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
conversations 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.
As an author and cancer survivor I believe writing aids us in understanding life’s challenges, and that through understanding we become better writers. When we translate painful or confusing events from the unspoken into written language we alter our perceptions and fundamentally make the experience graspable. You can heal the body by … Continue reading How Writing Your Truth Can Help You Heal
Reprint of an article I wrote on Pubslush about my writing influences. I chose to write about what influenced a very popular character in Return To Sender, Solomon.
My writing influences started early in life. When I was ten years old I met a man outside the cannery in Wheeler Oregon. I was waiting for my dad to drop off his fresh caught salmon and have a beer with the cannery owner. I stayed outside because inside was the nostril scorching stench of dead fish! The one bench was half occupied by that man, so I sat down, broke my Popsicle in two and handed him half. He said “Thank you!” and that he would trade me a good story for my gift.
Several times that summer we sat on that dog-eared bench, shared a Popsicle, a story, and watched pigeons’ pick at fish scraps by the boat ramp. He recanted legends and explained that he was one of the last Nehalem Indians, and that he was healer, a shaman. He had a cryptic dialect and a guttural but soothing voice.
Flash-forward many years; him long forgotten, until one night he came to me in a dream. I knew my wise healer was there for a reason. I tingle now, writing this. I had cancer, however didn’t know it yet –I learned two weeks later. During the two weeks that followed his visit I zealously created a favorite character in my novel; Solomon, the last Nehalem Indian. His visit that night was to let me know he was with me.
In Return to Sender Solomon is the mentor archetype and a shaman who heals the protagonist, Theo, so he can transcend his current state and move on to his destiny. Looking back I realize I unconsciously created what I needed for my journey through cancer. I researched Nehalem myths to make Solomon resonate with that man I met five decades ago who graciously traded Popsicles for enduring mythologies.
About the Book:
Father Theo Riley never wanted to be a priest, nor a killer. The former boxing champion and Korean War veteran gave up more than a career when he went into the Army. He lost the only thing he ever wanted: his love, Andréa Bouvre. Friends thought Theo entered the priesthood to mend his broken heart or atone for the massacred orphans he couldn’t save in Korea. However, the truth is much darker and more damning, tied to a blood debt and family secret that has haunted Theo since he was a boy. He drinks to forget he ever had a life of his own—waits for death, prays for mercy, and hopes for a miracle. He gets all three when a child goes missing, another shows up on his doorstep, and the love of his life drives back into his world; the seaside hamlet of Manzanita Oregon. Theo’s dream reunion with Andréa becomes a nightmare when a serial killer who considers himself a holy man targets the town and everyone Theo loves. Drinking days decidedly behind him, Theo and some old warriors set out to send evil back to hell and a few good souls to heaven in Mindy Halleck’s debut novel.
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Welcome to my blog page. Here I’ll post about things relevant to my novel, Return To Sender, Korean War history, and the Oregon Coast. AND If you’re a writer please check out my writers blog at Literary Liaisons.