|Cover image by Claire Maclean|
The Amber Heart must have run to hundreds of drafts! Agents and editors had read it. Suggestions had been made and accepted or rejected. Years had gone by. But enough is enough and here it is. At long, long last.
I first began to research this story almost thirty years ago. It was loosely inspired by some episodes from my own family history, most particularly the information that my father's widowed grandmother had had an affair with her estate manager on those wild Eastern Borderlands of Poland where they lived. Researching this intriguing episode of family history and pinning down some dates, I realised something that not even my father had understood: that she had been a fairly young and wealthy widow, when Julian Czerkawski, a rich and distinguished relative of her late husband, died, unexpectedly. He had been both a Polish representative to the Austro Hungarian parliament, and a doctor. His death was premature in that he was stabbed by an intruder, and died of his injuries some days later. Childless and unmarried, he had left his estate to her youngest son, my grandfather, who was then only eight years old. She would, of course, have had to appoint somebody to manage the estate until my grandfather,Wladyslaw, was old enough to take possession - would have travelled back and forth between the two houses. And so an affair began...
Somewhere in my remote family history is an old aristocrat who had outlived many wives, fathered many children - and died in a riding accident while in his eighties. And he too has found his way into the novel, albeit in highly fictionalised form!
Back in the nineteen eighties, when the first drafts of this novel were written, my then agent, the late great Pat Kavanagh, did her level best to sell it. But we kept being told that 'nobody is interested in Poland.' The feedback on the book itself was wonderful but it fell at every marketing hurdle because of its Polish setting. She told me she was deeply frustrated by it. But I knew that if she couldn't sell it, nobody could.
Which is why I'm now letting it take its chances on Kindle. I'm hoping that somebody out there might be 'interested in a novel set in Poland' - and even if you don't care where it's set - I hope there are elements about this big story that will move you, regardless of time and place.