Did a Romance Novelist Fake Her Own Death?

An especially surreal literary scandal

One of the weirdest literary controversies in recent memory.
Markus Winkler/Unsplash

For all of the ways that the internet can be infuriating, it can also be a place of genuine community and connection. Countless examples exist of people who have found groups of likeminded people online and made friends there who they’d never encountered IRL. There are bittersweet elements to that as well, including feeling a sense of loss following the death of someone you only knew from an online community.

But online communities function on trust β€” and when someone is perceived as having violated that trust, things can take an unpleasant turn. The latest example of this involves a romance novelist named Susan Meachen, who was active in online communities related to her genre of choice. Many were saddened by reports that she had died by suicide in 2020.

Except, here’s the thing β€” Meachen didn’t actually die. As an article in The Guardian explains, the writer recently returned to social media, noting that she is, in fact, alive and well. All of which leads to several questions β€” were the people who said they were friends and family who operated her social media accounts after her “death” actually Meachen? What did she expect to get out of this? And why, when she did all of this, did she keep posting to TikTok?

There’s also the matter of a benefit anthology which was dedicated to Meachen in the wake of her apparent death, the dedication of which is likely to read a little bit differently now that people are aware that she never died.

Many people have argued that any publicity is good publicity. I’m not sure that they anticipated cases like this when the expression was first coined, however. It’s one of the strangest literary scandals to crop up in years.

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