Thursday, May 04, 2006

How a young author got found out, chewed up and spat out

I'm a bit late in posting this, but as a failed author myself, it stirs the cockels of my heart when hot young authors get exposed as frauds, flakes or filchers.

Kaavya Viswanathan is 19, and is the author of How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life.
Quotes like: "Viswanathan signed a two-book, $500,000 contract with Little, Brown when she was 17. Opal Mehta, her debut novel, has been optioned by DreamWorks." have me turning a shade of Jade with envy and bile.

Everything was going so fabulously well, until readers noticed passages of Opal that were similar to other books, notably Megan McCafferty's books, Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings.

To wit:

Sloppy Firsts: "Sabrina was the brainy Angel. Yet another example of how every girl had to be one or the other: Pretty or smart."
Opal Mehta: "Moneypenny was the brainy female character. Yet another example of how every girl had to be one or the other: smart or pretty. "

Sloppy Firsts: "Bridget is my age and lives across the street. For the first twelve years of my life, these qualifications were all I needed in a best friend."
Opal Mehta: "Priscilla was my age and lived two blocks away. For the first fifteen years of my life, those were the only qualifications I needed in a best friend."

Second Helpings: "... but in a truly sadomasochistic dieting gesture, they chose to buy their Diet Cokes at Cinnabon."
Opal Mehta: "In a truly masochistic gesture, they had decided to buy Diet Cokes from Mrs. Fields."

After this, readers soon noticed something akin to a "cut and paste" from Meg Cabot's world famous Princess Diaries books.

''The Princess Diaries," p. 129:

Well, I for one will not stand for it. There isn't a single inch of me that hasn't been pinched, cut, filed, painted, sloughed, blown dry, moisturized. I even have fingernails.

But I am not happy . . . Because I don't look a thing like Mia Thermopolis. Mia Thermopolis never had fingernails. . . . Mia Thermopolis never wore makeup or Gucci shoes or Chanel shirts or Christian Dior bras. I don't even know who I am anymore . . . She's turning me into someone else.

''Opal Mehta," p. 59

Every inch of me had been cut, filed, steamed, exfoliated, polished, painted, or moisturized. I didn't look a thing like Opal Mehta. Opal Mehta didn't own five pairs of shoes so expensive they could have been traded in for a small sailboat. She didn't wear makeup or Manolo Blahniks or Chanel sunglasses or Habitual jeans or La Perla bras . . . I was turning into someone else."

So far, so bad. Her publishers withdraw the book, cancel her two-book deal (which means she'd have to pay the money back) and then this little "mal mot" surfaces.

"The Record newspaper of Bergen county, at which Viswanathan was an intern during 2003-2004, said it is investigating some of the articles she wrote as part of her assignment. The paper's editor said he will hire a service to vet the dozen or so light features she had written."

Told me something
Blogger Marius told me...

Every now and then the sleeping leviathan, Justice, opens one eye and raises one mighty claw to smite a wrongdoer. And even rarer still is when it happens for all of us to enjoy.

2:41 am  
Blogger Ben.H told me...

The sick part is she probably didn't even write the bits that weren't plagiarised: the novel was "packaged" by Alloy Entertainment. Reckon she'll try to pin the blame on them?

Also, in that last paragraph, do you reckon by "hire a service" he means "Google"?

5:54 am  
Blogger Burnt Karma told me...

It's hard not to come across as a total beyatch, revelling in another's failure. So I won't even try.
What boggles my mind is how someone can make such a huge book deal at 17, then get help coming up with a concept.

And stupid me just kept writing novels from my ideas and sending the manuscript to publishers. Obviously I'm doing things all wrong.

Marius, love the analogy (and your new avatar, you ubernerd you)

Ben - that link is brilliant and very scary, but it does start explaining things a bit more.

2:17 pm  
Blogger Marius told me...

{bows} I thank you, my lady. :-)

9:41 pm  
Blogger Ben.H told me...

Psst, it helps to have very rich parents. Viswanathan's folks ponied up $40,000 to a company called Ivywise to "prepare" her for admission to Harvard. It was Ivywise's CEO who introduced Viswanathan to the publishers.

Don't bother looking on Ivywise's website for all the mutual backslapping between the firm and author: every reference to her has been deleted.

Neither Alloy Entertainment nor Ivywise are enjoying the public scrutiny of their "packaging" services.

4:03 am  
Blogger Burnt Karma told me...

OOOOh Ben, that's good googling!

10:29 am  
Blogger Ben.H told me...

Nah, that's just reading Arts Journal.

12:50 am  

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