A well-known Mormon author is suing a Utah schoolteacher, charging she plagiarized her Christian romance novel, added sex scenes to it and sold the work as her own.
As Gawker earlier reported, Rachel Ann Nunes, a best-selling author from Orem, Utah, has filed a lawsuit against Tiffanie Rushton, a teacher from Layton, who wrote under the pseudonym Sam Taylor Mullens. The lawsuit states Rushton took portions of Nunes’ novel, "Love to the Highest Bidder," added “several graphic sex scenes” to it and sold it under the name "The Auction Deal."
Nunes used a publisher aligned with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to publish "Love to the Highest Bidder" in 1998. Later, when the book went out of print, Nunes obtained the copyright to the work and published a revised e-book version on Amazon.com under a new name, “A Bid for Love.”
According to the book’s description on Amazon, Nunes’ novel follows the story of two art buyers who fall for each other when they engage in a bidding war for a “very expensive Indian Buddha.” According to Goodreads.com, Rushton’s “The Auction Deal” has a similar premise: a man and woman meet when they go to “bid on a rare, expensive statue.”
"All the characters are the same, lines throughout and the plot. It is really hard for me to read it," Nunes told the Associated Press. "I feel like my life has been stolen." One of the characters in the Rushton book was named after one of her seven children, making the sex scenes even more disturbing, she said.
According to the lawsuit, Rushton said she wrote “The Auction Deal” under a pseudonym because she is Mormon and feared her family would not approve of the provocative scenes in the book. While “The Auction Deal” never made it to print, advance copies were obtained by bloggers who saw the likenesses to Nunes’ novel, the suit states.
Nunes decided to investigate. She reached out to Rushton -- who at the time she knew only by her pen name. Rushton denied that the story was plagiarized and said it drew inspiration from a “writing group.” The accused plagiarist refused to send Nunes an advance reading copy of the manuscript and insisted she would not be seeking to publish “The Auction Deal.”
Several email exchanges between the two continued. Eventually, Nunes claims Rushton created fake online accounts to start “a vicious campaign” to discredit her work. The lawsuit points to negative reviews that began to pop up on book review websites including Amazon, Goodreads, Avid Reader and Facebook, the suit states.
Nunes is seeking $150,000 in damages as well as attorney's fees. Since the lawsuit was filed on Aug. 29, Nunes says more authors have come forward with similar complaints about Rushton stealing their work.
Blogger John Doppler says Rushton claims to be the author of e-books “Hold You Again” and “Hasty Resolution” (both also written by "Sam Taylor Mullens") – but the stories bear a striking resemblance to Sgt. Chase Weston’s book “Terror In a Cloud of Dust.” A post on "Mullens’" Facebook page says the books will be pulled due to the “ridiculous” plagiarism claims, but asserts they will “live again.”
One month ago Nunes started a GoFundMe page to raise money for a legal battle against Rushton. The page includes screen shots comparing passages from “The Auction Deal” to “A Bid For Love.”
“This woman has turned my life upside down,” Nunes wrote on the page. So far she has raised more than $5,700. Her fundraising goal is $30,000. “I haven't been able to sleep since this began, and so much time has been robbed from my family and my writing.”