The audience for Qualicum Beach resident Steen Rancher’s stories used to be fairly small — his kids.
Then it was extended to his grandkids when a story he wrote for his daughter got passed down to them.
Two years ago, Rancher’s audience grew again after he published his first novel — The Pirates of Winchelsea.
Now he’s back again, continuing the Winchelsea Chronicles with his second kids book, Beneath the Salish Sea.
Having grown up in Denmark in the early ’50s, Rancher said there wasn’t any TV to watch or too much else to do. “So my happiest moments were spent in the library, the public library.
“I grew up loving the smell of books, the feel of books and books in general, so I guess that’s where it grew from. I felt I’d like to write a story that not only could I read to her (Kristie, his daughter) and she could look at the pictures and all that sort of stuff, but it was something she would have, you know — carry with her sort of thing. I hadn’t really imagined that my granddaughter would be having it too.”
That book becoming a sort of family heirloom was unexpected, as was the path that the Pirates of Winchelsea would take.
Begun as another story for his grandkids, and featuring each of them in it, the story soon took on a life of its own.
“The characters sort of hijacked it,” said Rancher.
Though Rancher’s oldest grandson was meant to be the main character, “My granddaughter’s character disagreed and she kind of took over,” he said. The characters also started to dictate where the story was going.
“To me it was quite amazing, that whole process, how all of this happened. How the characters began to interact on their own in my mind, and I was just almost along for the ride, taking notes.”
At 50,000 words and the story not yet near done, Rancher decided this would be his first book, and that he’d publish it.
Rancher also took it as an opportunity to send an anti bullying message, re-writing the entire book.
Aimed at kids ages 10-16, the action and adventure novel set in the Winchelsea Archipelago has the children learning to sail, and then meeting three bullies who give chase.
Having the book published “was quite a thrill,” said Rancher, who has plans for eight in total.
This latest book, Beneath the Salish Sea, follows right after the first book, with the characters sailing and discovering patches of dead fish in the Strait of Georgia.
Combining forces with their former enemies, the kids search for answers to the dead fish.
The book continues the anti-bullying message, but also seeks to pass on knowledge and history about sailing and fish poaching, as well as entertain.
“At my age I don’t have any aspirations for becoming rich and famous,” Rancher said about his hopes for his books. “What I am hoping is that, even if a couple of kids, because of reading my story, would stop and consider the effect of their behaviour on somebody else, (and) it would cause them to change as a result, I can’t think of any grander legacy than that.”
The launch for the book takes place Tuesday, May 8, at Qualicum Beach Library at 4 p.m.
Rancher will have both books for sale.