MOUNT PLEASANT MILLS — A Mount Pleasant Mills woman has recently released her second novel in a planned trilogy about a futuristic world in which Christians are forced to renounce their faith, enter detention centers, or go into hiding.
Raena Rood’s “Sanctuary” begins where the first book in the series, “Subversive,” leaves off. Main character Gemma Alcott and her friends, “subversives,” had gone into hiding and were hunted by government soldiers, including Gemma’s first love, Taylor.
“In the first book, the main characters are solely focused on their own survival,” Rood said. “In the second book, I wanted them to have a goal that was bigger than themselves. I wanted to force them to confront the reality that some things in life are more important than their own safety, comfort and survival.”
So in “Sanctuary,” Gemma and her friends find a safe, isolated camp in the Pennsylvania wilderness, a hideout for persecuted Christians established by elderly bookstore owner Letty Webb and her network of sympathizers in a nearby town. But when the government task force puts the town on lockdown to root out these sympathizers, a group from the sanctuary plans to infiltrate the town and rescue Letty and the others. However, the rescue attempt goes terribly wrong, setting in motion a devastating series of events which could endanger Gemma, her friends and the sanctuary itself.
“I want to entertain my readers and keep them turning pages long into the night,” Rood said, “but I also want to inspire them to be strong should they ever face religious persecution. I want them to see these characters surviving and growing in their faith despite (and often because of) their difficult circumstances. I want my readers — Christian and non-Christian alike — to imagine what they would do if this world became their reality. And I want everyone who reads these books to understand how blessed they are to live in this country, because the freedoms they hold so dear — and in some cases take for granted — could be taken away in an instant.”
Inspiration from dreams
Rood said her inspiration for The Subversive Trilogy came to her in a dream she had, in which a group of people were on the run from the government. In her dream, they were called subversives; she later learned in her dream that they were Christians.
Though the dream was a unique situation, Rood said, “Most of my plot lines and story ideas come to be in the middle of the night if I have trouble sleeping. I hate missing out on sleep, but it’s worth it for a good idea!”
Rood said she believes the subject of the trilogy is becoming even more relevant in the world today.
“If the events of the past year have taught me anything, it’s that this kind of persecution might be much closer than I originally thought,” she said. “Most churches shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent government restrictions, and many of them still have not reopened their doors. That’s crazy to me.
“Even when businesses began to reopen, many local governments seemed to take a particular interest in keeping the churches closed for as long as possible,” she added. “When some churches reopened in defiance of the public health order, they were forced to pay fines. Other churches saw their ministers arrested. Believe me, I pray that I’m wrong and that we’ll be able to continue worshipping freely, as we always have. But it’s foolish to think that real persecution cannot happen here, because it can happen anywhere.”
The pandemic affected Rood in another way, too.
“Having three kids at home a lot over the past year has forced me to become more disciplined with my writing,” she said. “I typically do my best writing during the morning hours, but those hours were ‘virtual learning time’ for most of last year. Now, I write whenever I can squeeze in a few minutes, even if it’s during the time of day when my writing isn’t the best. Then I clean things up during the editing process.”
She said she has a personal writing goal of 5,000 words per week.
It all seems to be working quite well for her, judging by the popularity of the series.
Readers ‘eager’ for sequel
According to Stephanie Freyermuth, owner of Guardian Angel Bookstore along Route 35 in Richfield, an author luncheon she held for the launch of Rood’s first book last year sold out very quickly. A second one had to be canceled for health reasons, but she said that one had filled up too.
“Customers were very eager for her second book,” Freyermuth said, describing Rood’s writing as “very captivating.”
Those interested in futuristic style of writing, she said, “would truly enjoy her books,” and added that Rood “is just a delightful person.”
The bookstore will host another event for Rood’s second book at noon Aug. 7. A few seats are still available and can be secured by calling the bookstore at 717-694-3901. Reservations are $25 and include a meal and the book, as well as the opportunity to hear Rood speak. The bookstore also has both the first and second books of the trilogy available for purchase at any time. The store is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Rood said she is about halfway through book three, titled “Salvation,” which is scheduled to be published Dec. 1.
“I won’t give away any big spoilers,” she said, “but I will say that many Christians (myself included) hope that Christ will return before the events of these books become a reality.”
At the same time, she said, “we also have to remember that we might first have to endure many difficulties. We’re no better than Christians in other parts of the world who are already facing terrible persecution.”
But there is hope in the midst of that. In those countries, she said, “the church is exploding! People are on fire for Christ. Those governments are fighting to destroy the Church and yet it’s growing out of control.”
Familiar places used
Rood said her books all take place in Central Pennsylvania, and that if readers look closely they will discover fictionalized versions of many familiar places.
For example, the coal mine where the Christians are hiding in “Subversive” is based on the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine in Ashland, where Rood said “I must have taken my family on that coal mine tour at least a dozen times while researching the first book.” In Book 2, the characters spend time in a fictionalized version of Halfway Dam.
Rood is also hoping to publish a standalone book next year, called “Stoker’s Mill,” based on the town of Centralia.
“I absolutely love living in this area,” she said, “and it’s so much fun to put little Easter eggs in my books for my local readers to find.”
“Sanctuary” is published by One Foundation Publishing and can be purchased at all major online retailers. Autographed copies can be purchased directly at http://raenajrood.com.
Ebook copies are available exclusively on Amazon. Amazon Prime subscribers can download the first book, “Subversive,” for free until Sept. 12, and Kindle Unlimited members can read both the first and second book for free.