Pardon me, but aren’t you…?


I’m in Japan this week! Thanks to a twist of fate, I had 4 hours notice to pack and get on a flight. Here’s where things got strange: As soon as I stepped off the plane in Tokyo, I was approached by a group of Japanese ladies. They shook my hand and smiled at me, while repeating something which sounded like “Ba-ba.” So of course I smiled and nodded back at them, which made the ladies beam twice as enthusiastically. 


Confusion set in. It eventually became clear that the Japanese women thought I was an American celebrity–some blondish middle-aged celebrity, I guess,   whose name sounds like “Ba-ba”. Later my friends and I tried to figure out the name of my mystery-celeb doppelgänger
.  Someone suggested Julianne Moore, which was flattering, but doesn’t sound remotely like “Ba-ba.”

I just hope they didn’t think I was Barbara Eden. Even though Babs can still rock her “I Dream of Jeannie” harem outfit better than most gals her age, the septuagenarian is at least a couple of decades too old for my ego to be stoked.



Writers can have creative doppelgängers–not in how they look, but how they write. Have you ever been told, “You write just like Famous Writer Name“? If you’re not sure, try the tool I Write Like .    And tell us, who do you write like?

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36 thoughts on “Pardon me, but aren’t you…?

  1. I’m leary of being held to the mirror of the greats in our field. Readers have said my stuff is ‘just like Clancy’, ‘the next Forsyth’, ‘in the vein of Chrichton’, etc. I wish they would add, “but not”.

    The one thing that I fear most is for people to accuse me of trying to copy someone else,(well that and hairy closet trolls with big spiky hair all over their body and wicked long dirty fingernails that could cause nasty life threatening infections or even soul rending curses…oh…and spiders) or that they expect me to meet their expectations based on what another writer did.

    I love those other writers dearly, and am flattered anytime someone puts me on a lower rung of the same ladder, but I hope no one thinks I’m a cookie cutter copy cat cliffhanging chronicle composer.

    do i get extra points for using seven c words in a row?

  2. This reminds me of one doppleganger incident that nearly got me dropped from 35,000 feet. I got on a plane several years back heading from AK to LA with my wife.

    A very attractive 30ish stewardess walked up to me and said, “Hey, good to see you again. Taking time off? Say, you ride coach?”

    To which I promptly replied with “gulp … uhbaduh…huh?”

    And my wife responded with…***DeAtH RaY FrEeZe EyEs***…

    The stewardess saw my confusion and my wife’s look and stammered, “Aren’t you the American Airlines pilot..flight 196?”

    “Uh no ma’am…I’m a computer technician from Palmer Alaska where they grow cabbages the size ten year old children.”

    “Oh, sorry.”

    She sauntered off and didn’t come back by again, as she worked in first class. It took me the entire vacation to work my way back to good graces on that one.

  3. Ok that was fun!!! Lol. I got Robert Louis Stevenson! How awesome is that! Lol. Of course, I’ve also been told my doppleganger is Salma Hayek also. So, so much for doppleganger’s. But let’s hear it for the ego boost!! Lol.

    • That’s a good one, Jeanette! I get Arthur C. Clarke, which is great fun. But I read that Lindsay Lohan also writes like Arthur C. Clarke according to this tool, so I dunno. 🙂

    • I got the same response when I fed in the first page of my end of the world novel. I do wonder how much the system slants towards specific words (ie dark themes) when it assigns your “IWL” author.

      Such a sad story….

  4. That was interesting. I tried multiple parts of two different manuscripts. The first one I put up said I wrote like Vladimir Nabokov (HUH???), but everything after that said I write like Stephen King. I would have preferred Dennis Lehane, but I’ll take it!

    I’d be interested to see if any of you come up as you. Does James Scott Bell write like…James Scott Bell???

  5. It’s a curious system. My wife often complains that I write like Dickens because I’m a little too fond of packing a single sentence with two or three relatively independent clauses, while still managing to work in an action moment and maybe a few pieces of inner dialogue.

    I rather take that as a compliment, though she hated Dickens…

    The system also said I wrote like Poe so… I suppose that’s a win.

  6. Best compliment I ever got came from Ed Gorman who was reviewing one of our early books in Mystery Scene. He compared us to Ross MacDonald. I was deeply honored.

  7. Tried that site with scenes from three books, got back verdict of three different writers, all dead, none of whom I’d heard of. I was hoping for James Scott Bell (I want to be him when I grow up).

    Not sure what “Ba-Ba” represents, but sounds like it was a good thing. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I hadn’t considered writing dopplegangers, but I like the idea. I haven’t finished my first novel yet, so I don’t have a comparison to share. I hope if/when that happens, the comparison will be a compliment, and that I won’t be compared to one of those authors whose books I’ve removed from my Kindle because they were so poorly written.

    As far as physical dopplegangers, for most of my adult life I’ve gotten “Has anyone ever told you you look like Liza Minnelli?” My response was typically “Not today.”

    Thanks for the fun post, Kathryn.

  9. In comparing my work to other writers, I was hoping for Ernst Hemingway but I got Amanda McKittrick Ros

  10. Count me number three on the David Foster Wallace train. I seriously question an algorithm that would liken 12-15 respondents to a blog to the same writer.

    • I’m not sure I agree about questioning the algorithm. We are, after all, a bit of a self selected bunch, aren’t we? Most of us are writers (full, part or hobbyist). We have an interest in mysteries/ thrillers. We are modern people and thus work either with modern books or write them.

      All of those steer us towards certain common threads that might make a singular writer percolate to the top.

      It could also be based on the words we choose or use a lot in our writing. I’d need more data to implicate the algorithm direclty.

  11. I also just tried the I WRITE LIKE thing. I got Ian Fleming. Hmmmm. I must admit I’ve never actually read Ian Fleming, just watched the movies.

  12. This I WRITE LIKE is absolutely flattering. I am an aspiring writer (and writing is my hobby, not main job) and started a novel that is inspired by the story of my father. But long story short: the program said that I write like Stephen King. I can’t believe it! The only book of Stephen Kind I am reading and this will probably be the only one I will read is “On writing”. I love it and it is very inspiring and I absorb what he says. This is maybe why, even if we write for different genres.

    Kathryn, thank you very much for the great and fun post!

  13. Whoa! I write like William Gibson. Haven’t read him. Okay. So I tried some different text. Now I’m James Joyce. At least they got the first name right. Third time’s a charm: J. D. Salinger. Get outta here. At least I didn’t come up writing like Clyde Biffle.

    But this sure was fun. I could do this all day. Another distraction! Thanks for that.

    • If you have any interest in sci-fi, or more specifically the cyberpunk subgenre of sci-fi, try Gibson’s NEUROMANCER. Still one of my faves.

  14. Using this tool I got David Foster Wallace too. Seems a little odd – I might try again with another passage from a different book of mine and see if I come up with anyone else!

    • So using this tool I put in paragraphs from two other books of mine. First one I got Dan Brown (?!). Second one I got Ursula le Guin. So all three writers are very, very different…so I fear my writing must be schizophrenic!

  15. I just spent my lunch hour experimenting with the I Write Like site.

    I ran through the choices twice, reloading the page each time, and came up with the same answers both times.

    Depending on which text I put up became:

    Mario Puzo (65 Below)
    Jack London (65 Below)
    David Foster Wallace (65 Below)
    Arthur Clarke (65 Below 2x different texts)
    Cory Doctorow (65 Below)
    William Shakespeare (Ice Hammer)
    Stephanie Meyer (Ice Hammer)
    Vladimir Nabokov (Ice Hammer)
    Rudyard Kipling (Midnight Sun)
    Raymond Chandler (Midnight Sun)
    Mark Twain (Midnight Sun)

    Conclusion: If the algorithm is accurate it seems I have a personality issue.

    Stephanie Meyer? really? I don’t do sparkly at all!

  16. I tried the I Write Like site and it quoted some guy I’d never heard of. One reader compared my work to Janet Evanovich. That works for me.

    • Nancy, I always get a kick that Twitter lists Evanovich first in my list of “people similar to you.” I have to get my mood boosters wherever I can find them. 🙂

  17. Publishers Weekly compared me to Tami Hoag, Lisa Gardner and Lisa Jackson. Talk about being in good company.

    When I cut/pasted my latest opener into your I WRITE LIKE link, it came back with Stephen King. Freaky…but I’ll take it.

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