A Canora man and columnist for the Canora Courier has made his first adult fiction book available for print.
Dreamland and Soulscapes: A Prairie Love Story is an adult fiction book written by Ken Rolheiser. Originally available as an e-book on Kindle in 2011, Rolheiser published an updated version that is now available as a print-on-demand book from Amazon.
Dreamland and Soulscapes is Rolheiser’s fourth book that he has published, but his first adult fiction. Prior to this, he published three non-fiction books: Where Earth Meets Heaven in 2004, Running with God in 2006, and Born to be Kings in 2009. He also helped edit the local history book, History of Canora 1905-1990, and publishes a weekly column called Pause for Reflection. This column has been published in a dozen papers, including the Canora Courier, for 12 years and reaches 55,000 readers in Canada and the United States.
Rolheiser has always wanted to be a writer, and because of this, said he has been writing Dreamland and Soulscapes “over the last 50 years.”
“I jotted down all my ideas on Sundays, when I had time off,” he said.
Rolheiser has two degrees from the University of Saskatchewan: a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of education. He taught English for 35 years, and also served at St. Joseph Catholic Church since before he began teaching. He has been involved with the Canora Ministerial Association for 20 years. All of his experience has led him to being prepared for his career in writing, he said.
Dreamland and Soulscapes: A Prairie Love Story focuses on the story of a one-room rural school in the 1930s. It features the struggle for teachers in that time, as well as a reconnection to roots for a Russian-German Catholic family.
The story follows a boy named Curt through his life from his very inception, childhood, youth and young adulthood. It tells the story of farm life, spirituality, and romance in a way that older readers will connect with.
“I came up with 10 reasons people should read my book. You have romance, unrequited love, comedy, drama, ecology, politics, mystics, ethnicity, poetry, and dreams all in one book,” he said.
The historical fiction novel is particularly important to Rolheiser due to the fact that it is based on the childhood he experienced. The Christmas concert and the blizzard that are described in the book are among things that happened to him and his family, he said, which made the book particularly moving to family members.
“One of my relatives told me he laughed and he cried, and he found it so meaningful because everything on the pages of the books was something he remembered.
“It’s a work that’s very close to my heart,” Rolheiser said.
Rolheiser also revealed that the character of Curt is a representation of himself.
“Curt’s journey is my journey,” he said in the afterword of his novel. “Curt… shares the same spiritual and physical landscape of my parents, my siblings and me: early childhood, the one-room rural school, the early ecclesial realities of sin and salvation, the fact of death, the wonder and awe of awakening sexuality, the love story, local politics and the mores and folkways of my ancestors.”
Among the challenges in writing the book, Rolheiser found, was trying to translate German dialect.
“I grew up speaking both German and English in my household, so there are a lot of common phrases in the book. Some I was able to translate, but some don’t translate well at all. I think that will provide humour for people who know the German dialect.”
Another issue that he found particularly important was protecting the people involved. Since all the plotlines in the book are based on real events, Rolheiser had to change names and certain other situations in order to make sure relatives and friends didn’t have their privacy breached.
“A cousin of mine was assaulted, and I wanted to discuss it in the book, but since it was such a sensitive topic, I changed who was involved and what the nature of the attack was. I wanted to treat people with the kindness and sensitivity they deserve,” he said.
A theme Rolheiser particularly wanted to address was the connections between family, heritage, and the Prairies.
“I mention in the book that one square metre of sod in Saskatchewan contains up to nine kilometres of roots. That holds the soil together, like how the people here are held together.
“I wanted to connect with German heritage, as when the Russians persecuted the Germans, they immigrated to Canada and then forced themselves to lose their language and heritage. I wanted to explore the importance of that.”
Rolheiser uses many different writing styles to tell his story, but the one he considers perhaps most interesting is the use of dreams.
“The dreams represent the connection between the heavenly world and the real world. The very first dream sequence explores a leaving and rebelling that I think is similar to the concept of original sin,” Rolheiser said.
Other dreams involve war, the exploration of hatred, and a deeper understanding of reality.
“As a writer, I use dreams to bring my ideas to life, which connects to this book’s use of dreams.”
Rolheiser currently lives with his wife Linda in Canora, and is now retired from teaching. His children live in the western part of the province. His main hobbies are writing and spirituality, as he continues to write his regular column and work with the “talented and gifted” people in the Canora Ministerial Association. He also enjoys chess, and runs for fitness.
Now that this book is published, he plans to make his three non-fiction books available on Kindle, and he is also starting work on a novel which has the working title Going Home.
“It will focus on the prospect of moving towards death and the journey we all take towards that end,” he said. “I want it to be available for people who are mourning.”