Tyra Banks Talks About New Best-Selling Dystopian Fantasy Novel for Teens

And claims to have lost her hair in the process of writing it.

By Jorge Rivas Oct 19, 2011

Tyra Banks —  yes, the "smile with your eyes" Tyra —  has written a fantasy novel for teens. A dystopian fantasy novel, to be exact. The model, talk show host, actress, occasional singer and Harvard Business School student can now add a new title to the list of her professions: New York Times best-selling author. 

Last month, Random House published her first young-adult novel, "Modelland." The book is about Tookie de la Crème, a young woman with "untamable hair, [a] large forehead and gawky body" (sound familiar?) that somehow winds up being selected among a group who could become "Intoxibellas."

The book’s synopsis provides a glimpse of what an "Intoxibella" is: "only seven extraordinary young women become Intoxibellas each year. Famous. Worshipped. Magical. What happens to those who don’t make it? Well, no one really speaks of that. Some things are better left unsaid."

Banks recently spoke with the Wall Street Journal to discuss her writing process. Below are highlights from the interview:

Banks on the dystopian fantasy genre and what’s in her library:

Do you know I did not know it was dystopian? I think of dystopian as "Mad Max," as "Book of Eli," as the world is ending. Random House said, "No, yours is dystopian. There’s just so much candy and campiness on top of it." … Of course I read "The Hunger Games." I’m on the third one right now. I love Roald Dahl. On my nightstand right now is "James and the Giant Peach," which I’m reading for the second time. I just finished "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." I read three "Twilights." There’s a book I love called "Blue Plate Special." I just bought "The Book Thief." YA doesn’t mean that it’s super simple. There are beautiful layered stories and darkness.

On the writing process, stress and losing her hair:

In the beginning it was me trying to fit it in. I was staying in Lake Como shooting "Top Model" and I was working on it in the off days. It was a passion, so the discipline wasn’t hard. It was finding the time that was hard, and that was stressing me out and I felt the product was suffering. Because my outline was so robust–40 pages long–they thought I could do it faster. My chapters are between 11 and 15 pages, and I could never finish one in one day. … Honestly, chilling for me was eating a meal. I couldn’t just look at the ocean. And in hindsight that wasn’t healthy. How can I say this without tearing up? I got a little alopecia from the stress.

On how she stuck her mom in a hotel and made her read the first 1,000 page draft (and how she thinks gay males are "campy"):

My mom. I told her to go to a hotel and focus. It was 1,000 pages. First she said: Tookie has too many bad things happening to her, so I removed a lot of heavy stuff. It was imperative that the reader connect with her and invest. The second thing was she liked that she felt me, that kind of gay male thing that I do. That campiness was important. My editor said a lot of the same things as my mom. The next step was painful, because we had to cut 50%. But looking back I could cut more.