Author News Copyright

Rowling’s right to sue for Potter

Rowling’s right to sue for Potter – Los Angeles Times

This opinon piece in the Los Angeles Times takes author J. K. Rowling to task for suing to prevent publication of the Harry Potter Lexicon, “a print version of the fan website” The piece admits that, while Rowling may be within her legal rights in enforcing her copyright, she’s guilty of bad behavior. Instead of suing, the argument goes, she should be thankful that fans are willing to devote all the time and energy to preserving and further promoting her lucrative literary franchise.

But the lawsuit is not frivolous:

its charge is serious: that an encyclopedia created entirely out of her inventions goes beyond fair use of copyrighted material, does not transform that material to a degree that constitutes new work (as would, for example, parodies or critical studies) and would compete with Rowling’s own long-proposed but never undertaken potterpedia.

This is indeed a serious legal issue, and one we’re likely to hear more about in the future. The recently founded Organization for Transformative Works  describes itself as “a nonprofit organization established by fans to serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms. We believe that fanworks are transformative and that transformative works are legitimate.” The organization proclaims its values as follows:

  1. We value transformative fanworks and the innovative communities from which they have arisen, including media, real person fiction, anime, comics, music and vidding.
  2. We value our identity as a predominantly female community with a rich history of creativity and commentary.
  3. We value our volunteer-based infrastructure and the fannish gift economy that recognizes and celebrates worth in myriad and diverse activities.
  4. We value making fannish activities as accessible as possible to all those who wish to participate.
  5. We value infinite diversity in infinite combinations. We value all fans engaged in transformative work: fans of any race, gender, culture, sexual identity, or ability. We value the unhindered cross-pollination and exchange of fannish ideas and cultures while seeking to avoid the homogenization or centralization of fandom.

This Potter brouhaha sounds like something OTW could sink its teeth into.

Author News Nonfiction

What’s a nice girl like Ann Rule doing in a genre like true crime?

What’s a nice girl like Ann Rule doing in a genre like true crime?

In this piece in one of her hometown newspapers, true-crime queen Ann Rule, a former Seattle police officer, tells how she found her true calling. Her first book contract was for the story of a serial killer then stalking the Pacific Northwest. When a suspect was finally arrested, she was stunned to discover he was someone she had volunteered with at a local crisis hotline–Ted Bundy. Bundy was convicted and eventually executed, and The Stranger Beside Me was Ann Rule’s first published book.

According to the article, Rule has had 28 books on the New York Times bestseller list.  I can attest that her writing is detailed, thorough, and very readable.

Author News

Ann Hood: Introductory Notes

Ann Hood was born in West Warwick, RI. After receiving her B.A. in English from the University of Rhode Island, she became a flight attendant for TWA. She has lived in Boston, St. Louis, and New York City, where she attended graduate school in literature at New York University.

In April 2002 Hood’s two-year-old daughter, Grace, died suddenly from a potent strain of strep. On her Web site Hood says that, since she was a child, she has used writing to help her figure out problems. But, she says, “when I lost Grace I also lost my ability to use words. I couldn’t read and I couldn’t write. Letters didn’t come together to make words; sentences did not make sense. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t focus.” Nearly two years later Hood wrote an essay on lies about grief for a literary journal’s special issue on lying. “That essay opened the door back to writing for me.” After Grace’s death Ann Hood took up knitting, and from her experiences came the moving novel The Knitting Circle.

Ann Hood lives in Providence, RI, with her husband and two children. In addition to books, she publishes essays in many magazines, newspapers, and journals.

For more information, see Ann Hood’s web site.

Author News Fiction

Harlan Coben: Introductory Notes

Harlan Coben was born in Newark, NJ, in 1962 and grew up in Livingston, NJ. He continues to live in NJ with his wife, a pediatrician, and their four children. He graduated from Amherst College with a major in political science.

Coben is the first author to win all three of mystery’s most prestigious awards: the Edgar Award, the Anthony Award, and the Shamus Award. His books have repeatedly been nominated for awards and have consistently appeared on best seller lists.

For a lot more about Harlan Coben, including Netflix and foreign productions of some of his works, see his web site

Study Notes

For some insight into Harlan Coben’s writing process, see these related posts:

Harlan Coben in St. Louis: Part I  

Harlan Coben in St. Louis: Part II

Author News Fiction

M.C. Beaton: Introductory Notes

M.C. Beaton is a pseudonym of Marion Chesney, who is known primarily for the more than 100 historical romance novels she has published under her own name and under several pseudonyms: Helen Crampton, Ann Fairfax, Jennie Tremaine, and Charlotte Ward. But M.C. Beaton is the pseudonym she reserves for her mystery novels.

Marion Chesney was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1936. She has worked as a fiction buyer for a bookseller, as women’s fashion editor for the magazine Scottish Field, as a reporter and theater critic for the Scottish Daily Express (Glasgow), and as a reporter for the Daily Express (London). Like her amateur sleuth Agatha Raisin, Chesney lives in a cottage in the English Cotswolds.

For more information, see her web site

According to Willetta L. Heising in Detecting Women 2, the idea for the first Hamish Macbeth novel came to Chesney while she was learning to fly cast for salmon at a fishing school in northern Scotland. Macbeth is the town constable in Lochdubh, a small village in the Scottish Highlands. He keeps a low profile, preferring to have people assume he’s of limited competence and intelligence. But, despite the intervention of more high-powered police officials, he’s able to solve crimes by careful observation of the people involved. Hamish Macbeth’s quiet but steady process of investigation has lead one reviewer to say of a novel in this series, “The pleasures of the book are akin to those of a good gossip session with a perceptive old friend.”

Beaton’s later mystery creation, amateur sleuth Agatha Raisin, is a middle-aged public relations dynamo who retires to a village in the English countryside. She’s more self-important and assertive than Hamish Macbeth, but both series deal with life in a small village. Each town presents an isolated, insular community that doesn’t take kindly to strangers—perhaps because the arrival of outsiders often causes trouble and upsets the status quo. Like Hamish Macbeth, Agatha Raisin solves crimes by observing and analyzing the people around her, but unlike Macbeth she’s pushy, nosy, and manipulative.

British readers probably prefer the Hamish Macbeth mysteries. In fact, the BBC has made the stories into a television series. American readers seem to prefer the more brash Agatha Raisin, who crashes her way through village life with more outright humor than occurs in the more subdued Hamish Macbeth books. But both series examine small-town life under the guise of a mystery. These are short books that provide the  perfect diversion when you’re in the mood for some light, amusing reading.

© 2000 by Mary Daniels Brown

Author News Fiction

Amanda Cross: Introductory Notes

Feminist critic and scholar Carolyn G. Heilbrun was a tenured professor of literature at Columbia University in New York City. She published mystery novels featuring heroine Kate Fansler under the pseudonym Amanda Cross.

I originally read In the Last Analysis, the first Kate Fansler novel, because I had frequently heard this series described as “literate mysteries.” That novel left me perplexed. Because knowledgeable mystery readers often say that the first Kate Fansler novel is not the best, I decided to try a couple of others, another early novel and a more recent one. But the other early novel, The James Joyce Murder, left me just as perplexed. The mystery in both of these books is minimal; the most important aspect of the novels seems to be the gatherings and discussions of Kate and her friends and colleagues.

At the same time that I was reading The James Joyce Murder, I also read Carolyn G. Heilbrun’s book Writing a Woman’s Life. In chapter six of this book Heilbrun explains why, when she started writing mysteries, she chose to publish them under a pseudonym. At that time she was a university professor, and she feared that having written “popular” novels would count against her when she came up for tenure. But over the years she’s come to realize that there’s more to her decision to use a pseudonym than just fear about tenure: “I think now that there are layers within layers of significance to a woman’s decision to write under a pseudonym, but the most important reason for her doing so is that the woman author is, consciously or not, creating an alter ego as she writes, another possibility of female destiny” (p. 110). “I believe now that I must have wanted, with extraordinary fervor, to create a space for myself” (p. 113).

“But I also sought another identity, another role. I sought to create an individual whose destiny offered more possibility than I could comfortably imagine for myself” (p. 114). “I created a fantasy. Without children, unmarried, unconstrained by the opinions of others, rich and beautiful, the newly created Kate Fansler now appears to me a figure out of never-never land . . . I wanted to give her everything and see what she could do with it” (p. 115). Heilbrun says she has been criticized for having Kate smoke and drink so much, “but Kate Fansler has stuck to her martinis and cigarettes as a sort of camouflage for her more revolutionary opinions and actions” (p. 122). Heilbrun hoped that younger women would imitate Kate “in daring to use her security in order to be brave on behalf of other women, and to discover new stories for women” (p. 122).

So I’ve been approaching the Kate Fansler stories the wrong way: they’re not really mysteries at all; the most important aspect of the novels IS the gatherings and discussions of Kate and her friends and colleagues. New York Times reviewer Marilyn Stasio apparently agrees; discussing Amanda Cross’s  novel The Puzzled Heart (1998), Stasio says:

Even in crisis, Kate is quotable. (Attempts to calm her down remind her that ”E. M. Forster noticed that everyone in America is always telling everyone else to relax.’’. . . Having dispensed with what serves as the action sequences, Cross (the pseudonym of the feminist scholar Carolyn G. Heilbrun) frees up her characters for the intelligent chitchat that has sustained this literate series since 1964.

(New York Times, January 25, 1998)
Author News Fiction

John Sandford: Introductory Notes

John Sandford is the pseudonym of author and journalist John Camp, who won the Pulitzer Prize in journalism in 1986 and the Distinguished Writing Award of the American Society of Newspaper Editors for 1985.

Camp was born in 1944 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He attended the University of Iowa, where he received a bachelor’s degree in American Studies in 1966 and a master’s degree in journalism in 1971. After graduating from college in 1966, Camp spent two years in the Army, including service in Korea. He then worked as a reporter in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, before returning to the University of Iowa for his master’s degree. He later worked at newspapers in Miami and St. Paul.

Camp’s many interests include archaeology, outdoor sports (hunting, fishing, canoeing, and skiing), golf, and reading history. He now has homes in Lakeland Shores, Minnesota, and Pasadena, California. 

For more information, see Sandford’s web site.

When Camp’s first two novels, Rules of Prey and The Fool’s Run, were scheduled to be published just three months apart in 1989, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, publisher of Rules of Prey, asked him to use a pseudonym. He chose the name Sandford after his great grandfather, who had fought in the Civil War.