|Surrender the Wind|
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Seth Braxton, a patriot of the American Revolution, unexpectedly inherits his loyalist grandfather's estate in England. Seth is torn between the land he fought for and the prospect of reuniting with his sister Caroline, who was a motherless child taken to England at the onset of the war.
With no intention of staying permanently, Seth arrives to find his sister grieving over the death of her young son. In the midst of such tragedy, Seth meets Juleah, the daughter of an eccentric landed gentleman. Her independent spirit and gentle soul steal Seth's heart. After a brief courtship, they marry and she takes her place as the lady of Ten Width Manor, enraging the man who once sought her hand and schemed to make Ten Width his own. From the Virginia wilderness to the dark halls of an isolated English estate, Seth and his beloved Juleah inherit more than an ancestral home. They uncover a sinister plot that leads to murder, abduction, and betrayal--an ominous threat to their new life, love, and faith.
Rita Gerlach - has published three historical novels plus articles in Writers Gazette, Write to Inspire, Will Write 4 Food, and The Christian Communicator. She also is the editor of Stepping Stones Magazine, an online website focused on writing, marketing, and promotion for writers. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and The Western Maryland Writers Guild. She currently lives in Frederick, Maryland.
Favorite verse: Revelation 21:4 (KJV) And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
Our Interview with Rita Gerlach
What is your favorite Bible verse?
Revelation 21:4 (KJV) And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
How did you get started as a Christian fiction writer?
Writing is something I have always loved to do even at an early age. I made the decision to pursue novel writing in 1989 after a relative who is a famous secular romance writer gave me one of her Harlequin novels at a family reunion. I read it and was bothered by the lustful content of shallow, worldly love. I decided to try my hand when the desire plunged into my heart to write novels that offer not only a respite from a hectic world, but a reminder that at any time, in any place, in any circumstance God strengths us in moments of struggle, and that love is overcomes evil.
What inspired the concept for Surrender the Wind?
Love for writing in this genre is what sparks my inspiration. If there is no love, no passion for storytelling, then a novel will be dry as an empty well. I live in an area that is rife with history. It’s all around me. From the farm and mountains outside my window, to the rows of stately old homes and row houses downtown, to the Revolutionary War cemeteries and the Civil War battlefields. We have what was left behind, but it is the lives of the people of the past, their way of life, their faith, that has faded over time. What inspired me to write Surrender the Wind was a desire to reconnect with a time long ago.
I do not know exactly when it happened, but one day several years ago, these questions came to my mind. What if a patriot of the Revolution inherited a family estate in England? How would he react? What would he do? How would this change his life? That was the foundation and I was propelled forward to write the story of Seth and Juleah.
Is any part of Surrender the Wind factual?
Yes, the Battle of Yorktown.
How closely is Surrender the Wind based on your life experiences?
The answer to that question it is not, except for one instance. In Surrender the Wind, Juleah’s father, Sir Henry Fallows, is showing signs of early Alzheimer’s. My father suffered with this disease and I drew upon my experiences dealing with this as well as my dear Dad’s, although I will never know the depth of fear and despair that he felt. In the latter stages of the disease, my father showed more emotion in his eyes than I had known all my life. I saw sorrow, fear, anxiety, and loneliness, as well as times of joy when I would sit and talk to him about God or about a precious childhood memory. It was painful at times, but he was, like Sir Henry, the sweetest man you’d want to meet. Like Juleah with her father, I have precious memories of a gentle and courageous man who left my sons a legacy that will not be forgotten.
How did you choose the location for the setting?
All of my books are set in both the colonies and England. I refer to them as The Lion and Eagle series of novels. What better setting could there be, for a period novel of romance and intrigue, than the lush wilds of Maryland and Virginia, and the misty moorlands of England?
How long did Surrender the Wind take you to complete?
Through many interruptions, disruptions, and events to be expected in life, two years.
Do you have a favorite character in Surrender the Wind? Why?
Juleah for several reasons. Her independence and womanly wisdom unfolded as the story moved forward. Her compassion for others, and her love for Seth, was unwavering. Also, Juleah’s father has dementia. My own father suffered with Alzheimer’s and passed away on New Year’s Eve 2007, the anniversary of the day he met my mother in 1939. Working this subplot into the story drew me closer to Juleah, and helped me through a period of intense grief. I identified with the heartache she felt, as well as the compassion and love she had for her father and the way she comforted her mother.
How much research did Surrender the Wind take?
For a historical, it took quite a bit. I cannot give you an amount of time, but I can tell you that I had to research facts concerning the American Revolution, military protocols, landownership, clothing, uniforms, weaponry, marriage customs, peerage, etc. I also studied locations such as Devonshire, England and the village of Clovelly, Yorktown, Virginia, and Annapolis, Maryland.
What was the most interesting fact that you learned while writing Surrender the Wind?
Historically, that many colonist of English origin that sided with the Crown, returned to England.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
It is a challenge when I experience writer’s block. But I have come to realize that writer’s block, or ‘writer’s pause’ as I like to call it, is caused by distractions and stress. It is a part of life, and so the best thing to do is to keep working, but not force the writing. The other is having enough time in a day to work on my novel in progress. There are so many other things a published author must attend to, such as their website and blog, marketing venues, interviews, and life in general.
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
I would have to say that having a productive day of uninterrupted novel writing, and seeing a story unfold and come to completion is the most enjoyable thing about writing for me. On the business side, it has been the publishing process, from a rough manuscript to a well-edited polished final, the book cover design, and then the final copy.
What is your writing style? (Do you outline? Write “by-the-seat-of-your-pants? Or somewhere in-between?)
I am ‘by-the-seat-of-my-pants’ writer. The only thing that I do that comes close to outlining is I write a brief synopsis of what they premise of the story is. I keep a three-ringed binder that I put notes in, and I write a lot of scenes by hand first. I like winging it. Interesting twists pop up. New minor characters make their appearances. And it is exciting to see the story unfolding.
Do your characters begin to take on a life of their own as you write?
I’m not exactly sure what that all means, except if you are asking me if my characters become living, breathing, people to me, then the answer is absolutely.
What other new projects do you have on the horizon?
Not to give away the plot, but it is another historical set along the banks of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, then on to England. Each of my novels have these settings, both in the colonies and England. It’s my trademark so to speak. This novel will be a stirring tale about fidelity and forgiveness, faithfulness in marriage, and bravery in the midst of danger. .
What message would you like your readers to take from Surrender the Wind?
That when everything is said and done, in the end it all turns out all right. Love is the cohesive bond that helps us to face adversity. The message of Surrender the Wind is wrapped up in fidelity and forgiveness, and the surrendering to our Creator those winds that shove and batter us.
What is your greatest achievement?
I suppose a lot of people view achievements as awards, college degrees, careers, or being the best at something. Being a mother of two sons and having a marriage that has lasted over thirty years, is the greatest achievement to me. It is what is most important to me in life. The excitement and buzz about an award can be fade. A college degree is great but may only leave you in debt and not in the job of your dreams. A career can be rewarding, but money isn’t everything. Our children, our spouses, our families, and a relationship with God lasts a lifetime.
In my writing career, I would have to say finishing a novel and acquiring a publishing contract with Abingdon Press. However, I don’t think in terms of being proud of accomplishments because I know that the credit goes to the One who blessed me with talent. It’s not about me.
What is your goal or mission as a writer?
My goal: To be the best writer I can be. I believe the quality of inspirational fiction should be heads and shoulders above anything the secular could possibly produce. As believers we need to strive toward excellence.
My mission: that for all those who read my novels, that the stories bring to them some respite from the hectic world we live in and inspire them to surrender their trials and troubles to the One who loves them with an everlasting love.
What do you do to get away from it all?
Oh, I wish! In this economy, it isn’t easy to get away. So, I go to our super Wal-mart. I call it ‘Mall Mart’. But it doesn’t work, because I leave exhausted. No really, my husband is my ‘get away pal’ and quiet afternoon lunches at a favorite restaurant gives me a relaxing break. We take walks along the Potomac towpath or journey down one of the country roads to soak in the scenery, or visit a historical place that has no crowds.