Ms. Johnson, who lives in Oregon, was so upset that she reached out to Ms. Meachen’s daughter online and offered to edit her mother’s last book for free, as a tribute. But the damage had been done, she said: Over the months that followed, many members, disgusted by the Mean Girl-ness of it all, migrated out of the community or deleted their accounts.
“It caused a huge shift in this community,” Ms. Johnson said. “There was a lot of drama, but this was the tidal wave. Nobody before had gotten so abused that they wanted to commit suicide.”
The subject receded, replaced by other dramas, until Jan. 2, when Ms. Meachen reappeared on her fan page with the news that she was alive.
Ms. Meachen did not see it as a particularly big deal. Eager to resume writing under her own name, she had been considering such a move for about a year, she said. She sat down at the computer, she said, and “hit enter before I could talk myself out of it.”
“I debated on how to do this a million times and still not sure if it’s right or not,” the post read. “There’s going to be tons of questions and a lot of people leaving the group I’d guess. But my family did what they thought was best for me and I can’t fault them for it.”
For the first few hours, the response was muted. Then, as she put it, “all hell broke loose.” Her post was widely shared by Samantha A. Cole, a romance writer from the suburbs of New York City, along with a seething commentary.
“I was horrified, stunned, livid, and felt like I’d been kicked in the gut and the chest at the same time,” wrote Ms. Cole, who previously worked as a police officer, and asked to be identified by her pen name to avoid the notice of people she had arrested.