This is frankly terrifying:
This is how the story goes: Vlieg was in her car and an apparent stranger knocked off her side mirror. Then he reached into the car and pushed her forcefully into the steering wheel. One of the two dogsthat was with her, a Jack Russell terrier, bit the attacker’s arm and he took off. (The bulldog licked him).
At the urging of a loved one, Vlieg called the local police. They thought the attack might not have been random; at some point, she gave them access to her email. She had received a hateful reply to one of her rejections, but had not thought much of it. It was, she tweeted, “[t]he normal I hate you and I want you to die and I’ll kill you.”
Agents get that kind of thing all the time, she tried to explain. The police thought differently. They went to the address of the rejected author’s query letter. There, they found the alleged assailant, complete with the marks of a dog bite on his arm. He had prior offenses.
Jesus H. Christ on a fucking pogo stick, I’m glad she’s okay, I’m glad her Jack Russell terrier is a fierce little badass canine, and I’m glad the psycho was caught.
“Agents get that kind of thing all the time” from authors? What. The. Fuck. I’m aware that fiction writers are not exactly legendary for immaculate mental health, but we’re supposed to be “our own worst enemy” type of crazy. We’re not supposed to be a menace to society.
Pam van Hylckama Vlieg works for Larsen Pomada, which is one of the agencies I put on my list to query. I didn’t get as far as querying them before I decided to self-publish, but I remember finding their website and reading their submission requirements. I thought about how much work I’d have to put into my submission to them. She’s only been with them a few months, whereas I first looked up Larsen Pomada in early 2009 and decided to take French leave from the slush pile in early 2011, so there was never any risk of her seeing my query letter, but I was not aware that literary agents had to take death threats from rejected authors. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise, because in a group as big as “authors trying to get book deals,” there are going to be some nutcases, but I take it as such a given that writers need to be able to take rejection that, surely, rejection slips do not provoke death threats?
(Besides, the form letters I got from agents were always so innocuous and bland, how could they ever make someone angry?)
There’s an element of “stupid criminal” in this story, if we want to be funny. Psycho writer attacked a lady only after he put his home address in her office.
Note to self: if I need a dog for protection, a Jack Russell will get the job done. A bulldog, not so much.