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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guest Blog - Rita Gerlach

Rita is a master storyteller. Even telling how she came up with The Daughters of the Potomac Series is masterful. I asked her for a guest blog, and this is what she provided. I love it and think you will, too. ~ Anne

Evolution of a Book Series
By Rita Gerlach

Three years ago, after I had signed a contract with Abingdon Press for my stand-alone novel 'Surrender the Wind', I sat down at my computer and wrote three words.

Winter came early.

In my mind's eye a heroine by the name of Darcy Morgan appeared in the year 1778, the setting—the Maryland wilderness. I titled the novel Beside Two Rivers. In my notebook I wrote: the place—along the Potomac River in Maryland. Time—the Revolutionary War era.

I kept writing, and when I had enough chapters to submit to my editor, I sent them off. She called me and said as is she could not accept it. There was nothing wrong with the writing, but something wasn’t right. I knew I had to trust her, and explore the story deeper.

It was enlightening to have such a deep conversation over this book with my dear editor. But even more amazing were the revelations that unfolded one morning while I was in the shower. It hit me like the water suddenly going to freeze mode. I had written a good portion of Darcy's story in Beside Two Rivers. But I realized I had to write her mother Eliza's story. And then! I had to write Sarah's story. Thus the series was born in my heart, Daughters of the Potomac.

Once the idea for the series took shape, I had to set aside Beside Two Rivers and begin book 1 Before the Scarlet Dawn.

At the beginning I had questions.
Who is Eliza Bloome?
Where did she grow up?
Who were her parents?
What does she look like?
What are her beliefs?
What does she want?

Eliza began to take form in my imagination. I saw a young woman with raven hair, clear skin, and violet eyes. She is a bit naive when it comes to the ways of the world. She is the daughter of a vicar and lives with him at a small vicarage in the Hope Valley in Derbyshire, England until his death. Her mother died when she was a baby.

Eliza loves God and wants to do the right thing. She believes with all her heart that He is guiding her to the man she longs for. What she wants most is to be loved unconditionally, and to be accepted for her mind and soul, to find a husband who treats her as his equal.

To get this all down on paper, I jotted down these attributes in my notebook for Before the Scarlet Dawn. In writing the story, the best technique for me is writing the scenes out by hand first in the notebook. Writing freehand, for some reason I cannot explain, causes the words to flow out of me. It is raw, unedited prose. Perhaps it has to do with the right side of the brain, the creative side. All I know is this technique is what helps me start and finish a novel.

The story begins its evolution with Eliza sitting at her father's beside late at night. A knock on the door echoes up the staircase. The servant of a local gentleman must speak to Reverend Bloome in private. And what he has to tell launches the story.

Sounds a bit crazy, but I pictured Eliza telling me 'write my story'. She became to me a person who once lived, breathed, and walked this earth. If I could not achieve that, my readers will not connect to her.

So in the evolution of book 1 in the series, I began with characterization. Eliza, being the main character, comes on stage awaiting the inevitable. She then moves on and readers begin to meet the people in her life. Her devoted servant, Fiona Goodall. A suitor named Langbourne who sees winning her as a challenge. An indentured servant named Sarah that puts herself at risk for Eliza. And then the man Eliza loves above all others—Hayward Morgan—proud, wealthy, in search of a stalwart wife. The major players are in place, and the question arises. Will Hayward love Eliza unconditionally? Will he see her as his equal, and be devoted to her no matter how the storms of life rage against them?

My editor accepted the proposal enthusiastically. I will not deny how challenging it has been to write these books, with each woman’s story meshing with the others. But with any challenge, there is joy in accomplishing the task.

The Genre:

These books are not in the category of formula romances. They are what I like to call Historical Dramas. You will find romance, but you will also find a story about relationships between people. The stories are about forgiveness, redemption, loyalty, and the power of love. Each character has good points, but they are also flawed human beings that make mistakes and fall hard, and at some point struggle through the adversity, dust themselves off and move on. So the sugary sweet romances they are not.

~ Read Chapter One for free ~


Book 2 ~ Beside Two Rivers ~ October 1, 2012
(The story of Eliza's daughter, Darcy)

Book 3 ~ Beyond the Valley ~ February 1, 2013
(Sarah, an indentured servant's story)

Official Website for Rita Gerlach

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