still disagree strongly that it’s my responsiblity to do whatever I have to do to auto-correct *up front* for all possible faults of the professionals on both sides. My “grain of salt” I keep in mind–and I did keep one—might extend as far as one or two quotes or statements I found odd in any given article. But at some point, when the mass of it is in a certain direction, I give considered weight to that.
Besides, why should the author be the only recipient of benefit of the doubt? I don’t think it’s a crime to begin by giving reasonable benefit of the doubt to the medium. The base assumption for me concerning newspaper articles in papers having not otherwise proved themselves unreliable (i.e tabloids), is I presume them to be following the tenets of responsible journalism until proven otherwise.
This begs the question: whose job is it to prove irresponsible journalism? If the case here is that the journalist was irresponsible, then I’m very sorry for the author, but I still have to look to the checks and balances in the system. I reject the position that it is the reader who must bear the main burdern for being the primary check. I hold the professionals on both sides to their responsibility. As a pro, did the author bear no responsibilty to do “some further investitating” of the journalist or paper beforehand? Does she not have the freedom to pick and choose which interviews she does, for what papers? If there is a need for investigating, I’d contend the producers–both newspaper/journalist and interviewed author—rather than the consumers bear the main burden for it, and for a faulty product if it’s not done properly. As a consumer, as far as my own *job* goes, I’m fully prepared to read a retraction and to assign to it the same innocent-until-proven guilty assumptions of face value I gave to the original medium and to the original article. If, at the get-go, you tar everything with the brush of ‘each work found in newsprint must automatically be considered suspect in a majority of it’s facts, statements, and quotes’ then you’ve also tarred any printed counter-claims and retractions in those same media.
To play devil’s advocate, if you give people the benefit of the doubt, then why is the journalist exempt from such a benefit when first reading the article? Perhaps a journalist is also a nice person doing the best he or she can, *how should I know?* Which is my point—best of intentions are not the reader’s responsiblity to spend time and resources working out. An interview is a professional function for the journalist AND for the author, one where it shouldn’t be expected that the onus fall on the reader to know enough facts and background *of either professional* in order to discern who should be taken at face value. I can’t know everything about everyone in print, either journalist or subject, and I don’t have the time or the inclination to spend my life doing so. Yes, here some people already happened to know the background of the author. That’s an exception, given the overall readership of a paper. Good for them, but because I or others did not is not a moral failing. Also, I don’t consider everything about background relevant; why should charity endeavors, or how well they might tip a waitress, or how mannerly they are in private or on social occasions automatically mitigate mistakes they might make on the job? I speak here of both journalist and author.
“I’m so glad I did some further investigating. It was more time consuming than joining the crowd, but the right thing isn’t always the easiest to do.”
I find this statement blithe, smug, and morally superior in tone. I joined no crowd, but gave my individual opinion. I was not swayed by other opinions, so I rather resent the patronizing. That others might concurrently give similar opinions does not make mine or another individual’s any less valid pe se. You seem to consider the issue is resolved, and the journalist has been proved wrong in this non-professional venue of the message boards, therefore the crowd (such a nice word choice, with connotations of the mob mentality) is wrong. Since the intital article was in print and covered by journalistic standards, I will wait until the retraction is printed. When one is, I would not hesitate to write the editor expressing my dismay with the errors. Were I a subscriber I’d tell him I’d cancel my subscription if I read any more examples of shoddy journalism, and that I was encouraging other subscribers to do the same. But at some point authors must be seen as grown-up professionals who do assume a certain amount of risk every time they do their chosen jobs when they give interviews. It is not a moral failing if I don’t agree that it’s not my job to protect them from all such risks. Does that mean I wouldn’t have sympathy if such was the case? No, it does not.
Do I think a few here who disagreed with the author *as quoted* in the article did so in a poor way? Yes, but I don’t see how a few make the others automatically suspect, just as I didn’t assume one particularly harsh supporter spoke for everyone else who believed the author was massively misquoted and miscontextualized. Nor do I assume because journalism has people who err that all of journalism is suspect off the bat and therefore it’s only morally right that I have to do all the fact-digging myself. I find your implications offensive and, frankly, rather cliched attempts to discredit those who disagree by lumping everyone under the label “crowd.” I disagree strongly with you that your “further investigating” was a morally correct stand and by implication mine is not. I would note you have offered up no credentials as a journalist, and thus any reporting of facts you gathered from your “investigation” (have you heard the journalist’s side? Have you spoken to the editor? Have you heard any tape recordings of the interview?)–that facts unearthed in your investigation could not be held accoutable under the same standards of journalistic responsiblity I’ll hold the working journalist to.
Further, I don’t much care for your implication of laziness in the words “time-consuming”; as I said, it’s not my job. I’m not being paid to know everything about everyone, and if I were, and even if I felt all elements of background information pertinent, it would still be impossible to do so in any case; the scale of it would be too enormous. One reason is because I wouldn’t feel it moral to limit myself to only investigating the truth in articles about people in fields I liked (e.g. the romance genre); I’d have to investigate the same for for every single article I read on any subject, and I’d feel a responsibility to do it thoroughly. In other words, I’d end up assuming the role of a journalist, though unpaid, untaught, and uncredentialed. How could I trust myself? I didn’t and can’t reasonably be expected to go to journalism school to learn the skills. As an amateur, I would likely make grevious mistakes. It would also take up more time that I would *possibly* be able to commit to–the description “time-consuming” is therefore the grossest of understatements. Which is why there is a whole industry for journalism, and why there are standards for journalism and checks and balances for it to begin with. We subscribe to newspapers because we can’t all be everything. We pay others to be those things, and then hold them accountable.
Carolyn – I’m so sorry the author to whom you responded will probably never read your post. And, if she does, will more than likely come back with one of her famous flippant comments about what you’ve said zooming right over her head. Thank you for so eloquently (and, okay, long-windedly ) taking a stand on journalistic integrity. And thanks to LLB and this site, too, for having the balls it takes to see the story through until the end – instead of falling back on the sort of drive-by posting so many others engage in.
Clearly, nothing she does at this point will make you happy, Carolyn. I agree with you that it isn’t reasonable that we each go out and do extensive research to verify what we’ve read. In general, we all have news and information sources that we trust and accept at face value the information we get from these sources.
How many of us know anything about The Idaho Statesman? And how many of us would ever have heard of this news outlet or seen the article on Robin Lee Hatcher if Laurie hadn’t brought it to our attention? And why did she bring it to our attention? Well, she’s in the romance business. She runs a site that is a clearinghouse for news and information on the romance publishing industry.
On an issue that was sure to be a volatile topic among romance readers, it seems reasonable that a professional site would want to present a balanced view of said topic and would have contacted the author in question before posting the article and accompanying comments. A person who wants to stir things up and generate hits on her site, on the other hand, would not.
The manner in which she initially posted the article, combined with her neglect in contacting Hatcher, makes this site smack of the tabloid journalism she herself has dismissed within this thread. A fine day for the romance industry, indeed.
Laura Lee Guhrke
As someone who worked for The Idaho Statesman for over four years, I would like to respond to the question from this poster about that newspaper. The Idaho Statesman is the largest newspaper in the state of Idaho. It is owned by Gannett Corporation, which also owns USA Today. It has a daily circulation of about 65,000 and a Sunday circulation of about 85,000, with an estimated readership of 2.5 readers per copy. It is not a huge paper, nor a small one, nor is it a tabloid. Just thought I’d let everybody know a little bit about the newspaper here in Boise, Idaho, since I used to work there.
(Please do not attempt to respond to any of the posts as they are not set up for anything but viewing.)
I both spoke with and emailed The Idaho Statesman earlier today. First I spoke with the actual reporter, and then his editor, who is the editor of the Life section in which the article appeared. Here is her response.
“I was not aware of any concerns with the story until contacted by you and I’m looking into it.”
The Idaho Statesman
LLB do you have something evil against RLH?
This site talks about romance novels and the romance genre. This includes the status of the genre as compared to other genres and the issues facing the romance genre. Whenever anyone puts out their thoughts for public consumption, whether by posts on a message board, interviews, essays or novels, then those thoughts and positions are subject to discussion. By RLH participating in an interview for a paper intended for public consumption, the story based on the interview came to be one subject to discussion and what the subject (in this case RLH) and interview is stating about the romance genre.
Truthfully if you had a point to make it was lost in the nastiness of your posts. Lesson one: alienating the person with the opposing view by nastiness will guarantee that such person will ignore any point you are trying to make. Take a page out of RLH’s book. She responded to the posts and criticism about the interview but never once did she denigrate to rudeness or nastiness. Though I may not agree with her views, I will at least read what she wrote due to the fact that she explained her position clearly and concisely without any rudeness or nastiness in her tone.
No ulterior motives here; simply following up. With the exception of one C+, RLH has received nothing but good grades at AAR, including a DIK. The newspaper article reported one thing. The author says something entirely different. So why not go back to the newspaper and ask how come? RLH apparently emailed the newspaper yesterday and I emailed them today. The only difference is that what I emailed them is her original post here refuting, paragraph by paragraph, the article in the newspaper. If she’s correct, than the newspaper should print a retraction. If they stand by their story, than we’ll have presented both sides to the fullest. That’s my job.
I am stunned. And sickened. I posted that I thought it would have been more professional for LLB to have contacted Robin on this prior to posting. Yet LLB thought that wasn’t necessary.
It IS necessary though, to NOW contact the paper? In hopes of… what?
I can only conclude that she hopes for more sensationalism.
This is such a desperate bid for more dirt that my stomach is turned by it all. By all means, let’s don’t contact the one being attacked, but let’s do see if we can attack her just a little bit more.
Very very sad – for this site, the woman who runs it, and those who are thriving off the negativity.
Robin, I hope you’re brushing this off because you’re so much better than that.
Lori – Amen!
Lori – I hardly know how to respond to your post. I read an article in a mainstream newspaper which I accepted at face value because it was not in a tabloid. Having been interviewed myself only a few times over the years, I know how important it is to answer interview questions very carefully so that nothing can be misconstrued. I assume RLH did the same, since as a former RWA president, she’d been interviewed many more times than that.
If I read an article about you in a newspaper or magazine (RT comes to mind), am I required to contact you before posting a link to it? That’s simply absurd.
The fact remains that until RLH came to AAR and refuted – point by point – the article, anyone who read it would assume, since this is not a tabloid newspaper with articles about 100 year old women giving birth to 300 pound babies, that it is factual.
Simply providing a link to that article and starting a discussion based on it is not unprofessional. And when RLH said that she was misquoted and taken out of context, I went to the newspaper to get an explanation. That explanation is forthcoming. When it is given, we can all see what really happened. RLH would not even have contacted the paper had it not been for the discussion here.
I stand by the steps I took here – and I believe it is you who are the one who is behaving unprofessionally and in a vituperative manner. I have no need for dirt, but now I feel the need to wash my hands.
I have to support Lori’s comments and to mention that Laurie’s action was a violation of every poster on this message board, whether they realize it or not. If our messages aren’t private to this board only, if they can be used to embarrass us publicly, then that disclaimer needs to be made and posted clearly. Then we’ll see how many authors post here.
Laurie may claim that because Robin in an author, this was an exception. But it’s often the exceptions we use to justify our worst impulses. Robin chose to post these responses. But she was posting them to the readers, not for public consumption beyond this board. Laurie is not the morality police, right now she isn’t even a good moral representative. This went way over the line.
I’m not trying to flame anyone. We all take actions we regret. Robin probably regrets being too candid with the interviewer. She hasn’t damaged romance. People who thought it was tripe before the article, still think so. Those of us who love the genre, still think so. I’ll even bet Laurie regrets right now doing what she did.
Nothing that is posted at AAR is considered a private communication. Indeed, there is even a statement on the index page for our message boards indicating that any post made on any of our boards may be used in further articles. Anyone can visit these boards – lots of people do, including authors, readers, other journalists, and, I’m told, people who work for publishing companies. We make this clear not only regarding our message boards, but our discussion lists, one of which also is not considered private – aarlist. However, we do maintain privacy for canwetalk.
I do not regret anything I’ve done here. I don’t know how long you’ve visited AAR, but take a look at the ATBF column, which was started with reader/author interaction and which uses message board posts in each column. Here is the text from the index page for our message boards, which is printed in bright red: “Any posts made on our message boards may be used in future articles at AAR. When such posts are used, only first names are used and no email addresses are ever divulged, so that privacy issues should not be a concern. The only variance to this policy are stand-alone pages of reader comments that are simply snapshots of message boards saved in perpetuity.”
Your disclaimer says that you may use the messages in an article, without identifying the author’s name. Explain to me how this justifies taking a message from Robin Hatcher that she intended for this board only and sending it to a newspaper? I’m afraid I don’t see the connection here.
Look, I can understand a bad impulse. We’re all given to them. But I think you do owe the posters on this board some kind of reassurance of privacy of use. Your disclaimer doesn’t state we can use what you say in an article and any way we want to.
Do you honestly not understand the embarrassment you’ve caused this author? I don’t condone her remarks, but we’ve all said things we’ve regretted. She told the readers on this board her side. We could choose to believe it or not. But in sending remarks she never intended or gave permission to use to the newspaper, you have embroiled her in something she may never have wanted. What gives you the right?
Let’s take this a step further. What is to prevent you from taking any messages from authors on this board and posting them on other web sites, sending them out to an email list of readers, disclosing them to other publications? You’ve already crossed that line, so how are we supposed to believe that you won’t do that?
Nothing that is posted in a public forum is private or confidential – there is no expectation of privacy on a public message board. RLH came to this site and posted a point by point refutation of an article based on an interview she granted to a legitimate newspaper. Later she posted a letter she said she’d written and emailed to the editor of that newspaper. This is a legitimate news story that I am following up. Had I simply given the url of Robin’s post and not pasted it into an email, it would have been the same thing. But how can I ask the editor of the Life section to comment on Robin’s statements if she can’t read them? I’ve not set out to embarrass anyone. I’m simply following through a story that I find utterly fascinating.
Exactly. I’ve visited these boards and posted dozens of times using my real name fully aware of the site’s policy. Not a problem. Not a violation. Nope.
The interviewer was in a reputable paper for public consumption. I assume that when you pick up the paper every morning that you don’t believe a thing you read whether about the Middle East, our government, the Catholic sex scandal or any other bit of news???? Give me a break.
When we discuss what we read with any article, we don’t go back to the “source” and ask are you sure this is accurate? We expect the journalist to do its job ethically. If the “source” has issues with the story, then it behooves the “source” to set the record straight, not the readers as we are not the one with the inside information. LLB acted professionally. RLH in her responses on this board acted professionally.
I was informed of the article by another writer, and learned there was a discussion here. At that time I had been more than two weeks into a booktour, giving interviews every day, dealing with the media, and some reporters who smirk at the genre. Not all, not even the majority, but some.
I’ve been dealing with interviews, as Robin has, for a number of years. Reading the article pushed every one of my buttons, and I stated my opinion. I’m sorry if Robin was, or felt she was mis-used by the reporter. I would hope, if this is the case, that the next time out she’d more careful about giving any media source fuel for their agenda fire. If he made up the statements about addiction and alcoholism, it’s deplorably unprofessional. If he spun comments made in this vein, those are the bumps on the road. A reporter can’t spin what he doesn’t have.
It’s really easy to blurt out something you later regret, or didn’t mean in precisely the way it’s used. Interviews can be very difficult to control. But the comments made here by some that paint the media with horns and a tail seem to go too far in the other direction. If this is a legitimate paper, and I’m sure Robin wouldn’t have agreed to an interview with one that wasn’t, the paper can’t just make up statements and attribute them to the speaker.
Robin’s letter posted here to the paper indicates statements were taken out of context, or slanted. It’s tough when this happens, and I have no doubt she sincerely regrets giving the reporter the ammo. But it’s remarkably narrow-minded to blame the reporter, the paper, the posters who reacted to the article, and LLB for this mess and not attribute any responsibility to the person interviewed.
The article appeared in the paper, and on the Net. It’s public, therefore, the public can and will react and form opinions. I know Robin, and she’s a good person who takes her work and her faith seriously. It appears that she made a very big, very public mistake. People do.
Let us be absolutely clear on one thing; LLB’s JOB is to sell her site. What better way to keep this issue alive than take it upon herself to fly off in pursuit of truth, justice and veracity in the press? But to end?
An Idaho newspaper printed a story which cast RLH in a very unpleasant light; at best she made stupid statements that even the most inexperienced interviewee would be able to dodge, at worst she made calculatedly provocative statements guaranteed to increase her book sales amongst the Christian reader sect. But the bottom line is that we can not know which is closer to the truth, only RLH and the reporter know that. The reporter isn’t going to make a retraction and everyone–most especially Laurie– knows this. He does, after all, have a career he presumably would like to keep. As for Robin, she has answered the questions
raised by readers.
That should be the end of it.
But now this romance readers? site, a site that, unless I am grievously wrong, has never evinced any interest in the integrity of the press, has decided to pursue this issue with, pardon my pun, evangelical zeal. WHY?
Because Laurie is a website owner trying to get traffic on her site. She wants to make money. Fine. Don’t we all? But her latest methods of generating traffic have been to stimulate anger, gossip and controversy over individual authors. Correct me if I?m wrong, but Laurie charges for advertising on her site, presumably she charges more for a page that gets more hits (i.e. the Reader to Reader message board) than one with less. So much for my question, of why she’s doing this. Now for the “how”
Laurie’s latest foray into Geraldo-like righteousness is self-serving. Laurie is not the moral watchdog of the romance genre and –just to stop what I suspect will be Laurie’s rebuttal– any statement from her saying that she expects media justice in the form of an admission of guilt or retraction by the Idaho newspaper is far more disingenuous than RLH astonishment that a newspaper reporter distorted of her words. She expects to keep this issue alive. Period.
I am writing this because until the recent “Scandal of the Week” syndrome hit the LLB site, I have found it a valuable tool in finding a good book. I would prefer that the site keep its integrity and stick to the discussion of romance books, unless Laurie has decided to pursue a much more lucrative and titillating business.
A reader of books, not tabloids, who expects this message to stay up about 15 seconds
I don’t post often, but I do visit this site almost daily. LLB often posts tidbits pertaining to the romance genre. Examples that come to mind are a recent situation involving an author whose book was pulled because of plagarism, various trends in the romance publishing industry (midlists and more) and other issues. When taken in context, LLB’s posting the link to The Idaho Statesman article is not really notable. I took it as just another “FYI, here’s something that might interest you,” along the same lines as the other posts. Then, when things got hot and heavy, LLB followed up, as she has with other issues. I’m not sure what it is about this topic that has people looking for some nefarious motive, but I think you are off base.
Let me say that the amount I charge our advertisers doesn’t do much above covering the costs of maintaining this site and paying for improvements. We’re currently trying to have a reviews database built, after which we’d like to have the site professionally redesigned. I used to have a “paying” job, so if I were that interested in making money, would I really be doing this for the few thousand dollars the site brings in or would I go out and get a job like the one I had before starting this site? I spend more time on this site than I did when I worked 60 hour weeks for the City a decade ago for $40,000 a year – had I stayed at the City, no doubt I’d have continued to move up the ladder and would be making more.
Money has never been a motivator for me. I could have gone into business and not the City; I’ve been told my salary would have been roughly double what I made in my last management position at the City had I been in the private sector. So let’s do the math: a few thousand at AAR for long work days (and nights!) or anywhere between $40,000 to $80,000 (at 1990 pay rates!) for work outside this site. And you say I’m doing this for the money?
My email to Laurie
“Just wanted to send a quick note in support of what you did. I have a degree in journalism, so I do see this debate from both angles. One, I realize RLH probably *did* say the things she said she did and in the way she insists her words were said. And two, The Statesman reporter probably *did* report what he thought he heard from her mouth. You’ve got two individuals here who are looking at the situation from two very different angles. Aside from finding a *lead* or attention grabber for the article, I don’t think any reporter who makes maybe 30K a year would stoop to gossip and sensationalism just for a scoop on a local romance author. I’ve known a lot of reporters for mainstream papers and news organizations in my day, and nearly all of them were honest in their intent. RLH, on the other hand, is likely taken aback for having some of her comments taken *out of context* as she claims. I’m sure she feels they were, and probably now regrets giving the interview at all.”
I should also add here that contacting The Statesman for their take on it isn’t in any way wrong or sensational. It’s sort of like LLB doing her own *journalism* for this site. As long as she prints comments exactly as they come in, there’s nothing underhanded about it. If she sparks controversy, well… some people will despise her approach, some people will appreciate it. I try to take everything I read with a grain of salt. That’s only my opinion, of course.Natasha Kern (RLH’s agent)
Natasha Kern (RLH’s agent)
Like any normal person Robin has grown and changed over twenty years and so has her writing. It would not only be remarkable, but hardly laudable, if one were to have the same level of emotional maturity, mastery of craft, mental knowledge, and spiritual insight at 20 as at 40 or 50. Robin has not repudiated her early books or she would not even include them on her site and we would not be reselling them to her current publishers to reissue. What she has said is: I am not the same woman who wrote those books so many years ago. Well, duh!
Robin has not had an easy life but one of great challenges, trials and tests. It is to be expected that all she has experienced and learned would make its way into her books and change them. Isn’t this rather the point of having a life on planet earth? It isn’t a rose garden but an opportunity to learn and grow and hopefully to change with maturity and the development of wisdom– as well as a closer connection to God’s purpose for your life. (A Buddhist or Hindu might say preparation for the next incarnation).
In that context, I am sure she will survive the various hurtful and untrue things being said about her here. For my part, I would rather learn the extent to which others can act out of some better aspect of themselves rather than confirming how easily people are influenced to participate in witch hunts and shunning of one of their own. Maybe we still need some maturing as a species with a stronger understanding of the uselessness of good-bad duality (or any duality including the male-female one).
In looking at some of the rules of this site, I noticed that it says something about “flaming” not being appropriate. So what happened here? What is going on? I gather that this is supposed to create site traffic at someone’s expense! After reading all the more recent posts i am more disheartened than ever. I have always felt RWA was a sisterhood of support for other writers even those who were not clones of ourselves– I somehow maintained this illusion despite having two clients serve as president of the organization. My husband made the comment, “Well what a relief to know that women can be just as petty, superficial and cruel as men.” Um, I guess so. I’m not feeling very relieved about this myself.
Natasha – You may “gather” what you will about the purpose behind my bringing this article to the attention of AAR’s readers, but it has nothing to do with increasing hits. We receive approximately 2.1 million hits per month at this site, and this number grows steadily but constantly as we strive to bring romance readers information about the genre, including reviews, commentary, interviews, and discussions based on items in the news.
Earlier this year we basically “broke” a copyright infringement story in terms of being the only romance outlet to follow through the piece from beginning to end – even RT mentioned us in an article they ran in their print publication in April. (Click here for our article on the recalling of Cindi Louis’ Crazy Thing Called Love.)
You also mention “flaming” in your post; a good number of posts really walked the line, and most of them that went over the edge were ones attacking both myself and AAR – they were left online because to have removed them would have smacked of censorship (and because I’m a big girl and can take care of myself).
We encourage all posters to act like grown-ups and to use the manners their mothers raised them with. We don’t always succeed, but in a controversial issue as this, I don’t want to be the “posting police.” Even when my own integrity, honesty, and professionalism were impugned, I decided to leave those posts online and feel that only once did I let my anger get perhaps the best of me.
As far as I’m concerned, AAR has acted both honorably and with sound intentions. As a columnist, I keep my eyes and ears open for news regarding the genre and authors in the news. If RLH was misquoted or had her remarks taken out of context in a feature article, the opportunity has been offered to the newspaper to make that correction. If perhaps she said things that she didn’t believe would be interpreted as they were, then she’ll have learned a valuable lesson about interacting with the media.
Given that AAR has given RLH mostly good reviews – including a DIK Review, which is our highest honor – in the past (both for her secular and religious writing), there is no hidden agenda, no axe to grind, and nothing going on here except a discussion of an article that upset many readers (and authors) in its interpretation.
RLH has defended herself admirably here in terms of tone; it’s some of her supporters who have probably damaged their reputations (and, by association), hers by the tone they took in an issue that she was capable of responding to (and did) all by herself.
I’ve said before that authors negotiating themselves through the Internet need a degree of skill that is difficult to achieve and that sometimes it’s simply better to leave things as they are. I’m not sure what your connection to RLH is, but I know you’ve now posted four or five times and essentially said the same thing. Enough is enough at this point – if you have nothing new to add to the discussion other than to say that those who disagree with your viewpoint are being petty, than you probably should stop. (Kern was later identified as Hatcher’s agent).
As for me, until I hear back from the Life editor at The Idaho Statesman, I won’t be posting on this topic again.
Comments from RWA and the Idaho Statesman
RWA Communications Manager Charis Calhoon: “There will be no official RWA comment.”
Idaho Statesman Life Editor Vickie Ashwill: “Robin Lee Hatcher and I have talked personally regarding this article. That conversation is private, between Robin and myself, but both of us were content with that conversation and the matter has been resolved between us to both of our satisfaction.” She added, “You could go to our website and discover that nothing else has been printed on this matter. I assume that would fill in any blanks for you.”
Some Final Thoughts
Early today, when I received a copy of what Lori Foster sent to her mailing list and which was later reposted on at least one other web site, steam was pouring out of the top of my head. In fact, it was one of the very few times where the wonderful people who work with me at AAR had to restrain me from a very bad impulse, which was simply to re-print that email here. Actually, that was after an earlier, and even worse impulse to create a message board solely for the people who can’t seem to help themselves from visiting AAR even though it seems to go against their code of ethics.
Instead, I spent the past six hours culling through the 200 posts in the three threads that discuss the RLH “story” on our Reader to Reader Message Board. I’ve tried to represent all the viewpoints to the extent that I could. All the posts from the RTR MB have been saved here so that you can look things over and make sure I didn’t slant this to show AAR’s detractors at their worst.
Clearly the discussion of this topic hits hot buttons for many of us – on both sides. I’ve been listening to talk radio long enough to know that the “liberal media bias” message is almost a daily mantra, and that the idea that you can’t trust anything you read or see because of it is one which many people have taken to heart. That said, I also believe this discussion became so contentious because so many authors were willing to step into the public spotlight and say that they were bothered by a “sister” author’s comments. As you know, women are not supposed to disagree – particularly not in public.