Author Rachel Van Dyken Is Exposing #MeToo Moments in the Fashion Industry
In the last ten years, school counselor turned four-time New York Times bestselling author Rachel Van Dyken has written 85 romance novels. No, that is not a typo — 85. She is typically writing two or three stories at one time and publishes an average of 12 books a year. Some are published traditionally and some are self-published. She says that working on various projects at once keeps her from getting writer’s block because when she gets stuck she moves on to another genre or set of characters and her creativity is freed again.
A mutual friend introduced her to the legendary super model Kathy Ireland, who had an idea for a suspense novel based on her real life story in the fashion industry. Rachel jumped at the chance to write a different kind of novel and to work with the icon. The pair co-wrote the novel Fashion Jungle which has been described as "Sex and the City meets the #MeToo movement, with a dash of Valley of the Dolls."
The book is fiction, but many of the stories spring from Kathy’s experiences as a 14-year-old model in a harsh world, long before #MeToo was ever uttered. Girls were taken advantage of, abused and some even disappeared. We spoke with Rachel about working with Kathy and about writing the book. Here’s an excerpt from our interview.
Passionistas: You wrote your new book with supermodel Kathy Ireland. How did that come about and what was it like working with her?
Rachel: We had a mutual friend introduce us and we honestly, I remember talking about, she called me later that week and I was sitting in front of my house and she was like, “Hey, this is my idea. What do you think? I kind of want to call it Fashion Jungle. And there was these four women and I want them each to be in their thirties. This is post them making it in this industry”.
And she had this story, this incredible story that included a lot of situations where she was mistreated or her friends were mistreated. There were suicides, agents getting people addicted to drugs or people who were involved in sex trafficking, and she never saw them again. Fascinating, heart-wrenching stuff that she really wanted to put in a fiction book.
It was hard because we had so much content. So we decided just to start the project and it went really well. I would write stuff and send it to her. And then she would edit or add things. I remember the first time I sat down, I had 15 pages of notes.
The other hard part is a lot of it is based off of real life. It's people that are still living, some people that have died. Celebrities that you can't like name names, you can't name drop it all. And so, in order to protect those people and protect ourselves, we had to change names but also get permission from somebody. So it was really fun. It was a really fun experience. She is fantastic to work with and it just one of the sweetest people in the world.
Passionistas: Talk a little bit more about the celebrities and how you go about getting permission from them or make the decision to change the name rather than get permission.
Rachel: Well, thankfully Kathy is friends with a lot of these people. I don't even think that woman has enemies. She's just the nicest person. So, that was the easier part. The harder part was people that maybe were not the greatest people, that did take advantage, that did have the whole casting couch that, were worse than the worst that you've seen in Hollywood lately, that are no longer with us. How do you deal with that by still respecting the dead, if that makes sense.
What we ended up doing is we wrote a prequel novella for the eBook launch and we partnered with them. The actual novella was about this man that owned the biggest modeling agen