Before the Scarlet Dawn, Daughters of the Potomac Series #1Before the Scarlet Dawn, Daughters of the Potomac Series #1
Rita Gerlach
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In 1775, Hayward Morgan, a young gentleman destined to inherit his father's estate in Derbyshire, England, captures the heart of the local vicar's daughter, Eliza Bloome. Her dark beauty and spirited ways are not enough to win him, due to her station in life.

Circumstances throw Eliza in Hayward's path, and they flee to America to escape the family conflicts. But as war looms, it's a temporary reprieve. Hayward joins the revolutionary forces and what follows is a struggle for survival, a test of faith, and the quest to find lasting love in an unforgiving wilderness.

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rita gerlach 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: He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.


 Our Interview with Rita Gerlach


Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a middle child from a large family. I had a vivid imagination, still do, and made lots of stories up. I have a memory as a pre-schooler standing in my mother’s kitchen chattering on and on about some event. She paused from washing the dishes and said, ‘Re Re, are you telling me a story?” I smiled and nodded that I was. And here I am so many years later, still telling stories. Only now I’m writing them down.

I married my high school sweetheart — a state champion gymnast back in the day, who traded in tumbling for fly-fishing and raising our two sons. I was a stay at home mom thankfully to his job, and was able to write full-time while the boys were in school. I have a cousin who is a famous romance writer, (no name-dropping) and though we are miles apart in our beliefs, she inspired me to start writing after giving me a signed copy of one of her books back in the late 80s. Yes, it’s been that long!

It took some time, many rejections and setbacks, but I’ve published four historical novels. The Daughters of the Potomac Series will make seven. Each of my novels transverse between England and the Colonies and have a romantic edge, some reviewers say with a mix of Dickens and Austen.
What is your favorite Bible verse? Why?

Revelation 21:4: He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

This verse has given me a great deal of comfort through the years, when I’ve experienced loss. It is a beautiful reminder of God’s love for us, and what joy we have waiting for us in the future.

How did you come up with the concept for Before the Scarlet Dawn?
Originally, I had begun writing book 2, Beside Two Rivers, in the series as a stand-alone novel. But one day it hit me that this should be a series that tells the story of the three woman who were major to the overall story. There I was, singing in the shower, when all of a sudden it dawned on me like a blinding light. This should be a series. First Eliza’s story.

The concept for this novel evolved as I wrote it. But I knew from the beginning I wanted to share Eliza’s story, whose beauty becomes an obstacle. She yearns to be loved for whom she is inside. Not what she is. The concept of the novel also deals with the longing to be forgiven, the need to forgive others, and the consequences of unforgiveness.

What was your inspiration to develop the story Before the Scarlet Dawn?

It is never ever one thing for me, but a combination of things that inspire the development of a story. But if I were to narrow it down to the barebones, I’d have to say the Potomac River. I live in a historically rich area. The Potomac is not only beautiful but it is rife with history. Everyone has heard about Harper’s Ferry. Within a few miles south and a few north of there, is the setting for Before the Scarlet Dawn.
On the Virginia side, there is an overlook, and when I visited there and looked down into the deep gorge, across to the Maryland Heights, my mind drifts back to the past. So, instead of a person or a historical event being the inspiration for this story, I found it in a place where the water flows placid over boulders and joins with the Shenandoah.

How much of this story is based on fact?

The story is solely a work of fiction. However, there are historical details interwoven into the story, such as the American Revolution, the culture of the time period, food, clothing, and more that bring Before the Scarlet Dawn to life.


Do you have a favorite character in Before the Scarlet Dawn? Why?

Yes. Without a doubt it is Eliza Morgan. From the moment I wrote the first sentence of the book, I was drawn to her. She emerged a compassion character with a heart for God. She wants to do what is right, follow His leading. But she is also flawed, like all of us. She has weaknesses that cause her pain, and ultimately heartbreak. I favor her because she is to me a true heroine — imperfect, troubled, and challenged, who surrenders her suffering by putting her trust in God.

How much research did Before the Scarlet Dawn take?

It is difficult to say exactly how much time I put into the research. But it was quite a bit in regards to the history of the area during the Revolutionary War period. Much of it I was able to do online. But the best part was the day trips out to the Potomac and Israel Creek. There is nothing like seeing the places where your story is located. As far as the Hope Valley in England, this took several hours of reading and viewing photographs of this part of England.

What are the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing Before the Scarlet Dawn?

The facts that surrounded the history of the river were the most intriguing to me. It was a gateway west, though not a river one could always travel by boat, for there are places where the water is too shallow and the riverbed full of rocks that make it impassable. There were mills along the Potomac for the grinding of wheat and other grain into flour. Indian tribes built jetties in the water for fishing. The Potomac was considered one of the most beautiful places in the Colonies, and settlers most westward along it building plantations and farms. I found it an interesting fact that in the winter men would go down to the river and cut out huge chunks of ice and haul them back to their land or into towns like Frederick to place in their icehouses.

How many books will be in the Daughters of the Potomac Series?

 There will be three.

Book 1:  Before the Scarlet Dawn
Book 2:  Beside Two Rivers
Book 3:  Beyond the Valley

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

The majority of authors face similar challenges such as writers block, rejections, time, etc. I’ve learned to accept those challenges as par-for-the-course. If one comes up, how I deal with it will determine the outcome. Writers block is probably the most challenging of them all. When I am faced with it, I set my manuscript aside for a day, no more.

What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

Encouraging aspiring writers to be patient and persistent, to continue writing in the face of rejection letters, downturns, and uncertainty.
The editing phase. When a book is in production and is polished to a high sheen for readers.

When I type ‘the end’. To bring a story into being that never was told before is an awesome experience that no words can fully describe. It makes me very thankful God has allowed me to be a writer.

What clubs or organizations are you involved with helping with your writing?

ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers).
His Writers Online Writers Group.
Colonial Quills Online Writers Group.

What new projects are on the horizon?

A new chapter is about to turn in my writing life that I am very excited about. I’m looking forward to writing an Edwardian series. I am currently working on the proposal, and I’ve started a notebook. Lots of ideas jotted down. I saw a film not long ago and I became highly motivated to delve into this era. Also I am revising three historical novels that I had previously published years ago that are out of print in hopes of having them reissued. I have readers asking me for them.


What message would you like your readers to take from reading Before the Scarlet Dawn?
I think of the words to that beautiful song by Rogers and Hammerstein 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.
What were your favorite books as a child?

Golden Books when I was really little. But there is a book I loved that I cannot remember the title of. I have tried to find it but haven’t been able too. It is about a little girl who becomes so small she lives in her parents’ garden in a tin can and flies on the back of a butterfly. It was a great story with illustrations. If anyone knows this book, please let me know.

What is your greatest achievement?

Giving birth to two wonderful sons.

What do you do to get away from it all?

My husband and I enjoy day trips where we take long rides out in the country and explore historical places that are out of the way. There are lots of houses, battlefields, and churches on the historical registry, but it’s those places that are not, mostly forgotten, rarely visited that intrigue me. We came across one such place recently and I was inspired to use what I saw in that place toward the ending of book 2.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Only that I hope readers will enjoy this series, and find a little respite in them from our crazy world. When I write, I do it with them in mind. While writing Before the Scarlet Dawn, I realized forgiving and being forgiven can change lives for the better, and how much harm can come out of a heart that refuses to forgive. There are so many people walking around today with that weight on their shoulders. Perhaps someone reading this interview has this burden. My prayer for them is that they cast it upon Him that is able to carry it.



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