Cover Design ~ Return To Sender

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Often I get asked how I came up with the cover for my novel, Return To Sender. I can’t take the credit. In my many

1 - AB Return to Sender final nuconversations with my brother Clark Kohanek, a gifted story-teller, award winning screenwriter and Director, and a graphic artist, he got the idea of what I wanted, and voila! It was done. I wanted it to be thematic, but not jumbled and tacky looking with too many images. People tell me it pulls them in; that’s all that matters.

The cover is largely in black because the protagonist, Theo Riley (a Korean War hero turned priest) is going through a dark time in his life and has a secret past full of shadows and demons.

What Theo (priest–see the white collar) is walking through (doorway) is the shape of a cartridge; a Parabellum from a Nazi Lugar no less. This wound, among others was a gift from a North Korean general who held Theo as a POW, and who was a fan of the Nazis’ of WWII.  The shell-shaped passage represents the cartridge he carries in his hip from that war injury–overcoming his past and his injuries, body, heart and soul is Theo’s quest.

Behind him is fire. The story starts with flames and ends in flames; both times they are fires started by Theo to end a battle, destroy evil, and start new. In one scene, Theo’s mentor says, “Fire is a cleansing thing.”  And in Return To Sender we learn it certainly is.

The brocade along the sides is Irish (Celtic) knots for Theo’s Irish heritage which is often a gift, but sometimes more like a rope around his neck choking the life out of him.

He carries a rosary in his hand because even though he resorts to vigilante warrior-priest deeds and doings, and is a reluctant vicar and hero, he’s also a true believer, in his own way.

A lot of people have asked why I didn’t hint at the love story in Return To Sender; maybe I should have, but I felt it was Theo’s story, and that until he dealt with the violence brought into his safe-harbor by Genghis Hansel, and until he could cleanse his own soul of what haunted him and kept him from truly living, there could be no love story. So while the ‘forbidden romance’ is a big part of his storyline, I did not include an image on the cover for fear readers may think it was a romance novel, which it is not.

Return To Sender is a literary thriller, or some are calling it a psychological thriller; it’s a complex tale wrapped around a love story. It would be too much to include imagery for all the POVs and all the through-lines. For me, when authors try to do that they end up with a muddled cover. This is Theo’s story. The cover belongs to Theo.

If you’ve read Return To Sender, what do you think of the cover? How would you have done it differently? Would you have hinted at the love story?

If you haven’t read RTS you can get a copy here; Kindle is $4.99 Hardcover is roughly $17.00.

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