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Local author releases first book in dystopian series

MOUNT PLEASANT MILLS — Raena Rood grew up on the cusp of Juniata County, was educated at Penn State and served her country in the Army.

That mixed bag of a background influenced her to look at life in a different way — she recently released her first novel, also the first in a planned dystopian trilogy about a not-too-distant future where Christianity has been outlawed in the United States.

“Subversive” is available mainly online, although she is hosting a socially-distanced author luncheon at Guardian Angel Bookstore in Richfield Aug. 8. Contact the store for more information.

“The title and general idea actually came to me in a dream about five years ago. I dreamt about a group of people who were in hiding because government soldiers were trying to arrest them. They were Christians, but in my dream, they were called subversives,” she explained. “I began to read about the terrible persecution of Christians that is currently happening in the world. This persecution is something we rarely hear about in the news, but it’s happening. Christianity is already outlawed in many countries, and the church is forced to operate underground.”

Rood, a Christian herself, said she prays such persecution will never occur here.

“I want people to think about the strength of their own faith. I want them to ask themselves what they would do if they were ever ordered to renounce their faith,” she said. “It’s so easy for us to say, ‘My faith is strong. I would never do that.’ But what if that resolve was truly put to the test?

“These things are awful to think about, but they’re very real, and they’re happening to Christians every day in some parts of the world.”

Her goal for readers is to think about their own faith, and pray for Christians in other parts of the world who are experiencing persecution.

Despite writing for the first time, Rood said it was easy to lose herself in the characters and watch them develop on their own.

“I’m also a big fan of the editing process and making the book as strong as it can possibly be. Editing isn’t nearly as mentally draining as writing,” she said. “The most difficult part of the process for me has been publishing my first novel during a pandemic. So many speaking engagements and sales opportunities have been taken off the table … plus, my children have been out of school since March, which makes writing a lot more difficult. However, it’s forced me to be more organized and focused.”

Rood compared the development process to watching a movie in her own head.

“For instance, for the opening scene of Subversive, I saw a young woman standing in a cornfield staring up at a man who’s been crucified. Then I asked myself a few questions. ‘Who is this young woman?’ ‘Who is the dead man?’ And what chain of events led to him being nailed to that cross?,'” she explained. “As I started to write the story, those questions answered themselves.”

She also included an element of romance, believing the best stories are love stories — even if it wasn’t the focus of the book.

“At its core, Subversive is a love story and a story of faith and redemption,” she said.

Rood said her book, lacking foul language or sexual content, is appropriate for young adults, but should appeal to folks approaching middle age as well.

“This isn’t a typical Christian book, in that it’s not lighthearted or easy to read. But I think it’s necessary for people–not just Christians–to read this book and think about the subject matter, especially with the world as it is today,” she said.

Rood is working on a followup and has laid the groundwork for the final book.

A graduate of Middleburg High School before Penn State, Rood lived in Richfield as a high school student. She turned her ROTC credentials into a give year stint in uniform, after which she spent the same amount of time as a probation officer. Now a stay-at-home mom, she, her husband and three children live in Mount Pleasant Mills.

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