In an elaborate scheme that lasted nearly seven years and fooled countless reporters, editors, publishers, filmmakers and fans, Laura Albert, a middle-aged woman from San Francisco not only created a fake persona to publish books, but also enlisted a friend to do in-person interviews as J.T. LeRoy, the former prostitute, crossdressing, HIV-positive teenage boy who used his "life" as a basis for the book Sarah, which became a national bestseller when it was published in 2000. Although the book was positioned as a novel, J.T. pushed the story as based on his "real" life of abuse.
Not only did J.T. infiltrate the literary world, but he also wrote journalistic pieces for such publications as Spin, Nerve, the Oxford American and the New York Press crossing a line too far even for those who excused his fiction writing. Sarah was later commissioned to become a film by director Gus Van Sant, who after learning of Albert's deception said of J.T., "I still kind of believe that he exists, just not in the flesh."