‘Maze Runner’ author James Dashner dropped by agent amid sexual harassment accusations
Dashner and ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ writer Jay Asher were accused anonymously online
Writer James Dashner, one of several children’s authors caught up in the #MeToo movement. Photograph: Jason Merritt/Getty Images
The Maze Runner author James Dashner has been dropped by his literary agent after a series of anonymous accusations of sexual harassment were made against him online.
Thirteen Reasons Why author Jay Asher has also has lost representation.
The bestselling novelist Dashner is one of several children’s authors who have been caught up in the #MeToo movement. On Medium, children’s author Anne Ursu revealed the responses to a widely shared survey she had run on sexual harassment among children’s book writers, agents and publishers, while on US site School Library Journal, an article about sexual harassment prompted hundreds of comments from people about their own experiences.
Dashner was named by several anonymous accusers as an alleged sexual harasser in the comments on the School Library Journal piece. Dashner has yet to comment on the allegations, and his publishers in the US and the UK have yet to respond to a request for comment.
But his agent Michael Bourret at Dystel, Goderich and Bourret told the US newsletter Publishers Lunch that he was no longer representing Dashner. “Under the circumstances, I couldn’t in good conscience continue working with James, and I let him go,” Bourret said.
Asher, who was also named by anonymous commenters on the School Library Journal article as an alleged sexual harasser, has also been dropped by his literary agency, Andrea Brown. The agency said in a statement that “we have counselled Jay to take a step back from the industry and he’s doing so. He is no longer working with the agency.”
Asher himself has responded, via a legal firm, to Lin Oliver, executive director of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, who claimed publicly that Asher has been expelled from the society because of the allegations. Oliver had said that Asher was “found to have violated the SCBWI code of conduct in regard to harassment” and, in a statement to the Guardian on Tuesday, said: “He was asked not to appear at any SCBWI events. His membership was cancelled. He is no longer part of SCBWI. That was our decision that he agreed to.”
Asher, however, told BuzzFeed that it was his own choice to leave the SCBWI: “It’s very scary when you know people are just not going to believe you once you open your mouth. I feel very conflicted about it just because of what’s going on in the culture and who’s supposed to be believed and who’s not,” he said.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Asher’s spokesperson Tamara Taylor claimed that the SCBWI’s comment was “completely false” and that “there was no allegation, investigation or finding” of sexual harassment.
“In April 2017, Mr Asher voluntarily agreed that he would no longer attend SCBWI conferences. This was in response to hurt feelings of a group of authors with whom he had consensual relationships that ended poorly,” said Taylor. “These women were not subordinates of Mr Asher; they were his peers and they each entered into romantic relationships with him voluntarily, with some initially pursuing him. Mr Asher was married at the time of these relationships, as were many of the women. He is deeply sorry for the pain these consensual decisions caused his family, and others.
“The false statements to the news media have resulted in inaccurate and hurtful news coverage, which is threatening Mr Asher’s livelihood. Mr Asher has retained legal counsel and is demanding SCBWI and Lin Oliver promptly retract the false and defamatory statements they made.”
As the claims shook the world of children’s books, the SCBWI issued a revised anti-harassment policy, while children’s author Gwenda Bond launched an online pledge for children’s writers and literature conference organisers to sign, asserting that they will remain vigilant about any harassment. Veronica Roth, Daniel Handler – also known as Lemony Snicket – and Melissa de la Cruz are among those to have signed.