I’d like to welcome Claire Lazebnik to my blog! She is the author of Epic Fail which is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I really enjoyed reading Epic Fail and I’m so glad to have Claire Lazebnik here today!
1. How were you inspired to write a classic retelling?
I knew I wanted to try my hand at writing a YA novel (I’d been writing adult novels before then) and at some point in the process I thought about how brilliant the movie CLUELESS is: it’s an update of Jane Austen’s EMMA set in modern Los Angeles, and Amy Heckerling, who wrote and directed it, somehow managed to stay true to the spirit of the original while creating something really fresh and fun. I thought, “I want to try that!” and Austen seemed like a good idea–but obviously not EMMA, since that had already been done so well.
2. How did Pride and Prejudice influence Epic Fail?
EPIC FAIL is essentially an updated version of P&P. The basic story remains the same: a young woman with a moderately embarrassing family crosses paths with a couple of young men. One of them falls in love with her sister, forcing her to spend time with his best friend, who’s rude and standoffish. She meets another young man who’s poor but charming and she discovers that the two men hate each other for some mysterious reason. She picks a side based on her first impressions of them–but soon questions whether she’s chosen correctly.
Of course, Austen’s version is set in 19th century England and mine in 21st century Los Angeles so the details are very different. It’s a tribute to Austen’s brilliance that the story can be transported to another place and time and still feel real.
3. Did you base any of your characters off of anyone?
Well . . . I’ve been told that Derek’s parents bear a passing resemblance to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and I’m not going to argue the point. 🙂
4. How would you sum up Epic Fail in three words?
Romantic, lighthearted, funny.
5. What is your favorite classic? Why?
So hard to pick one, but Bronte’s JANE EYRE and Dickens’ OUR MUTUAL FRIEND are both terrific reads–engrossing, romantic, thought-provoking. I like books that are so entertaining you don’t even want to lift your head up from them for a second–but which also make you want to be a better person. Dickens’ books always leave me wanting to be a better person than I am.
6. What is your favorite classic romance? Why?
I’m tempted to say PRIDE AND PREJUDICE–and that’s definitely up there–but I think I would ultimately have to go with Austen’s EMMA instead. To me there’s nothing more romantic than the way Knightley watches out for Emma, chides her gently, guides her along the way, and–knowing all her flaws and faults–still loves her so deeply. It’s because he loves her so much that he wants her to be the best person she can be. And the way her respect for him gradually turns to romantic love without her realizing it until she feels jealous . . . It’s so skillfully done.
7. If you could live in any classic book which one would it be? Why?
Well, if I could be a true member of the British gentry (and have perfect eyesight because they didn’t have contact lenses back then), I’d probably go for a Jane Austen novel. I would enjoy a life of balls and servants and tea. I’d like to say that I’d go for a book/life filled with adventure, like THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL or CAPTAIN BLOOD, but I’d be lying–I’m a total lazy homebody. So Jane Austen suits me just fine. But I definitely want to be a wealthy aristocrat and NOT a servant!
8. Do you have a favorite classic book turned into a movie?
I already mentioned CLUELESS above, so I feel like I should choose another one for the sake of variety (although that would be the first one I’d pick). The Gwyneth Paltrow version of EMMA is wonderful–I think it’s one of the best adaptations ever. And she’s terrific in the role–I don’t usually like Americans doing English accents, but hers is flawless. And Jeremy Northam is the perfect Mr. Knightley. There’s a British screenwriter called Andrew Davies who does the most amazing adaptations of classic novels–he mostly does them for British TV, so if you ever get a chance to watch one of the mini-series he’s penned, DO IT.
9. What is something you’re thankful for this Thanksgiving? Why?
I’m always wildly grateful to have the family I do–I’ve been married to the nicest man in the world for twenty-three years and we have four pretty terrific kids. (Man, it’s impossible to say stuff like that without sounding phony, isn’t it? It’s all true though.) But if I had to pick something specific to this year–to right now–I would say I’m deeply grateful that this last election showed that Americans are becoming more open-minded, tolerant, and inclusive.
10. Wait! You’re stranded in an island! What three things would you have with you?
1) THE RIVERSIDE SHAKESPEARE–the complete, annotated collection of Shakepeare’s work. It’s not that I sit around reading Shakespeare all the time (far from it), but if I’m going to have years of free time on my hands, that book would supply a LOT of entertainment. You can reread his plays forever and still find new stuff to think about.
2) My laptop: I can’t stand being away from it for two seconds, let alone a lifetime–and think of how much writing time I’d have on a desert island: I’d go crazy if I couldn’t make use of it.
3) I guess I’d need a solar-powered battery, so I could keep my laptop working.
Claire Lazebnik has written five novels for adults, Same as It Never Was, Knitting under the Influence, The Smart One and the Pretty One, If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now, and Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts. She’s also published two YA novels with Harper Collins: Epic Fail and The Trouble with Flirting (due out in February, 2013). With Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel, she co-wrote the non-fiction books Overcoming Autism and Growing up on the Spectrum. She contributed to an anthology play called Motherhood Out Loud, and has been published in The New York Times, Self, Vogue and other magazines. She lives in the Pacific Palisades with her husband Rob (who writes for the animated TV show The Simpsons), her four kids (Max, Johnny, Annie and Will), Harvey the Yellow Lab, Percy the grumpy old cat, and Juno the newbie kitten.
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