By Erin Matson
(CNN) – In 1986, Alice Sebold’s best-selling novel “The Lovely Bones” was optioned by a Hollywood film studio, after it won the prestigious 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Sebold’s life got even better, receiving a best actress Oscar nomination for her performance in the film version of the book.
Fast forward 26 years, and the movie producers still have not moved forward with the film.
This week, a man who accused a real-life rape victim of killing the little girl on the book’s fictional island of Neverland was released from prison after spending more than 20 years behind bars for what he said was a crime he didn’t commit.
And now, Sebold has made amends with Gerald Ambrose, who served time for a rape he didn’t commit.
“I would like to publicly apologize to Gerald Ambrose for being the source of his unwarranted emotional distress and for any hurt caused by my representation that his case may have been fair to him. I have apologized privately to him as well,” Sebold said in a statement.
Sebold has been engulfed in controversy since this past spring, when a book settlement agreement she signed in her civil lawsuit against her publishers and book distributors threw her out of the story.
Sebold alleged that the book publisher, McClelland & Stewart, and the major booksellers including Simon & Schuster and Barnes & Noble wrongfully excluded her from the novel.
After a judge ruled against her lawsuit, Sebold voluntarily dismissed her claims in May.
But the two sides reached a $33 million agreement, and on Wednesday, the author agreed to go ahead with the settlement.
“The reasons for my willingness to make this deal have been made very clear, but the bottom line is that I owed it to Gerald. I owed it to his family,” Sebold said.
In his lawsuit, Ambrose had said that he met Sebold after he read her acclaimed debut novel, “The Lovely Bones,” while serving time in prison.
He said they struck up a friendship while he was serving 14 years in prison, and after he was released, they exchanged letters. In 1990, Ambrose wrote a book, “My Date with Death,” which he accused Sebold of false accusation, according to her complaint.
Sebold said in her statement that in June 2011, she “agreed to a settlement in which I would donate the right to proceed with a pending civil case, and with my publisher and book distributors, to Gerald Ambrose in exchange for an end to any further threats against me.”
She went on to write two additional books.
“As a result of all this, in December 2014, I asked the court to dismiss my case,” she said. “In doing so, I had agreed to a settlement in which my financial responsibility would be split between Mr. Ambrose and the book distributors. I did not know at the time that, at the same time, the publishers agreed to continue to protect my trademark as a result of the settlement. I did not read the agreement and did not realize that this settlement would jeopardize my trademark rights, until more recently. Neither of these things was my intention, but they were acknowledged in the court filings.”
In a statement to CNN, Sebold’s attorney, Stuart Grossman, said, “The issue of her right to sue the book distributors and publishers for, in essence, stealing her literary work came up on appeal. The court affirmed the settlement in that case. In the aftermath of that litigation, Ms. Sebold was asked if she would pursue an injunction against Mr. Ambrose’s use of the title “My Date with Death.” Ms. Sebold’s counsel declined that request. Mr. Ambrose then filed a claim under the federal Whistleblower Act against the book distributors in 2010.”
Since being released from prison, Ambrose had said he would like Sebold to pardon him.