Becky Flade: How AI Is Disrupting Our Industry, and What We Can Do About It

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Be unafraid. It’s not enough to stay up to date on advancements in AI. You also need to understand it and its potential impact on your industry. After a debilitating accident, I needed major surgery if I ever wanted to use my left thumb again. I was, understandably, afraid. The research was disturbing, but the fear abated as my comprehension grew. Your company is your thumb.

Artificial Intelligence is no longer the future; it is the present. It’s reshaping landscapes, altering industries, and transforming the way we live and work. With its rapid advancement, AI is causing disruption — for better or worse — in every field imaginable. While it promises efficiency and growth, it also brings challenges and uncertainties that professionals and businesses must navigate. What can one do to pivot if AI is disrupting their industry? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Becky Flade.

A mother and grandmother, award-winning author of the Philly Heat Series, Becky Flade wrote her first book in kindergarten. She’s been making her own dreams come true one happily ever after at a time since. A Philadelphia native, Becky relies on her twenty-five years of legal experience to create thrilling romantic suspense novels set in the City of Brotherly Love. You can learn more about Becky and her books at

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

It would be my pleasure. When I was little, I thought everyone had stories running like a film projector in their imagination. After learning the truth, I didn’t understand why I did, but it was amazing. Characters, conflicts, conversations, big sweeping narratives, all for me, all the time. My mom shared her love of books and reading. It was life changing. I had the why. I could share my stories with others. I wrote my first book in kindergarten during “free time” with the help of my teacher. A harrowing tale of two girls lost in Philadelphia on their inaugural unchaperoned trip to the grocery store. They asked a police officer for help. I penned my first happily ever after in crayon.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

My publisher, Tirgearr Publishing, is amazing. They’re based in Ireland and gave me a chance to tell the world my stories exactly the way I see them. They haven’t asked me to produce cookie cutter books based on market trends. The team there is incredibly supportive. That’s what makes them stand out.

I think what stands out about my books are the characters. They’re flawed in the most relatable ways. No damsels in distress. No knights in shining armor. And I set them in my hometown where I was born and raised, Philadelphia. Which I believe also serves to make my books both unique and authentic. The dialogue is true to the area. I’m describing places I’ve been, not places I’ve researched. A local transit employee reached out to me on social media expressing her delight in reading a book set in Philly which truly captured “it”. It was a thrilling moment.

My books aren’t only set in Philadelphia, they’re inspired by it. Several Decembers ago, there was an explosion in south Philly. Took out nearly an entire city block. I thought, after the horror of the event passed, wouldn’t it be cool if they found a serial killer’s burial grounds in the rubble? This led to an entire book.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Determination. I am a goal orientated person. Having the determination to set and move toward accomplishing goals is critical to anyone’s success in any field. Born a writer, I yearned to be a published author. However, I also wanted a legal career. As a young unwed mother, I focused first on my education, determined to make a life for my family as a legal professional, and wrote for myself in whatever free time I could find.

Perseverance. It’s not enough to set a goal and determine the path to that goal. Stick with it. Especially when it gets hard. And it should be difficult, that’s what makes it great. Yes, I’m paraphrasing Tom Hank’s character in A League of their Own. There were days, nights, when I struggled with fear of failure. When the overwhelming challenge of working full time and going to college full time while raising my daughter felt unsurmountable. I never gave up. That’s perseverance.

Appreciation. Fear of missing out, or FOMO, is a clear path to failure. Set goals. Persevere in the pursuit of those goals. And focus on the finish line. Do not obsess about what’s next. It draws your attention. Appreciate what you have, and the sacrifices made to gain it. Take no step in your journey, whether forward or backward, for granted. Every obstacle, every challenge, whether ending in success or defeat, contributed to my success. I appreciate all of it and believe those experiences inform my writing.

Let’s now move to the main point of our discussion about AI. Can you explain how AI is disrupting your industry? Is this disruption hurting or helping your bottom line?

AI programs sample copyrighted intellectual property, pulling words, phrases, paragraphs, in order to create a “new” book. It’s not new, and no one is asking the author’s permission to use their original work or pay royalties. When a musician samples a track, they must seek authorization and pay royalties to the original artist. The same can be said for movies. For “Spaceballs,” Mel Brooks needed permission from George Lucas. Books deserve no less respect and protection.

Why don’t they? I believe it’s because the books used by AI are available in the public domain. However, most books available for free on the internet are pirated. Two wrongs don’t make a right. This is theft, twice over.

AI can achieve in minutes what can take months, or even years, for an author to accomplish with a team of professionals by their side. These books flood the marketplace and create an inherently unfair market. Not just for authors but editors, proofreaders, formatters, cover artists, and the publishing houses employing them. Indie authors and small publishers are vulnerable.

In January 2024, WIRED magazine reported Amazon was being flooded with AI generated re-writes of original books. Two months later, NPR reported a dramatic rise in AI books. And in a case of life imitating art, AI researcher Melanie Mitchell found an AI generated imitation of her 2019 book Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans. A programmer/coder is advertising on YouTube how he made over $250 thousand dollars last year creating AI generated eBooks.

It’s not just about theft, loss of profits, and/or an uneven playing field. It also hurts the reputations of authors, publishers, and other artists in the field. The quality is questionable at best. Users on social media love poking fun at the gaffs in AI attempts to create realistic human images. AI’s difficulty creating convincing hands and other appendages generates the bulk of the scorn. However, this does not apply to words. Sentences in AI born books are often stilted and awkward. Many times they’re nonsensical. Not unlike the Mad Libs of my youth. But where someone posts a copy of an image with a sardonic caption, if a reader picks up an AI created imitation, believing it to be the author’s work, they post a negative review in response.

Currently, identifying the offenders is simple. However, as time goes on, AI will improve. The few protections authors have now won’t hold up. Picking out AI-created content will become increasingly difficult, and the publishing industry will suffer.

Despite the scary stuff, AI can benefit authors in certain contexts. An author I follow, NY Times bestselling author Alessandra Torre, whose newsletter I subscribe to, has been sharing her experiences with ChatGPT for marketing and research purposes. By demystifying AI, she’s shown it can be used as a tool. Encouraging.

Which specific AI technology has had the most significant impact on your industry?

ChatGPT. ChatGPT is arguably the most powerful Chatbot ever developed. It writes essays, reports, solves math problems, writes books, and so on. It’s designed to work on a series of plain word prompts. Meaning you do not need any coding or programming experience. And it’s free. I could open up this free online tool, type a couple of sentences such as I want a five-hundred-page book detailing one young female archer’s attempts to survive a fight to the death in a dystopian future. She has two suitors: a miner and a baker. The villain is a charismatic but ruthless politician. ChatGPT will produce a draft culled from millions of sources in a matter of minutes.

Can you share a pivotal moment when you recognized the profound impact AI would have on your sector?

An author I know learned from a reader one of her books had been republished by someone else with a new name. She investigated and found it to be true. New title by an author with no headshot or other digital footprint. And the text was a poor imitation of her book, as though someone ran her original through a thesaurus program. She suspected it was AI generated and contacted Amazon. While Amazon investigated her complaint, they took both books down and kept all royalties she had accumulated but not yet received. She fought for months to get her book back online. Eventually, she succeeded, but wasn’t reimbursed. It was the moment I realized AI had real implications for authors and other artists now. Not in the future. Now.

How are you preparing your workforce for the integration of AI, and what skills do you believe will be most valuable in an AI-enhanced future?

I’m unsure at this point how to integrate AI into my field without taking work from the team who are critical to publishing my books. The cover artists, editors, proofreaders, formatters, these are jobs threatened by the growth of AI. How do you incorporate automation without sacrificing the human element? Many industries have struggled to find that balance as technology has advanced. Reflecting on how those fields responded may inspire a solution.

What are the biggest challenges in upskilling your workforce for an AI-centric future?

The future is not too distant. The biggest challenge is asking people to accept and adapt to AI without compromising artistic integrity and meeting ethical considerations.

What ethical considerations does AI introduce into your industry, and how are you tackling these concerns?

I touched on this above. Presenting someone else’s book as your own is plagiarism. Everyone knows that. But profiting from it is also illegal, at least under U.S. copyright laws. Most times, based on what is readily knowable, the data set AI uses is made up largely of pirated works made available on the internet. The best way to combat this is to be vigilant in protecting your property.

I know several authors who believe pirated copies of books don’t negatively impact their bottom line and may cause new-to-them readers who could buy their non-pirated books. It’s a valid position. But not one I hold.

I’m not just an author, I am an avid reader. And libraries, of which I am a tremendous supporter, provide books to the masses for free. I would never shame a reader for passing a book to a family member or friend, either. I do it, too. Reading should not depend on the ability to pay. Literacy is the true equalizer. But stealing is never okay.

If an author discovers a way to implement AI into their process, i.e. marketing, research, etc., good, share your tips with the rest of us. But no author should ever cut corners by putting AI generated content in their books and presenting it as their own. It is unethical and a betrayal within, in my experience, a supportive and encouraging community.

What are your “Five Things You Need To Do, If AI Is Disrupting Your Industry”?

1. Stay current. The G.I. Joe syndicated cartoon ended each episode with a public service announcement and the catchphrase: Knowing is half the battle. It may be corny, but it’s true. The internet is an amazing resource for both truth and rumor. Research, learn, stay informed, and stay forewarned. Be prepared for industry advancements, both beneficial and damaging.

2. Be unafraid. It’s not enough to stay up to date on advancements in AI. You also need to understand it and its potential impact on your industry. After a debilitating accident, I needed major surgery if I ever wanted to use my left thumb again. I was, understandably, afraid. The research was disturbing, but the fear abated as my comprehension grew. Your company is your thumb.

3. Create. Generate opportunities to integrate AI into your workplace/workforce. Maybe you can use it to research projects or fine-tune a product. In my field, we call that editing. But doesn’t fine-tune sound so much more refined? An example of AI influenced editing is when my edit software flags a run-on sentence and asks me if I want it to suggest alternatives. Saying yes reorganizes my words for conciseness.

4. Protect. Safeguard your intellectual property. I have Google alerts set up to send me an email any time it finds a reference to one of my books. Over the years, I’ve sent countless cease and desist letters to book pirating sites offering my books for download thanks to those emails. I understand I’m using artificial intelligence to combat artificial intelligence. I get the irony. But this is just another example of ways to integrate AI into your field.

5. Adapt to the future. It’s closer than you may think, and there is nothing we can do to avoid it. Other industries, like automotive manufacturing, have been dealing with growing automation for decades. Not new, but new to you. It’s not the first time you’ve faced something unknown. You learned, you embraced, you adapted. Like when my doctor recommended, I switch to non-fat half-and-half. It grew on me over time. Okay, it didn’t, but I’ve learned to live with it. We can learn to live with AI, too.

What are the most common misconceptions about AI within your industry, and how do you address them?

Misconceptions in my industry regarding AI swing from one extreme to the other. Some feel threatened, others are unconcerned. One group needs to be reassured and the other needs to take it seriously. It’s a burgeoning field and presents genuine concerns. It shouldn’t be ignored. But I don’t believe we’re on the verge of a war with machines, either. I hope protections are implemented as authors and artists utilize technology to enhance their craft.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Life’s like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending.” — Jim Henson

I have always admired Jim Henson. His creations defined my childhood and even now as an adult, with grandchildren, his characters awe me. Obviously, he worked in a visual medium and I do not, but his words, uttered by his alter ego Kermit the Frog in the first and foremost Muppet Movie, fueled my dreams of being a published author. And almost more importantly, kept me going when I was down, and inspired me to reach for more.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

Am I doing right? Am I a good person? A good mother? Those thoughts influence every decision I make. They steer me. Those thoughts are my personal compass.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Global literacy. I firmly believe if you can read, you can do anything. Non-fiction feeds the mind. Fiction feeds the soul. Both are crucial to humanity and reading provides both. It may sound overly simplistic, but sometimes the biggest ideas are the simple ones.

How can our readers further follow you online?

I’m most active on Facebook with an Author Page and a Personal Profile where I talk about life, books, my coffee-addiction, and family. I also have profiles on Instagram, Twitter, Threads, and TikTok where I post far less often. My publisher’s website has a page dedicated to me and the books they’ve published. I have an author page on Amazon, BookBub, and Goodreads where all my books can be found and if you follow me at those locations, you’ll get alerts about new releases and sales with none of the personal stuff. Also, I have a quarterly newsletter.

I have a blog but I don’t post often. A casualty of my busy life. Maybe I can use AI to keep the blog current.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.