Sexy Black-Footed Ferrets

Yep, that's right folks. "Sexy" and "ferret" in the same sentence. Romance novelists look all sorts of places for inspiration and content; and, turns out, scandal isn't always confined to its steamy pages. In her book Shadow Bear, best-selling romance writer Cassie Edwards allegedly plagiarized the work of nature writer Paul Tolme. He wrote about the endangered black-footed ferret. She writes about quivering membranes and heaving bosoms. It was a union destined to happen, and happen it did: his ferrets were fodder for post-coital musings between the novel's hero and heroine, "hunky American Indian" Shadow Bear and "lusty pioneer woman" Shiona Bramlett. Today we talk to Paul about the fallout from the scandal; and, of course, how to help those struggling ferrets.



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This really brought some levity to my day. I noticed that all of your callers were male. Maybe the romance readers aren't NPR readers, or maybe they were just too embarrassed to respond?

Sent by Dianne Rich | 4:00 PM | 1-21-2008

A caller asked about how a writer can know what is plagiarism and what is not. In the discussion that followed it was generally agreed that using someone else's exact words without giving them credit would be plagiarism. No argument there. However, it was implied that rewriting someone else's ideas into your words would not be plagiarism. That is wrong. Just imagine a novelist who has no idea for a plot so they decide to take the plot of another novel they have read and rewrite it in their own words. That is still plagiarism. (Of course, this can get into arguments of just how original is any idea, but the principal is still sound. Commonly known facts and figures of speech get a free pass, but the words and ideas of others do not!)

However, in the internet era many who would plagiarize don't even bother with rewriting ideas they have read elsewhere, cutting and pasting is just too easy. But that sword cuts both ways--cutting and pasting is indeed easy but it is also easily detected by using the internet to search for a suspected passage.

I've had university level students who liberally plagiarized from the internet. When I encountered suspect passages in a student paper, I would do a search for a sentence from the passage and 90% of the time I would find the original text on the internet.

Sent by Kiernan Phipps | 4:48 PM | 1-21-2008

PS The account of how the plagiarism was discovered by Cassie Edwards' readers should make other cut & paste plagiarizers think twice!

Sent by Kiernan Phipps | 5:11 PM | 1-21-2008

Author Paul Tolme's parting comment to Neil Conan must have been a first in mainstream radio, namely, "Is that a ferret in your loin cloth or are you just happy to see me." I always enjoy some humor and this, especially, tickled my funny bone.

Sent by Dan (from San Francisco) | 1:43 AM | 1-22-2008

Why should we romance novel readers be embarrassed? Cassie Edwards is an awful writer, true, but it took romance novel readers to show that she wasn't just awful. She didn't just steal from Mr. Tolme, either. She also took massive amounts of scholarly material from Native American histories and the Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, Laughing Boy.

So what do we have to be ashamed of, again? I must have missed that segment.

Sent by Kass | 3:33 PM | 1-22-2008

Hear, hear, Kass! Ms. Edwards' works are hardly held up as central to the Romance Canon (were there such a thing). Unless Ms. Rich is insinuating that we would be embarrassed to have romance titles as part of our reading habits? I hope not.

Sent by Katia Jade Monasterio | 5:07 PM | 1-22-2008

I did giggle when I was listening to this story. Though I read a lot, romance novels aren't usually my fare of choice. But I agree with Kass that romance readers should not be embarrassed. These days with all the passive forms of entertainment, anyone who reads anything should be proud!

Sent by Christy Hawkins | 7:25 AM | 1-23-2008

It is sad when a writer (for monetary gain0 does not know copywrite laws and what plagurism consituets. The web make it too easy to 'copy and paste' works of others. The offending author could have easily given credit to the original writer and cited his work...but then it wouldn't be fiction or romance.

Sent by Cliff | 10:57 AM | 1-24-2008

Are any of you people serious? Who else has asked THE Neal Conan about his ferret?
And hats off to Neal for not flinching in the closing!!

Sent by Pete Steffes | 11:18 PM | 1-24-2008

As a scientist I can say that sometimes you just need to turn off your brain. Nothing works better for this than picking up a romance novel (or a Star Trek novel for that matter). I used to read romance novels while waiting for my college exams to start to relax.

Sent by Kara | 1:51 AM | 1-26-2008

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