One of my followers on Twitter asked me what I'd have done if that had been my book.
But the question made me ask myself what would have happened if I did sell a book that turned out to be made up. And let's not all rush to say "that would never happen to me" because it could, if the book was was shelved in one of my blind spots. I've got a couple of blind spots: I generally believe the victim of a crime; I always believe stories of rape and harassment; I always believe stories of sex abuse. I recognize those are my blind spots.
The people involved with Alex Malarky had blind spots too. His family, the literary agent, and the publisher all have strong Christian beliefs. What Alex described was entirely possible for them. It would have seemed like a message from God, something that should be shared. Something they had an obligation to share.
There's even scripture to bolster the idea "At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." [Matthew 11:25]
Five years later Alex is eleven, not six, and it turns out he made it up to get attention.
Cue the scoffers and the gotcha crowd to say "of course it was all made up" and just to add insult to injury, make fun of the kid's surname. This was a story made for the social media mob.
Before we all take up the burning pitch torches and light fires under vats of oil, let's remember there are many people out there who made stuff up and got away with it for a good long time.
And that's what my fear is: in wanting to believe something, I'll overlook what should be red flags.
I don't know how anyone involved in this story could have avoided this unfortunate turn of events other than to simply not believe it, but that's like saying "you can avoid drowning by not going in the water."
I don't know how to avoid falling in to the blind spot trap.
Which means the answer to the question is "that could have been me, and boy am I glad it's not."