Local Author To Debut Novel In Woodbury

Darrell Rohling's book explores facets of faith.

Woodbury author Darrell Rohling describes his debut novel, Ashes, Ashes as “psycho-spiritual drama of personal devastation, retching reconstruction and the hope of redemption.”

Rohling—a psychologist who runs his own counseling business in Woodbury, Life Dynamics Counseling Services—said his fiction novel was inspired in some ways by his work and life, but it also incorporates aspects of sheer imagination that he hopes will hit home with readers.

The novel hasn’t been officially unveiled yet; the book launch is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at Throwbacks Grille and Bar.

Rohling said he didn’t want to give too much of his novel away before the unveiling, but he did provide Patch with a brief synopsis of the plot:

“Mega-church pastor, Hamilton Ford, strapped down to a hospital gurney, is transported to psych lock-up after being hit by a life-changing trauma. Let the therapy begin as Dr. Leslie Swenson leads Hamilton into the world of his night dreams, where he is first haunted and then empowered by apparitions of his family. Throughout his recovery, Hamilton encounters new and invading spiritual realities, as patient and doctor become entangled by what they share in common,” Rohling wrote in an e-mail.

Rohling has over two decades worth of experience in the psychology field, which helped him develop the character of Hamilton Ford and the plot for the book. Rohling's wife, Janice, is the executive pastor at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, and he was able to draw on some of his connections in religious circles for further inspiration. 

Future Projects

Rohling said it took about 10 years to complete Ashes, Ashes and get it picked up by a publisher, and though it was a difficult process to get the work into print, Rohling has more books in the works.

Currently, Rohling is working on a sequel to his debut novel and he’s close to completing a short novella. He also has a collection of poetry he might look to get published.

Rohling said he always has the broader audience in mind when he writes, and added that he tries to make sure his works don't come off as "preachy," even though they involve religious aspects.

Getting his book published was a long and at times arduous process, but Rohling said he enjoyed writing it and is excited to see the fruits of his labor. He also hopes readers of his novel will find aspects in it that resonate in their own lives and inspire them in some way to possibly tell their own stories.

“I’d like to think the events of our lives and the things that happen to us add up to something and we all have a story to tell,” he said. 


Greg Boyd, senior pastor at Woodland Hills, is a friend of Rohling and his wife, and also a well-known author of the books, Letters From a Skeptic, and The Myth of a Christian Nation. (Boyd has read Rohling’s novel and gave it a glowing review.)

“Is it possible to find faith when one’s life has become a nightmarish hell? In the tradition of Dostoyevsky, Conrad and Koestler, D. J. Rohling’s gritty and compelling debut novel brings readers to that existential point where the line between faith and despair becomes razor thin and one is forced to choose out of the depths of one’s soul. Ashes, Ashes is that rare sort of novel that is at once spiritually disturbing and authentically hopeful. A must read!” he wrote.

Steve Thayer, New York Times best selling author of “The Weatherman,” “The Wheat Field,” and “Silent Snowalso gave Rohling’s novel a positive review.

“I don't have a religious bone in my body, but as a writer I've always been fascinated by a man's struggle with his faith and nowhere is that struggle more difficult and more poignant than it is for Hamilton Ford, the protagonist in D. J. Rohling's expertly written debut novel Ashes, Ashes,” he wrote. “(Rohling’s novel) restores my faith in the art of creating a three-dimensional character with an inspiring story to tell."

Purchase Rohling's book online here.


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