After years as a fashion editor for a number of high-profile publications, Amina Akhtar is nervous to be on the other side of an interview.
The author, who currently resides in Cottonwood, is on the phone discussing her debut novel, #FashionVictim. She's heading to The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale to sign copies of her darkly comic tale on Monday, November 12.
The Arizona town is the furthest thing from the fast-paced life she led in New York City before becoming a casualty of the ever-shifting world of journalism. She felt like she was dumped by the fashion industry, and to top it all off, her mother sadly died of pancreatic cancer five years ago.
“When you lose a parent that you’re close to, everything changes,” Akhtar says. “It’s okay if your life gets derailed. You just have to figure out what track it’s going to go on after that.”
So Akhtar started a new career. While grieving and working freelance, she began writing #FashionVictim, a hybrid of The Devil Wears Prada and American Psycho. Anya St. Clair, the book’s protagonist, is so determined to get a promotion at the fashion magazine where she works that she literally kills anyone who gets in her way. Surprisingly, writing a demented character like Anya allowed Akhtar to laugh through her grief.
Readers are laughing too, but aren’t sure if they should be. Those expecting a light read are often surprised they find themselves zipping through the book and rooting for the psychotic killer. According to the writer, #FashionVictim was turned down by nearly every publishing house. After Akhtar moved to Arizona to be with her father, she finalized a deal with Crooked Lane Books. They released the book in September.
#FashionVictim has received rave reviews and has been optioned for a television series by the sibling team of writer Daniel Waters (Heathers) and Mean Girls director Mark Waters.
“I feel like those two get the book more than other people,” she says.
The pilot, which stars Gina Gershon and Willa Fitzgerald, is currently being shopped around for a home after E! passed on the project.
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Writing #FashionVictim was therapeutic to Akhtar in other ways. She claims the book is not based on anyone she knows, but there are events in the book that mirrored events that happened to her in real life. She deliberately included scenes of size-shaming and racism. For example, one character is called a “token diversity hire” and is told she can’t be on television because she is brown.
Akhtar says these are things told to her by people working for publications that identify as liberal and diverse, but she emphasizes that things are slowly improving.
“I really wanted to shine a light on [diversity],” she says. “When we’re talking about the fashion industry, people don’t realize it’s not just diversity on the runway and magazine spreads. It is diversity at the magazines themselves.”
Amina Akhtar. 7 to 8 p.m. Monday, November 12, at Poisoned Pen Bookstore, 4014 North Goldwater Boulevard in Scottsdale; poisonedpen.com. This is a free event.