People and Places
20/12/2020
Childhood memories make for novel representation

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Picture this: a small boy is building model aeroplanes with his ex-RAF father in England. Hear this: hours and hours of conversation flow between a father and son about German aircraft technology and the British and German military as those model aeroplanes take flight. This could be the stuff of many a young boy’s dreams.

Neil Dunbar’s father John, who was in the RAF at the end of World War II, taught him a lot about researching war-related history, and for years the author of The Owl with the Wooden Foot wondered what he might do with all that information. After living in Perth for 30 years and then moving to the Mornington Peninsula in 2004, the picture became clearer. 

Neil explains: “I loved those times with my father as a child. It was such a special connection we had, and he taught me so much about fighter pilots, the military and battle. I became fixated and knew I’d have to write it down at some stage, but how? I began writing my book in 2015. It encompasses historical elements but also elements of my life experiences. It’s a fictitious action and adventure story. The concept for the novel has been developed over 20 years and the whole process has been a challenge, but I got there in the end.” 

Neil’s novel was published last October. Anyone who has written a book understands how many rewrites are involved. Neil paid Writers Victoria to critique several chapters and the result was encouraging. Neil continues: “Their response recognised there was a good plot and that my writing had potential, but they advised me to join a writing group to strengthen my skills. I joined the Mornington writers community three years ago and began reading a chapter of the book to them each week and received feedback. One of the members introduced me to Rita Schepens, an editor in Brugge, Belgium. We reviewed the book more than seven times before it was published. I’ve woven in an underlying story through The Owl with the Wooden Foot too, which means there’ll be a sequel. Who knows how long that will take. I’m working full time as a national safety manager so the book will have to work around that.”

With storylines revolving around scuba diving, sand mining and equipment, road building and of course the military, The Owl with the Wooden Foot and possible sequels will appeal to those who like stories that nosedive the reader forward. Written by an author who began a confectionery career working in food laboratories before being employed in a vast array of industries, the ‘smell’ of completing a novel that forges connections to his late father and embarking on a second is pretty sweet. And so it should be. Summer’s here. Have a read.

LIZ ROGERS

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