29th September 2012
The problem with talking about the past, or even leaving this blog up for six months, is it’s a place of neurosis, shame and even psychological harm for me. It’s just that somehow I will not let Abrams get away with what they did to a writer, person, work and the law. With what they did to truth, me and my stories. Rather than being some simple ‘Mr Stalker’ back in 2008, to the ‘Damsel in Distress’, with someone I saw as potentially my wife and after two years together, I was, at times, on my knees to my ex in New York, though on a phone from London. Asking not only for love, or even a friendship also reversed, but for my privacy to be respected or protected, as their own author, who a publisher said was “loved at Abrams”. Bound there with five novels, an enormous thing in any writing life and career. It is because of issues in my past, I’ve found hard to cope with sometimes, especially as ‘children’s author’, having some small public profile, but any split up involves the feeling of invasion. But I alone know the journey of my own books, the huge emotional process that involved, which is why I so feared what an ex did, and so asked her not to, at the heart of my American publisher. She knew about previous publishing fights too and a ten-year struggle to start taking off as a writer in the US, but it made no difference.
When I told an ex what I had been through already though, for nearly a year, trying to tour professionally too, as company support started to vanish, the person who just refused to read FELL, that book joked about by her and my own editor, as I wrote us into it so happily, asked “am I evil?” and I answered “of course not”. Dangerous and awful labels at that level, among supposedly adult or sophisticated people, and with presumed higher knowledge of the process of art and writing itself, indeed of metaphor. Especially out of a family there, perhaps, with darkness in the background we discovered while going out, I think part of the reason for such an obsessive sense of privacy or rights on her part, especially related to Children’s Books. But with literally no imagination for other’s rights or privacies at all. Dangerous labels she then used against me, and my own editor heard too, but just left there outrageously for five months.
Pathetic to plead too, but I literally could not just walk away, or curl up and die, and the psychological invasion became terrible, trying to work there, and produced massive writer’s block too. As intense as was the rage that came out, at times, because I could not protect myself, so lashed out in words, like the cornered animals I was writing about in my fantasy novel. My own editor saw it fully, and it was much the reason I tried to take power back in a much lighter novel. As I later lashed out in a way that shook a whole firm. My ex though, having so betrayed trust with her “Hew, Screw and Glue” book, slammed a door but had invaded me over another friend in London too, living up the road. With her personally extreme reversals, silence and passive aggression in the place she was, that she said she found ‘hard’ for months in early 2008, but did anyway, she simply went to another man, and changed a phone number, as she warned she might. But first leaving me completely in the dark, as did the people I knew so well and needed to work with, right next to her, she then left a distortive accusation in the background, disappeared, and let a destruction of an entire career unfold. “I wish you peace,” it was tagged, in an official company email, when I tried to contact through my publisher, talking of how she had found life happiness, as the people on the inside of course won. I have never heard from her since, but she never stood up to stop a thing professionally, as she could so easily have done. It was the full expression of the power and harm we had been arguing about before, now relayed into a limitless future. That’s love in New York City, for two years together, friendship, truth, or just the business of books.
My own ten-year editor though, now Vice President, after openly threatening me months before on the subject herself, and turning off the tap of support, showed no duty of care either, breaching my privacy to an outside editor and publisher, I heard on the grapevine from my own New York agent, who later jumped ship. That alone is called basic editorial malfeasance and pretty outrageous considering her written instruction to me that I should effectively “keep my mouth shut.” Um, writers are not editors, even if it all poured out in emails and into the wrong places in such distress. Then, once my apology had taken too much blame, and she felt she had the green light to discuss it with me openly on paper, she came in with a sledge-hammer, attacking me personally, and openly breaching conditions in written contract too. In a complete expression of editorial power and abuse, that destroyed editorial sensitivity and trust in commissioned work in progress. You cannot imagine the pain of that, a personal nightmare now raised to the level of semi-official company line, or at least a small department inside a company, Amulet, when I was allowed no say and no defence either, until I refused to work. Only then was I told “a firm takes this sort of thing very seriously’. Sure, but who is the firm? Let alone how awful it was being discussed and judged ‘personally’ at work, by two women once at the centre of my life, but having that alliance between an ex and my editor, intimate with my ex’s new man too, as I saw when I flew to New York. It was like having acid poured into an openly wounded psyche, a wound that had got bigger for two months of dialogue before a number was changed, as an ex knew, but instead cynically used a label to gloss everything. I say cyncically because I am sure it was discussed internally as strategy.
Especially after I had almost begged for some kind of help or understanding about growing internet addiction too, with a medical issue involved too, after having openly talked healing with a partner and in my books, as I felt my emotional life over. But rather than show understanding, or the ‘compassion‘ she started patronisingly mouthing, the woman who had also called all porn ‘evil’ not only rejected everything we had been, but called me literally evil too, though quickly tried to reverse it. She knew it’s implications. “Life is unfair” was and is her only bottom line though, and “Hew, Screw and Glue” you too, buddy. The outcome of the story proves that. It is why her pride in being like a self-described “self cleaning oven” became so awful and unilateral in those circumstances too.
Out of what had been severe psychic disturbance already then, near breakdown, it was me against my own publisher, with betrayed love and friendships in the background, in both New York and London, still trying to work and function. Going mad alone in a flat, in fear and agony, well used words, it lasted for a year and more and brought repeated thoughts of suicide. Abrams tried to push me out, backed down, reversed it, then half backed down again, but I walked away, then Abrams pursued me right up to 2011, to muzzle a blog and hide the truth. Their outrageous assertion was the protection of my ex’s career, or privacies they so destroyed, even Human Rights, when I had repeatedly asked for this all to just stop, for everyone’s sake. They openly denied my Human and contracted rights and showed very little Due Process at all.
My own commissioning editor destroyed the wonderful working conditions we had had before too though, and cut off all channels with people there I had loved working with, even against protected say in a cover written into contract, after promising help with a book. The threats, acts of contempt, duress and bullying went on for months, before I threw down a pen, and forced an ‘enquiry’. I could not go on, did not become a writer for that, and they would have forced a book into print they did not think good enough, and which would itself have harmed my writing reputation. They mutilated principles of Moral Copyright too, let alone written contract, that held another novel there four years. I proved their enquiry a white-wash, with its fifteen minutes by phone and editors lying about a major breach of trust issue written all over my communications. My bright and very ambitious editor was fully aware of the political implications, long before I lost the plot, or begged, or why else threaten with “we will protect our girl” in early 2008, then describe me as a ‘good person’ when I apologised and asked for help? Why good? Because I decided not to take it elsewhere, even though the threat was already huge. Yet seeing me ‘in so much pain’, did nothing objective to help or maintain proper editorial duty either, nor bring needed peace back. My publisher warned me on the phone “You know what could happen” and called me a “nice guy”, but what kind of nice guys are they, and was it really necessary? I raise the charge of IIED, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress. In New York a woman who had hot coffee spilt on her was awarded a million dollars!
It became sustained psychological torture for an author, using my good name and career, five novels with them, and entire future livelihood, after the pain of what had happened ‘personally’, out of an ex’s almost complete negligence and double standards, even possible malice, to threaten and force silence. Not for everyone’s benefit at all, but theirs alone, so that a secret would not get beyond a department, especially to a CEO. Why could an ex not allow just a professional peace though, in a small department? In law that is called Improper Motivation, and it was very nasty indeed. It became so mendacious that lies were told everywhere, promises broken, and there was no editorial trust or honest comment. I only learned what my own editor really thought of a manuscript in process from my own vanishing agent. Which even a bullying CEO could not deny, when he accepted my attack on the grounds of collusion, and breach and repudiation of contracts, and work started again in mid 2009 with a new editor, for a time. What they did when a family issue came into the frame is just unbelievable, but then it’s a pretty unbelievable story.
The pain has returned, and confusion too, because though it could have been stopped at key moments, on their front, it’s source goes back six years too, to a woman who asked and promised for care over relationships and trusts, I gave her at every turn. Who asked me not “to make her the last to know”, yet did that absolutely to me, at a puerile and completely selfish level of consciousness too. But somehow I will find a way out, and end a disgraceful human and artistic story forever. Either that, or end this blog itself, now ‘The Muzzled Blog’, but you see the former writer’s problem! Love and work are surely the two things that really matter in anyone’s life, and both were stripped from me, in the same place, totally ruthlessly in the end, or because New York companies are places of awful fear and back stabbing. My ex’s projected life fears were enormous though. They tore aware my power in the world, well published writing, rights even in contract, and my ability to earn, while the end of that line is now losing my flat too.
It was disgraceful or shaming on my part sometimes, sure, especially with my sense of a family name, as I lost control of words, touched breakdown and nearly went mad, though have never harmed anyone in my life. As I writhed, trying to get out of a place I could not and trying to explain it to an editor too, let alone understand it myself. But utterly disgraceful, indeed possibly criminal, on the part of people I knew intimately for years, and New York publisher Abrams. Where I was tortured trying to work in safety and my career thrown in a trash-can, my publisher removed, and the two women who did the real damage in the first place, very much in cahoots, got straight to the top. It is not because of my editor’s special editorial skills, certainly not the dreadful edit she delivered to me, but more importantly under the wrong conditions, also begged for back and denied because of her ‘power over her list’, nor love for books, people or publishing at all. It is because my editor brought in huge bestsellers like The Diary of A Wimpy Kid and Hello Kitty to Abrams. She used my book The Sight to get her job, supposedly Fire Bringer too, but for her “loyalty is a tricky thing.” I think that’s why a CEO removed a man he did not get on with, who was far nicer and more imaginative and who all his authors liked. It has implications too about how men are always painted the villains nowadays.
In every other sphere of life there are employment protections, legal standards, means of redress, we have come to expect as very basic, but not in the one place where the fundamentals of freedom of speech and human vision themselves actually begin, Publishing. Because it is only commercial success that gives a writer any real power or protection, if good relationships, which is what it is really about, become so damaged. I am watching as any say in the printed copies of my lauded published books is stripped away too. In reverse, people inside publishers are protected by each other, share schemes and pension plans, and the interrelations of big money makes them much like the Cartels we complain about in banking. Editors move between publishing houses and so does negative gossip and ‘ ‘decision making‘. I could not stay at Abrams because I would not be just ‘owned’ and abused like that, my legal rights stripped away, the very principle of true editorial interchange and dialogue destroyed. There needs to be an Ombudsman to stop those individual nightmares, or release pressures for both writers and editors too, but the degree of open abuse that took place at Abrams, over so long, is phenomenal, and I fear has done lasting emotional harm.
“We are willing to bring happier memories into the future” my own editor informed me, at one point, after I apologised in a way meant to protect everyone and be heard, to an author under two contracts, with two published novels there. But only if I shut up about an ex who had broken such trusts, personal and professional, so harmed very happy memories here, but then left an impossible and distortive accusation right at the heart of a firm, that I was not even allowed to defend. It’s consequences distorted everyone’s judgements and actions. Thanks for the legal and editorial principle, and the happy memories too. I will look to real friends, and pray for small miracles elsewhere.