Born in Washington D.C., Rita Gerlach was raised in the nearby Maryland suburbs. She grew up in a large family that claimed storytelling was in their blood, handed down from centuries of Irish storytellers. It’s clear that gift was passed along to Rita, now the author of four published novels.
What wasn’t clear, prior to signing her first book contract, was the path she would take to publication. She shares the inspirational story about that journey on her website (link below).
Rita now lives in Central Maryland with her husband and two sons.
If you could do it over, is there anything you would do differently?
Back when print on demand became the ‘next big thing’ I got burned. If I could go back and could do something over, I would take my first full manuscript, polish it, have it critiqued, go by the writing rules, and research publishers and their submission process.
What sparked your desire to write?
I’ve always loved books and reading, and I was one of those kids who would stare out the classroom window and daydream. I got in trouble for that a lot. “Eyes to the front!” I would hear.
The desire to write bit me in the late eighties, after my cousin, a famous romance writer, gave me a signed copy of one of her earlier books. After I read it, I thought, “I can do this,” and a burning desire overtook me. It was always there, banked deep inside me. I was raising small children at the time, and life was very busy. Reading to them every night, sparked a desire to tell stories.
How does your faith play into your work?
Deftly. Gently. I am a believer who writes inspiring fiction, where I endeavor to touch readers by letting them see through my characters that, when things in life go wrong, there is always hope for a miracle. Our walk with God is not wrapped up in ceremony, or following certain steps, or the traditions of man. It is a relationship.
Let’s talk about your new book and series. Before the Scarlet Dawn (Abingdon Press, February 2012) is the first book in your Daughters of the Potomac Series. Please tell us a little about the book.
On a windswept night in April of 1775, Eliza sat at her father’s bedside hoping he would recover. Forced to leave the home she grew up in, Eliza grows desperate. She could marry her former suitor, but cannot bear the thought of a loveless marriage.
Instead she falls in love with Hayward Morgan, the condescending son of a landed gentleman. When Eliza learns of his plans to leave England and build a life in the Maryland frontier, she decides to present a proposal of her own.
Writing a series has been an amazing, challenging experience, especially since the heroines in the stories are attached in some way to the others. In book one there is Eliza, a daring heroine willing to do all she could to be with the man she loved, even if it meant living a life in the wilderness of Maryland during the Revolution. She is not without flaws, however. So keep a box of tissues handy as you journey with her through heart-wrenching trials.
When book two comes out, Eliza’s daughter Darcy continues the story from her point of view, as she quests for answers about her past, and the meaning of unconditional love in Beside Two Rivers.
Book three, Beyond the Valley, will be Sarah’s story. She appears throughout book one and will take readers on a journey from the coast of Cornwall, England, to the wiles of Virginia and Maryland.
Here is a review from USA Today: http://books.usatoday.com/happyeverafter/post/2012-02-05/review-before-the-scarlet-dawn-by-rita-gerlach/620920/1
That’s great! Besides entertainment, what do you hope readers will take away from it?
I think of the words to that beautiful song by Rogers and Hammerstein, which says, ‘You’ll never walk alone.’ Take one day at a time, and have faith that God is directing your path, that He will work in the lives of others to help you through the darkest hours. Also to forgive those that have hurt you, and to seek the forgiveness of those you have hurt.
Detours in life can be frustrating—kind of like plot twists in the stories we write—but the outcome is often more intriguing than our original plan. Can you tell us about a recent “detour” in your life—or in one of your character’s lives—that taught you something?
Not to go too deeply into a personal issue in my life, but I had a detour a few years ago when my father was very ill with Alzheimer’s disease. It was a painful time. Through his illness, I was taught the value of an elderly life, their memories, and their wisdom. I was taught love rises when compassion is in one’s heart toward a suffering parent. I also saw the other side, where people believed he was no longer there, not my father, and of no value anymore. It broke my heart, not only for him, but also for the other patients he was with that were never visited by a relative or a friend. They were forgotten. I will never forget.
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
If I’m stressed, Lindt chocolate truffles. But I do everything in my power to avoid them. To celebrate? My son Paul’s homemade linguine Alfredo, or we’ll go out for Chinese food. But really, to celebrate or to stir up some inspiration when the words aren’t flowing, my husband and I take a drive out into the country or along the Potomac. We find all kinds of out of the way old places to explore. That to me is more fun than food.
This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?
Not a bit. I can’t even play the kazoo. But if I can brag, my son Michael is an accomplish guitarist and is producing his own independent album. My husband Paul is also an accomplish guitarist.
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
A movie soundtrack. As my son puts it, ‘epic.’
Are you a major or a minor chord?
I’m afraid to say I don’t know the difference. Maybe a little of both.
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
Oh, boy. Let’s see. I am the girl next door in the sense my husband and I grew up a few blocks away from each other and met when I was just fifteen. I’m a nice person. I like to feed people when they come to my house. I love kittens and puppies and horses. So I think that fits the mold of the girl next door. I am also a little bit of the little girl. My husband told me that just the other day while we were in the car and I was chattering away.
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
Pookee is my cat. He is very fat and very spoiled. But he reciprocates in affection and by being my alarm clock. He wakes me up every morning by walking all over me and nudging my face with his nose.
Thanks, Rita! It’s nice to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.
Thank you! I am honored to have been your guest.
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For more information about Rita and her books, visit her website at http://ritagerlach.blogspot.com/.
To read Rita’s inspirational story about her path to publication, logon to http://ritagerlach.blogspot.com/p/encouragement-for-writers.html.
To purchase Before the Scarlet Dawn logon to:
I like her advice to remember that God is directing our path. We forget that sometimes.
I agree. And to take a day at a time. We live so fast, we almost forget about the moment.
Rita, My heart goes out to you in your journey through Alzheimer’s with your father. My father also had AD. It broke my heart to see him like that. But oh what beautiful memories God gave me during that time. As we embrace them in their AD battle, God provides us with the love and compassion to walk through it with them. And to see the light of His love shining through it all. God bless. Linda
Beautifully said, Linda. I admire both you and Rita for the love you showed to your dads at the time they needed it most.
Yes, it was a journey I will never forget. A week before my father passed away, I spent time with him alone and I was able to break through. He actually had a conversation with me! When I told him how much I loved Christmas at our house as a child, he reached over and brushed his hand over my cheek.
In my novel, Surrender the Wind, my heroine’s father is in the beginning stages of AD. At times it was hard to write those scenes where he would have a relapse into the past. But what I strove to draw out for readers was the compassion we must feel for our parents when they are faced with AD.
Thanks again, Kathy, for hosting me on your blog. And thanks to all of you that posted a comment.