Growing up on the east coast of Scotland, I lived in a cluster of villages, nestled by the sea, with houses topped with pan-tiled roofs and crows-steps, and endless crescent beaches. It was beautiful. It was home. But the lure of London beckoned …
Fifteen years, two degrees, and several jobs later, home called me back. Before long I met my husband, and we settled in a cottage, clinging to a cliff above a tiny harbour with colourful lobster boats. It was bliss. There, we cooked up dreams of owning a place in France or Italy, where we could host wine events and writers’ retreats, but it was a dream for the future, when we retired, not for now.
Fast forward another eight years (a family, a business, a writing career and two homes later), a guesthouse came up in the village with the tiny harbour and lobster boats. The house was a functioning business, one we thought could, in time, be turned into a retreat for writers and wine lovers alike. It gave us “the dream” now, rather than later.
A few months on, we packed up our old house and moved into our new life, full of excitement and plans. Only four days after we moved our first guests arrived.
At first it was exciting, welcoming guests from all over the world, and hearing their stories. But very quickly reality set in. We were running a guesthouse, a wine business, and writing novels, on top of raising our son (and dogs), alongside the usual domestic duties and admin that life requires. Soon it became clear that we had no time for family and friends, and no downtime for ourselves. We were up at 5.30am, and in bed after midnight. We were rarely “off duty”. We never knew when someone would ring the bell – day or night – when the fire alarm would go off, or when the drains would block. Even managing the school run became a major feat. In short, it was exhausting. No-one, or no thing, was receiving the attention it deserved.
We carried on, and during the quieter winter months, I began playing around with the idea of a novel based in a guesthouse. I had little more than a location – Lobster Bay, a house and a big dog! Then suddenly Covid hit.
During the months that followed, it became clear to us that nothing in life was certain. That all we can do is live for now, for what we’re passionate about, and what brings us joy. The house wasn’t doing that, and we decided to sell when we could.
Those personal realisations began to feed into the plan for my next novel. Soon I had my lead character, Emma, who – after experiencing a life-changing event – chooses to live for now. She turns her back on her old life, to pursue her dream of owning a guesthouse. Thankfully for her, it turns out to be the perfect fit, despite the early trials.
During lockdown I wrote the first draft of The Guesthouse at Lobster Bay. When it was bought by Welbeck in a three-book deal, it gave me a great sense of certainty that everything happens for a reason, that the decision we’d made, to focus on our passions, was the right one, and that turns out to be true for Emma too.
A further three months went by and then a beautiful little cottage, with apple trees and sea views, came up across the street from our former B&B. Just as Emma snaps up the guesthouse, we snapped up the cottage. It’s a place that allows us to breathe, to enjoy each other, and the people and passions we love. At last we’ve found “the dream”, just as Emma finds hers in The Guesthouse At Lobster Bay.
The Guesthouse at Lobster Bay by Annie Robertson is published by Welbeck, £7.99