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Woodbury resident publishes first novel after more than a decade of work

The children's rhyme goes something like this: "Ring around the rosy, pocket full of posy. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down."

When Darrell Rohling of Woodbury was thinking of a title for his debut novel "Ashes, Ashes" he wanted something that almost everyone can relate to, but still made sense to what the story is all about.

"I didn't want anything too sensational," he said. "I wanted something that had a little bit of a lyrical feel to it."

The psychologist who runs his own private practice in Woodbury, celebrated the release of his first fiction novel Saturday, June 4 after more than 10 years of writing, re-writing and "uncountable times of revision."

"This book has been in one form or another for the last 10 years," Rohling said.

The book "Ashes, Ashes" is about pastor Hamilton Ford who goes through a tragic incident that affects his faith. It's meant to relate to a wide audience of all religious and spiritual beliefs --any denomination of Christianity, Judaism or Islam, Rohling said.

The story starts out in a psychiatric unit similar to ones Rohling said he's worked at in the past, such as Abbot-Northwestern mental health department in Minneapolis. Hamilton is released from there and is now facing the challenge of whether to keep his faith or not.

Hamilton works with an outpatient therapist who, at the end of the story, shares a tragedy similar to what he had experienced.

Without giving the whole thing away, Rohling said the story is inspired by his work with area churches that refer patients to him for family counseling and therapy.

But writing the book was more inspired by his love for creativity.

"It's more about my interest in language and communicating strong, emotional stories that affect people, hopefully for the better," he said.

He said most good stories assume the idea of conflict, but "Ashes, Ashes" is intended to make people realize they can come away with hope and meaning following major life-altering events.

"Does Hamilton find hope and meaning?" Rohling said.

It's not meant to be preachy, however, he said. Rohling said the book gives the message that even pastors of megachurches can go through a period of questioning faith and beliefs.

"We all go through different losses and have to decide how we're going to respond," he said.

The ultimate question of why God allows suffering - and if God is involved in the suffering - that people go through, is on the minds of many, he added.

Though Rohling spent years working on the debut novel, he's currently working on additional projects and a sequel is in the works.

The psychologist said writing has not always been something he wanted to pursue until about 12 years ago when he felt like he needed to "keep the juices flowing."

It's actually tied in with his faith, he said, that writing and being creative in one form or another is part of embracing what God implanted into human beings, which is creativity.

"Ashes, Ashes" can be purchased through Rohling's website at Though it's done, published and released, he said it never really felt done.

"It's kind of like releasing a child into the world as an adult," Rohling said. "Did you do the best job for people to see?"

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.