While He Was Away Walmart-Exclusive Cover Reveal
and How Inspiration Can Come From Anywhere:
Even a Trip to the Grocery Store and a Handful of Long-Lost Photographs
By Karen Schreck
I sometimes wonder what my mother would say if she knew that her story—one of the saddest, sweetest love stories I’ve ever heard—was retold in a new way in my young adult novel, While He Was Away.
Now Sourcebooks Fire is sharing the story yet again, in a second, exclusive edition, released nation-wide at Walmart. The fact that Sourcebooks believed enough in While He Was Away to bring it to life the first time felt like a much-needed confirmation of years of hard work. The fact that they are standing behind my book again in this way . . . well, it feels like a miracle. I’m truly grateful.
I wonder what my mother would say to this incredible news? I like to think she would be grateful too. I like to think she would be happy. She wanted her story heard after all. So much so that it was one of the last things she told me, just before she died.
One rainy night when I was fourteen, right before cancer left her to ill to talk, let alone drive a car, my mother said, “Come with me. We’re going shopping.” We drove to the little local market and wandered up and down the aisles, as she threw in a can of tuna, some dishwashing soap, and other little things we didn’t need. We paid for these little things. She looked anxious and tired, still she hadn’t said a thing; we hadn’t spoken a word.
It was only when we were parked in our driveway again that my mother said, “I was married once before when I was very young. He died a hero in WWII.”
And that was that. Soon after, she died.
I thought about my mother’s mysterious love story for many years. I talked to relatives, found long-lost photographs. The story took seed in me. It flowered into a novel about a young women whose boyfriend leaves for the Iraq War. In her loneliness, she seeks out a grandmother she’s never met, whose first husband died in WWII. She seeks out a character inspired by mother.
A late night drive, a few words spoken in the dark. Even things as simple as this can inspire a novel.