When my husband and I first married, we talked about owning a house with a vineyard or orchard in Italy or France when we retired. The idea was that my husband (who works in the wine industry) could host wine events, and I could run writers’ retreats. In our minds it was ‘the dream’.
Eight years later, a guesthouse came up in the Scottish village where we wanted to raise our son. The village is by the sea, near to where I grew up, and close to family and friends, it was the place we felt strongly was home. The house was a functioning business, one we thought could, in time, be turned into a haven for writers and wine lovers alike. Sure, there wasn’t a vineyard, but the garden was big enough for some apple trees, and that felt good enough to us! It gave us ‘the dream’ now, rather than later.
Some months on, the sale complete, 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. And it was great to have a house that we could, occasionally (when we weren’t rushed off our feet), fill with friends, and one that was big enough for our son to ride his scooter in!
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, 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 the novel. And soon I had 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. Just as Emma snaps up the guesthouse, we snapped up the cottage. It’s a place that allows us to breath, 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.