What’s the one thing bestselling romance writer Rachael Lippincott misses most about living in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania? Is it the idyllic rural scenery, the charming indie bookstores, or the culture of literary and artistic excellence?
“I miss Wawa every single day,” says Lippincott.
Though she now lives in Pittsburgh, Lippincott grew up in Yardley and started writing in the third grade at Quarry Hill Elementary. She went on to take advanced writing workshops at the George School in Newtown. Lippincott left Bucks County for college, ultimately enrolling in the University of Pittsburgh, where she met Alyson Derrick, her wife and occasional coauthor, in a youth literature class. Best known for her adaptation of Five Feet Apart, Lippincott often returns to her hometown with her one-year-old daughter, dropping by the Commonplace Reader bookstore and, we suppose, a Wawa or two.
We caught up with Lippincott to talk about the benefits of being married to another writer, her latest work of sapphic romance, and the correct ranking of Pride and Prejudice adaptations.
What’s it like having two writers in the family?
Honestly, it’s the best. We understand each other’s schedules—like, how when you get your revisions back and you have less than a month to turn out an entire new draft of a book. But when it comes to my writing, Alyson is the most useful person. She’s my real litmus test, and she’s so honest in her feedback. To have somebody like that in your corner, living with you, is honestly the best, and it’s also just so great getting to collaborate on ideas together. I feel with other collaborations, you have set working hours. But with Alyson, I could get out of the shower at 11 p.m. and say, “I just had the best idea,” or wake up in the morning and say, “I had this dream that could maybe work for a chapter in the book.” It’s great to work whenever you’re most excited to do it.
Your most recent book Pride and Prejudice and Pittsburgh is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, where Audrey, a high school art student, accidentally gets sent back in time to Jane Austen’s England and meets an Elizabeth Bennet type named Lucy. What made you think about putting together Pittsburgh, time travel, and Regency-era England?
It was a mixture of things. My wife’s comfort movie is the 2005 Pride & Prejudice [with Kiera Knightley], and when she was pregnant, we watched it, and I got into it again. I really wanted to do something that was set in 1812, with that historical fiction element. And I just had this idea that was, “What if some girl from Pittsburgh shoots back in time?” After close to a year of really struggling to come up with an idea for another book, this one just came so easily. … I felt so comfortable in Audrey’s voice, and also comfortable having it be this girl from Pittsburgh, which is in this contemporary romance voice that I’ve written in for every single one of my books. But then I had to stretch my writing muscles to write Lucy [the historical character]. It was something I was nervous about. But I showed it to Alyson, [and] she said, “It’s working. You pulled it off.”
What message would you like readers to take away from the book?
That’s a good question. I think maybe “don’t live your life in fear” and “don’t be afraid to love and be loved in return.” But compared to my other books, like The Lucky List or Five Feet Apart, where there were always messages, with this one I generally wanted to write something entertaining. Queer people over the past couple of years have really been going through it. I wanted this safe little box where people could just escape to and read a sapphic romance, and just come away from it feeling really good and positive.
Final question: Keira Knightley or Jennifer Ehle?
Oh, God, don’t do this. Well, Keira Knightley is Keira Knightley. But the first Pride and Prejudice version I saw was the 1995 BBC one, and I really fell in love with it. Now as an adult, I can acknowledge the fact that when Jennifer is playing the piano and singing the song in that one scene, it was definitely a bit of a gay awakening moment for me. So I’m going to have to say Jennifer.
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Published and copyrighted in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 20, Issue 9 (December 2023)
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