Clare LaZebnik photo 

Grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, went to Harvard and moved to LA.


If you could sum up Epic Fail in four words, what would they be?

Playful modernization of Austen

What influenced you to write a contemporary retelling of Pride & Prejudice?

Amy Heckerling’s 1995 movie CLUELESS.  So brilliant, so funny, so faithful to Austen’s spirit while completely modern in conception and detail.  I saw that movie when it first came out and have seen it countless times since then.  (It doesn’t hurt that the hero is played by a young Paul Rudd–he’s truly dreamy.)  Anyway, it occurred to me that while Heckerling totally nailed EMMA, no one had done the same thing for PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and I wanted to try.

In the beginning, what or who spoke to your first? The story or the characters?

I’d say the characters.  The big key to adapting PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is figuring out why someone in our current society would be proud and standoffish.  If you can’t find a legitimate reason for the Darcy character to want to keep to himself, then he just becomes a selfish jerk.  That was the thing I put the most thought into: what makes someone get fawned on by the wrong sort of people in L.A.?  It came to me: “Having movie star parents!”–truly an AHA moment.  Derek Edwards became a character I could understand and explain, and that helped with Elise’s character too: she refuses to be like everyone else, worshiping Derek just because his parents are Hollywood royalty.  She’s kind of right–but then she goes too far in the other direction, assuming he’s not worth spending any time on at.

Was there any scene or part in Epic Fail that was difficult to write? And if so how did you get through writing it?

I had a lot of trouble with Elise’s discovery that Webster’s a truly bad guy.  It was hard to nail down the right mixture of crassness and self-interest for him, because he also had to have a certain amount of charm.  I got through it the way I get through any difficult part of a book: by rewriting and rewriting and rewriting until it works.

I feel that names hold meaning and importance to characters. How do you come up with or decided on the names for your characters? Do they hold meaning?

I started with the equivalent Austen names and went from there.  I tried to keep the original letters of Austen’s characters, but I didn’t want to use their exact names or any names that sounded too old-fashioned.  So Elizabeth Bennet became Elise Benton and her sister Jane became Juliana.  A friend recently told me I’d somehow managed to incorporate all the names of her husband’s kids in the book: it was unconsciously done but a funny coincidence.  I figured it meant I’d successfully modernized the names.

Why did you decide to make the changes you did for Epic Fail?

I wanted the novel to be believable to a modern-day reader.  You can’t just transplant a 19th century British book to modern-day U.S.A and keep everything else the same.  Social rules change.  Clothing changes.  Parties and activities change.  But human emotions?  They stay pretty much the same.  Those you don’t have to change.

What can readers look forward to from you?

More novels, absolutely!  I’ll have another YA novel out next fall/winter (also based on an Austen book) and I’m hoping to continue writing novels for adults as well: I have one coming out in just a couple of weeks, on September 1.  As long as people keep buying and reading my books, I’ll keep writing them.


Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik

Will Elise’s love life be an epic win or an epic fail?
At Coral Tree Prep in Los Angeles, who your parents are can make or break you. Case in point:
As the son of Hollywood royalty, Derek Edwards is pretty much prince of the school—not that he deigns to acknowledge many of his loyal subjects.
As the daughter of the new principal, Elise Benton isn’t exactly on everyone’s must-sit-next-to-at-lunch list.
When Elise’s beautiful sister catches the eye of the prince’s best friend, Elise gets to spend a lot of time with Derek, making her the envy of every girl on campus. Except she refuses to fall for any of his rare smiles and instead warms up to his enemy, the surprisingly charming social outcast Webster Grant. But in this hilarious tale of fitting in and flirting, not all snubs are undeserved, not all celebrity brats are bratty, and pride and prejudice can get in the way of true love for only so long.