Rebecca Lipkin is an author and freelance travel writer whose love of fashion and everyday style posts on instagram have won her a loyal following. We managed to meet with Rebecca in a rare and quiet moment in the city of Bath. Chatting about her first novel; Unto This Last
, new exciting projects and what she loves most about this beautiful city.
How did you get into writing?
Like most authors, writing was an extension of my early love of reading. My mother taught me to read before I even started school, which was the beginning of the journey (one that never ends), with my earliest book memories being Hairy Maclary of Donaldson's Dairy and the utterly charming Beatrix Potter tales. As an only child, books gave me all the companionship I needed, whilst broadening my imagination and encouraging me to make up my own stories. For example, I saw my dolls as characters rather than inanimate objects, while my doll's house was merely the backdrop of my very own miniature drama. Growing up I adored The Borrowers series by Mary Norton and anything by Roald Dahl, but when I was twelve my mum suggested I read 'Rebecca' by Daphne Du Maurier, my first 'grown-up' title, and I never looked back. It felt thrilling to leave the children's section of the bookstore behind me and I couldn't read enough, but it was my subsequent passion for classic writers like the Bronte sisters and Thomas Hardy that made me decide to become a novelist.
What inspired you to write your novel Unto This Last?
After becoming fascinated with the famously eccentric and much misunderstood 19th century writer, philosopher and art critic, John Ruskin - who championed some of the most important British painters of all time, including J.M.W. Turner and The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood - I was determined to write a biographical novel of this extraordinary man in order to introduce him to a new generation. My novel, Unto This Last
, focuses on Ruskin's many personal relationships and the people who shaped his life and views, but is ultimately centred around his precocious Irish art pupil, Rose La Touche, with whom he had a twenty year relationship. Both Ruskin and Rose were unique, complex characters that seemed straight out of a Victorian novel and I wanted to bring their story to life in a way that recalled classic literature, but with a modern day honesty that would allow the reader to see them as the three-dimensional human beings they were.
What are you currently writing/working on?
I am writing a play about Winston Churchill that will hopefully offer a new insight into the man we regard as 'The Greatest Britain' and the many facets of his personality. I will then continue the novel I have had in the pipeline for a while about the colourful world of the Victorian theatre. As I've completed the research on both projects I'm really excited for the next two years! I'm also planning to bring out an e-book of Unto This Last to encourage digital-loving readers to discover it.
What do you enjoy most and least about the writing process?
I've always loved researching, something that set me on the course of writing biographical/historical fiction. I also really enjoy writing dialogue and, much like an actor, trying to find the 'voice' of the characters. The only difference being that I have to find several voices rather than one! I detest the editing process, it's often the least creative stage, you just have to be patient, have an editor you trust and keep a clear idea in your mind of what you originally wanted to achieve when you set out.
What was the catalyst behind travel writing?
I met and fell in love with my now husband, Ash Lipkin, photographer and editor of The Arbuturian
, as a culture writer over ten years ago - covering theatre reviews initially and later managing the magazine's arts section. My writing merged into restaurant and hotel reviews as Ash and I began travelling together. Writing up our many cultural and foodie adventures in Bath, London, or further afield, continues to be a wonderful way of recording the many delights we have been privileged enough to experience together.
You live in the beautiful city of Bath, does this ever inspire your creative process?
Although I haven't set any works in Bath yet, I have no doubt that living in a city with so much glorious architecture has a profound influence on my writing and allows me to envisage different periods in time far more easily. The beauty of Bath is good for the soul, along with the relaxed holiday atmosphere that makes it quite unlike the frenetic pace of living in London, however much I enjoy going back for a visit!
What is your favourite thing about the city?
Besides looking charming, it's such a friendly place! Having lived here for seven years, I love the sense of community that makes Bath feel more like a village than a city. You have to allow extra time when you 'pop' into town on an errand as you'll be sure to bump into someone and have a chat! The local magazines and independent bookshops have also been incredibly kind and supportive towards me when my debut novel Unto This Last
was published a couple of years ago. It's really encouraging to live somewhere with such a loyal network of creatives. I also love the fact that there are so many cultural happenings throughout the year, from the world-famous Jane Austen Festival when attendees parade around in Regency costumes, to the annual book, food and film festivals.
3 favourite coffee shops in Bath?
3 favourite book shops and why in Bath?
Topping & Co
for the staggering 90,000 titles spread across three floors, the small but perfectly formed Persephone Books
displaying their own range of titles, and the adorable Mr B's Emporium
for the amazingly knowledgeable staff who never fail to introduce me to books I end up counting as my favourites. I also love browsing the charity bookshops in the hope of adding to my collection of vintage orange Penguin books.
Your IG is full of gorgeous outfits, have you always loved fashion?
My love of cinema, from classic black and white movies from the 1940s to the period dramas of Merchant Ivory, was the start of my obsession with fashion. Films and film stars, with ingenious costume designers working painstakingly in the background, show us that fashion can not only make you look different but feel different depending on the style. And the choice is endless! We're incredibly lucky to live in a time when pretty much anything goes and I find it so exciting to put outfits together inspired by various eras and cultures, blending vintage with 'inspired' pieces or mixing up decades depending on my mood, the season or where I am.
Favourite piece of clothing you have ever owned?
The timeless winter white 1960s-inspired belted coat dress by London designer Suzannah which I wore as my bridal dress for our small Royal Crescent Hotel ceremony just before we decided to relocate to the city.
Explore Rebecca's Autumn picks