Sarah vs Janet

Several years ago, author Sarah Strohmeyer wrote a novel and got into trouble with Janet Evanovich, who found it necessary to bring in lawyers to resolve the situation.  Now, inexplicably, Sarah has blogged about her version of what happened, painting herself as this innocent, adoring, respectful author and Janet as an egotistical, irrational bitch…

Sarah’s comments about Janet were picked up by blogs everywhere and she’s continued to flog her story on DorothyL, a discussion list for mystery readers, writers, and booksellers.

To her credit, Janet has taken the high road and remained out of the fray. But it bothers me to see people trashing Janet as if the story Sarah is telling is undisputed fact. It isn’t.

I don’t know Sarah, and I have nothing against her. But I have to ask myself what the point is of flogging this highly self-serving version of events now (repeatedly) and what she hopes to gain from it.

I should say right now that I’m biased…Janet is a friend of mine, I like her a lot, and I don’t like seeing her unfairly trashed. Remember, there are two sides to every story. Sarah is flogging one  version… don’t assume it’s gospel simply because Janet hasn’t countered with her side of things (and if she did, you might not like Sarah very much). 

UPDATE: Janet asked me to post the following message on DorothyL in response to Sarah’s latest post:

I met Sarah Strohmeyer ten years ago when she came to my house to interview me for a local paper.  It’s my understanding that during that visit I inspired Sarah to write about Bubbles.  I’m flattered to have made this small contribution to Sarah’s success and wish her the very best.

Janet Evanovich

As you can see, she’s a classy lady. 

17 thoughts on “Sarah vs Janet”

  1. I’ve blogged on this, too. I read her snarky piece at Lipstick Chronicles and found it puzzling, to say the least. I love Evanovich’s books; I’ve read the 1st ten. (I’m a “Ranger woman.”)

  2. I’ve blogged on this, too. I read her snarky piece at Lipstick Chronicles and found it puzzling, to say the least. I love Evanovich’s books; I’ve read the 1st ten. (I’m a “Ranger woman.”)

  3. I’ve read Strohmeyer’s version of events several weeks ago and was shocked. Shocked that J.E. might ever behave that way, shocked that someone would so publicly air such personal dirty laundry. I suspect there is much, much more to the story and Strohmeyer doesn’t come across as credible by virtue of her willingness to openly broadcast what amounts to a personal vendetta.
    I’m a nobody and J.E. emailed me a personal response (at least I assume she did since it was signed Janet) to an email I sent her. I was so thrilled and then devastated when my pc crashed with her email on it.
    I have always observed J.E. to behave with utmost kindness and generosity. While I believe there is something going on, I don’t buy Strohmeyer’s version of events.
    I actually chose not to blog about it as I didn’t want to draw any more attention to it than necessary. The whole thing struck me as a publicity stunt and I didn’t want to fuel the fire.
    That being said, I don’t mean to imply you shouldn’t have posted anything. For me it was just that I didn’t know either of the authors personally, nor did I have anything constructive to add, and I didn’t have any facts to justify a post.
    It’s nice to see her friends standing up for her as I have mostly found posts more than willing to buy into Strohmeyer’s side of the story.

  4. I didn’t find it snarky. It struck me as a public response to a situation that had already become publicly weird.
    I don’t know either person, but the confusion expressed seemed genuine enough to me that I posted a supportive comment. Maybe I shouldn’t have, and I’m overly credulous–but I thought I’d already heard the other side someplace, and what I was reading was a response, not a first blow.

  5. I agree with Keith. Sarah (whom I don’t know) merely posted a story that happened to her – Janet’s lawyers calling, etc. Everything else has been other people commenting.
    For me, though I’ve never met JE, I have heard from two different people that do know her, and hold a less than stellar opinion – which is what I posted.
    As for her writing, I don’t get it. From what I’ve read (one book completely, parts of two others) her work is very elementary, very lowbrow, and lacking originality. But that’s just me.

  6. To my shame, I’m not entirely sure if I’ve read an Evanovich novel: she’s not the one who calls towns ‘bergs’ all the time, is she?

  7. I read Sarah’s original post at Lipstick Chronicles and got the feeling she was just getting something off her chest that had bothered her for a while. It didn’t seem like a PR thing at all to me.
    I’m with Paul on the mystery of JE’s popularity. I couldn’t make it all the way through To The Nines, but that’s a highly subjective area and lots of sales means lots of people disagree with me.

  8. I had brief contact with JE via RWA early on in my career, and she was very friendly. We exchanged a few short notes, and she made such an impression on me that I made a point to see her in person when she came to FL for a book signing. She was just as great in person.
    It’s hard to read something like Strohmeyer’s story when you have a very different experience of your own. I’m not surprised by JE’s response, though. The lady is a true pro.

  9. Sarah did exactly what I, and most other people would have done in her position, told our side of the story.
    Remember the love triangle with Princ Charles, Diana and Camilla? Camilla chose to keep quiet, but did that mean that Diana’s version of events was false just because she’d chosen to speak out and Camilla hadn’t?
    There are always two sides to a story, and people will always take the sides of the people they know and like, regardless of what the truth is.
    Lee, you should consider that perhaps you’re blinkered here. I say let them just thrash it out to their hearts content, and stay out of it.
    After all, you never know what will happen in the future. If you don’t take sides, you can’t make enemies.

  10. Let me just say I don’t know anything other than what I’ve read here and what SS herself has written and posted online.
    However, in my humble opinion, it is a PR stunt considering how pictures of SS’s books are spaced throughout the story of how JE turned on her. She is defintely trying to sell books and push brand recognition. And let’s not forget she’s posting this story everywhere, on lists, on blogs, just to make sure none of us miss it. Not exactly the behavior of someone just trying to sort through hurt feelings.
    Lastly, a heartfelt examiniation of what happened between her and JE should have been kept private, again in my opinion. No matter how sensitively written, it’s rude to air that kind of dirty laundry to the potential detriment of someone’s career.
    If she truly wanted to reconcile with JE, she’s made sure that will never happen now.
    I’ve had several run ins with rude authors and while I’ll tell you in person who they were, I don’t put it on the internet for everyone to see. I happen to think it’s in poor taste. I don’t name names online, you never know how it will come back to haunt you.
    I think this situation is a good example of a ‘don’t’ when it comes to blogging and online gossip.

  11. Taking the names out of the equation here, I always start to disbelieve anything that is repetetively posted that smacks of “Woe is me!”
    I used to read a friend’s blog but had to stop when almost every entry was about a certain person she hated. Several times, she’d rehash the same stories and it got to the point where I figured she had a persecution complex or something. If an author does this, it’s enough to make me not want to read any more books by said author.
    Well, I just hope that for the mystery world in general that the whole thing drops soon.

  12. As for Janet’s books, though they are very well written, I think they either appeal to you, or they don’t. They don’t happen to appeal to me, but they are very good.
    I met Janet at a signing for FOUR TO SCORE. That was when her signings still drew only about 90 people. I thought she was gracious, sweet, and funny, and she stuck around to sign books for a long while. I still get her (free) newsletter which is wonderful.
    I don’t know the aspects of the situation. I’ll go check before I comment.

  13. Well, I went and read the blog in question and, I’m sorry, I didn’t see it as anything mean spirited at all. Just someone trying to get something off their chest.
    My question is, is J.E. upset and calling her lawyers because someone claimed she was a mentor — or is she pissed because someone “stole” her idea?
    It all sounds pretty petty to me.

  14. Janet is a friend, and in my personal experience of her, I’ve never known her to be anything but generous to other writers.
    I’ve met Sarah, but I don’t really know her. This isn’t meant to be a comment on her individual experience or actions. I’m just trying to present another way of looking at things.
    Almost any writer who acheives some measure of success is contacted by journalists who aren’t really looking for an interview so much as a chance to talk with someone who has a connection with publishing. They want an agent’s name, help getting their manuscripts to an editor, or advice.
    This doesn’t happen every time you’re interviewed, but it happens. Although many newspapers and journalists consider this behavior to be unprofessional (even unethical, since most believe stories shouldn’t be written in exchange for any favors, etc.), I think most authors are sympathetic. They remember all too clearly what it was like to strive to be published. They don’t blame the person asking them for help for pursuing all possible leads.
    Whenever it has happened to me, I’ve tried to be helpful, including answering follow up emails.
    Published writers also begin to get this from people who help them with research. Since you usually aren’t paying them for their expertise, you try to return the favor by offering whatever advice you can.
    If any of those people, interviewers or researchers, ever referred to me as their mentor, though, I would be shocked. I’d have a great deal of concern about exactly what I had supposedly mentored.
    Why? Because to me — and many other people — the term “mentor” implies a much closer relationship than one or two exchanges of advice.
    And because my name means something to me. I don’t like other people to imply an endorsement (even by way of being responsible for someone’s work as a mentor) without my permission — permission I want to give in advance.
    Does this require lawyers? Without commenting specifically on the situation between Sarah and Janet, my answer would be, I don’t blame writers who contact lawyers to deal with problems with other writers. So the answer is, sometimes.
    Is that overkill? Again without judging this individual situation, you have to put yourself in another person’s shoes to see why it might not be. I’ve heard some horror stories from people who’ve tried to help other writers. These range from the dangerous to the odd: a friend suddenly pursued by an obsessed stalker who threatened to kill the writer’s children, another having someone start damaging rumors, another having someone print an “endorsement” lifted from a critique letter, and several having to fight costly legal battles for “stealing” an idea that wasn’t ever discussed.
    Those who acheive Janet’s degree of wealth and fame learn to become very cautious, perhaps overly so, but maybe it’s best not to try to make that call for her.
    None of what went on between Janet and Sarah is anyone’s business but their own. I do wish it had stayed that way. But since it’s being bandied about, please keep in mind that there’s more than one way of looking at this, and without all the facts — none of us have them — we shouldn’t be quick to judge.

  15. Yes, that word “mentor” seems to be bandied about far too lightly. I’ve had people refer to me as their “writing mentor” — huh? To me, “mentor” is a long-term relationship that is different than “she taught my writing class.” Different than “she was really nice to me at a conference and spent minutes on end talking with me.” Different than “she answered my emails.” Mentor inplies a real, long-term relationship with both the person and the person’s work. I am GLAD to help people, but I don’t have time to be anyone’s mentor — that’s a commitment that I have never made.
    I think many writers see “mentor” as a compliment, an honor. To them it means, she did something that really changed my work or she made me see something I desperately needed to see. The writers call it “mentor” because to them it’s a way to honor something they saw as really important.
    The problem really lies in how people respond to someone saying, “Joe Writer was my mentor — I couldn’t have done it without him.” It causes the hearts of new writers to race — oh, Joe Writer did it for him, maybe he’ll do it for me. Then poor old Joe Writer is innundated with folks wanted to be “mentored.” And many of them mean mentored as in “I bug the crap out of you day after day forever.”
    The original person saying “mentor” meant it as a point of honor but it can become a gate for loonies. If I can catch the person using the M-word early, I can ask him/her (it’s usually a her in my experience) not to say that publically. I’m touched (and sort of weirded out) but it’s going to generate problems for me.
    But what do you do once it’s in print? That’s harder since you have to deal not just with the person (who usually will stop if you ask nicely and clearly) but with a company (who doesn’t give a flying fig about “nice”). Then you tend to have to be a tad more direct. And a lawyer is certainly direct.
    I read the whole Sarah blog entry and I could honestly imagine some of the folks who’ve claimed me as “mentor” writing the exact same kind of thing. They were just trying to honor me — really. Why would I get snotty about being honored?
    Ultimately, it’d be nice to get that whole “mentored” thing back into meaning a long-term, constant relationship with you and your work rather than simply being used to designate someone who did something that changed you as a writer.
    I suspect that there would never have been a problem if the dedication (or wherever it was) said:
    To Janet Evanovich, who in one conversation changed my writing life forever — thank you.” Rather than using a word that just begged desperate writers to see Janet as a source of endless assistance.
    I personally, don’t think there was an evil villain here — just two people at coming at the same word with vastly different viewpoints.


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