Many years ago now, I began to research my impossibly romantic Polish family history. That was in the days before the internet made these things easier, but it was also while my father was alive, and - fortunately - I persuaded him to write down as much as he could remember. He even made little sketches of the estate where he was born, and the house he had lived in, as a child. This was an essential part of the process, because he had come to the UK just after the war (via Monte Cassino, in Italy) bringing with him a handful of photographs and almost nothing else. Then I set about the fascinating, frustrating but ultimately very rewarding task of trying to track down the history of a family which had - essentially - been swallowed by all the upheavals taking place on the fluctuating Eastern borders of the country to which I owe half my blood: Poland. It was a journey full of serendipitious discoveries and surprises and I found it at once moving and exciting. Of the discoveries which engaged me immediately, one involved a remote relative who was said to have had many wives, (albeit not all at the same time!) and to have died in a riding accident in his late eighties. Another one involved a widowed Polish great grandmother who - although born into the nobility - had married her Ukrainian estate manager which was completely explicable, once I had ferretted out other details of the relationship. And thirdly, I found out about a great uncle of the family who was a medical doctor, and a politician, a Polish representative to the parliament in Vienna, a lovely man, by all accounts, who was immensely popular with the younger members of his family. I even managed to access his obituary from a Viennese newspaper of the time. All of these things began to ferment in my head, and have resulted - eventually - in a tale of epic proportions, loosely based on fact. I say loosely because as all historical novelists know, you have to give yourself permission, as a writer of fiction, to depart from the factual truth as you know it, and make sure that you are writing a readable story! The Amber Heart is the result. It's currently with my agent, along with another novel, The Summer Visitor, and now I must wait and see what he makes of it. More about the Amber Heart in future posts.