Taking the leap from London life back to Scotland has been more than just a trip down memory lane for Annie Robertson who has just published her second novel The Guesthouse at Lobster Bay.
Annie (42) left a fast-moving career in the London arts sector when she was in her 30s. “I hurt my back,” she explains, “which meant I wasn’t able to work fulltime, that was when I wrote my first novel, and won my first (and only!) writing competition. The prize gave me a year’s mentoring with a writer, publisher, and agent, which led to my first publishing deal. At the same time, I undertook my Creative Writing MA, and that resulted in agent representation and the beginning of my life as a writer.”
Having caught the reading bug when she did her A-levels, she always saw herself using her writing skills as a lyricist or a children’s author rather than an author.
Reflecting on her move she says: “I loved the twelve years I spent in London and perhaps would have stayed longer if it weren’t for the fact that I hurt my back and really couldn’t keep up with the pace of the city anymore. In the end, I moved back home to Fife to recuperate, a decision which enabled me to focus on writing. Once I’d built up my strength, I was able to do a little traveling, which led to me meeting my husband, which in turn led to the MA and my writing career. It’s impossible to say how life would have turned out if I hadn’t made the move back home, but it’s fair to say, I don’t regret the decision.”
Although there are similarities between her own story and that of her protagonist Emma, the author points out that, “I was returning home, she is following a dream. Emma is single and in her early thirties, as was I, and it’s difficult to root yourself in a new community at that age, so I was mindful of giving her a strong ally. Unlike me she leaves behind her entire support network: job, family, boyfriend and home, at a time when she really needs them most. I was fortunate to have my family around me when I returned, which meant loneliness wasn’t an issue. There are times when Emma feels the full force of the move, and that was something I had to keep in mind while writing. It’s impossible to make such a huge move without some sense of wondering, and Emma definitely has those moments, as I did too.”
Finding your voice
A fan of fiction and non-fiction alike, Annie describes herself as a but of a magpie. “I like French and Japanese novellas (in translation), short stories, pretty much anything with a piano, and I love a Christmas rom com, so it’s a mixed bag. I don’t gravitate to particular writers, I’m a browser – the book blurb and first few sentences are key. And I definitely don’t try to emulate other writers’ work. If my musical and writing training have taught me anything, it’s that your voice is yours, and yours alone.”
Over the past year or so, Annie and her husband have managed to juggle work and home-schooling their son so that she could work on her new book Christmas at Lobster Bay, due for publication in October. “I can’t pretend it was always easy,” she admits, “and sometimes we felt stretched (and the house was a tip!), but on the whole I think we did pretty well. We were always conscious of how lucky we were to be in such a beautiful environment with the sea and beaches on our doorstep.
The Guesthouse at Lobster Bay by Annie Robertson is available now, Welbeck, £7.99.