Posted on March 14, 2020 at 4:00 PM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

The Guardian’s headline for an interview with Kate Elizabeth Russell asks whether her new novel is the most controversial one of the year.

Given the prolonged conversation about American Dirt, we’d say no — but My Dark Vanessa certainly drew unwanted attention.

The novel features a main character who had an inappropriate relationship with one of her teachers during her teen years and must confront it as an adult, when that teacher faces public consequence for another such affair.

Russell has acknowledged, after some pressure, that her debut novel was inspired by her own experiences as a teenager.

She did so after another author, who admitted she hadn't even read My Dark Vanessa, complained about the similarities between it and her memoir, which received little to no interest from big-name publishers.

Though that author's complaints didn't gain significant traction, they did end up leading Oprah Winfrey to drop My Dark Vanessa from her book club.

Russell spoke at length with Fiona Sturges about the various moments of inspiration for the novel, the drama surrounding it, how it fits into the #MeToo era and more in the Guardian.

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