St Louis Writer Writes Back

Jane Henderson, the St Louis writer accusing Melissa Marr of being a “knock-off” of Laurell K Hamilton, posted a comment over at the original article, in response to my reaction here. Here it is for your convenience:

The cover of the teen book is very similar to Hamilton’s covers, and the stories do sound similar. However that applies to many books. In the romance genre, it’s sometimes hard to tell one author from the next.
If you read carefully, you’ll note that I did not make any untoward accusations or accuse the new book’s author of anything illegal. In fact, for many authors, being compared to Hamilton would be a compliment.

Comment by Jane Henderson — January 23rd, 2008 at 3:23 pm

There’s still just so much wrong here.

Before we go any further, let me just preface everything by stating that I am a long-time fan of Hamilton’s (see the blurb about me over in the sidebar) and a recent fan of Marr’s, her book only being out for less than a year. And I’d like to point out that I am at a slight disadvantage, not having read Marr’s Ink Exchange yet.

Dear Ms Henderson,
Let’s start by looking at the covers, shall we?
Hamilton’s:

hamilton_mg_1.jpghamilton_mg_2.jpghamilton_mg_3.jpghamilton_mg_4.jpghamilton_mg_5.jpghamilton_mg_6.jpg

Marr’s:

wicked.jpgmarr_ink.jpg

As anyone can see, Hamilton’s covers (with the exception of a Lick of Frost) feature women in various states of undress. Marr’s feature fully-clothed teens. In fact, the teen is the background on the cover of Wicked Lovely. The covers are not similar. And as the author states in comments here, if her covers are at all comparable, then look at YA authors, Stephenie Meyer and Libba Bray:

meyer.jpgbray.jpg

Next, your suggestion “the stories do sound similar” is without merit. From Amazon (though I have both texts in front of me right now):
Wicked Lovely:

Rule #3: Don’t stare at invisible faeries.

Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in mortal world. Aislinn fears their cruelty—especially if they learn of her Sight—and wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens.

Rule #2: Don’t speak to invisible faeries.

Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.

Rule #1: Don’t ever attract their attention.

But it’s too late. Keenan is the Summer King who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. He is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost—regardless of her plans or desires.

Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom; her best friend, Seth; her life; everything.

Faerie intrigue, mortal love, and the clash of ancient rules and modern expectations swirl together in Melissa Marr’s stunning 21st century faery tale.

A Kiss of Shadows:

A Kiss of Shadows introduces Merry Gentry, a.k.a. Meredith NicEssus, a faerie princess of the Unseelie Court, where politics is a blood sport. Merry, who’s part sidhe (elvish), part brownie, and part human, never really fit in. She’s short, not skilled in offensive magic, and mortal because of her human blood. These are real liabilities when your family, especially aunt Andais, Queen of Air and Darkness, is out to kill you. Merry has been in hiding for three years, living in Los Angeles and working for the Grey Detective Agency, which specializes in “supernatural problems, magical solutions.” A new case sets her against a man who uses forbidden magic to seduce fey women and drain their power. A plan to trap him goes awry and Merry’s cover is blown. Now Andais knows where she is. But things have changed in Andais’s court, and Merry is changing too.

Despite the selkies, brownies, goblins, and ogres in this book, it’s not for children. The fey are “creatures of the senses”–and in the Unseelie court, sex and pain go together. Merry is sexually adventurous and surrounded by gorgeous, powerful males, most of whom want her badly. She’s politically savvy and no coward, though she’s not the warrior Anita is. Hamilton fans and readers of adult fairy tales like Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels trilogy will want to give Merry a look.

Merry Gentry is a PI, part sidhe, part brownie, part human. Her story goal is to solve the PI case, but her goal changes when her circumstances change, and her goal then is to survive her cruel aunt. In the meanwhile, she deals with situations that are deadly and/or sexual.

Aislinn is a human girl with the ability to see and hear faeries. Her story goal is to keep from attracting their attention. When her circumstances change, her story goal is then to keep everyone she loves alive, including herself. In the meanwhile, she deals with her relationship and considers losing her virginity.

The stories are not similar. Subject matter, that is, faeries, is the same. But the similarities begin and end there. Hamilton’s work edges on erotica; it was written for adults and is nearly adult-content with a XXX-rating. Marr’s work edges on literary; it was written for teens and is of a PG-13 rating at most.

“However that applies to many books. In the romance genre, it’s sometimes hard to tell one author from the next.”

In the romance genre, yes. However, neither author under discussion is a romance writer. None of the books under discussion are romance. Hamilton’s books are shelved under fiction, though they could be shelved as fantasy or erotica and even edge on crime/mystery, however, they do not fit with the romance genre. They do not fit with paranormal romance, either. Locus called Hamilton’s Merry Gentry series “[a] sexy, tension-charged dark fantasy mystery.” Marr’s books are shelved under fiction and YA, and yes, could be placed in fantasy, however, you’d be hard-pressed to get them into the romance genre. Locus called Marr’s work “young adult fantasy” and a “blend of faery lore, contemporary small-town setting, and frank consideration of sexuality is reminiscent of Holly Black’s Tithe”.

“If you read carefully, you’ll note that I did not make any untoward accusations or accuse the new book’s author of anything illegal. In fact, for many authors, being compared to Hamilton would be a compliment.”

I agree that many authors would consider comparison to Hamilton a compliment– many authors of adult stories would. However, (1) you did not compare Marr’s work with Hamilton’s. You accused her of being a “knock-off” and of “taking a page”. This is not a comparison. This is a suggestion that Marr got her ideas from Hamilton. (2) If you are going to compare authors, please stick to authors of the same genre, same target audience.

And finally, the idea that you did nothing illegal is questionable. You have, by way of comparing adult-content with teen-content, damaged an author’s reputation with potential readers. Slander is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation”. By uttering “imitation”, “copyright infringement”, and “teen pregnancy”, you are making misrepresentations of Marr’s work. (Not to mention you’ve called into question the ability of Harper Teen’s editors to know the difference between a book for adults and a book for teens, and how to market to the two audiences.) How many parents are now going to question allowing their teen daughters to read Marr’s work because of your comments? I’ll concede that parents should pay attention to what their children read, and they should discuss books, but if getting parents to pay attention and have discussions was your intention, you’ve sorely missed the mark. Where I come from, execution and interpretation are what matters; intention doesn’t matter.

If you would like to read Marr’s books and then offer up the question of “But with the sexualization of girls starting so young in all facets of culture, should parents speak up about what they see?”, go ahead. Personally, I would welcome open discussions of Marr’s works. I believe she handles the subject matter with grace and dignity. She’s created characters and worlds that people care about. Her work is well worth discussing. But read the book first. Don’t start by comparing one author’s sexually charged work with another author who has sensitively navigated the issue of sexuality.

Apples and oranges, Ms. Henderson.

13 comments on “St Louis Writer Writes Back

  1. I have read some of the upcoming book, “Ink Exchange,” and I have plenty of evidence for what I’ve written. There is nothing untrue about my comments, which are my opinions, and I am not intimidated by cyberbulling.
    The back of the “Ink Exchange” ARC says it is for “ages 12 and up.” This is a fact. I believe the monotone image on the front resembles the monotone images on Hamilton’s books. I have not looked at “Wicked Lovely” and am not commenting on it.
    I see more than 300 books a week in my office. I have been a book editor for more than 12 years and when I say that something looks like a “knock-off” I have the experience and evidence to back that up.
    You may disagree with my opinion; that is your right. However, I don’t know whether you have seen “Ink Exchange.” From what I can tell, the sensual elements are, of course, not as explicit as a book geared to adults. But the are suggestions of sensuality that some folks might think are inappropriate for 12-year-old girls.

  2. If your intention was to draw comparisons, you should have done so. But we’ve done that between us now, haven’t we?

    If your intention was to accuse Marr of “copyright infringement” and imitation, then show me the evidence you claim you have. Show me the side-by-side comparisons. Any experienced journalist knows you don’t make claims unless you have the evidence to back it up. So where is it?

    Further, why stop there? If Marr is copying from Hamilton, then isn’t Hamilton copying from Emma Bull and Charles de Lint, both of whom wrote about faeries and sexuality long before Hamilton did? And why stop there? Why not claim they’re all copying from Shakespeare and Spenser and the countless number of poets who came before them? Faeries and sexuality have been tied together for centuries.

    Show me the side-by-side comparison, and then you might have a real story, instead of this faerie tale you’ve started.

  3. Nevertheless, I view it as highly irresponsible to use the term “copyright infringement” in a comparative association of one writer’s work with another without the slightest evidence to support it beyond the fact both stories include fairies.

  4. Wow. Excellent stuff; you had me cheering until I reached this bit, in which you reply to the reporter’s comment (in italics):

    “However that applies to many books. In the romance genre, it’s sometimes hard to tell one author from the next.”

    In the romance genre, yes. However, neither author under discussion is a romance writer.

    C’mon. I know you’re trying to expose the reporter’s ignorance about the books, but in the process, you show your own ignorance of another genre, one that is very closely related to the books you’re discussing. Not cool.

  5. Emma- I see where you’re coming from. I was referencing the many discussions at Smart Bitches and Dear Author about similar plot-lines, recycling of cover images, etc., in which the similarities in the romance genre have been discussed. I should have referenced this. I meant no disrespect to the romance genre (I read it too!).

  6. Well, I just found myself a brand new site to bookmark in my tool bar. Intelligent and passionate discussion.
    I think Jane Henderson should through in the towel now.
    Thanks for this site.

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  10. AM: I am glad you pointed this out.

    Just because two books by different authors are about fairies and the covers are similar does not make it a knock off. Covers are, as AM said, NOT created by the author. I don’t think the author has much say over the cover art, if any. And if writing a story about fairies that is also a romance makes it a knock of of Hamilton, then does writing a story about a time traveller who helps save people/planets a knock off of Doctor Who? I just started a story about a Druid and her companion, is that a knock off of Mercedes Lackey? Lackey has forest-protecting people who have intelligent bird companions. Even if the writing styles are similar, that doesn’t make it a knock off.

    I wouldn’t call something a knock off unless the characters and plots are very similar and there are almost no differences between them except wording. EVERY KIND OF STORY HAS BEEN USED. As a writer I know it’s virtually impossible to come up with a completely original idea. Different stories and writers and images influence what people write about. Mercedes Lackey’s writing has influenced my writing style and what I write about, but that doesn’t mean I’m rewriting her books and putting my name on it. I don’t care if you have enough credentials to be Ambassador of Earth to the Multiverse. You cannot say that a writer is a “knock-off” of another writer based on the general theme and the cover. As someone in the writing business, you should know better than to judge a book by it’s cover.

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