I am so excited to have J. Rodes on the blog today. She is such a sweet person, and tells funny stories about her kids! But what I love most about her is her writing! This series is no exception and I can see myself rereading this for years to come! Don’t let the genre fool you – adults will love these books too. At least I did 🙂
About the Books
From Sellout to hero, by way of the den. Braxton Luther finds himself in the crossfire of a new order, and discovers apathy is a dangerous option.
This series is such an eye opener, and I encourage you to share them with your kids. The entire series focuses on standing up for God, for what you believe in. But then, it goes even further, which is why I think it’s so important to share this story with young adults. The question is clear. Do you stand up for God just on the inside? Or do you make it known and serve Him on the outside too? This question comes up several times in each story, especially with Braxton.
Speaking of Braxton, never have I found myself going back and forth with a character like I did Braxton. Sometimes I wanted to give him a big hug. He was the good guy, and was trying to do what was right. And then there were times that I just wanted to shake him to try and wake him up! But the more I read, the more I began to understand the reason for his character. To show me that I am like Braxton too. Yes, there are times I submit to the world, we all do, we’re human. But we can come out of that – and be like the “good” Braxton, and make the world know who we serve and adore – the Lord!
I highly encourage you to read this trilogy, and when you’re done give it to another person. Give it to your older teenagers to read and have a discussion as they are reading it. See if they will understand the hidden meaning behind what’s been written in the storylines. And when they are done, tell them to give it to their friends, both saved and unsaved. Maybe, just maybe it will speak to their hearts too.
About the Author
J. Rodes lives on the wide plains somewhere near the middle of Nowhere. A coffee addict, pickleball enthusiast, and storyteller, she also wears the hats of mom, teacher, and friend. Mostly, she loves Jesus and wants to see the kids she’s honored to teach fall in love with Him too.
1. What intrigues you to write science fiction dystopian YA fiction?
Funny that. I never dreamed that I would write dystopian. Ever. I like the genre—The Giver is one of my favorites—but I couldn’t see myself writing it, until one day I did.
I like dystopian because it opens up new possibilities in writing. You can play out a “what if” storyline that goes to an extreme and do it in a way that captures a whole different kind of reality. For example, in The Giver, we discover through an extreme society that we think is impossible, but that Lois Lowry paints in crisp (black and white) life, that life is too multifaceted to invoke sameness. We’re too unique. Emotions are too precious. Experiences are too vivid and valuable to override for the sake of unity. In other words, we discover equality and fairness aren’t the same, and we can’t contrive forced unity. The human experience is simply too complex, and what is required to forsake in the name of sameness isn’t worth the cost. I can’t imagine delivering this concept in a better way than in through Lowry’s dystopian world.
Perhaps it’s that unique story power that is possible through a dystopian that intrigues me the most. Teach a lesson with facts, and I’m likely to forget. Show me with a compelling story, and I’m gonna remember it for the rest of my life. Somehow dystopian accomplishes that goal in a way that other genres seem to fall short. Not always, but often. Especially with a young adult audience.
2. What is your current WIP? What can you tell us about it?
Haha! Well, right now I’m working on a fun chicklit romance. 😊 Quite a diversion from a dark dystopian trilogy, isn’t it?
I’ve finished the rough draft for Evergreen—the final book in the Grace Revealed series (Blue Columbine, Red Rose Bouquet), which is Women’s Fiction. Now I’m working on a light, fun novella set to hit the world on Valentine’s day. I can tell you that The Cupcake Dilemma is quirky, fun, and about a kitchen fail girl finding her place in the small town of Rock Creek (the setting of Reclaimed and Ordinary Snowflakes). It is a total departure from my more serious books, but hopefully you’ll still find my touch of emotion and genuine characters—this time through humor rather than tears.
I have an idea rolling around in the back of my head for another young adult novel—though not dystopian. I’d like to flesh out So-J, one of the secondary characters in Evergreen (she was also in Red Rose Bouquet), and give her her own story. It’ll be at least a year though, because I have other projects scheduled. 😉
3. If you were to go on a vacation to visit one of the characters from this series, what character would you visit and why?
Hmmm… not sure going to see any of these characters in their world would be a “vacation.” But I would so very much like to see the world as it shifts into Eliza’s vision post-Progressive Party’s rule. She sees, in the place of her worst nightmares, a place of healing and forgiveness, a work that is beyond immediate comprehension, but she believes is possible because she experiences it in her own heart. Eliza’s vision is profound—and something that I borrowed from Betsy ten Boom as she envisioned her place of imprisonment during World War II transformed into a place of hope and healing. What a sight that would be. Someday…
4. What inspired the idea for the Uncloaked Trilogy?
A dream. Not kidding. I dreamt it one night—book one, that is, and started writing it the next day. The other two books weren’t as easy to visualize—I had to work a lot harder for those stories. Much of my inspiration came from researching how Christians survived during the times of Roman persecution, and then from digging into details from World War II, which I’m sure is evident throughout the books. I read and then listened to Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place—which still makes me weep—and then sat back in awe at the ten Boom’s solid faith and surrender to Christ. Talk about courage. And love. And forgiveness.
I wanted those characteristics manifested in the story line, and they came mostly through Eliza. But also, I wanted a hero that wasn’t always heroic, who was ordinary—and actually, even a failure at some points. That came through Braxton. I’ve found that some of my readers really couldn’t stand Braxton—they were so mad at him for his decisions and failures. But I keep thinking back to the disciple Peter…
Can God still use a sellout? Yeah. Peter will tell you, God totally can, and He does. That’s the heart of the story there—not that my heroes have anything super “special” about them. No extraordinary gifts. They can’t walk through walls, fire a bow and arrow like no one else ever has, or fight off the enemy with their brute strength and cunning metal powers. They’re everyday people. Kids. Making choices—sometimes good, sometimes bad. But when the darkness falls, and no one knows what to do, there is God. That’s where they find their footing, where their courage is drawn, and where the story begins to turn. Where we find hope, and we dare to dream of things that are otherwise impossible. Because there is God.
5. What do you want readers to take away from reading the Uncloaked Trilogy?
Um, see above. 😉
6. When you are not writing, what other “hats” do you wear?
Taxi cab driver, mostly. Oh, wife. Mom to four awesome kids (thus the taxi cab driver). Teacher (Sunday school, AWANA, and subbing in our public schools). Friend.
Uncloaked? What was that?
Tristan smirked. “Clearly. Family?”
“Noted.” He leaned over Kipper, who cowered like he expected a blow. “Fix it, boy. You’re in our sights.”
Kipper didn’t respond. I detected a tremble in the boy’s hands, but he held a strong gaze. A gaze that seemed somehow familiar in nature. I glanced to Eliza. She was biting her lip as she kept her eyes fixed on Kipper. My view widened, encompassing both of them. His eyes darted to her, and she nodded ever so slightly.
Wait. What just happened? My chest expanded with a fierceness I hadn’t anticipated. I zeroed back in on Eliza, wanting to take her by the arm and pull her to my side. What was this guy doing, looking to Liza for strength? She didn’t have any to spare. And she’s mine.
“What do you expect me to say?” Kipper’s weak voice ripped me out of my Braxtonian-centered universe.
Tristan still hovered over the guy. “Show us a sign of loyalty.”
“What do you want?”
“I think you’ll find life much easier if you comply.” Tristan tapped Kipper’s tab. “Try it. See what happens when you check the correct box.”
My attention dropped to my own tab. The correct box. Not the right box—as in what is true of you, but the correct box—as in PC.
The words burned in my vision.
Check a box. Get on with your life.
My own voice echoed in my ears. Was it really that easy? We were living like impoverished beggars at the Knights’ house, and it could have been avoided by checking the correct box?
“I won’t.” Kipper’s meek voice beckoned my attention again.
The air seemed to turn cold and hard. Eliza pulled in a long breath and held it. I scowled, first at her and then at Kipper. Tristan looked to his right and then to his left. The bulky guys flanking him returned his glance with smirks.
He smacked Kipper on the back of his head, sending the kid’s face toward the desk. “It’s your funeral.”
I assumed that was figurative. Couldn’t be anything but, despite the zinging sense of fear rising in my chest. Not in this country.
Tearing the Veil
Why would she even think about the Pride? Didn’t she understand that I lived in a nightmare? How could two sisters be so completely different anyway?
Hannah was headed for trouble. She needed to leave. Soon. Now.
But for the moment, I had to protect her. I owed Eliza at least that much. No, I owed her so much more than she understood, than anyone understood, and the guilt sat like a slow burn in my stomach every single day.
God, is she still alive? She had to be alive. She still called to me in my dreams.
My attention fell back to Hannah, who sat stiff by my side. The girl was spinning in her head like a tire on a bicycle, and because she was way too much like me, I could guess what she was thinking.
“It isn’t better out there.” I tipped her chin so I could see her eyes—something I usually tried to avoid. They looked like Eliza’s, and I hated the ache that pressed into my chest. But I needed to make sure she was listening. “You’ve got to believe me on this. It’s not what you think. Stay with your family. Go to the Refuge.”
She stared back at me, but not like Eliza would have. Eliza would listen—hear what I was saying and process it intelligently, which was why she could always come up with a logical answer to my dumb schemes. Hannah…well, she processed with emotion, just like me. There was no reasoning with emotion.
I sighed and began transferring the food I’d squirreled away from the Den to her burlap sack. “You’d better get going. Remember, never the same place two times in a row, okay?”
Still stiff, she stood and, with a cool nod, took the sack. Not listening. Not good.
“Hannah, wait.” I couldn’t let this happen. “I need to speak with your dad. Tell him I asked for him to meet me next time. Okay?”
She dipped one curt nod.
“I really need to talk to him…alone,” I said, knowing that last part was going to spark her defiance.
An icy stare was her only response. So not like Eliza.
I pushed my fingers through my hair, stuffing a growl down into my chest. “Do you even know why you’re mad?”
She spun on her worn-out tennis shoe, and I watched her shoulders, jammed straight and rebellious, as she wove through the trees.
Fine. Just as long as she was stomping back to the cellar. She had no business thinking about the Pride.
Charging the Darkness
She leveraged another shove against my chest and then ran.
Who could blame her? How could God let this happen?
I pressed my back against the brick wall lining the hallway so I wouldn’t have to look at Hulk and slid to the floor. He’d taunted her since we were kids. The bully. The beast. He’d targeted her once the Party had taken over, hell bent to see her broken.
And she had broken.
So had he.
We had been right. Hulk had been in DC when the explosion had released the virus. Charlotte must have sent him away when she realized what had been done. But it’d been too late. He’d been exposed. And now here he was, dying alone. No one to mourn his cruel life. No one to care if Eliza interceded for him or not.
I cared though. Something in me knew this decision of hers would chart a new course for her future. The one she was choosing was dark and lonely, and my heart ripped thinking of her chained to that path. The other was steep and difficult, and I resented that it was so unbelievably hard.
But there was life beyond the hard. And if the old Eliza were here, and I was in her place right now, stepping onto the path she was choosing, I knew what she would have done.
She would have fought for me to live.
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January 8-Soulfully Romantic
January 9-Smiling Book Reviews
January 10-Book by Book | Flowers of Quiet Happiness
January 11-Just Commonly
January 13-The Green Mockingbird
January 16-Fiction Aficionado | A Baker’s Perspective
Janaury 17-Singing Librarain Books
January 18-Henry Happens
January 19-Reader’s Cozy Corner
January 20-Pause for Tales