Young author says she’s sorry if she hurt original writer

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BOSTON (AP) – Teenage author Kaavya Viswanathan said Wednesday she was shocked to see so many similarities between her acclaimed first book and two novels by Megan McCafferty and maintained they were unintentional as she pleaded with McCafferty for forgiveness.

“When I was writing I genuinely believed each word was my own,” Viswanathan said in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show.

“The last thing that I ever wanted to do was cause any distress to Megan McCafferty. … I’ve been unable to contact her and all I want to do is tell her how profoundly sorry I am for this entire situation,” she said.

Viswanathan, a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard University, was just 17 when she signed a reported six-figure, two-book deal with Little, Brown. Her first novel, “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life,” came out in March to widespread publicity. DreamWorks has already acquired film rights.

But readers of McCafferty who had read Viswanathan spotted similarities to McCafferty’s books, which include “Sloppy Firsts” and “Second Helpings,” and alerted McCafferty, who in turn notified her publisher. Since then, dozens of similar passages have been found.

Viswanathan said she read both McCafferty’s books three or four times while in high school but did not bring them to Harvard with her and did not consult them when she was writing.

“When I sat down to write my novel my only intention was to tell the story of Opal,” she said in her first extensive remarks since the similarities were revealed. “I was so surprised and horrified when I found these similarities, when I heard about them over this weekend.”

Viswanathan has promised to revise her book and said Wednesday she would acknowledge McCafferty in a forward.

Her publisher, Little, Brown and Company, has stood by her, saying they believe the similarities are an “unfortunate but honest mistake.”

Viswanathan hopes McCafferty can come to believe the same.

“I just hope she believes I would never, ever intentionally lift her words,” she said. “The last thing I ever wanted to do was upset her.”

McCafferty’s publisher doesn’t believe Viswanathan.

“We think there are simply too many instances of “borrowing’ for this to have been unintentional,” Steve Ross, senior vice president and publisher of the Crown Publishing Group, said.

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