This is another entry into my series of a behind-the-scenes look at the episodes I write for the podcast Casefile. These posts will explain how and why I choose each case and the research that goes into writing the stories.
This post is about Episode 89 – Ella Tundra.
Best to listen to it before reading on, as there will be spoilers below.
As an author, I will always be drawn to click on any stories that have titles like “Authors behaving badly” or “Why you should never read your reviews” and a few years ago, those clicks revealed a doozy of a story.
Every author who has ever been published has received reviews that we feel are too low, unfair or mean-spirited. Even the toughest of us turn into needy snowflakes when it comes to critiques of our words, the one thing of value that we offer to the world. I’ve heard tales of authors who simply don’t read their reviews, but I don’t believe those people really exist. What we do learn in Author 101 though, is never respond to reviews. We are all one press-of-the-enter-key away from being self-published author Jacqueline Howell, whose epic meltdown responding to a review is truly cringe-inducing.
So while most of us sit and seethe privately, some authors take it to the next level. Author Kathleen Hale tracked down and confronted a Goodreads critic. That was merely awkward, but authors reacting badly to reviews reached peak crazy with another self-published author, Richard Brittain, who tracked down a Goodreads reviewer and smashed a full wine bottle over her head in retaliation for her review of his book “The World Rose”.
That part of the story was horrific enough, but as I went down the rabbit hole of Goodreads reviews and the politics of Wattpad where it all started, I realised that the wine bottle attack was actually the culmination of a completely different story. The author had spent years stalking another innocent woman, a fellow university student and barmaid named Ella, for whom the book in question was written. Ella the barmaid was turned into “Ella Tundra” the princess, and she was the perfect protagonist. In the author’s mind, Paige Rolland’s review overstepped the mark when she insulted Ella, whom Paige thought was a fictional character, but who was actually the love of the author’s life. Paige wrote, in part:
Way too much telling, pretentious prose, and a main character that I already hate. Ella is the perfect princess (true to fairytales, so we can at least give him a little credit despite how painfully annoying this is coupled with a complete lack of real personality shining through).. . not only is Ella physically perfect, she’s faint-hearted too. Such a fair maiden. Never was a maiden so fair nor so beauteous. Nor so boobilicious.
What made this story Casefile-worthy was that the attacker is a prolific writer of fiction, e-books, blogs and posts on various websites. Reading through his writing provided a unique insight into the mind of a stalker. The one post that is most often quoted in news stories is the one he wrote about Ella, “The Benevolent Stalker” where he admits that he knows he is terrifying the woman he has stalked for two years, but refuses to stop. However, he wrote a lot more than that.
Not only were there years of blog posts documenting his life, but he wrote works of “fiction” that were clearly barely-veiled autobiographical tales, which explained how he was feeling and why he was doing the things he was doing. Matching up the events in those pieces with events that were reported in the news later on provided a complete, and very chilling, insight into the thought process of someone who is willing to instil terror into somebody they claim to “love”.
I relied on news reports for the “Ella” side of the story as, not surprisingly, Ella does not have an open social media presence. I reached out via one avenue to a person who I thought was the Ella in question, but did not receive a response.
Despite this being one of the few Casefile episodes that doesn’t feature a murder, listening to events unfold from both sides makes this story particularly creepy.
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