By now you are familiar with my sorry tale: I stand accused of plagiarizing virtually every word of my YA novel, Boys!Boys! Boys! and Clothes!, the first volume in the new Skanky Girls' Clique of the Wandering Capris series. As of this writing, similarities have been found between my book and 427 separate sources, with new ones coming to light at a pace approximating the reproductive rate of the fruit fly.
I deeply regret the trouble this situation has caused my publisher, who took a chance on an unknown first-time author (so wide-eyed and innocent that the $500,000 advance actually seemed like a lot of money to this naïve college student!). I am grateful for their unwavering support, up to and including the recent announcement of their plan to pulverize the entire print run of my book. "We stand by our author," they say in a stirring announcement of the recall, "and firmly believe that, in time, Boys! Boys! Boys! and Clothes! will be more fully appreciated in its new format, as some of the finest recycled pulp the industry has ever seen."
Speaking of recall, mine is total. I possess a photographic memory of digital quality, equivalent, I'd say, to 6.0 megapixels. I literally remember everything I have ever read. Hindsight shows all too clearly that this can be a double-edged sword, leading me to appropriate the words and ideas of other writers as my own. I see now that when my main character, Alexis, blurts out, "Help the Cap'n locate the sunken treasure!" the line can be traced to a puzzle on the back of Cap'n Crunch cereal box I read when I was eight. Or when Joanie, the "sensible girl," warns, "For your own safety, do not stand in vestibule or pass through cars while train is in motion," her admonition can be sourced to a sign on a New Jersey Transit commuter train. Or when "brainy girl" Lizzie advises her friends to "invite powerful battery to its happy domicile where giving life to adorable machine friend," it came not from some inner muse but from the instruction manual that accompanied the Furby I got in 1998.
Most upsetting to the industry are the passages that were apparently lifted from other literary works. Some examples appear in this comparison chart:
Heart of Darkness: "The horror! The horror!"
My book: "Eew! Eew!"
Howards End: "Only connect!"
My book: "Text me!"
"The Raven" "Nevermore!"
My book: "Whatever!"
Romeo and Juliet: "Parting is such sweet sorrow."
My book: "Peace out, Girl Scout."
Some of the passages taken from W.J. King's The Unwritten Laws of Engineering had already been borrowed by William Swanson, CEO of Raytheon, for his book Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management. My apologies to Mr. Swanson for working his side of the street.
Yes, I admit that I borrowed from other sources—that is irrefutable—but I did not do so intentionally. It was entirely unconscious on my part. In fact, I was asleep at the time. I have consulted my doctor, who agrees that in all likelihood I fell victim to the "sleep plagiarizing" side effect reported by some users of the prescription sleep aid Ambien. (The plot point about the great white shark attacking the beach community, however, is entirely my own.)
Whether my cribbing was conscious or not, I must accept the blame. It is true that no one writes a book alone, and I have already acknowledged the helpful suggestions and input of my agent; my other agent; her sub-agents; my three editors (acquiring editor, line editor and the editor who takes me to lunch); my manager; the team at my book packager, PreFab Enterprises, who came up with the concept, created all the characters and developed a detailed plot outline; the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail for providing the central architecture of my novel; my two ghost writers; and James Frey, who generously agreed to vet the manuscript. Ultimate responsibility for the book, however, rests entirely with me.