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Erotic Romance Author Accused of Plagiarizing Fanfiction

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Receipts in hand, avid romance reader @KokomRoily called out Wales-based author Romilly King for allegedly plagiarizing large sections of their 2020 erotic novel Paid to Kneel.

Kokom found King’s book too similar in many places to a 30k-word Supernatural Dean/Castiel fic, If You Hurt Me, That’s Okay, Baby by writer Blue_Jack, which is housed on fanfiction archive Archive of Our Own (AO3).

Paid to Kneel is the first book in King’s Delphic Agency series. The five books follow sex workers who specialize in BDSM. After reports submitted by Kokom and others, the book has already been removed from Amazon. However, it is still on Audible for those with Premium Plus. Other major booksellers show Paid to Kneel as back-ordered.

It’s not uncommon that fanfiction writers will take their own stories and adapt them into original works for publication, a process known as “filing off the serial numbers.” The most famous case of this is probably E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, which began its life online as an “alternate universe” fanfiction of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. So Kokom was careful to make sure this wasn’t the case in the King situation. Kokom reached out to the original poster on AO3, and Blue_Jack confirmed that they were not Romilly King and did not give King permission to use their work.

Blue_Jack has now further added a note on their fic:

I’ve been notified that someone has allegedly plagiarized this fic on Amazon (“Paid to Kneel, Delphic agency #1” by Romilly King). I have never given Romilly King or anyone else permission to use my work or post it as their own work, and I’m in the process of trying to get Amazon to take it down.

King specializes in m/m (men loving men) romance and in 2020 alone published at least eight books. With King on course to publish another nine in 2021, there are concerns that King could have plagiarized from other fanfiction stories. As The Daily Dot noted:

As Kokom Roily’s plagiarism accusation spread on Wednesday night, other readers began to look into Romilly King’s output, accusing the author of plagiarizing stories from other fandoms: Hannibal, Marvel, and the popular Chinese novel Mo Dao Zu Shi, to name a few.

After sharing over 32 images of King’s and Blue_Jack’s work side by side, Kokom called for the romance and fanfic community to see if King has profited off of other fanfic writers. Members of the Supernatural fandom have also rallied to this call. All SPN Ships, a blog dedicated to Supernatural fanfic, notified its community on Tumblr.

Romance readers and writers feel betrayed by King’s alleged actions, and rightfully so. Fanfiction writers pour many hours into their work and post it online for free. Free to read, not free to steal and make money from. And of course, fanfiction writers do not profit from their works—that’s what enables them to be shared for everyone to enjoy.

Sadly, plagiarism isn’t unheard of in the fanfiction community, but the issue generally stays on the AO3 side of things—say, someone steals another fanfiction author’s Supernatural story, changes some names and details, and posts it as a Star Wars AU. AO3’s team responds to reports about events like this and usually removes the plagiarized story when there is enough evidence. While plagiarism is always a significant issue in any medium, the reason King’s alleged plagiarism is hitting such a nerve is that they have seemingly profited from others’ creative output.

Via DM, Kokom told The Mary Sue that they encourage people to study King’s book blurbs and see if it looks familiar to any fanfic. She suggested looking at places such as FanFiction.net, Ao3, Wattpad, and Pillowfort.

“Contact the author through comments, Twitter or Tumblr, and tell them what has been plagiarised, by whom, how you know, and provide a link to Amazon’s (or a publisher’s) copyright infringement claim,” Kokom explained. “The clearer you are, the easier it is for the author making the claim.”

Authors who helped edit King’s series have stated that they were unaware that King’s novels were plagiarized. Some users are reminding people to not pile on to the voice actors who recorded King’s books, too.

So far, there has been no response from King, and King’s Twitter account has not been updated in over a week. However, the Facebook group King promotes on their website, “Romillys Kingdom,” recently changed privacy settings or was deleted. Nothing appears to be forthcoming from their end.

“I would like King to take responsibility for their actions,” said Kokom. “A confession and an apology would go a long way. Recognizing and owning our mistakes is the best way to create change.”

If these allegations are true (and it is looking quite likely), then personally I think King owes Blue_Jack money as well as a public apology to both readers, Blue_Jack, and any other authors whose works may be involved. As a digital artist who puts most of my work online (some fan art, too), my heart goes to Blue_Jack. Theft is bad enough without people making money off it.

All of this comes after the Romance Writers of America awarded their already controversial “inspirational story” category to a book whose “hero” participates in genocide. Not only does he do this, but is given redemption through God. Yeah.

Romancelandia is having a hell of a week.

(via Twitter, featured image: Anna Shvets from Pexels)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.