Today I’m talking with Kristy, known on Twitter as CaffeinatedFae, and Claire Ryan. Kristy is a former bookseller, and Claire is a fantasy writer and programmer, and together, they’ve been taking on the full account of Cristiane Serruya’s alleged plagiarism, which you might have seen being discussed online as #CopyPasteCris.
Kristy and other readers, including Jeanna Skinner, have been maintaining lists of the passages from other romance titles discovered inside of Serruya’s books, and that list is mammoth – over 80 books now. Claire has created a programming solution to comparing books to look for similar passages.
We talk about what they’ve done in response, and what they’ve learned – and how the research and accounting of how many books were involved has affected them, a little bit, too.
It’s almost always a reader who spots the similarities, and in this case, the superpowered programming solution is kinda mind blowing. Claire is excellent at scaling, too, so she’s creating an online tool to try to stop this kind of plagiarism from happening again.
Cheers to both of them.
ETA: Updates as of 26 April 2019!
Nora Roberts has filed suit in Brazil against Cristiane Serruya.
And the authors affected by Serruya’s actions worked together to send Claire a sword that says, “Slayer of Plagiarism.” WOW!
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Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:
And! Claire’s plagiarism detection tool is online at Similar.works.
Here are the links we discussed in this episode:
- Courtney Milan’s blog post, “Cristiane Serruya is a Copyright Infringer, a Plagiarist and an Idiot.”
- Jeanna Skinner’s ongoing Twitter thread linking titles to retailers
- Claire Ryan’s blog post about her work, “Climbing Everest with CopyPasteCris.”
- Nora Roberts: “Plagiarism, Then and Now“
- Nora Roberts: “Update“
- Nora Roberts: “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot“
And if you’d like to read some of the coverage of the Nora Roberts/Janet Dailey plagiarism lawsuit from 1997, brace yourselves:
- “There’s a reason romance novels all seem to read like.” Entertainment Weekly, August 1997. “Plagiarism in the Romance Publishing World.”
- “Heaving bosoms and throbbing loins are all very well, but if you really want to make a romance writer breathe heavily, try pinching her prose.” Washington Post, July 1997. “Stolen Kisses!”
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We’re going to play Cards Against Romance Tropes, there might be trivia, and we’ll definitely be silly about something. We’ll be in Imperial 5C – so come on down!
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span style=”font-weight: 400;”>[music]
Sarah Wendell: Hello there. Hot diggety! It’s a podcast! Welcome to episode number 345 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Today I am talking with Kristy, who is on Twitter as CaffeinatedFae, and Claire Ryan. Kristy is a former bookseller, and Claire is a fantasy writer and programmer, and together they have been taking on the full account of Cristiane Serruya’s alleged plagiarism, which you may have seen discussed online under the hashtag #CopyPasteCris. Kristy and other readers, including Jeanna Skinner, have been maintaining lists of the passages from other romance titles that have been discovered inside of Cristiane Serruya’s books. That list is mammoth; there are over eighty different titles now. Claire has created a programming solution to comparing books to look for similar passages. So we talk about what they’ve done in response to the initial accounting of plagiarism and what they’ve learned, and how the research and accounting of how many books were involved has affected them a little bit too. It is almost always a reader who spots similarities, and in this case there’s a superpowered programming solution involved that’s kind of mind-blowing. Claire is excellent at scaling, and she’s creating an online tool to try to stop this kind of plagiarism from happening again. Cheers to both of them for all of this work.
As usual, I will link to the titles that we discuss, but I won’t be linking to any of the titles that may still be available from Cristiane Serruya. We’re not going to link to plagiarized content, obviously.
If you want to email me or you have questions or suggestions, you can get in touch with me at [email protected], or you can leave a message and tell me a terrible joke at 1-201-371-3272. It is awesome to hear from you, and if you’ve been following along with #CopyPasteCris I would be very curious to hear your reaction.
And if you would like to see us record a podcast live and you’re attending Book Lovers Con in New Orleans in May, you can do that! Thursday, May 16th, at 3:30 p.m. local time, we are going to be doing a live podcast at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans. Amanda, Elyse, and I will be doing a live show with an audience, and we hope you’ll join us! If you’re attending Book Lovers Con, just come on down to Imperial 5C. We’re going to play Cards Against Romance Tropes; there might be trivia; we might definitely be getting silly about something; there will also very likely be wine. It is free for attendees of Book Lovers Con, and we are asking folks to register, but only so we know how many chairs we’ll need. I have links in the show notes and on the site, as well as further information, and I hope you will join us!
This week’s podcast transcript, as always, is compiled by garlicknitter, and is brought to you by our Patreon community. If you have supported the show with a monthly pledge of any amount, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. You are helping me ensure that every episode is transcribed and therefore accessible to everyone, which is very important to me and to many readers and listeners, as I am discovering each week, so thank you!
If you would like to join the Patreon community, it would be most excellent if you did. Have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches. Monthly pledges start at one dollar a month, and by pledging a dollar or any amount, you are letting me know that the show and the work that we do to produce it is worth something to you; thank you for that. You’ll also be part of the group who helps develop questions for upcoming interviews, makes guest suggestions, and is helping me pick out the books for our quarterly book club. Yeah, every quarter, the Patreon community tells us what to read. It’s pretty amazing to see the breadth of the books that are suggested, so it’s really fun to read all of these suggestions as well. And every now and again you’ll hear terrible outtakes from when I can’t remember the name of the show while I’m recording it. Your, your support means a lot, so if you’d like to have a look at the Patreon, it is patreon.com/SmartBitches.
And hot diggety! I have compliments! Yay! Okay.
To Debbie B.: Whenever you post on social media or send a text, your friends and followers drop everything, because what you have to share is so interesting and excellent. In other words, you bring all scrolling to a full stop.
And to Jocelyne F.: You know how you get so excited when you see, like, your favorite pastry and it’s all yours? That is the level of delight that you make the people around you feel every day. Keep it up.
And if you would like a compliment of your very own, that is one of the reward tiers on the Patreon, so patreon.com/SmartBitches if you’re interested in a handcrafted, genuine, heartfelt compliment from the very strange brain of yours truly.
As always, I will have links to the things that we talk about. There are a lot of blog posts discussed in this episode, so I will have links to those; do not worry. And I will link to the books that Kristy and Claire recommend at the end of the episode as well, plus I will have a terrible joke at the end of the episode, and information about what’s coming up on Smart Bitches this week.
But for now, it is time to get started. On with the podcast!
Kristy: Hi, I’m Kristy, and I run caffeinatedfae.com. I used to be a bookseller at Barnes and Noble; now I work in insurance and read in basically all of my spare time. I have a cute little dog, Calcifer, and if you follow me on Twitter you probably will see quite a few of his photos.
Claire Ryan: Okay, I’m Claire Ryan. I’m a fantasy author you’ve probably never heard of. I, I’d like to write romantic comedy, but maybe someday; I’m not quite brave enough right now. I also do martial arts and weapons training. I have a policy that I only write about weapons I know how to use personally, so that’s where that comes from. And –
Sarah: [Laughs] That’s a good policy!
Claire: So, so my, my day job is, is being a senior web programmer, and my specialty is data processing.
Sarah: That is fascinating. What martial arts do you do?
Claire: [Laughs] Okay, so it’s mostly historical European martial arts, so that would be weapons training and grappling and training with, like, everything that you think of as being like fantasy weaponry, which is, like, long swords, short swords, shields, pole arms. I also do a certain amount of quarter staff training, things like stick spinning – you know, the big flourish-y kind of stuff – and then I do, like, boxing, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and kind of just a, an overall kind of – I try to hit a lot of different things, because I feel like I need to know a lot of different things in order to write combat effectively. And I, and I like it as well.
Sarah: I, I can’t even describe my face right now. I did not even know that was a thing that you could do. Like, I would like to –
Sarah: – go learn how to use a long sword and a staff, and there’s, you can go do that?
Claire: Yeah, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a pretty big thing! I, I’m lucky enough to live in Vancouver, and there, the biggest sword fighting academy in the world is based in downtown Vancouver, called Academie Duello, and I go there at least once a week.
Sarah: How did I not know this? I’ve been to Vancouver; I probably walked past it and had no idea what magical things were going on inside. Holy crap!
Claire: [Laughs] Yeah.
Kristy: That’s so amazing!
Sarah: I know, right? I can’t even describe my face right now. [Laughs] It’s incredible! Okay.
Sarah: So the reason I wanted to speak with you both was about plagiarism, which is, like, terrible. How did you each learn about the plagiarism accusations against Cristiane Serruya?
Kristy: So I learned about it through Courtney Milan’s tweet. I logged in, and I, honestly, I’m not very – well, I wasn’t very active on Twitter, and then I saw her tweet, and me, I have a psych degree, and so I always have to do the research. I want to see what’s going on, and so luckily, by the time I found out, there was the #CopyPasteCris hashtag that has, that was formed, and so I just did a bunch of research and looked at it, and then I got involved. That’s how I found out.
Claire: And so –
Claire: – so I’m quite active on Twitter, and I, I think I heard about Courtney Milan’s blog through a retweet from probably Tessa Dare – I’m not sure – and I just ended up going, I went and just read that, and then after that I just kept, I just kept looking. I went, like, I saw the hashtag, and I was looking through it and just, just completely gobsmacked by it; it’s just, it was just incredible reading that.
Kristy: I, honestly, I was shocked by, like, when that list kept growing, ‘cause Jeanna Skinner on Twitter, she created that buy thread with all of the links on it –
Kristy: – and so it was just fascinating to see all of that, and that’s when I ended up doing that, the easier-to-share list, because –
Kristy: – I was having trouble figuring out who all was involved, and it was just, it’s crazy! Like, reading Courtney Milan’s blog and then seeing everything going on, you know.
Sarah: And as you kept compiling that list, it kept growing.
Kristy: Oh my God, it did!
Sarah: Like, I can’t do math that fast, but that was exponential growth.
Kristy: Yeah, it was crazy!
Claire: Yeah, I remember looking at them; I remember reading Courtney Milan’s blog, and I looked at the examples, and there, it just seems like everything was coming out on, on the hashtag, and it was just absolutely unbelievable that no one had noticed. Like, it took a reader no-, like, reading two books and, and noticing this. It was just a, it was just incredible. I, I, I can remember at the time, I was just thinking about, like, well, this is just a technical problem to be solved, and yeah. I, I don’t know if I should go into more about that. It was just like, that was, that was kind of how I got started out, I guess, getting involved in it or whatever.
Kristy: Yeah –
Sarah: I definitely want to ask you about that. Kristy, go ahead.
Kristy: Well, and see, like, with me, I’m so, like, über-organized, as many people have noticed through my list, as –
Claire: Oh my God, yes! [Laughs]
Kristy: But –
Sarah: I noticed, and I think it is awesome.
Kristy: Well, and the –
Sarah: But I love it; I love organization too. [Laughs]
Kristy: Exactly! And so, like, that was, I was like, I need to do something, and so that’s what I did. I was like, okay, I’m super organized; I can do this. I can make a list; I can make it easier to look at. That’s why I started alphabetizing it and then adding all of the books, and ultimately I’m going to – like, I haven’t had any time, but I want to add what series the books are from, because I can’t just start a series in the middle, I have to read the first book, and so knowing –
Kristy: – what series is there, and then I’m going to add Kobo links, because you can’t forget Kobo, and I feel awful that I forgot Kobo, and yeah.
Sarah: I’ve been there.
Sarah: Clearly, Kristy, you were indeed a bookseller.
Kristy: Oh, hands down. It –
Kristy: That’s why, honestly, that’s why Barnes and Noble links are there, because I used to work at Barnes and Noble, and I was like, well, as much as I like Amazon, ‘cause I do personally have my Kindle, but I also have –
Kristy: – like three different Nooks now and all of that stuff –
Kristy: – that I was like, we need to get Barnes and Noble links on here, and then, like, ‘cause Barnes and Noble was my go-to source for ebooks for quite some time, and now I’m like, I need to add Kobo in there as well, even though, you know, the blog isn’t getting many hits anymore, but at least have those links there, just in case –
Kristy: – somebody prefers Kobo.
Sarah: So you start keeping this list, and then, Claire, you said that there’s, you, you recognized this as a data problem?
Claire: So, so here’s the thing: what I, what I was thinking about when I started looking at, at Courtney’s blog and then started looking at all the examples that people were posting on the #CopyPasteCris hashtag, like, I’m still, I’m still a developer, I’m still a programmer, and when I was looking at it, I was going like, well, this is, this is a data problem. This is a, a technical problem, because what you, what you’re looking for is two pieces of text that are too similar to be coincidence in two different books, and, like, and it was kind of, you’re just thinking about, like, how do you find text that’s almost but not quite the same when you have two piece, when you have two books? And then –
Claire: – how do you automate it so that you can do that comparison on many books at once? And then how do you do it really quickly? I mean, when I, like, eventually I just kind of came up with, with the idea, the, the – I don’t want to get technical; I’m not going to describe what it is – I came up with the, the core algorithm, the core process of how it was going to work, and then I just had to build the prototype and, and test it, and I got a copy of The Duchess War from, from Smashwords, which is one of Courtney’s books, and I got a copy, a copy of, of Royal Love from, from a Twitter follower who was – I just asked and, and people started to send me things – and then I ran both of them through, through the prototype that I’d built, and I found that it worked pretty well! And then I just kept asking on Twitter; I just, like, tweeted a few times; I just, I asked for more books, and then, and then eventually Courtney reached out to me, and it just kind of all went, it all went from there. But I only just, I did this because I wanted to be helpful and because it was just, it was a technical problem, it was a data problem, and I solve those kind of problems almost every day in my job. I wasn’t really thinking about, like, anything apart from that; I just wanted to help.
Sarah: I love so much about what you guys have just said, for a number of reasons. One, as I said to you earlier, I have done the work of looking at books and then looking at other books and trying to figure out what language in the, in the original book that I’m looking at, what language doesn’t fit, what doesn’t seem like it belonged to that author, what may have been pulled from elsewhere, and sometimes it’s really obvious, and sometimes, like in some of the cases that you’ve unearthed, it’s very much a strange stitch job of dropping words in and, in and out from different sources. That’s really hard work, and most of the time, like you said, readers just discover it by reading. Like, I, when I have done this, I’ve had two windows open on my computer, and I’m scrolling through, or I’m looking at something and I’m thinking, okay, that language doesn’t fit the prior style; I’m going to Google that phrase. You’ve, Claire, you’ve created a system to somewhat, if not automate it, then make it a heck of a lot faster! That’s really extraordinary!
Claire: Well, I mean, kind of? There’s –
Kristy: No, there is no kind of. It’s extraordinary. It’s magic.
Sarah: Thank you, Kristy.
Kristy: Like magic.
Sarah: Okay, so she seconded the emotion; motion carries. Go ahead!
Claire: So, but I, I mean, I, to be honest, I just, the word got out, and everyone’s kept sending me books, and I just kept refining it after that point, but I remember just, I was just sending, I started tweeting at Kristy – [laughs] – saying, hey, we can add these to the list, add these to the list, add these other extra books by, by another author to the – and mostly just adding on more titles as people kept sending me their, their stuff. The, the thing is, I don’t think of it as being quick, because, like, for me, like, quick means that I’m searching millions of records within a couple of seconds –
Claire: – because my job usually involves that kind of scale. I’m usually looking at, like, I have a massive amount of data, and I need to kind of crunch the whole thing down and process it and get usable metrics back from it in, in a fraction of the time it’d take an actual human to do it. Like, the, the algorithm right now is, is, to me, incredibly slow. It, it’ll check maybe about thirty or forty books an hour, and for a computer that’s incredibly slow. It’s just, it’s unacceptable –
Sarah: But for a person, that is a miracle! [Laughs]
Claire: I, I know, I know. It’s, it’s, it’s different scale, you know! I don’t – but I, but that’s what I think about, I mean, and this is, this is my job.
Sarah: Of course!
Sarah: Right. So you want to make this optimized and more efficient and quicker. I still remain very much in the place of holy crap, that is amazing!
Kristy: It, it really is.
Claire: It has its limitations.
Sarah: Thank you, Kristy. [Laughs]
Claire: Like, it’s, it’s got a, it’s got some limitations. Like, the, so the, the reason that it kind of works as well as it does is because I’ve got the books to reference. Like –
Claire: – eventually I got a copy of, I think I’ve got, right now I’ve got about fourteen or fifteen works by Cristiane Serruya. That’s between, like, books and novellas and stories, or even some of the boxed sets and everything, but I, I would need those books to reference to, to actually process and check and kind of run against somebody else’s books –
Sarah: Of course.
Claire: – and, like, without that, then it’s kind of useless. I don’t have, I can’t do a check unless I have something to check against, you know. It’s –
Sarah: Of course.
Claire: – it’s not like a plagiarism checker or something online, where you just scan the entire internet; that’s not how it works. I, I – yeah. Limitations of the data, I guess.
Sarah: So you have to have an A set and a B set, basically.
Claire: Right now, yeah. Yeah.
Sarah: I still think that’s pretty miraculous, myself, considering that in the past I have had to open a book, Google phrases, read another page, Google more phrases. My brain is nowhere near able to process that many books in an hour, so I think it’s extraordinary.
Claire: Yeah, it’s, it’s useful!
Sarah: And I love that. It’s so useful! It is so helpful. Like, I hope you both understand what you’ve, what, what contributions you’ve made in what you’ve done. It’s really extraordinary, which is one of the reasons I’m so excited to talk to you, because I don’t know how to do that, so it’s extraordinary to me, but it’s also such a development, because it is always a reader who notices; it is always a reader who says, uh, that’s, that doesn’t fit, and those two things are the same, and they shouldn’t be; and it’s always a reader who goes, all right, what else is there? Because every time I’ve seen this happen in every genre, readers have come out and said, all right, I’m taking these two books; I’m taking these two; we’re going to do this as a community project.
Sarah: You have basically scaled the community project into a much faster and gen- – like, you’ve upgraded us! We’re all in a Tesla now. Thank you!
Sarah: So at this point, Kristy –
Sarah: – how many books are on your list? It’s currently March 24th, so how many books are we talking about now?
Kristy: All right, so we have eighty-five books by thirty-six –
Sarah: God almighty!
Kristy: Yeah – by thirty-six authors, three articles, three websites, and two recipes. That’s how many there are, which is insane and horrifying, honestly.
Sarah: Now, is this across all of Serruya’s backlist, or is this just that one book?
Kristy: It’s all of them. At least –
Kristy: ‘Cause I’m going off of trust with the Romancelandia on Twitter.
Sarah: Right –
Kristy: ‘Cause –
Sarah: – as people report.
Kristy: Yeah, so –
Kristy: – ultimately, it was, a lot of it is in Royal Love, but I’ve seen various screenshots and everything of, from other books as well. So –
Kristy: – it’s from all of the books that people have or were able to check.
Claire: I might actually be able to, to give you a bit more on that, because –
Kristy: Oh, yes please!
Claire: So I, I don’t have, I don’t have, I’ve only obviously got the re-, the results through the algorithm; I don’t have everything. So I think I’ve been contacted and have run books for maybe two-thirds of the authors on the list? So it’s not, it’s not complete, but of the works that I do have, I think of the fourteen or fifteen that I have, I have confirmed hits in fourteen books?
Kristy: Oh wow.
Claire: Fourteen of Serruya’s books, and that just means that in these books there is at least one, one line found or one, one hit found where the text is too similar to, to be coincidence. So, so yeah. I think the, again, the, the most, like, the most serious example is still Royal Love and Royal Affair, if I remember correctly.
Sarah: What always astonishes me every time is the amount of work it takes to plagiarize seems like more work than actually just writing your own darn book!
Kristy: But can we even say that she did work, because –
Sarah: You know, you really have a good question there; I don’t know that you can! [Laughs]
Kristy: Because she ended up, like, going, ooh, I really like this passage! Let me hand it off to a ghostwriter to actually do the work. ‘Cause she –
Sarah: It really does seem like that’s what happened!
Kristy: Yeah, it doesn’t seem like she did any work! Like, she didn’t –
Claire: I, I don’t think she did.
Kristy: – just put her name on it.
Claire: So I, I did actually post on Twitter, I put together a, a visualization, I guess? of, of what lines I’d found in, in Royal Affair, and it’s just an image that has, like, it, it’s an image that’s sort of basically like a barcode for the book? If someone wants to –
Claire: – if someone wants to, you can go to my Twitter feed and take a look at it, and it just shows you colored lines for, for, like, a different color for every author, so you can see, like, what kind of, what scenes were lifted or kind of where they were in the book, and then different colors for every au-, and it’s, and it’s, there’s a lot of stuff there, but they’re all mix-and-matched, so I mean, what I personally think was done here, and, and because it was easier than writing her own book, is that she took scenes from lots and lots of different books. I mean, I think the record for Royal Love is like, there’s twenty different books in there. Twenty different books –
Sarah: Good God!
Claire: – a lot of different scenes, and she just mix-and-matched them and lined them up into something that was kind of like a plot, and then sent that to a ghostwriter and said, hey, clean it up. And then she gets back, obviously, a book and publishes that under her name. I, I, that’s just personal opinion. I’m not going to say for definite; I’m just saying that that’s what it looks like to me, based on the results that I’ve got.
Sarah: That is, that is your theory; that’s your working theory –
Claire: That’s my, that’s, that’s my theory. You know, I think that this was probably, I, I, I think it’s probably likely, just because this would be easier than trying to sit down and write a whole book if you’re not, like, if you’re, if you’re not prepared to do that or if you’re busy or, I don’t know. [Laughs]
Sarah: I’d, I, it seems like an astonishingly weird amount of work to me to, to basically – I was trying to describe this to one of my kids, and I was like, basically, this person took a bunch of different passages of books, and imagine that you put them on a playing card, and then you shuffle that playing card like a Vegas dealer, and the cards go across in a big arc, and then they shuffle, and then they go in a stack, and then they go out, and then they go back, and boom! there’s your book –
Sarah: – all of these different pieces all mixed up, and, and, and, like, the expression on his face matched the expression on mine: this sort of dumbfounded, like, but why?
Sarah: Why? I’m guessing that Serruya has not contacted either of you or said a word to you about this.
Kristy: No –
Claire: Oh no!
Kristy: – I keep getting a hit from Brazil almost every day –
Kristy: – on my blog, and so every time I’m like, she’s checking to see how much we’ve found! That is –
Kristy: – all that goes on in my head is, every time I see somebody from Brazil pop up, ‘cause, you know, I have WordPress, and so it, like, tells you –
Sarah: It’ll tell you, yeah!
Kristy: Yeah! [Laughs] And so I see one Brazil every day, and I’m like, hmm! I wonder if that’s her. Granted, you know –
Sarah: Holy smoke!
Kristy: – you just never know.
Sarah: Holy –
Claire: I, I, I don’t know; I haven’t been contacted, so –
Sarah: I imagine, though, that you’ve both been contacted by a lot of people about books and checking books. I mean, has –
Sarah: The, the entire romance community, pretty much, has probably been like, hey, uh, hey, can you, can you check my book?
Claire: [Laughs] Yeah, I’ve had a lot of people –
Sarah: It, it must be a lot of data inbound, right?
Claire: Well, it’s actually, it’s not so bad? The, the thing is, is that, like, I’m, I’m not especially intimidated by having to process large amounts of data, and probably what I think is large amounts of data is quite different to what the rest of Romancelandia thinks is, is a lot of data.
Sarah: Definitely true –
Claire: Like –
Sarah: – no question. [Laughs]
Claire: So the, so the, the, the biggest run that I’ve done so far would have been two hundred books in a single go.
Sarah: Gah! Holy smoke!
Claire: But, yeah, but, but that – [laughs] – but that took hours! But I mean I wasn’t, I wasn’t there for that. I literally just set the thing running and then just, you know, went and, you know, had dinner and made coffee, that kind of thing. I’m not going to stick around and wait for it; I’m just going to let it run and, you know, pick up the results whenever it finishes.
Sarah: And yet, I look back on my own experiences, and authors’ experiences twenty, thirty years ago. You had to go through it by hand, or you had to hire people to read your book alongside another person’s book. You had to go through it –
Sarah: – by hand; there was no other way to do it. So the idea that you can set it to run for a couple of hours, go make dinner, go make coffee, and come back and have this visualization of similarity is amazing! I mean, seriously, I hope if I can do anything in the next few minutes, it’s convince you how extraordinary this is. It is truly amazing.
Kristy: It’s magic is what it is. It’s magic.
Sarah: Yes! I was going to say, right, Kristy?
Kristy: You are a wizard or a witch. You, you do magic, period.
Claire: I’m, I’m just, I’m just sorry ‘cause I, I don’t think of it as anything, just because I do this every day! [Laughs] This is, this is my job!
Sarah: It’s basically like – yes, but it’s also basically like learning a language and being so fluent in it that you can do magical things with it, because –
Claire: Yeah, I guess so.
Sarah: Yes! It’s like you, you’ve learned a magic incantation of many numbers and some, probably some brackets, and you, you are able to create this sort of miraculous data magic that, like, I certainly cannot do.
Now, how much time have you each spent on this project? I know you both said you wanted to help, and I, I believe that you have achieved that goal! How much time have you spent on your own accounting of, of books and files and, and, and constr-, you know, constructing this data? How much time have you guys spent on this?
Kristy: Way too much.
Claire: Oh, hours.
Sarah: You going to send Christine, Cristiane Serruya a bill?
Sarah: Invoice her? So you think that it’s, how many hours, if you had to estimate, Kristy, how many hours do you think you’ve spent on this?
Kristy: Honestly, I’m not sure, ‘cause it, well, like, that first, like, week, it was, I was having to update my blog and update the list and all of that –
Kristy: – almost every hour, it seemed like, so I, I would say, if I had to add everything together, I’d probably say I put about twenty-four hours of work in here, because –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Kristy: – you know, you just have to make sure that you have the right books or – there was one author where, it was the wrong book that we put, and so we had to make a correction and say, actually, it wasn’t this one, which funny thing is, is we actually just added that other book onto the list, you know, three days later or something along those lines. So, you know, you’re having to make a correction, update it. I was keeping –
Kristy: – other booksellers up to date with how many books and put, posting it on my Facebook and all of that stuff to, you know, get it so people could see just how bad this was, ‘cause every time I tried to talk to somebody about it, they, oh, huh! That’s wrong! Or, you know, I wonder if, if maybe it was an accident. Like, that was what I kept getting from people, and I was like, they need to see –
Sarah: Wait, what?!
Claire: Oh wow.
Kristy: Yeah, I got people that were like, well now, I’m sure that it was just common phrases that she was using. It was like, no!
Kristy: No, it’s not common phrases. It’s like this beautiful setting that Nora Roberts or Courtney Milan or any of these authors did, and then, like, copied and pasted it into it. And, you know, that’s one of the reasons –
Sarah: This wasn’t an accident. [Laughs]
Kristy: Yeah. That was why I created that list. It was like, people need to actually understand that this is not just this little tiny thing, or it’s not her saying, oh, well, his hair was dark brown and wet, which I’m sure is in various books already. It’s, these are true passages that were taken, so, you know, it was one of those that, spending the time to try and just convince people that this was a big deal took a lot of time even.
Claire and Sarah: Yep.
Sarah: I remember when the original Nora Roberts and Janet Dailey plagiarism story broke. It was 1997, so I was a senior in college. I was twenty-one, and I remember very clearly – this was long before I even – like, I had taught myself HTML as my senior project and redid the English Department website, and this was long before I decided that online writing was something I was going to do – I remember so clearly the newspaper coverage saying things like, well, now we know why all those romance novels seem like they’re all the same: ‘cause they actually are.
Claire: Ugh, ha.
Sarah: Like the whole thing was a joke, right? And I remember reading that going, oh fuck you!
Sarah: ‘Cause, you know, I remember very clearly being pissed off by that, and I was, you know, young and didn’t know very much. That’s the sort of response that happened in 1997. I would like to be surprised, and yet I’m not, that the response is, oh, it’s not a big deal! I’m sure it was an accident! She didn’t mean to!
Sarah: It, it’s so difficult sometimes to get people to take things having anything to do with romance seriously.
Claire: That, that really makes me sad.
Kristy: I saw that a lot with the list. Like, any of the retweets from people that were outside of –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Kristy: – Romancelandia, they were like, oh, this is hilarious! Look how many books! I’m like, no! These are people, these are these authors’ words that have been stolen! This isn’t just a joke!
Sarah: Yeah, it’s not really hilarious.
Sarah: [Laughs] You know, I deal with very, very minor scraping. Like, for example, people will take the content of my website and republish it on another website with their own ads, earning money off of content that we develop, and then I can’t really do much about it because they’re in foreign countries, and I can’t, I have no power to be like, hey, stop that.
Sarah: And that’s, like, a low-level frustration, so the idea that it’s not a big deal that you steal someone’s work and use it for your own profit, the idea that that’s, like, no big thing, it’s only no big thing until it happens to you.
Kristy: – think that way.
Sarah: Then it’s a really big deal. [Laughs] So you should just take all those people who are telling you it’s no big deal, just start stealing their Facebook posts and posting them as your own.
Kristy: Oh my God.
Sarah: I mean, like, I thought you said this was no big deal!
Kristy: You know that witty thing that you just said? Okay, I’m going to copy it and post it everywhere and see how you feel about that! Sound good? Yeah.
Sarah: Yes. Yeah! [Laughs] Oh –
Claire: I, I just, you know, I’m not, I’m not even, I’m not even, I don’t know, I’m not a romance author, I’m not even a part of Romancelandia, and I hear stuff about, I hear stuff about that, people talking shit about, like, the romance community, and every time it just drives me mad. So, like, just, no!
Claire: No, you give, you give proper credit here, okay. These people are on, like, like, this is like the bleeding edge of, of the digital revolution, and you need to show some fucking respect, God damn it, people! I –
Claire: Like, I –
Claire: – like, I think, I think romance is probably, is, is one of those genres that definitely does not get enough respect, and it drives me completely crazy, be-, because I think –
Sarah: Oh yes.
Claire: – it should be one of the most important genres out there, because it’s dealing with people’s relationships, and that’s just a thing that really irritates me about, I don’t know, the internet. [Laughs]
Kristy: Heck, I wrote a blog post –
Kristy: – about that, because, like, when I was a bookseller, you, you –
Sarah: Oh, I cannot imagine.
Kristy: Yeah, you tell somebody, yeah, I read romance, and you had one or two different –
Kristy: – kinds of booksellers. So you’d have the coworkers that would tell you that you needed to read something better, more, you know, better literature, something that’ll actually –
Kristy: – let you use your brain, and then you’d have others that would, like, secretly tell you, oh my God, so do I! And it just – like, a lot of my coworkers were amazing and wonderful individuals, but then you’d have those, like, little tiny people that would just be like, oh, you read romance? And then they’d try and tell you, like, oh, you need to read this book, which is, you know, some his-, history book or anything, and I’m like, oh yeah, I’ve, I’ve read various histories, I’ve read biographies, I love so many different genres, but there’s nothing wrong with me reading romance. Like –
Sarah: This is the one I like the best!
Sarah: No. Been there! And I mean, Claire, as a fantasy writer, I’m sure that you deal also with the common condescensions about fantasy. So there must be a little bit of familiarity – or not! Maybe you’re lucky! If you’re lucky, I’m, I hope you stay exactly where you are. [Laughs]
Claire: Well, to, to be honest, I generally take the, the view that anyone who thinks that a genre which tends to spend a lot of time talking about, like, hardcore combat is somehow, like, is somehow not serious, then I, I would, I would politely suggest that they fuck right off.
Sarah: And let me just tell you, it sounds even better when you say that and you’re Irish? It just sounds way better. [Laughs]
Kristy: I know; now I wish I had an accent, you know, so my fuck off would sound a lot better. [Laughs]
Claire: I mean, I’m, I’m sure, I’m sure people are going to, I mean, people’ve got a bug up their ass about a lot of stuff, but I can’t give, I can’t pay attention to someone who thinks that, that genre fiction isn’t, is somehow less worthy or something than the literary stuff. I, it, yeah, you can’t, you can’t pay attention to people like that; you just can’t. [Laughs]
Sarah: No. And it’s doubly more, it’s doubly frustrating when you’re doing all of this work to, to draw attention to a real and serious ethical and legal problem, for lack of a better term, and people are compounding the idea that oh, it’s not a big deal; it’s just books. It’s not, it’s not serious. And yet, you both take it very seriously, which I very much appreciate; thank you for that.
Sarah: What has the response been like for you as been, you’ve been documenting the material? What kind of positive responses have you gotten? What’s keeping you going?
Claire: [Laughs] So on, on Twitter, I think, I think my response for that was righteous fucking anger.
Sarah: [Laughs] This, I’m all for, I’m all for it.
Claire: Yeah. So this is just something that, that I feel, that I just feel very strongly about. I absolutely despise plagiarists, and I would be, even if I, I’m going to be doing this, even if I don’t get paid, I don’t care, because these are, these are people’s stories, and they’re personal, even if people are writing them for money. Even if you do this for, you know –
Claire: – you write commercial fiction, I mean, the thing is that for a lot of people, the stories are all that they leave behind. I mean, Shakespeare’s been dead for hundreds of years, but you can never take Macbeth and claim that it’s yours. You can, you know, you can –
Claire: – you can write your own spin on it, but, but those, but that story and those words are always going to belong to him, and I mean, I remember everybody was, was reading, was reading these books and coming up with more and more examples of copied lines, and the scale of it was just, was just incredible, and it was, like, it was just shocking to everybody. And people were asking, like, how, how much more is there, and, and like, what can we do about this? And I remember at the time I was thinking, well, I can do something. I am one of the few people –
Claire: – who can do something, because I have all the right skills to do it, and, and I, and what I was thinking at the time and what I’m thinking about now is that I’m not going to let someone do this to us. Like, it’s, I got a lot, I mean, I got a lot of, I got a lot of support, and my Twitter followers have just exploded, and that’s intimidating, but I keep –
Claire: Yeah – but I keep coming back to that: I’m not going to let somebody do this to, to the, to the writing community, not when I can do something about it.
Sarah: So you saw the number of titles and the number of affected books scaling, and you were like, God damn it, I’m going to scale right back.
Claire: I, I just thought, like, ‘cause that was the big question is like, how far does this go? And I was like, yeah, I, I can answer that question. I just need to get the books to check. You know? It’s –
Claire: – ‘cause, it’s just, to me, it’s just a data problem, and I can, and I know how to solve data problems.
Kristy: So for me, for the most part everyone, you know, has been thanking me for doing the list, and there, there’s a little weirdness, because I definitely wasn’t the first one to create the list, ‘cause that would be Jeanna Skinner on Twitter. She’s the one that –
Kristy: – created that whole list, and, you know, for me, I just kept pointing them all to, hey, you want to go look at her, she has all of the buy links, and even on my blog I made sure to credit her for the buy links and all of that stuff, and –
Kristy: – for the most part, everything’s been positive. I’ve had some of the, like, weird comments from people that are like, oh, you’re giving #CopyPasteCris all of this pub-, publicity, and oh, you’re going to get it so everyone buys her books, which is –
Kristy: – like, if you actually look at some of the comments on my blog, I’ve gotten that, or I’ve gotten an email from somebody being like, well, this is great and all, but maybe we shouldn’t be giving this so much publicity. And I’m like –
Kristy: – actually, we should, because we need to make sure that people know that this isn’t okay. Like, this isn’t okay, and we need to actually make sure people understand that we’re not going to just sit there and say, oh, it’s not that big of a deal, ‘cause it is!
Claire: Where, where are they going to buy them from?
Kristy: That was my point! I actually, like –
Kristy: – commented; I was like, seeing as all of her books have been removed from Amazon, removed from Kobo, removed from Barnes and Noble, you can’t find any copies of ‘em, they’re not going to be able to, which is a shame, because it would’ve been nice to be able to see just how far all of this was, ‘cause I think she has, like –
Kristy: – thirty-five published books, and we’ve only, well, Claire’s only been able to check, you know, the fifteen or so.
Claire: I’ve got fifteen.
Claire: Like, fifteen spread over everything, and I even, I even tweeted about it. I was just like, okay, next time you guys discover some, next time you discover this, maybe don’t, you know, wait, wait a while and make sure you get copies of everything before you, you know, start any of the takedown notices, ‘cause I can’t check what I don’t have.
Claire: And, and now that she’s, now that her books are effectively wiped off the internet, the, I just, I don’t have access to them anymore. I can’t actually go and check a lot of them, so yeah.
Kristy: Well, yeah, ‘cause –
Claire: But the –
Kristy: – Amazon just removed all of them, and you would, like –
Kristy: – even if you owned the copy, and I say “owned” with a, you know, ‘cause we never actually owned it –
Sarah: Finger quotes.
Kristy: But unless you were able to download it before anything else, you never actually owned it. You don’t have a copy of it, and it’s gone, and now nobody’s going to be able to see just how far this went, unless, you know, they can somehow get copies of the original texts, you know?
Claire: [Deep breath] Oh well.
Sarah: The idea that you’re, you’re, you’re boosting her name is just astonishing.
Kristy: Well, and that was my thing. Like, no, ‘cause honestly, I want – this sounds very vindictive and very petty of me, but I’m a petty person, so, you know, I’ll, I’ll own it.
Sarah: Hey, own your petty. Own it. Own the petty, always.
Kristy: I want, you know, when you Google her name, I want this to be the first thing to pop up, because that way people actually know that she plagiarized all of these words. She didn’t do the work; she didn’t write these books. She could care less that, you know, stole these words, and I don’t want somebody to be like, oh, well, she now is writing her own words, you know.
Kristy: It’s, we need to actually show, hey, this person didn’t do the work, and hey, if she can come back from this – I don’t know how she’d be able to without creating a penname and never releasing who she is – like, I guess I just, I don’t even know.
Sarah: It, it seems likely that someone, more than one person has done this before. It seems likely that she’s not the only person who has done this, and it seems also likely that she’ll be back –
Sarah: – because if she’s made money once, she’ll do it again; it’s just the way of things.
Sarah: But I, I agree that, that you have to talk about what happened and, and name specifically what happened; otherwise, with the amount of stuff that happens just on Twitter in an hour, people forget –
Sarah: – you know what I mean? So what you’ve done is effectively documented, yes, this happened, and it was wrong, and it was a problem, and anyone who looks it up now will find your writing about it, which is essential to making sure that it isn’t as easily done again –
Kristy: Exactly, yep.
Sarah: – even though it’ll happen again, because, well –
Kristy: Yep, it does.
Sarah: – we’ve, I’ve, I’ve been through at least two of these major things in my lifetime; I’m sure there will be more within romance. I mean, that’s even not, that’s, that’s not even the right number. Now I have to sit and think, how many times has something like this happened? Happens all the time, because the minute there’s money to be made in a genre, people are like, oh, well, how many shortcuts can I take in writing that genre?
Claire: I, I want to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.
Sarah: I like this plan; I’m thrilled to be a part of it. You, you mentioned, you mentioned, Claire, that you are really good at scaling, and I noticed you mentioned on Twitter that you were exploring development of this program in a greater capacity. Is that right? Can you talk a little bit about that?
Claire: Yeah, it’s, okay, I’ll, I’ll try to. This is, this is kind of a complicated question. So, so my specialty is data processing, and it’s, it’s basically like trying to figure out ways to, to run a process and then scale it up so that you can do it with millions of records.
Claire: Like, what’s the most efficient way to do, what’s a, like, what’s the way to do it the fastest? I build custom tools for a lot of what I do. I’m not going to try and explain the technical stuff, as that would just be a waste of time. But the, the problem here is that you want, what I, or what you have to do is that you have to figure out how to check hundreds of books, or millions of books, looking for text that’s almost but not exactly the same, and obviously this isn’t something you can do with, with human beings; it just takes too long. And even, and even –
Claire: – and even the prototype takes too long. So when I’m talking about scale, like, what I want to try to do is to make an application that can do the, can do this, like, at the scale of data that I normally work at, so, like, you upload, you upload a book, and it checks against millions of books in a couple of hours, as opposed to just, like, twenty or thirty. I, I’m not sure how to, if I should get into – [laughs] – I mean, I’m kind of not sure, I’m not sure how to explain this. I’m, I’m working on, on the development of this particular thing, like, I spent about the last week looking at, like, what’s going to be involved to set it up as a web app. The big problem is speed, and hopefully I’m going to get past that, but the, the, the idea that I’ve got is, what I want to do is to let everybody, like, upload their books into this application for free, and then whenever they want to check a book for, that they think has copied text, then they upload that book, and, and then they pay to run a check. Like, the thing is, is that I can’t really keep working on this for free. I am right, I am right now –
Claire: – because it’s important.
Sarah: Entirely fair.
Claire: Yeah, it’s, it’s –
Sarah: You cannot do this for free.
Claire: It’s important to kind of, like, I’m, I’m, right now I still have the prototype, the prototype obviously works, so I’m just going to make sure that right now I’m just going to do it for free, but the, the, eventually, the, the web app that I want to make with this is, so someone uploads their books; they, they pay to run a check; and the system runs a check and, and sends them a report; but then I want it to run the same check on that same suspect book against every other book in the system, because the one thing that I’ve learned from this is that plagiarism never happens just once. Like, especially –
Sarah: You are so right about that.
Claire: Yeah, like, I mean, especially with Serruya, like, I, it’s, it’s even from the same author. Like, knowing that she lifted lines from one book, from one author, I said, okay, now it’s a good, we should actually run, like, all their books, because, because there was a possibility that she didn’t just pull just from one of theirs. I mean, the, the, the example that, that you should think about was, it was Christi Caldwell’s book. Somebody noticed the lines from A Season of Hope in, in one of Serruya’s books, and, and Christi got in touch with me, and I confirmed that. I said, look, send me all of your books, because it’s, I think it’s worthwhile –
Claire: – checking all of them. And, and I did, and what I found was that she’d, like, a massive chunk of stuff that had been lifted out of To Tempt a Scoundrel that nobody had spotted, because –
Sarah: Oh my gosh.
Claire: And that’s, and that’s, I, I saw this repeatedly, and I just said, yeah, okay, plagiarism never happens just once. So –
Claire: – like, if you’re going to see this kind of, if this kind of mix, mix-and-match plagiarism is a thing, then you’ve got to kind of build a system that protects everybody from that, and that’s, that’s what I wanted to build, so, so once the system gets a suspect book, they can, you know, someone pays to run a check; the system then checks against everybody else in the system as well, and if it finds something, then it can just let them know and say, hey, we got a report for you. If you want, you can pay a few bucks, and you can then go and get your report, you know? But the point being is that –
Claire: – once you’re actually in the system, one person uploading one book helps to protect everybody else. Like, I want this to be, I want to make sure that everybody can access this if they need it so that it costs nothing to, it costs nothing for someone to just upload their books and be protected, and then they can just decide then, you know, do you want to pay for the reports that come out of it, I guess. The most important thing to me, because I’m a, because I’m an analyst, is that, like, if I have a complete data set, it makes, it makes a lot of the stuff easier, ‘cause then I know what I’m working with, but – yeah, I’m not sure if I’m explaining it very well, but that’s kind of the idea.
Sarah: No, you are. You’re very clear; do not worry. You are explaining this brilliantly, and I think that’s a really smart idea. I, you’re completely right: it never happens once; it’s never just one book or one sentence; it’s always a compounded instance; it’s never just once; and it’s, and, and, and like you said, they always come back. The idea of being able to build a database of books that are copyrighted and written by the person who’s uploaded them and then checking that dataset against any flagged material, you’re so right that whatever you say, what, what, whatever you find that is plagiarized in one way is likely to be plagiarized in other ways as well. It’s never just one book.
Claire: Yeah, I don’t, I don’t think it’s ever just, I don’t think it’s ever just one. I, I think I remember, if, if you know, Nora Roberts, she was blogging about this, and I, I started, like, reading, reading her blog posts, which just, like, absolutely broke my heart, because she’s, she takes, you know, she, obviously it’s very personal to her, but she was talking about Dailey and that instance way back when, and she said that, like, you know, she even called Janet Dailey, and, and Janet Dailey swore –
Claire: – swore blind to her that it was just this one time, and Nora went and opened up another one of her books, and straight away found that, no, it wasn’t just one time.
Claire: You know, it –
Sarah: I have heard her talk about that, and it is – the minute Nora Roberts’ name appeared on your list, I said out loud, okay, everybody get underground now.
Kristy: Seriously. You don’t mess with Nora! You just don’t –
Sarah: Gee, you don’t start a land war in Asia, you don’t gamble with a Sicilian when death is on the line, and for the love of Christ, do not plagiarize Nora Roberts!
Sarah: Like, don’t, don’t you know things?!
Claire: [Laughs] Yeah, she, she’s –
Sarah: Like, seriously!
Claire: – she’s been in contact. I’m, I’m pretty sure we’re, we’re going to see, I don’t know, maybe a nuclear blast or something? I, I’m not sure.
Sarah: Whoa. She’s not to be fucked with on this matter.
Kristy: Oh God –
Kristy: – mm-mm.
Sarah: This is something that I’ve heard her speak about that she has been passionate about since it happened to her, because she had to deal with being told – and I know she wrote about this – she had to deal with being told at conferences with other romance writers, oh, you should just let this go; it’s not a big deal. How could you be so mean as to make these accusations against her? Like, the, the amount of gaslighting that she endured – wait, I’m doing math in my head; so this was ’97 – twenty-something, twenty-two, twenty-three years ago – the amount of gaslighting she endured when it happened is only compounded by the number of years that have gone by, and people are like, oh yeah, that’s so cute! No, not cute. Very bad. Everyone get underground right now.
Sarah: Like, I hope, I – I would really like to hope that Serruya has sort of learned from this experience. I’m not optimistic, but like I said, don’t, don’t do that! Like, really! Have you not seen enough GIFs of dragons scorching the earth, because that’s pretty much what’s going to happen here.
Kristy: Yeah, the second I saw, someone tweeted at me to add Nora to the list, and I just –
Sarah: Like, ohhh no.
Kristy: – I was like, you don’t fuck with Nora! Like, that’s, that’s like the number one rule is not to mess with her, ‘cause she’s –
Kristy: – so prolific. Everyone knows – well, we’ll say ninety percent of everyone knows Nora Roberts’ name. Like –
Sarah: And if they don’t, they, they don’t realize that they do and they forgot.
Claire: Kristy, do you remember, I, I think I tweeted at you, like, or maybe I messaged you? I can’t remember, but I said, hey, you, we need to add more of Nora’s books to the list, and I just started sending titles.
Kristy: Oh my God, yes!
Claire: And, yeah.
Kristy: Like –
Claire: That, that was like, I was just, I remember sending you that, and I was just like, ohhh boy. [Laughs]
Kristy: Yeah, ‘cause you gave me like seven more books or something like that, and I just, I stared at that list just dumbfounded, ‘cause I’m like, she’s not this dumb! This person could not have been this dumb! And, like, I just wanted to be like, are you sure? But I knew you were.
Kristy and Claire: Yeah.
Sarah: Like, this is not, this is not, this is not hard. I remember when – I don’t remember what plagiarism event it was; it was one of them. I remember, like, explaining why I was so angry, and my husband said, well, look, it’s treason. It is treason among writers. You are committing treason against other writers by stealing their words and passing them off as your own, and I was like, yes, that is exactly what this feeling is. It is like treason to our community, and I, and I have to say, the work that you both have done is really extraordinary, and the community owes you a great debt, because you have done an astonishing amount of work and advanced the ability for us to figure out how to manage these things in such a way that I don’t even think it can be measured. Is there anything that you would want to say to authors or readers who, who are listening?
Kristy: Honestly, to all of the authors, I’d just like to say, thank you for creating all of those books and doing the right thing and actually writing the books.
Kristy: You know. ‘Cause it’s, it’s very shocking when you hear about something like this and, you know, when you, you’re in the middle, ‘cause even though none of these are my words that were stolen, I kind of feel like I was in the middle by creating this list. I just, it’s amazing to see all of the authors that came together and were happy to help and wanting to help and getting the word out and all of that, so I, to all of those authors, I just, I can’t even begin to say thank you, because they have put in that time, and they have created the worlds that have helped all of us readers get lost in.
And then I guess to all of the readers, I want them to make sure they don’t blame all indie authors, ‘cause this is one person that did this, and yes, it happens all of the time – or not all of the time, but it, it happens – but don’t blame every indie author, and don’t blame every author that’s in Kindle Unlimited or anything along those lines. There are some amazing authors out there, and give them a shot, you know. I know that there are various ways to tell if it’s a scammer or not. One of the ways is, you know, doing a reverse engine search on the author’s picture and see, okay, this is really an author. Like, don’t blame everyone for one bad apple, you know, and find good authors, and support local bookstores!
Sarah: Yes, that.
Claire: So –
Sarah: Especially if they’re romance friendly.
Kristy: Oh yeah.
Sarah: And not terrible. Claire?
Claire: So –
Claire: So if, if, if any author listening to this, if you think that you were plagiarized by Cris Serruya, please do get in contact with me. I will check your books. All you’ve got to do is just, like, get in touch on Twitter or through the contact form on my, on my website. All you’ve got to do is just send me copies of your books. I don’t care how many there are; I can do as many as it takes. I’ll run them through the algorithm, and I’ll send you back a report. This, you know, if it’s important to you, it’s going to be important to me, so please just get in contact.
And I, I want to say to the authors who were plagiarized that I am very sorry, and I didn’t realize that this was going to be kind of emotional, but I get to see all the results, and it’s been sometimes really hard to email those authors back these reports that said, hey, somebody claimed your work and called it, called it their own. I mean, I’m sorry I have to, to send those files. I’m effectively the bearer of the worst possible news. Like, at one point I even had to step away because I was looking at this output, and there’s just so much of it that it –
Claire: – it just made me feel a bit sick, and, and I’m sure that, I don’t want sympathy, because it’s not my work, but I imagine finding out that you’ve been plagiarized feels a lot like that. It feels like you’ve just been kicked in the chest. So –
Claire: – to the authors that have been plagiarized, I am really sorry that someone did this to you.
Readers, to the readers, I just want to say, go check out the list on Caffeinated Fae. Support those authors, go buy their books, and thank you so much for finding this to begin with. It wouldn’t have been possible unless somebody noticed and somebody told us, and that’s so important, and continue doing that. That’s, that’s a good thing. Yeah.
Kristy: Still remember when you sent me, wasn’t it Michelle Pillow? Her books? That list –
Claire: Oh, oh, Michelle, I felt so bad for her!
Claire: That was, like, nine books or some? I don’t know how many books; I can’t even remember.
Kristy: Yeah, it was –
Claire: Oh, that –
Kristy: – crazy, and I, like, you sending me that, and then, like, it was just, it’s heart-wrenching to see that! I can’t even – like, I’m not an author, so I can’t even imagine how hard that is to see how much their words have been plagiarized. I just, I can’t even imagine!
Claire: I, I felt so bad sending that report. It was just this, this big ZIP file or whatever, and it just, I, I was looking at the output from that going like, maybe, I must be wrong. I, I, this, this, it can’t be this extensive, but, but it was, and I was looking through, I validate all the results to make sure that there’s no false positives or anything, and there really was that much, and I was like, oh my God. How do I send this to someone? But, you know, I did, because it’s important, but, like, I, I just didn’t expect it to, to affect me like that, and then I, I still, still feel really bad that I had to do that; I had to send those files over. Hey, hey, Michelle, if you’re listening, I really hope you’re okay.
Sarah: Now, I always ask this question, and I’m really excited to ask it of both of you. I always ask podcast guests to talk about books that they have enjoyed recently and they want to share, so I would really love to hear if you have any books that you’ve read and recommended and want to tell people about, and if you would like to pimp your own, please do. That is entirely allowed.
Sarah: I mean, I’ll be linking to whatever you, whatever I can find of yours. I’ll definitely be linking to your site; I’ll link to your Twitters; I’ll link to the images; I will link to your Claire Ryan books. If there’s things that you would like me to link to, Kristy, send them my way –
Kristy: I’ll do that.
Sarah: – but if you have books that, if you have books that you have read that you’d like to tell people about, please go for it, and Kristy, if you’d like, you can go first.
Kristy: All right. So one I just finished –
Sarah: [Laughs] I love when you ask a bookseller this question, and they’re like, all right! Everybody strap in!
Kristy: I just finished Sylvain Neuvel, and I might have just butchered his name, so if you’re listening, I am so sorry for butchering your name, but his, it’s a novella; it’s called The Test? It’s a total mindfuck. Like –
Kristy: – one of the strangest, most brilliant novellas I’ve ever listened to. I listened to it on Audible, and it was just, it was phenomenal. I can’t say too much about it, because it will give –
Kristy: – away everything, but if you enjoy sci-fi, like, political science, in a way technology, like, all of that stuff – well, here, if you’re a fan of Black Mirror, the TV show, you will absolutely love this novella. It’s phenomenal.
So that’s one that I just finished like two days ago, and it was just amazing. The other one, like, my favorite author, well, one of my favorite romance authors is Samantha Young, so literally any of her books are, they’re witty; they have banter; they’re just phenomenal.
And I would get murdered by my friend Armada West if I didn’t pimp her book. She has a really good vampire series, and it’s called war/SONG. It’s a unique take as vampires and magi. It’ll end up becoming more romance; it has elements of romance in it right now. But I beta read for her, and so I’ve been reading her second in the series, which doesn’t have a title yet, but –
Kristy: – it’s phenomenal, and I know that she would murder me if I didn’t pimp it, so, you know, there you go.
Claire: So I, I do have a book that I want to mention. [Laughs] I, I –
Sarah: Please do.
Claire: I don’t, I don’t get as much time as I’d like to write and, and to read, but when I do read, I like to read books by people that I know personally, ‘cause you know, I, I know a lot of authors, and I, I, I think it’s fun to, to read everybody’s stuff, ‘cause then you get to tell them exactly what you think of it. [Laughs] So one I want to mention that I read recently is The Bone Reader by Mab Morris. It’s a fantasy murder mystery. It’s, it’s the first in hopefully a series; I’m not sure if she’s, you know, what she’s got planned aft-, for the next one. It, it’s about a woman who has to, who has to solve a murder, and she sees the dead, and she’s a, she’s a, like a fortune teller or bone reader. The story is just, I, I really don’t want to give a lot of it away, but, but the, it is a story about grief and, and about dealing with grief, and about halfway through it I started crying, and that’s a fairly high, that’s a fairly high bar –
Claire: – to reach, and all I can say is that this is, this is just a lovely, lovely book, and I really want more people to know about it, because it is just that good, and I want people to know more about her as a, as an author. And I don’t really care if you link to my books, ‘cause I don’t think my books are all that great. I, I want more people to know about my friend, my friend Mab, Mab Morris’s books, so yeah.
Sarah: [Laughs] Anything else either of you would like to add?
Kristy: Fuck plagiarism, you know.
Sarah: Fuck plagiarism! I agree.
Claire: So I started, I put together the website for what’s eventually going to be this app – cross your fingers. It’s –
Claire: – it’s called Similar.Works. [Laughs]
Sarah: That’s a really good name!
Claire: I, I know; I actually came up with it myself, and I was so proud. [Laughs] So –
Sarah: Oh, dude! That’s brilliant!
Claire: So all, all we’ve done is just, we’ve registered the domain, and we’ve, we’ve put up a little contact form, and there’s some default nonsense up there at the moment, but eventually, hopefully, we’re going to have like a, we’ll, we’ll put up something like a mailing list or whatever so that people can kept up, be kept up to date. But yeah.
Kristy: I love the little bookshelf you have! Sorry, I’m, I Googled it the second you said it.
Sarah: Yeah, yeah, me too.
Claire: By the time the podcast airs, hopefully we’ll have a mailing list up! I don’t, I don’t –
Claire: I, I am, like, I’m, I’m getting some help with actually doing the business side of things. I mean, I’m just, I’m just a programmer. I’m not good at this, but I’m getting some help with the business end of things, so hopefully we’ll have something more concrete up there, I guess? Yeah.
Sarah: Brilliant. Absolute brilliant. Thank you guys very, very much; thank you both for everything that you have done. You have done an astonishing amount of work, because you cared to do it, and that is very difficult to fully measure, but thank you, thank you, thank you for that.
Kristy: I’m happy to help! Honestly, that’s why I got involved was ‘cause I felt really helpless, and my über-organizational skills came in handy there.
Claire: Yeah, I, I got involved because fuck plagiarists.
Sarah: Yeah. And that.
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this episode. I want to thank Kristy and Claire not only for hanging out with me and answering all of my questions, but also for all of the work that they have done. It is a significant amount, and of course I will have links to the blog posts they mention, and I will have links to Claire’s online tool that she is building as well.
If you would like to find Claire on Twitter, she is – and I’m probably not going to say right – @aetherlev, and I will have a link to her Twitter handle, and her website is claireryanauthor.com. Kristy is on Twitter @CaffeinatedFae, and her website is Caffeinated Fae as well [caffeinatedfae.com]. And if you are looking for the tool that Claire is developing, it is at Similar.Works, which is a fabulous URL that I am really impressed by, ‘cause as you know, I’m not particularly skilled at naming things.
And if you want to get in touch with me, you can email me at [email protected], or you can call and leave a message at 1-201-371-3272. Tell me a bad joke – I love those; they’re my favorite – ask for recommendations; tell me what you’re thinking; make, make a suggestion. I don’t care; it’s really lovely to hear from you because, well, y’all are all very smart and awesome.
And speaking of people who are smart and awesome and you, would you like to hear us record a podcast live? If you are attending Book Lovers Con in New Orleans, you can do just that! Thursday, May 16th, 3:30 p.m. local time at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans in Imperial 5C, Amanda, Elyse, and I will be recording a live show, and if you are attending Book Lovers Con, we would love for you to join us. We are going to play Cards Against Romance Tropes, we might have some trivia, there’s definitely going to be silliness, I’m hoping there will also be wine, and it is free for attendees of Book Lovers Con. However, we are asking folks to register, just so we know how many chairs we’ll need. I have a link in the show notes and more information on the site, and I hope that we will see you there.
This week’s transcript is hand-compiled by garlicknitter – thank you, garlicknitter! [You’re very welcome! – gk] – and it is brought to you by the Patreon community. If you have supported the show with a monthly pledge, you are helping me make every episode accessible to everyone, and every week I discover a new person who reads the show rather than listens to it for various reasons, so thank you to the Patreon community for helping me provide a transcript for every episode. If you would like to join the Patreon group, please have a look! Patreon.com/SmartBitches – one dollar a month makes you part of the crew who helps me develop questions, makes suggestions for guests, and helps pick our quarterly book club selection. If you are at all interested, have a look: patreon.com/SmartBitches, and thank you so much in advance!
The music you are listening to is provided by Sassy Outwater. You can find her on Twitter @SassyOutwater. This is Caravan Palace. This track is called “Beatophone.” This is from their two-album set including Caravan Palace and Panic, and you can find it at iTunes, at Facebook – no, you can’t find it on Facebook; you can find them on Facebook. You can find the album on iTunes and Amazon. You can find Caravan Palace on Facebook and on their website caravanpalace.com. I particularly like this two-album set for when I’m listening to things while I’m, like, doing graphic design. I can’t listen to things with lyrics while I’m writing, but if I’m doing design or coding, music like this with sort of lyrics in different languages, pretty great; I like it a lot.
Now, there’s a whole website that goes with the podcast. Wow, is that website big too. Believe me, I, I hang out with the database all day; it’s really big! And if you’d like to hang out with us some more – because why wouldn’t you? – we’ve got nifty crap coming up this week on smartbitchestrashybooks.com. So first, Monday, Cover Snark! It is always a good thing to start your week with Cover Snark, right? Right.
And we are hosting another grab bag giveaway. This is when we fill Priority Mail boxes with books that we’ve received over the past few weeks. Sometimes we receive duplicates, but we receive a lot of different books that we cannot possibly read, so in addition to giving them to different places and donating them, we do grab bag giveaways! So this week, head over to the site; you can enter to win. We will draw winners at random on Friday, and winners will receive a grab bag or box of new books suitable for reading and sharing and gifting and more. Hope you will enter.
We also have a really terrific guest post this week from Aarya Marsden about the way that some heroines in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series are described as unlikeable and how much that makes Aarya ferociously angry. We also have new reviews of new books and backlist titles, plus Books on Sale, Help a Bitch Out, and more. I hope you will come and hang out with us.
As I mentioned in the intro, we talked a lot about different blog posts and a lot of online writing. I will have links to all of it, and I dug up some of the coverage from the original 1997 news articles that talked about the Nora Roberts/Janet Dailey plagiarism if you’d like to see and read for yourself what I was talking about when I talked about the coverage. It was really awful, and it still pisses me off, but I have links if you’d like to take a look. And I will have links to the books that they mentioned at the end as well.
And now it is time for a terrible joke. I love this joke. It’s so dumb! [Laughs] I tortured my poor husband with terrible jokes all morning. This is the one I went with. [Clears throat] Professional podcaster voice:
Did you hear about the zoo that only has one animal in it, and that animal was a dog?
Yeah, zoo, one animal in it, animal was a dog.
It was a Shih Tzu.
[Laughs] Shih Tzu! That’s such a shit zoo! [Laughs more] Okay, I love that joke. It’s a shit zoo!
Okay, back to professional podcasting. [Sighs] Yes. I love that joke! [Still laughing]
On behalf of my guests and everyone here, including no Shih Tzus, although many animals, we wish you the very best of reading. Have a wonderful weekend, and we will see you back here next week.
[slow drag music]
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.