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AP News Picks Up Cassie Edwards Plagiarism Story and Gets Statement

AP writer Hillel Italie obtain a statement and response from Cassie Edwards on the plagiarism charges.

“When you write historical romances, you’re not asked to do that,” Cassie Edwards told The Associated Press, speaking earlier this week from her home in Mattoon, Ill.

Edwards husband then chimed in with this defense:

“She doesn’t lift passages,” Charles Edwards said, adding that “you would have to draw your own conclusions” on how closely his wife’s work resembles other sources.

I’m not going to comment on this. I’ll let you all draw your own conclusions.

Importantly, the AP contacted a plagiarism expert, Dr. John M Barrie who “created the original architecture and fundamental technology behind iThenticate and Turnitin in 1994.” These programs are used by organizations to detect plagiarism. Dr. Barrie confirmed that the   material was “lifted.”   When contacted, RWA president, Sherry Lewis, claims that while the excerpts “raise some questions” that she (as a published author herself) says

“It’s not clear-cut to me,” she said. “You can see similarities in the passages, but I’m not qualified to make that assertion.”

I understand within the RWA that the Membership Committee makes a recommendation of exoneration or fault but the Membership Committee is comprised authors just Ms. Lewis so I can’t imagine what qualifications one must have to make such a determination. I also wonder whether RWA Honor Roll member Cassie Edwards will be investigated by the RWA.

Source: AP.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Sarah Frantz
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 22:53:30

    I use I adore it, because it makes my life SOOOO much easier. And if this showed up in a paper from a student of mine, the paper would get an F and the class grade would be reduced. I’ve failed students for plagiarizing ONE SENTENCE, because, you know, that sentence WASN’T THEIRS, dammit.

    I said somewhere that I thought CE would use the “I didn’t know I had to” defense, and I guess I was right. I said she probably thought plagiarism only covered story-lines and plots and characters and that academic, research-oriented texts are fair game. I wonder what the black-footed ferret article authors would think about that.

  2. Sarah Frantz
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 22:54:21

    Incidentally, why do the Preview and Post buttons not line up (using Firefox)? Is it because Post is bolded and Preview isn’t? It just looks strange.

  3. Jackie L.
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 23:06:45

    Not to be mean or anything, maybe the head of RWA ought to contact John M. Barrie, who is an expert and has stated an opinion. If the RWA stands behind CE, romance is going look like a bunch of tools (again).

  4. Jennifer McKenzie
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 23:57:37

    Darn it. It’s WORD FOR WORD!!!! Why can’t she just admit it, pull the damn book and be done with it. And why would the RWA say they’re “not qualified”? They can READ right?
    *shakes head*

  5. Sarah Frantz
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 00:00:12

    Jennifer, probably because it would mean pulling all her books? Just a guess.

  6. Ros
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 00:04:49

    Yup, and she’s already made how much money from them? She’d survive.

  7. Bev Stephans
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 00:17:54

    I may just start reading non-fiction, only. This has gotten past the point of the ridiculous. RWA is already on my shit-list for their attitude toward e-publishers and now this! Thank god, as a reader, I have several choices and I will exercise them.

  8. TeddyPig
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 01:34:13

    Wouldn’t it be great if the publishers and editors actually started using Turnitin to CYA?

  9. Bev Stephans
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 02:01:26

    Teddy, if the publishing industry actually started using Turnitin, I would probably go into cardiac arrest!

  10. TeddyPig
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 09:24:08

    You would think something as simple as a software program would be such an easy fix for this issue.

    You could then announce to the public that you as a publisher protect your readers and your authors by screening all published work thoroughly without really having to do much but have some editor punch a stupid button.

  11. Jessie Mathews
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 14:42:04

    I can’t help laughing at how the same people are going from website to website creating drama.

    Don’t any of you have jobs or lives?

    Ms. Edwards is innocent unless she’s found guilty in a court of law.

    Her publishers are standing behind her. Her fans are standing behind her. Her family and friends are standing behind her.

    Shame on each and every one of you for what you are doing. You have made yourselves prosecutor, Judge and jury.

    In a few weeks this will all die down and the only thing everyone will remember is the nasty things you have all written.

    I believe that you get back what you give out. I’m so glad I’m not any of you.

  12. azteclady
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 15:13:20

    *raising hand*

    I visit more than one blog, and I post to most blogs I visit

    I also find it amusing that Ms Matthews criticizes the same behaviour she indulges in.

    Furthermore, I’m very glad to know the difference between unethical and illegal.

  13. K. Z. Snow
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 17:26:28

    – The Edwardses’ statement
    – RWA’s statement
    – Loyal fan’s statement
    – Predictable
    – Predictable
    – Predictable

    (Did anybody honestly expect anything else?)

  14. Robin
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 17:33:25

    I’m just going to repost here what I said on AAR about the witch hunt comments:

    More generally, as for the criticisms that everyone is trying to effect the downfall of Cassie Edwards, I can only think they aren’t actually reading the two blogs covering this issue. Have some of the commenters been extreme? Of course. But when I hear these reports of how we’re all calling for Edwards’s head or screeching about whatever, a lot of it feels like a long time grudge against one or both blogs rather than an accurate reflection of the conversations. Sure, some of us would like something to happen — we’d like for issues of intellectual honesty and some standard protocol for using secondary research to be more present common and open topics of conversation. We’d have liked a very different response from Signet/Penguin. We’d like people to be taking the issue of intellectual theft in a book-based community more seriously, so that these kinds of incidents can be prevented so as not to tarnish the already less than stellar public reputation Romance has.

    When Diana Gabaldon commented somewhere that you can’t plagiarize a source in the public domain, it made me realize that there are some BIG misunderstandings about what plagiarism is and how it relates to copyright infringement. And IMO this is an issue that affects authors and readers both, in part because it so often seem to be readers who discover copied material, when we should be able to trust that the books we’re reading have made proper use of any secondary materials. I haven’t said one bad thing about Edwards throughout the discussion, and I know I’m not the only one. But if people are diminishing the importance of an issue like plagiarism because they don’t like a couple of blogs, well, that doesn’t really seem to me like a problem with the blogs, nor, IMO, is the bad reflection from such sentiments ultimately shown on the blogs in question.

  15. che
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 18:24:04

    I can't help laughing at how the same people are going from website to website creating drama.

    How do you know? You’d have to go from the same websites to websites to know that. Talk to the mirror.

  16. che
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 18:25:03

    Anyways…is it just me or is anyone else having a hard time getting on SB?

  17. Jane
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 18:25:47

    The story has been picked up by now. I think that their hosting server has “curled up in the fetus position.”

  18. Devon
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 18:50:08

    AP? CNN? Yowza!

    The cynical part of me suspected that nothing was going to happen to Edwards, b/c what were they going to do? Pull all of her books? I’m disgusted though. I know middle schoolers who could paraphrase better. She cut and pasted. Changing a word or two does not equal paraphrasing.

    Will they look at her books more closely in the future? Will CE learn how to incorporate her research better? It will be interesting to follow.

  19. Michelle
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 20:17:09

    There is no defense so of course some people are crying “mean girls” and “bullies”. The best defense is a good offense.

  20. Lisa
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 23:09:36

    I don’t believe it was plagiarism. Just my opinion.

  21. Jackie Barbosa
    Jan 11, 2008 @ 00:37:02

    What slays me more than anything is Ms. Edwards’ apparent admission that she borrowed from some of her sources but did not believe she was obligated to credit them because she was writing historical romances and it isn’t “expected.” This outrages me on so many levels, I’m not sure where to begin in expressing my disgust.

    As an author of historicals, I feel a strong obligation to credit any source I use verbatim in my work and even, in some cases, those I have altered substantially. In my current manuscript, I quote a passage from Ovid’s _Amores_. Because I didn’t have time to translate it myself (and because I doubt my 20-year-old Latin skills would be up to the task), I found a translation online and then reworked it into rhymed couplets. Even though my translation is no longer word-for-word that of the original version, I fully intend to credit the source in my author notes should the manuscript ever see publication.

    Obviously, not all authors of historical romance feel similarly inclined to “borrow” without attribution.

  22. Mike Briggs
    Jan 11, 2008 @ 01:29:44

    For those who don’t believe it was plagiarism, you obviously don’t know what that big word means. This is a textbook clear case. Plagiarism is not a legal construct (though it is indirectly tied to some legally actionable offenses), it’s a moral construct. Stealing someone else’s words, thoughts and work is grossly unethical, even if the work is no longer protected by copyright. If I try to pass “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” off as my original work, it is unlikely that Billy Shakespear will arise from the dead to sue me, but that doesn’t make me any less of a thief.

    Sherry Lewis, by not having even the miniscule vestige of moral integrity required to denounce an obvious case of plagarism, has effectively become complicit in the coverup. The publisher, far from taking the moral high ground, is doing a disturbingly-convincing job playing dumb. If a publishing company cannot understand the basic fundamentals of their profession, they’re incompetent at best. It’s politics as usual in modern America.

  23. Sheila Clover English
    Jan 12, 2008 @ 16:13:58

    I think it is healthy to discuss issues of plagiarism and copyright infringement, whether you believe or do not believe that Mrs. Edwards is guilty. The more blogs and forums discussing this as a topic, the better.
    But, what constructive outcome is coming from this?
    Can anyone point me in the direction of where we can find instructions for authors on how to credit secondary sources? There may be such a document and I would greatly appreciate someone pointing it out to me for my own edification.
    No doubt Cassie Edwards has been judged by a jury of her peers here online. I have no idea how the legalities of all of this will end, but she has certainly been punished by her online jury.
    I’m not saying she deserves or does not deserve that, just stating it as a fact.
    Mr. Briggs brings up a very good and obvious (at least to me) fact. What is legal and what is ethical don’t always coincide.
    I own the trademark to the term “book trailer” and have for many years. When I trademarked it you couldn’t even find that term on Google. Now I get a lot of snark about it saying that you can’t trademark a common term. Well, it wasn’t common when I trademarked it. Legally, you can use it. Ethically, you stand on ground with Ms. Edwards. You can say what you want, but it doesn’t make it right.
    The point is, online “ethics juries” need to be sure that they too have not fallen victim to such acts at ANY point. The convict can’t be the judge. It’s fine to voice your opinion on ethical issues such as these. We should, in fact, voice our opinions. But, be mindful to to your own mistakes in life, as you judge people by theirs.
    What is the point of continuing to discuss this if no one is looking for a way to ensure it doesn’t happen in the future, or that authors are given clear guidelines on this topic. Will this only be over when Cassie Edwards is punished to the satisfaction of her peers?
    I don’t know Mrs. Edwards. I don’t read her. But this topic is of great interest to me and I hope it is the catalyst to awareness of this topic and clear guidelines on how to credit secondary sources.

  24. Robin
    Jan 12, 2008 @ 17:34:46

    Ms. English: I think you make a lot of good points, especially about “what next?” As a reader, I don’t know whether the RWA has a page on its website outlining use and attribution standards. Maybe some of the authors who visit here can answer your questions regarding those. I do, however, think that there needs to be more open discussion of what readers and authors can reasonably expect these standards to be, because the sense I’ve gotten is that there’s not one agreed upon baseline standard, or even if there is an articulated standard, there’s no unified interpretation of it.

  25. Sheila Clover English
    Jan 12, 2008 @ 17:45:48

    Thank you Robin. I tried to find something on the RWA site about a standard procedure for listing resources, but was unsuccessful. I’m hopeful that someone who visits this site will be able to offer direction.
    I totally agree that more open discussion would greatly benefit everyone as we move forward with, hopefully, resolution of this topic.
    I have guidelines somewhere for listing resources from when I wrote for medical journals (in my past life). If I find that, I’ll share it here to see if there might be something we could use to create such a document for fiction writers.
    It would bring about the proverbial “silver lining” if we could walk away with something concrete such as a document outlining procedures for listing resources for fiction novels.
    I’m not sure if this is the correct venue for such brainstorming, but it has to start somewhere, right?

  26. Worderella Writes » Refresh Your Writing
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 13:53:28

    […] describe that park. Don’t take their idea as your own, of course, we don’t want another Cassie Edwards case on our hands, but allow their ideas, if imaginative enough, to spark a few of your […]

  27. Christine Camarda
    Feb 04, 2008 @ 15:39:14

    I enjoy her books, and will to continue to read them.

  28. Loni Morgan
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 13:25:01

    I have been reading Cassie Edwards books since I was 15 years old I love them and I will continue to buy and read them..I love her books! I support her fully and if you are one of her fans you will too..

  29. Terry Stuart
    Jun 02, 2008 @ 00:13:23

    Recently I read “Savage Trust” and I just finished reading “Shadow Bear”. Why are people so eager to jump on someone and blame them for something they think is wrong? They haven’t read the same books that I have read. I enjoyed both books so much. What I liked about them was the main characters, the action was what kept me reading more in both books. Ms. Edwards writes about Nature in a very beautiful way. She has a way of building the drama in her books to where you get caught up in what you read that you react by exclaiming feelings of joy or you can feel the danger that is coming. I thought the way that “Shadow Bear” ended was wonderful. I couldn’t help but smile as I read. Ms. Edwards used quotes from famous people and Scripture verses in “Shadow Bear” only to give an idea of what the chapters were about. When people write letters to family or friends and include words that they heard someone else say, as they write the letters, is that plaigirism? No, because many times words that we say are important to other people and by including their words in a letter (or in a book) we are sharing the same feeling of importance of the words to the person whom we are writing to. I give “Shadow Bear” the rating of 8 because it was a book that I really enjoyed reading and I have put it with the books that I want to keep so I can read it again sometime. People need to be careful what they say when they speak to someone, as they could twist something that is good into something very wrong, and by sharing it with others it turns into gossip and gossip hurts the person deeply sometimes that you are talking about. I know, because I had this done to me.

  30. Lorie Reardon
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 23:24:54

    I cannot believe all the fuss over this with Cassie Edwards and her supposed plagiarism. Since when do people who read novels like Cassie’s bother to look for bibiliographies in the books (if they exist). I know I don’t and I have been reading this type of novel for 30 plus years. I read them for the characters, not for the research that the author did. If I want to know what the practices of Cheyenne people in the 1840s were then I will go to an historian’s book. Not a ROMANCE book. I read those for the romance and lets face it the soft porn. So grow up people and get a life.

  31. veinglory
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 23:47:06

    The big deal is not whether is affects readability (debatable) but whether it is theft (pretty well proven, as discussed above and in previous posts). Stealing from one’s colleagues is bad. No, really.

  32. Lori
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 23:56:27

    How could anybody in good conscience say theft of any kind is okay?

  33. Krys
    Jun 10, 2009 @ 17:45:49

    I recently read several of her books and although she writes well, it comes off (to me) as her own work. Its was important for me to remember that I was reading a HISTORICAL romance novel and that information about culture and such does not come from CE’s head. All those passages she “lifted” are not highlighted, quoted and no where in the novel did she cite where her information came from. She didn’t even put in a comment saying something along the lines,” All historical and cultural information in this novel is reference.” Dan Brown did it for DaVinci Code and what a grand fiasco that novel caused.

    I was raised on reading and I still read to this day. Reading helps me better understand the complexity of the society in which we live and how other people think. Whether it be fiction or non-fiction, it a different person’s thoughts, a different person’s outlook…

    what better way for me to learn and grow? I speak for no one but myself when I say that to plagiarize is to create a chasm between the writer and the reader that should not exist. Edwards did not tell a little white lie. She didn’t steal a loaf of bread. No, she stole the works of other writers. She stole apart of who they are. Essentially, she made herself worth more than the writers she referenced by making them less important.

  34. pam
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 18:13:28

    who cares if she researches or get her ideas from others i have all of mrs edwards books i read them an keep them an read them again until she puts another one out, i love her books an i always will be a fan of hers an her romance indian books

  35. Angela Dawn
    Oct 04, 2010 @ 02:09:35

    Ya know what , I am really pissed!!Cassie is a wonderful woman who has captured people with such captivating stories as Savage Destiny , which by the way MY POETRY was in and her leading lady was named for me”ANgela Dawn” For anyone I dont give a damn who they are to say she is lifting her passages , GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR HIND END!!!!!I am a writer and hey guess what we tend to use terms and what not in more then one passage , that doesnt mean shit .YOu people need to get off of her like seriously.YOu jerks caused her to have a stroke , Hope you are happy!

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