By Matt Day
While taking a creative writing class in college in the early 1970s, Don Dunn wrote a short story. Part sci-fi, part historical fiction, the tale centered on a man coming of age in trying times.
Dunn went on to graduate from Mt. Angel College in 1971 with a degree in humanities. The story wound up in the back of a drawer and the back of his mind as he spent 26 years teaching for the Woodburn School District.
Under the pen name David Clay,
Dunn’s book is available for $19.95
or for $24.95 at amazon.com
Almost 40 years later, the now-retired Mt. Angel resident has turned the story into a novel: The Kroemaeon League: The Book of Idar. After signing a contract with Publish America of Maryland last fall, Dunn received his copy of the book in the mail in April, and it has been available for purchase online since.
“When you’ve been living with the story for that long, it’s good just to finally get it out,” Dunn said. “I enjoyed the challenge of putting this all together.”
Dunn said he began toying with the idea of extraterrestrial life in high school.
“From my science classes, learning about the vastness of space, I thought there has to be life out there,” he said. “And if intelligent life did evolve, there’s a good chance they’d be like us.”
During his career teaching elementary school in Woodburn, he continued thinking about the story and ways to improve it. “When I’d read with the kids, I’d come across some ideas and ask, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’”
He said the years spent teaching helped to make the novel possible. “When you teach people to evaluate literature, you hope you’ll pick up some of it and learn what works.”
The book expands on the original premise of his short story, and follows the protagonist, Idar, over the course of his life in a world with many similarities to the Iron Age on earth.
Dunn said he intentionally kept descriptions of characters brief to allow the reader to interpret them as being as human or alien as they would have it.
“I wanted people to relate to characters as being human,” he said. “I kind of always saw them in my mind as human.”
Though the novel’s extraterrestrial setting classifies it as a work of science fiction, Dunn said he’s not particularly attached to the genre. “I didn’t like aliens being magical creatures. I never liked that kind of science fiction.
“I didn’t set out to write a science fiction book,” he said, noting that the “good viruses evil” themes in The Book of Idar are universal.
“I wanted people to take away the idea that what we do now affects the future,” Dunn said. “Just that idea that what we do every day affects others.”
And if Dunn has his way, he’s not done writing. As soon as he finished The Book of Idar he began work on another novel on the Kroemaeon people, with the goal of completing a set of five.
While publication will have to wait for approval from Publish America, whose policy is to wait six months to gauge the success of a book before committing to a sequel, Dunn says he will continue writing. The decades of waiting for the right time are over.