Please welcome Mindy Halleck, whose intriguing new release is RETURN TO SENDER. Mindy, what keeps you going in this wonderful world of creating stories?
People often ask, “Why do you write?” Well, I write because of my grandfather. He was a writer who had to get a real job to feed his brew of eight children during the Great Depression. He later worked for the Oregonian newspaper and secretly wrote short stories and poetry in his spare time.
He often read to me – beginning when I was 3 years old, which he said was the beginning of my age of reason – while I was seated in a big overstuffed chair in his study wearing my ruffled dresses and shiny black patent-leather shoes. I loved the timbre of his voice when he read Edgar Allen Poe or the gentleness in his smile when he read anything of Mark Twain's who as a boy, he once met and referred to only as Sam (Samuel Clemens). Grandpa had the biggest, strongest hands in the world and I still envision him holding his books that looked so small in those big hands and pacing back and forth reading to me.
My grandfather was a handsome, complex man torn between two worlds; the harsh one where he worked long hours in order to provide and where during the Depression he often boxed in the streets for a dollar. And then the delicate man who wrote his broken heart out on a page and who had a granddaughter who he hoped would someday love the written word the way he did. He dreamed a dream for me that I’d grow up to be a writer and achieve his unfulfilled desires. I love Edgar Allen Poe, and Mark Twain because of him.
I wrote a protagonist in RETURN TO SENDER Theo Riley, who is complex; loving, angry, profound, sarcastic and a champion boxer who desires a different kind of life, because of my grandfather who imagined a destiny for me that would justify his own. I write for him.
Beautiful story, Mindy. Your grandfather must have been fascinating. Tell us about your book.
1955 ~ 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 RETURN TO SENDER.
It rained hard the night we evacuated the children from their orphanage, harder than I’d seen, even on the Oregon Coast. The smell of wet dirt, trees, and napalm. That’s the smell I remembered most, the chemical and petroleum of burning napalm. We scrambled with the kids up Korea’s dominating T’aebaek Mountain—the mountain was nearly the same height as Neahkahnie but had limestone caves tunneled deep within. Massive stalagmites hung heavy throughout the corridors. Ancient bamboo-roped bridges built across chasms linked the vast rooms of the caves to one another. It was otherworldly. But the surviving nun knew the place, the Karst Caves, and said we’d be safe. Water spouted from innumerable cracks and seeps; the sound of rain and falling water was everywhere.
We clawed our way up the hills and out of the valley of death. The CCF had entered the war that week and were as ubiquitous as the rain. The NK were ruthless and bloodthirsty and wanted those kids—and now us—dead. The kids and dedicated nun were too vulnerable for us to abandon for slaughter, so we, my buddy Lieutenant Peters and me, abandoned our orders instead.
This sounds exciting, Mindy. Best of luck.
Mindy Halleck is a Pacific Northwest author, blogger and writing instructor. Her short story, THE SOUND OF RAIN, which placed in the Writer’s Digest Literary Contest blossomed into her first novel RETURN TO SENDER. Halleck blogs at Literary Liaisons and is an active member of the Pacific Northwest writing community. In addition to being a writer, Halleck is a happily married, globe-trotting beachcomber, antiquer, gardener, proud grandma, and three-time cancer survivor.
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