Friday, September 14, 2012

Authors Behaving Badly: The attack on Pam van Hylckama

Hi all! Today I've got a rather frightening case of "author behaving badly" for you. I don't have all the details but I'll update as I find more out. All of this is taken from the agent's twitter account. (BTW, thanks go out to author Naomi Clark for originally finding and pointing this out!!)

Less than 24 hours ago, agent Pam van Hylckama was attacked in her car. The guy came up and knocked a side mirror off, then when Pam unrolled the window to talk to him, he began slamming her head against the steering wheel. Luckily Pam's dog was there to help protect her, biting the man and causing him to flee. Pam later called the police at the urging of a family member.

Then they realized that it might not be a random attack. As stated above, Pam works as an agent and as such, both declines and accepts manuscripts and authors on a regular basis. The police believe that the guy that assaulted her (who is unnamed so far) was someone that she turned down. A look through her email showed that she'd received emails that said "The normal I hate you and I want you to die and I'll kill you". Pam had sort of just ignored those for the most part since agents get these all the time, but apparently the guy who sent these also had priors against him. The police then used the address the guy gave in his query to go to his house, where they discovered him with a bite mark on him from Pam's dog. The guy is now officially in police custody.

To put it frankly, this is pretty terrifying. Pam was just doing what agents do, yet she got attacked for it. I know that most of the irate and badly behaved authors would not stoop to physical violence, but this still is pretty scary. You never know when someone is going to take the information they discover about you, track you down, and try to physically assault you. Seriously, this is messed up.

UPDATE:

Pam has been fantastic enough to give me a little mini-interview! Click here to go there!

UPDATE 2:

I just logged on and noticed that there's been a fuss in the comments. I've deleted two of the remarks that were only made to be mean spirited and hateful. One made remarks while pretending to be someone else. Another insinuated that someone's sexuality affected their judgement. Neither contributed to the conversation at all.

But let me make this one point clear: it doesn't matter how Pam may or may not have acted towards the writer when rejecting his manuscript. Do I think she was rude? No. I don't. I think she probably gave him a form letter or something along those lines that she's given to countless other authors. She doesn't strike me as the type of person that would be rude or nasty. However even if she'd set his manuscript on fire, let her dog pee on the ashes, and made up a list of things she'd rather do than read any more of his book (such as rinsing her eyes out with lemon juice), that does NOT give him the right to attack her. That also doesn't mean that she "deserves" to be attacked. That it was fairly easy for the loon to track her down doesn't mean that she deserves the attack either. Rather than saying that she's at fault for having her personal information easily detectable, people should be lamenting that there are enough people with poor impulse control to where such things are necessary. That's blaming the victim and up to that point Pam had no reason to hide her information. She had no way of knowing that one of the people submitting to her would be that crazy.

As I can tell, the guy that attacked Pam had priors. That means that Pam was likely not the first person he lashed out against. This also means that no matter how polite Pam was, how much pains she took to spare his ego, or how kind her words might have been, this guy probably would've gone after her. It doesn't take a lot to set off someone who is mentally unstable. He might have attacked her even if his manuscript had been accepted, just because he didn't like the terms she was offering him. My point here is that the people who do this sort of thing are the type of people that would see anything as an invitation to an attack. Some of these crazies do it just because their shoe laces came untied. That anyone would ever think that for a second Pam might have done something to "deserve" this or that this crazy freak's attack was in any way justified is incredibly messed up.

THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR PHYSICAL VIOLENCE. How Pam may or may not have acted is irrelevant.  There is no excuse for violence. We're human beings, not animals. The person that attacked Pam stalked her and then proceeded to smash her face against her steering wheel. The only reason that's all he did was because her dog defended her against the other person's assault. That anyone would think that a physical assault is an appropriate reaction to a manuscript getting declined is rather disturbing. Again, even if she was the rudest person on earth, which I doubt she was, that doesn't make physical violence acceptable. I'm going to assume that this person was coming on here to troll, but I wanted to make this statement because unfortunately there's always a group of people who will try to blame the victim in all of this, regardless of the circumstances.

I don't usually censor or delete posts on here, but I'd much appreciate it if people didn't make it necessary.


UPDATE 3:

I've noticed that on some of the various news sites about this, people are questioning Pam's apparent retraction of the statement that the guy had been apprehended and that it was likely to be the same guy that she rejected manuscript-wise.

I do want to make a brief statement on this, saying that until the case has been through the court system and everything has been 100% proven in a court of law, you have to be careful about how you discuss things. It's fairly normal for a lawyer to tell someone that they should refrain from making any absolute statements saying "this person did this" or "I believe it's someone I rejected at work". If this goes to court then those statements can be used in the case against the guy that attacked her. The guy's lawyer can say that she "poisoned the well" against the client and so on. There's a lot of ways that a good lawyer can twist this around, which is why she's more than likely being vague about everything now. This does not mean that the attack didn't happen or that the guy that attacked her isn't the same one whose manuscript she declined. It just means that Pam probably lawyered up and is being told that being vague right now is her friend.

Now as for the allegations that she's too calm for someone that has been attacked, people respond to things differently. We also have no way of knowing exactly how frantic Pam actually was at this time. It's very, very common for people to kind of detach themselves from everything. It's a form of denial and it's fairly common.   I've known a few people who have had some pretty awful stuff happen to them and they discuss everything with a minimum amount of fuss and screaming. It doesn't mean that the trauma didn't happen, just that they hadn't fully processed everything yet. Everyone deals with things differently and just because Pam wasn't ZOMG-ing on various social sites doesn't mean that the attack didn't happen.


Further reading:
*Pam's Twitter account

53 comments:

  1. Oh my God! That's horrifying. Also horrifying that she gets "normal" hate mail.

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  2. I saw her posts last night, and was like, "Oh my God, I can't believe it." There's no excuse for someone to act in such a manner. Given, this guy already has problems, but really? Over a rejection? I'm glad she had her dog with her to protect her and that it wasn't worse, but why did something so stupid have to happen in the first place?

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    1. This is what I thought. It's all so terrible and scary.

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    2. Men do that sort of thing over romantic rejections often enough that it's one of the top causes of death for women under 50. I don't see it as being such a stretch for one to do it over a literary rejection; it's still delusions of ownership.

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  3. This is awful, just awful. I hope Pam's okay and this guy is dealt with appropriately. I well remember the frustrations inherent in getting published but it blows my mind someone would stoop to this.

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  4. ...and now that I'm over my initial horror and sympathy, I'm desperately curious to see his query letter.

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  5. This guy can't be called an author until he's published. But maybe he'll be able to hone his skills behind bars. What a nightmare.

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  6. This is just so completely not okay, I don't even know what to say.

    Why is it that people don't understand that publishing is a business, and none of this is a judgment on their personhood? You can improve your writing. It's not an end-all-be-all that this query got rejected.

    And count me among the people who are appalled that agents get normal hate mail. I know it's the case, but still. It just makes the world worse for everyone else who isn't crazy.

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  7. It should be noted he was able to track her down by Twitter and Four Square stalking her. She usually only checked in when she was leaving places but said recently she'd become lax about that. So he was able to track her down via her check ins. Sad this is something we need to be vigilant about now.

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  8. Thank God for the dog, and the evidence trail left because of the dog.

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  9. Oh my god! I'm so glad they caught that SOB. Seriously stupid that someone would stoop to something so violent over a query rejection. *Hugs* To Pam and her dog is a super hero for saving her. So glad the pup was there.

    Seriously, rejections suck, but if you are psychotic enough to attack someone over it, you're the lowest form of life.

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  10. I am horrified that there is a "normal" hate mail. Her dog needs a special cookie treat :)

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  11. ...and had he not been caught so quickly, he might have ended up stalking/attacking other literary agents as well... those who sent on a rejection slip.

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  12. After a couple decades in the business, I was still naive, I guess, figuring the worst agents suffered was the legendary manuscript under the bathroom stall wall. Agents like Pam didn't sign up for physical danger any more than teachers. What did the criminal hope to accomplish? I'm just hoping he isn't rewarded with a jailhouse book contract.

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  13. Awful, horrible thing, and my thoughts are with Pam. But I wouldn't call this an "author behaving badly." I'd call this a *crime.* In spite of the apparent trigger (rejection), this attack had nothing to do with the attacker being a writer and everything to do with him being a criminal, and obviously mentally unstable.

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  14. I agree with Rachel. This was an awful, horrible thing to have happened, and I wouldn't call it an author behaving badly. This is a crime, and this guy is a criminal who needs to be off the street.

    All my thoughts are with Pam and her heroic doggie.

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    1. I can't say it any better than Julie. I hadn't heard of Pam, and it never occured to me that anyone would attack an agent until I saw this on our RWA chapter loop. Let's hope this is the last incident of its kind now that the perp is in custody.

      Good dog!

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  15. Pam is my agent, and one of the most amazing things to me was that I spoke with her that same night (book-related stuff) and she was calm and professional as ever. She is a truly amazing woman!

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    1. How do you feel when she takes you for 15% of everything you make sucker?

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  16. Good lord! I've been Tweeps with Pam for a long time & I saw her tweeting about the incident, but I didn't realize how bad (or how premeditated) it was... this is horrifying.

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  17. Wow, very scary! This guy seems to have more than a simple grudge--he seems mentally ill. It's just lucky she had her dog with her!

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  18. Oy, why can't he just cry himself to sleep and pig out a few days like the rest of us.

    Or, maybe that's just me.

    Seriously though, as someone who has (and lives with) mental illness myself, jerks like him make us all look bad and it really ticks me off like few things will.

    I certainly don't condone what he did, yet I'd be lying if I didn't say I get the feelings behind it, but violence never solves anything, it's only a cheap thrill that will cost you in more ways than one.

    Glad your okay, Pam, wherever you are.

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  19. Yikes. I've seen some stories about authors behaving badly, but this one takes the cake. When I started looking into publishing, I told myself that reject would happen. In the end, I decided to do it all myself, so I mostly skipped reject but I knew there were still reviews to contend with. With writing, rejection and bad reviews were going to be a fact of life so I accept them good and bad when they happen. I can't wrap my head around these people who don't get that.

    I hope Pam is doing okay and healing from this horrible event.

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    1. I can't wrap my head around these people who don't get that.

      That's because your head is the size of a grape little man.

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  20. That is so scary. I hope Pam feels better soon. What a creepy thing.

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  21. Saw her post about this on Twitter last night and feel awful for her.

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  22. We can't stop crazy people, I suppose, but this is well beyond the pale. I'd like to believe this is an isolated incident; with tempers flaring across the Internet and access to locale it could easily happen again. Perhaps it is time for all of us to take a step back and consider how we might contribute to stopping the insanity.

    Thoughts and best wishes to Ms. Van Hylckama. She sound like an amazing person. So glad she was not seriously injured.

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  23. Kudos to the dog. I hope he really dug those teeth in.

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  24. Here's to the dog!

    Virtual porterhouse to go!

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  25. Why do I see a movie in this?
    As a writer with a WONDERFUL agent, I can't understand that people don't understand that this is a business... of course an intensely personal one in which all of ones hopes and dreams rely on someone saying yes and that it's so easy to break:)!!!! Seriously, glad to hear that she's okay and able to write about it!! Think: film agent!! ! Truly, author of LIE.

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    1. You have a wonderful agent? LOL She takes you for 15% of what you earn for the rest of your life. Why is she wonderful idiot? Get a grip and wake up. She is your financial rapist.

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  26. '"The normal I hate you and I want you to die and I'll kill you". Pam had sort of just ignored those for the most part since agents get these all the time...'

    WHAT?! Agents get that a lot? This is horrible! >_<

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    1. Isn't it frightening that people send those? I can understand someone getting angry at not getting accepted and maybe sending off a "you don't appreciate my talent" e-mail. It's a stupid and childish move, but I can understand the hurt feelings that would do that. But to completely jump the crazy train to looneyville and tell people that you want them to die and that you'll kill them? It's really crazy that agents get these and view these as normal.

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  27. This world is a scary place sometimes. Social media makes it easier for someone to trace us. That's why I never point out places around me, where I am other than the state, and I don't let my children do so either. Better to say you're somewhere else than to run into someone out to hurt you. I hope Pam is okay and this is just a shame. Yes, we writers get rejected but that's no excuse to threaten someone. Instead, deal with it by honing your craft and writing a great query and book.

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  28. Not one person here made a comment about how the agent might of treated the writer. Agents can be mean and nasty, but I guess from your comments writers should just take it. Should agents treat writers like crap and expect no retribution?

    I know this comment will not be posted. Comments are asked for and then some little person behind the scenes( that is you reading this now) selects which ones get posted. So much for freedom of speech.

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    1. WTF is wrong with you?? You're saying an agent who gets death threats from unstable people who think they can write, who is a mother and wife, who loves authors and wants them to succeed deserves to be attacked and hurt to the point she could have been killed all because some deranged individual couldn't handle a rejection? That's you're answer? Use violence as retribution??

      At least I don't hide behind the label of anonymous you poor, deluded person.

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    2. Go fuck yourself You are an asshole. You don't have a clue.

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    3. Really? Enlighten me then. And real classy to curse and call me an asshole to get your point across.

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  29. I see your comment, Anonymous, so I guess "big brother" let it slide. There are many things I could say about this but I will simply say this. A culture that considers retributive violence to be not only normal but desirable (cough *IRAQ* cough)will eventually find that violence turned back on itself. Even if Pam told this writer to go shove his lame manuscript up his ass (which she didn't) there is no excuse for meeting words with violence. EVER.

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  30. Wow, Anonymous. Just wow. I've never been treated badly by an agent and do not understand why people think this is the case. A rejection is not a form of abuse, no matter how much it hurts your ego. No one deserves to be treated the way Pam was treated. She is a very sweet woman and I follow her on Twitter, because she is a genuinely cool person.

    It isn't normal to send mean/threatening e-mails in response to rejection and it sure as hell isn't normal to attack people. Rejection should be met with a re-evaluation of material, query letter, and then a fresh packaging and e-mail to a different agent's submission box. If you're upset, have a glass of wine and a good cry. Have a piece of cake or a pint of Ben and Jerry's.

    I'm afraid I don't understand why people do not know how to conduct themselves professionally in a business setting. Publishing is a business, the old rules of etiquette still apply.

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  31. I'm guessing 'Anonymous' is the same type of person who feels bad for those poor catholic priests getting 'seduced' all the time by those little boys. Disgusting.

    Furthermore: I love free speech. I'm all for it. But that means you get to say what you want and stand by what you said or wrote. Put your name on it if you want your free speech. It does NOT mean you get to cowardly engage in victim-blaming while hiding behind the anonymity of the internet. That is NOT what free speech is about. That's what being a total asshole is about.

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  32. I posted earlier and I am not surprised by your shallow comments.

    Did you ever ask how Pam treated the writer? No Did you ever ask what she said to the writer? No Why? Because your emotions have taken over your thinking. It is true that agents can be nasty and mean, and to think that all authors are just going to lie down and take is unrealistic.

    Pam's picture is prominently displayed on the agency's website and the agency'a address is easy to find. Really dumb. She leaves herself wide open for an attack,then posters here complain about how she was treated. Give me a break. Let's say that you were walking down the street in a bad neighborhood with your wallet or purse in full view. You are then robbed. If you complained about it, I would not have any sympathy for you because you contributed to your own theft. Understand my point?

    I have not had any dealing with Pam, but I have had dealings with Mike Larsen. I sent him a query letter years ago and he called me on the phone. What a total jerk. What a complete asshole. I will never forget it. Did I feel like kicking his ass? No But will I ever do business with his agency? Nope.

    The next time you complain about how an agent is treated, think about how authors are treated. Think about how authors are taken advantage of by agents who charge them 15% on all that they make. Perhaps then, you will feel differently about the author/agent relationship.

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    1. was here. went to get beer.September 22, 2012 at 6:30 PM

      TROLL WITHOUT ANY LOL

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  33. I'm going to post this anonymously, because Anonymous up there seems to think any public airing of things like, I dunno, your FACE and your BUSINESS address is some kind of invite to murder. And like, you know, having a purse...it's just ASKING people to, you know, take your purse.

    Like getting your ass grabbed is what you get for having one. And letting people see it with nothing between your eyes and the flesh but a thin sheet of clothing.

    Anyway, Anonymous, get therapy.


    Now.

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    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  34. Hey show some respect for other people's views.Just because he/she does not agree with you does not mean that he/she is a bad person.

    I work as a carpenter, so go screw yourself Mr. Therapy.

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    1. two of you anonymous commenters need to get help. serious help.

      1) a book is not your entire life. stop buying into that romantic bullshit right now. if you, mr. carpenter, believed that everything thing you did as a carpenter WAS THE BE ALL TO END ALL OF YOUR WORLD, how in the HELL do you deal with customers who are not satisfied with your work?

      go to their house and mash their face in? because that's exactly what happened. this man stalked her, tracked her down and went up to her to attack her.

      that's creepy and if you don't think so, someone is in need of serious help and it's not the rest of us, just sayin'.

      2) saying that the agent invited this horrible attack is perilously close to saying the 11-year old girl who was gang raped deserved it. because yes, saying that the agent MIGHT have had it coming due to POSSIBLE 'mean' behavior (omgwhat? are we still in highschool? I thought we were adults here) is saying just that.

      you both disgust me and I'm so very VERY sorry for your wives/husbands for your vile attitudes. YOU are what is wrong in this country today, not agents who are just doing their job.

      -None of the anonymous above

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  35. I am not surprised. Pam was just doing her job, but society as a whole has become more self-centered and lawless in the last 60 years. Personally, I believe this is because our code of justice/morality/what's right was mostly based on the Bible before that time.

    In an open chat room filled with people from various backgrounds about ten years ago, I asked, "Who decides what's right?" Instantly, the screen jumped to life as almost every person in the chat room said, "I do." Of course, there are a lot of potential problems with each person interpreting "what's right" himself. I pointed that out. Some people became thoughtful at that point. They obviously hadn't thought it over before. But about three became openly hostile and abusive. They no longer were addressing the issue, but attacking me directly (and vehemently). (I hadn't made any references to religion/Bible/moral codes, which can be touchy topics of late, but had just asked a couple of questions.)

    In the mind of the man who attacked Pam, he probably thought he was doing what was right or just for himself. Was it actually? No. But if people decide they can cherry pick what is right or not, this is what we end up with. We're seeing more and more of it, and that's going to continue.

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  36. Anonymous is an obvious troll. Just not a funny one.

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  37. o_O Damn, I had no idea that people get violent over their work not being accepted for publishing. I mean, I'm a writer in my spare time, and eventually (if I ever get around to finishing a book in my spare time between college and work, lol) would like to seek a publishing agent. I was under the impression that the agent will suggest improvements, you do a revision at least once or twice, and then after sending the finished copy to about 3 different agents at least one will say yes. The 15% you give to the agent only seems fair and expected to me - if you make a ton of $$ off of it, they helped you get started! It's like paying a meal prep tax when you go to McDonald's and pay a small tax for them making your food. It's just expected as part of the job, and you still get your fries. I'm not sure if the "Troll Anonymous" is being serious or just trying to get a reaction out of people...

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  38. This is most reprehensible. Once I got bopped on the noggin while waiting in line at the P.O. because I said something like "This is taking too long..." and the dude behind me (a nerdy looking white male), just stepped up and struck me. I was so stunned on how to react...and he had already escaped by then. I don't understand why he would stand in line at the P.O. and then run away...other than he was a psycho like this attacker and was looking for the slightest excuse to set him off. I guess the fact that I look Latino didn't help any.

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  39. Thanks for the post event staffing agency You should take part in a contest for one of the best blogs on the web. I will recommend this site!

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  40. I found this while Googling to discover whether Pam van Hylckama is actually a gold medal gymnast. I suspect she isn't but wanted to know for sure. That said, every writer knows that rejections are a part of the scene. Violence is completely unacceptable, except when actually writing about it.

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