Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Trust Issue #1

We’d like to start off by saying that we hope everyone is having a great 2008 so far. Ours is going well, and it just feels like this year is going to be one of the best yet. There’s a certain vibe buzzing around. Maybe it’s because of the election. Maybe there’s a hint of change in the air. Or maybe the earth’s poles’ are reversing. One never knows.

Anyway, speaking of the election (for the US president in November), we are going to be posting quite a bit about an issue that plays a vital role in government and publishing. That issue is trust, the basis of any good relationship, either personal or professional. It seems like a good time to address this, since a budding scandal is already brewing in the ranks of publishing. If you haven’t heard, a situation reminiscent of the Kavya Viswanathan fiasco has come to the fore. Charges of plagiarism have been leveled against a historical romance writer published by Signet (an imprint of Penguin Putnam). The complete story can be found at the following URL’S:

We are not going to address the writer’s innocence or guilt, because we don’t have the whole story and refuse to make comments based only on two news articles and an e-mail announcement sent out by the RWA to its members (of which Sharene is one). However, these types of stories get us thinking about other related issues in the publishing world and make good jumping off points.

Warm up them bungees!

1 comment:

Myrlin said...

I suspect part of the problem is that there's no accepted way to cite one's sources in a historical novel the way one would in a non-fiction book. Do readers really want a bunch of footnotes cluttering up the page and pulling them out of the story?

This isn't an academic question; I'm working on a historical novel now for which I've consulted dozens if not hundreds of sources. I plan on including a bibliography in an unobtrusive index--but do I need to worry about accusations of plagiarism if I don't note specifically that this or that bit of gossip reported by my heroine was actually taken from the memoirs of Lady Fanshawe or Samuel Pepys?

I think scandals such as the brouhaha with Ian McEwan (which this situation seems superficially to resemble, at least from the published excerpt) depend on a fundamental misunderstanding of what novelists do, and what readers expect from a historical novel versus a non-fiction work of history.

Besides, aren't all writers magpies, to a certain extent? I was amused, reading Thomas Lodge's Rosalynde to see how many famous "Shakespearean" lines and speeches were, in fact, lifted wholesale for As You Like It