Isn’t interesting that in such dark times, (since the Twin Towers came down, perhaps,) my own editor and now Abrams Vice President, Sarah van More, could not defend a series of children’s books, starting with the novel coming this week, The Terror Time Spies, that were designed to help kids deal with a climate of fear?
The actual value of a story was irrelevant, in their ‘defence’ of editorial power, that wrecked a career and removed a publisher too. I argued, as I had with a partner and ‘so-called’ friend, that a lot of it was about American consciousness these days, projecting fear, but also massive arrogance, and a quality of selfishness and lack of depth too, that some have called Ego Consciousness. ‘Our rights’, but no-one else’s, and engaging the full weight and threat of a system. That projection is understandable in a climate of world terror and conflict, wherever it comes from, but not for a second in a world of children’s and Young Adult books.
Perhaps my anger was actually frightening, at times, but when a publisher is trying to publish a novel with ‘no contact with the author’, actually to mask the legal dispute that had developed, you really are in the realms of Kafka, or just plain tyranny and cruelty. In this case a business tyranny as bad as any other. Tara Break’s projected life fears were enormous, perhaps out of the darkness in her own strange family, and a terror of standing up too. But when a CEO, Mike Jacobson, threatens an author, fighting for their career out of so many personal betrayals, and on their own in London, with ‘issuing attorney’s notices in New York and London’, but also suggests that I had ‘some other motive’, as if I was some terrorist, then something very odd is going on. At one point I joked that that New York madness would involve delivering a literary manuscript in an armoured car!
The abuse of power was later reflected by instructing an entire department not to read a blog, as a publisher denied dialogue on books already there. The whole thing, for a year of trying to work, was because Tara Break would not put away an accusation that was a complete distortion of the events that led up to her changing a number, and the reasons for them. That jaunt through the fields of publishing, writing, true love or friendship cost me everything, and her publisher Howard Reeves his job too, but then she was hand in glove with my editor, Sarah Van More. Who, in her own collapsing life relationships, not only chose to ‘defend’ Tara Break, but invade her own author, breach his trusts to another publisher, Sharyn Novembre at Penguin, and apply no decent or equitable principle, in her scramble for power. The question remains of who the mystery man was, in the mix, who never had the guts to stand up to this supposed bully, and if he actually works at Abrams too.
But the real ‘Terrorism’ was the ferocious and ultimately cynical politics inside Abrams. It was how they both judged and accused without allowing any kind of proper hearing too. How they abused the principles of authorial respect, proper working conditions, emotional safety, freedom of speech, and honest dialogue too, to serve Tara Break’s interests entirely. Why exactly do they publish anything – for the money and their careers alone? In the end I couldn’t take their devil’s pact of silence for success, as they disrespected all their contracts too, so I walked away. Let’s hope, in taking so much poison out, and now publishing one of those three novels too, we can sweep away the awfulness and rebuild.
But if an American CEO can try to lie about the real issues to the US Author’s Guild as well, and promote Sarah Van More over Harold Roves, then under his leadership Abrams are a publisher that cares about nothing, and America will make its world reputation worse and worse. America is a free country, a great democracy, at root, and I once thought Abrams an extremely fine publisher, but If you think it’s an unimportant story because it is ‘only’ about books, or one person’s livelihood, imagine what could happen if innocence or personal freedom were involved? It does happen, in ‘real’ life, and in often frightening America.
Phoenix Ark Press