Kylie and Kendall Jenner's Ghostwriter Maya Sloan Speaks Out
When the youngest Kardashian sisters, Kylie and Kendall, announced they were writing a young adult dystopian novel for Simon and Schuster, the naysayers were out in force. Allegations that the girls could never have written such a book on their own flew freely and the comments got fairly nasty. But something interesting happened during this latest brouhaha over a celebrity "writing" a novel.The Jenner sisters gave immediate credit to their ghostwriter, Maya Sloan, and told reporters that it was ridiculous to think they could write an entire sf novel on their own. They even posted photos of them with their ghostwriter along with their manager, Elizabeth Killmond-Roman, who helped with the novel's outline. Allegations of fraud disappeared in a puff of candor and the two photogenic teens set off on a book tour to promote the novel, called Rebels: City of Indra: The Story of Lex and Livia. The girls' fans could not seem to care less that their idols had a ghostwriter, they still show up in droves for booksignings and appearances.
Sloan holds two MFAs in writing: one in creative writing from Boston University and one in fiction writing from the University of Arkansas. She is the author of High Before Homeroom and Rich Kids of Instagram. She has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including the Boston University's Inaugural Saul Bellow Literary Prize, a St. Bolotoph Foundation Emerging Artists Grant, and the Lilly Peter Fiction Prize. She taught as a Boston University Scholar under the direction of Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, and currently teaches literature and film at Berkeley College in Newark, New Jersey.
Since the cat was out of the bag, Maya has been free to talk bout her experience with the girls. She spoke with The L.A. Times about the project and how it all came about. Having the book slammed online has not been easy for Sloan, who says she limits the amount of time Googling reviews of the book. She is enthusiastic about the experience of working with the Jenners: it's turned her into a youth scholar of sorts. She followed them around, listened to the way they speak and observed their interactions with peers. Social media is the center of the youth world, and she says she loves hypertext.
The project came about when Simon and Schuster asked the Jenners to write a book. But they didn't want to do a high school/boys/fashion book. Being fans of The Hunger Games and Twilight, they wanted to do SF. Their creative director Elizabeth Killmond-Roman helped them with the outline which they gave to Sloan. Sloan followed the girls around, talked endlessly with them on Skype and Facetime, and based the two leads on the girls' personalities. The girls came up with the storyline and gave extensive notes on the manuscript.
Sloan is not happy with the snarky comments lobbed at the Jenners saying, "People are trying to take this away from the girls. But most art is collaborative. It was never, like, 'Maya -- go off and write 10 chapters and send them back to us.'" Still, she is pragmatic about the drama surrounding the project saying that she's just happy to be a working writer.
Alas, the collaboration did not go so far as to make Sloan part of the filming of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Sloan says that didn't bother her at all, explaining: "They didn't ask me to be on the show, and that didn't hurt my feelings. Besides, I'd have to lose 15 pounds."
Posted on July 4, 2014