Ron Thompson’s latest book is a two-fold homecoming. Narratively, it tells the story of returning to your original community and confronting the past. For Thompson, writing the novel was a chance to reflect on and celebrate his home province.
Thompson, a writer living in Toronto, grew up in Yorkton. He moved away after high school, dabbling with naval work, European backpacking, and banking. Wherever he went, his rural upbringing stayed with him.
“The Prairies can mark you for life,” he said.
In 2015, Thompson published his first novel, “A Man of Letters,” a satire on the writing process. This year he’s releasing a prequel to “Letters” entitled “Poplar Lake.” Set in the 1990s, it details a young man’s return trip to his Prairie hometown of Poplar Lake as he introduces his girlfriend to his family. As the man revisits his old stomping grounds, he’s forced to eventually reckon with his difficult past. There are heavy and dark moments in the novel, but Thompson strove to maintain a comedic tone throughout.
“I told the story in a satiric way,” he said. “There are a lot of jokes [in it].”
Thompson based the fictional town of Poplar Lake after Yorkton. He got the name when he visited the town during the 2010 flood. It seemed as though the city was under a lake.
“It’s inspired by the Yorkton experience,” he said.
In the novel, Thompson presents themes of shared history and how the past can haunt us even when we try to bury it.
“I want to explore how we could be blind to the violence below the surface,” he said.
Thompson was drawn to the Prairies as a setting for his novel due to its rich history. He sees the Prairies as a place with positive and negative elements constantly intermingling. Some people can drive through the Prairies and see nothing but boring flatlands while others can see acres upon acres of farmlands ready for use.
“The Prairies are interesting because people can see what they want [to see],” he said. “[They] can be what you make it.”
Thompson appreciates his home province for its vast open plains that contain a hidden beauty.
“It’s a subtle landscape,” he said. “It grows on you.
“It’s not boring; it’s rich.”
While writing “Poplar Lake,” Thompson worked with a lot of material. He had to be merciless with his own work and chop out large chunks of the novel to make it flow smoothly. As is the case with most authors, the editing process was tricky.
“Reigning myself in [was the hardest part],” he said. “[There were] probably 20,000 words I cut out.”
In an age of entertainment overload, Thompson is thrilled to have a second novel hit the bookstore shelves.
“It’s hard to get published,” he said. “It feels good.
“[‘Poplar Lake’] is the best little book no one’s heard of yet.”
“Poplar Lake” will be released on Oct. 15 through Non Publishing. It will be available at the Yorkton Coles bookstore.