I grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, went to Harvard and moved to LA, where I’ve lived since the mid-eighties. I’ve written five novels for adults, including Knitting under the Influence, The Smart One and the Pretty One, and Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts, and two YA novels for HarperTeen: Epic Fail and The Trouble with Flirting (due out in February, 2013). With Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel, I co-wrote Overcoming Autism and Growing up on the Spectrum. I contributed to an anthology play called Motherhood Out Loud, and have been published in The New York Times, Self, Vogue and other magazines.
I live in the Pacific Palisades with my husband Rob (who writes for “The Simpsons”), my four kids (Max, Johnny, Annie and Will) two dogs and a cat. My website is www.clairelazebnik.com and my Facebook page is Claire LaZebnik Writes.
Now on to the FIVE QUESTIONS
1. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite all time novels. What made you decide to retell this classic in Epic Fail?
A few years ago, I wanted to try my hand at writing a YA novel. I started thinking about one of my all-time favorite movies, Clueless, and what a perfect job Amy Heckerling did of making Austen’s Emma relevant and believable. It made me want to try my hand at something similar, but since Emma had been done perfectly already, I went for my second favorite Austen, which is Pride and Prejudice. The challenge was figuring out how to make the Darcy character someone people would fawn over; once I realized he could be the son of two movie stars, the rest fell into place.
2. For those who aren’t aware, you co-authored Overcoming Autism and Growing Up on the Spectrum. Tell us about them.
My oldest son was diagnosed with autism when he was two and a half. We were exceptionally lucky: we found our way to some amazing behavioral therapists who used research-based interventions to help him blossom and grow. Through a friend’s recommendation, I brought him to the autism clinic at the University of California at Santa Barbara, which was run by a husband and wife team, Drs. Robert and Lynn Koegel. (It’s now called the Koegel Autism Clinic, in fact.) Lynn Koegel spent a long time with my son and we brought him back to see her a bunch of times because everything she suggested we do with him helped so much. She found out I was a writer and asked me to look over their brochure, so I fiddled around with that a bit to make it a little easier to read, and a little while later, she called me up and asked if I’d want to write a book with her, to make their interventions available to families everywhere. I jumped at the offer and together we wrote Overcoming Autism, which is a guide for parents of recently diagnosed children, which combines Dr. Koegel’s advice and my real-life experiences. A few years later, we wrote a book for parents of teenagers and young adults, called Growing Up on the Spectrum, and my son (who was then about fifteen), actually contributed some of his own essays and drawings to the book. I’m very proud of both books: I still get emails telling me how important they’ve been to parents around the country and even around the world.
3. What’s next on the horizon?
My second YA novel comes out next February. It’s called The Trouble with Flirting and, like Epic Fail, is loosely based on an Austen novel–in this case Mansfield Park. I should really say it’s inspired by Mansfield Park–I strayed pretty far from the original in this one. It’s another light, romantic novel. And I’m working on some pages for a new novel for adults, one that’s a little more serious than my previous novels. Dr. Koegel and I are also hoping to do an updated and revised edition of Overcoming Autism in the not too distant future.
4. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Read everything you can and write whenever you can. Those are the two best ways to learn. And don’t get too invested in any one project. Keep thinking of new ideas and the second you’ve finished one thing, start the next. You’ll just keep getting better and better and the inevitable rejections won’t feel as discouraging. You never know which project is going to be the one to strike gold, so just keep moving forward.
5. Finally, Beatles or Rolling Stones?
Beatles, a thousand times over. Although Mick Jagger was adorable on SNL a couple of weeks ago!