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.
“When I was writing, I genuinely believed each word was my own,” Viswanathan said in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show.
She said she hopes McCafferty can forgive her.
“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.
She has promised to revise her book and said Wednesday she would acknowledge McCafferty in a foreword.
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 and Co. 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.
Readers spotted similarities to McCafferty’s books, which include “Sloppy Firsts” and “Second Helpings,” and alerted McCafferty, who in turn notified her publisher. Since then, more than a dozen similar passages have been found.
Viswanathan said she read McCafferty’s books three or four times while in high school but didn’t bring them to Harvard with her and didn’t consult them while 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.”
Her publisher has stood by her, saying it believes 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,” Viswanathan said. “The last thing I ever wanted to do was upset her.”
McCafferty’s publisher doesn’t believe her.
“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, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.