Romance novelist Janet Dailey admits plagiarizing rival's work

Published July 30, 1997|Updated Oct. 1, 2005

There is a reason romance novels all seem to read alike.

Romance novelist Janet Dailey acknowledged plagiarizing the work of her rival Nora Roberts and blamed a psychological disorder Tuesday.

Dailey said her books Aspen Gold and Notorious contain ideas and passages lifted from several of Roberts' novels. The copying was recently discovered when Dailey got tripped up during on-line chats with readers.

"I can only apologize to Nora, whom I've considered a friend, and to my readers for any pain or embarrassment my conduct has caused," the 53-year-old author said in a statement from her home in Branson, Mo.

Roberts, in a telephone interview, called Dailey's admission "very, very upsetting."

"Everyone has said they have never seen anything like this," she said. "I don't want this to be a slap in the face of the whole romance genre. This is one writer."

The plagiarism took place in the early 1990s, while Dailey was under professional and personal stress, in part from the cancer deaths of two brothers and the lung cancer surgery of her husband, the statement said.

"I recently learned that my essentially random and nonpervasive acts of copying are attributable to a psychological problem that I never even suspected I had," Dailey said. "I have already begun treatment for the disorder and have been assured that, with treatment, this behavior can be prevented in the future."

Dailey agreed to Roberts' proposed terms to settle the matter, including a payment to the Literacy Volunteers of America, said Dailey's publicist in Los Angeles, Sanford Brokaw. The amount was not disclosed.

Roberts, whose current best-sellers are Finding the Dream and Sanctuary, said in a statement that she has found other examples of plagiarism by Dailey, including a manuscript submitted for publication that includes passages from her earlier works.

Roberts' publicist, Kathy Onorato, characterized the plagiarism discovered so far as "only the tip of the iceberg," adding that many passages were copied word-for-word.

Roberts said she is comparing other books by Dailey to determine the scope of the copying and is concerned about "bringing an end to this disturbing pattern of plagiarism in a way that best serves the interests and integrity of the writing community."

Dailey has written 93 books over two decades. Sales of her books, which have been sold in 98 countries and in 19 languages, have surpassed 200 million copies.

HarperCollins Publishers in New York agreed to discontinue sales of Notorious, said Roberts' lawyer, David Hashmall. It wasn't known how many copies of Notorious were sold. Aspen Gold was released four years ago and is no longer in print.

Romance novels are a $1-billion-a-year industry. They account for more than 80 percent of the mass market fiction titles published each year, according to the Book Industry Group.

Comparing the excerpts

Excerpts comparing Janet Dailey's 1996 romance novel Notorious and the Nora Roberts book Sweet Revenge, published in 1989:

"Talk to me."

"It was just a dream, as you said."

"You're hurting." He touched her cheek. This time she didn't jerk away, only closed her eyes. You talk, I'll listen."

"I don't need anyone."

"I'm not going away until you talk to me."

_ Sweet Revenge

"Talk to me, Eden."

"It was only a dream, just as you said." She kept her gaze fixed on the water glass.

"It was more than that." His fingers brushed her cheek, pushing back a strand of hair. She closed her eyes at the contact. "You need to talk about it. I'll listen."

"I don't need anyone," she insisted stiffly.

"I'm not leaving until you tell me about it."

_ Notorious

+ + +

"But it was only a whisper of a kiss, the brush, retreat, brush of mouth against mouth."

_ Sweet Revenge

"His mouth brushed her lips in a mere whisper of a kiss, lightly rubbed and retreated, again and again."

_ Notorious

+ + +

"Whatever skill he had, whatever patience he's developed, he would use tonight."

_ Sweet Revenge

"Tonight demanded all the skill and patience he possessed."

_ Notorious