YORK — One day. That was all the time Maya Sloan
allowed herself to Google reviews of the dystopian young
adult novel she ghostwrote for Kendall and Kylie Jenner.
surprisingly, Internet trolls had it out for the
youngest sisters of the Kardashians — lampooning the
idea that two teenage models who have yet to graduate
from high school wanted to be taken seriously as
authors. But Sloan, 37, didn’t escape unscathed,
Sloan must have a serious need for money to submit
herself to this kind of public humiliation," posted
one Gawker.com commenter about her role as the Jenners’
so maybe this wasn’t the response she envisioned after
five years toiling away on two separate writing MFAs. It
certainly wasn’t what her family imagined; relatives
regularly email her job openings at places like the
prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop and suggest she try
submitting her fiction to literary journals instead of
learned to check my ego," Sloan said. "Ego
will get you a teaching job in Iowa grading freshman
comp papers, or a 9-to-5 editing promotional material
where you want to slit your wrists. I’m writing for a
living, and it’s a gift to be a working writer."
busy one, too: After last month’s arrival of the
Jenners’ "Rebels: City of Indra," now comes
"Rich Kids of Instagram," a novel Sloan
co-wrote with the anonymous creator of the popular
Tumblr site of the same name.
a self-proclaimed lover of hypertext, fictionalizes the
mysterious figures from the blog’s featured pictures
and offers her own take on the novelistic form.
as Helen Fielding used a journal to tell the story of
"Bridget Jones’s Diary" and Jennifer Egan
included a chapter full of PowerPoint slides in her
Pulitzer Prize-winning "A Visit With the Goon
Squad" — not to mention the many attempts at
Twitter novels — Sloan’s use of Tumblr entries and
Instagram photos as source material for "Rich Kids
of Instagram" is one more example of how popular
culture and social media are influencing fiction.
this case, Sloan, who normally stays in the background,
is the public face for a co-author who doesn’t want to
be named. The creator of the "RKOI" Tumblr
cites legal threats among his reasons for opting to
remain anonymous. He did, however, meet with Sloan
in-person multiple times.
the Jenners and her anonymous co-author, she has
unintentionally become a youth scholar. To understand
the wealthy adolescents behind "Rich Kids,"
she crashed their parties in the Hamptons; to inform the
characters in the sci-fi-themed "Rebels," she
spent time gossiping about boys with Kendall and Kylie.
are teenage girls," said Sloan, sitting at a bar
across the street from Simon & Schuster, whose
Gallery Books imprint has published all of her novels.
"They’re wealthy and they have a famous name, but
I didn’t want to look at them — or their book — as
there’s anyone who could withhold judging two
statuesque reality stars from Calabasas, it’s Sloan.
While teaching a beginning novel writing class at NYU’s
School of Continuing and Professional Studies this
spring, she seemed particularly wary of discouraging her
students with harsh critiques.
you nervous, honey?" she asked one young woman who
was about to receive feedback on a short story.
"Don’t be. This is so promising. Let’s help
make it better."
a native of Oklahoma City, has taught at nine different
universities while pursuing her own writing. Her first
novel, "High Before Homeroom" — about a
teenager seeking popularity through drug use — was
published in 2010 and was less-read than
"Redefining Diva," the 2012 memoir she
ghostwrote for Broadway star Sheryl Lee Ralph. It was
the latter book that got her a meeting with the Jenners,
who were seeking to write something in the vein of
"The Hunger Games" trilogy.
just wanted to do something different — not something
everyone would have expected from us, like a fashion,
high school kind of story," said 18-year-old
Kendall, calling during a break from a fashion shoot in
Montauk this week.
with their creative director Elizabeth Killmond-Roman,
the Jenners created a broad two-page outline describing
the futuristic tale about two girls with superpowers who
are secretly twins. Sloan was hired to execute that
vision, using Kendall and Kylie as inspiration for the
book’s protagonists. The sisters took her along with
them to New York Fashion Week and let her hang in their
hotel room while they texted their friends.
wanted to understand our lingo," explained Kylie,
16, who said she is a fan of the "Pretty Little
Liars" and "Twilight" book series.
"She’s super smart and just kind of adapted to us
— remembering what we said and the way we
Sloan actually wrote the book, Killmond-Roman took pains
to emphasize the girls’ involvement in
"Rebels." They had numerous Skype and FaceTime
sessions with Sloan, she said, and the group all marked
up drafts with extensive notes.
are trying to take this away from the girls," she
said. "But most art is collaborative. It was never,
like, ‘Maya — go off and write 10 chapters and send
them back to us.’"
the acknowledgments for "Rebels," they thank
Sloan for her "tenacious and creative spirit."
And in a recent interview with "Good Morning
America," Kendall said she and Kylie received
"some help" with their book because "we
obviously can’t write a sci-fi novel on our own."
Her admission came shortly after an embarrassing gaffe
on the Billboard Music Awards, during which she misread
a teleprompter and awkwardly blurted out: "Guys, I’m
the worst reader!"
when footage of the sisters promoting their book appears
on an upcoming episode of "Keeping Up With the
Kardashians," Sloan’s face won’t pop up.
didn’t ask me to be on the show, and that didn’t
hurt my feelings," the writer said. "Besides,
I’d have to lose 15 pounds."
with her husband, Danish illustrator Thomas Warming,
Sloan is currently spending her summer in Orlando,
living in Jack Kerouac’s old home as a writer in
residence there. By August, she hopes to have completed
her next novel — this one written without a co-author
— which delves into the world of burlesque in 1930s
are going to want to say I’m a YA author now, but it’s
not like one day I can’t write a literary novel —
whatever literary means," she said. "As if
there are these Greek gods dictating what literature is?
None of the students I teach read — even the really
smart ones. They read magazines and blogs; everything is
becoming really visual. So I can talk to you about
Tolstoy and I can talk to you about ‘Divergent.’ I
refuse the snobbery."
even proud of the sure-to-be controversial cover of
"Rich Kids of Instagram," which features a
realistic textured line of cocaine on a $100 bill.
know some of those rich kids are going to be snorting
coke off that line, which I think is hysterical,"
she said. "I don’t judge."