I used to write what I call “sensitive male stories” for women’s magazines like Glamour and Harpers Bazaar. Stories like “The Night She Dumped Me” or “Remembering What’s Her Name.” In between I wrote at Saturday Night Live, The National Lampoon and the New Yorker.
Then I had this idea for a sitcom Clarissa Explains It All about a fourteen-year-old girl who talks to the camera and is cooler and smarter than everybody and explains everything with charts and graphs. But no one believed a girl could lead a sitcom in those days. That was way back in the 90s. Girls started dressing like Clarissa and it made Melissa Joan Hart a star and a household name. Women (and a lot of men) now in their twenties and thirties grew up with Clarissa and still love it.
Around that time I came up with the idea for a novel about a girl who gets through her crummy life by obsessively watching Audrey Hepburn movies. I’m intrigued by how people, like Lisbeth in the novel, struggle to find their passion and how Audrey Hepburn fits into it all that as an aspirational icon and guide.
One major focus in my work, including Clarissa Explains It All and this novel, Being Audrey Hepburn, is the Pygmalion Effect. The Pygmalion Effect is simply the creative transformation of self. It’s about deciding who you want to be and overcoming the naysayers.
Audrey Hepburn has always been the personification of creative personal transformation for women. It is, in fact, Audrey Hepburn’s story. As Nan, Lisbeth’s grandmother, says in the book, “Even Audrey Hepburn was pretending to be Audrey, until she was.”
As in any transformation there is conflict and in this book that conflict is built around daughters and mothers. Those conflicts are central to how Lisbeth finds herself and becomes in Nan’s words “the best Lisbeth possible.”
A plus for ardent Audrey Hepburn fans is a hidden archeology of facts and a meta level of information about Audrey Hepburn woven throughout the scenes of the novel. I hope readers will discover the mystery of the Givenchy’s little black dress. To this day no one has explained definitively why the dresses from the movie were destroyed.
Women of every age know Audrey Hepburn. They are attracted to her style, her personality and her good deeds. But more than that, I believe, they’re drawn by her ability to solve her own problems and her knack of self-invention, which is an inspiration to everyone intent upon the dangerous work of reinventing oneself despite whatever troubled origins they may have.