RTS – Where & Why

Recently I was asked by Pubslush what inspires me, my answer had to do with creating one of my favorite characters from Return To Sender, Solomon, the last Nehalem Indian. Read the article here.


Mindy in Manzanita
Mindy in Manzanita

I envisioned my main protagonist, Theo, as taking his walk on this beach, toward Neahkahnie (in the background) every morning, and often at sunset. This was a place of meditation for him, a place to remember, to forget, to heal. I’ve had a special connection to the beach since I was ten years old and first visited it with my father, a Korean War Vet. He told me then, as we skimmed rocks, collected sea shells, and sat on driftwood overlooking incoming tides, that it was the only place where he truly felt at peace. My father planted the seeds for this story, Return to Sender, on that beach, inside the imagination of a daughter who adored her father but never understood what he went through and why he couldn’t fully return to us. I didn’t understand what I do now: No soldier ever truly returns from war.

The picture below to the right is me on the ridge of Neahkahnie Mountain, where I imagined Solomon climbed every day, and where Theo took his warrior vows, learned to hunt, hike, track, and be a man in the making with Solomon as his guide. To me, this is a truly spiritual place. The Nehalem Indians who once lived there called it a holy place and treated the mountain with reverence. It was the home of spirit; they called it the “Place of the Supreme Deity.” Ridge of Neahkahnie where Solomon climbed every day.



The O'Cleary Clan
The O’Cleary Clan








They say to write what you know; well, Irish is something I know a little about. This is a photo taken in approximately 1910 of my beloved grandmother and her rag-tag fightin’ Irish brothers. Sometime in the late 1800s my great-grandparents came over from Ireland with the intent of spreading Catholicism in the Southern states of America. Soon after arriving, Grandma’s parents tragically died, leaving her and her brothers to fend for themselves in the mountains of Kentucky, then Tennessee. I have returned to Ireland, where I did a month-long writer’s residence, and visited the likely port of departure of my great-grandparents. Being there was haunting and deeply moving, and I felt touched by spirit . . . my grandmother’s and great grandmother’s, to be exact.

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