Damian Dibben, described by The Observer as “one of the hottest properties in children’s fiction today,” is the creator of international publishing phenomenon, The History Keepers. The books are published in over 40 countries and translated into 26 languages. The books follow the adventures of Jake Djones who finds that his parents are missing – lost in time. Jake sets out to find them and joins the secret society known as The History Keepers. His life will never be the same again. As well as writing books, Damian has worked extensively as a screenwriter on projects as diverse as The Phantom of the Opera and Puss in Boots. He is a keen explorer, inspired by everything from archaeology to cosmology, and loves nothing more than a great adventure story.
The History Keepers series is published in over 40 countries and translated into 26 languages; did you ever expect it to be so popular?
Obviously you hope when you write something that it will prove to be popular, but I was completely taken aback by the initial success. It’s very exciting to receive translated copies of books from all around the world. Some of the other covers are fantastic. The German version is my favourite, it features the History Keepers symbol of an hourglass with planets spinning around it.
What was your inspiration to write the first book in this series?
Firstly I love to escape into other worlds and history itself is the greatest other world of all – not least because everything that happened in the past was true. History has an epic sweep and is full of the most incredible personalities - explorers, inventors, conquerors, as well as all the villains and despots. I am also a huge fan of adventure stories from the classic books of Robert Louis Stevenson to films such as Indiana Jones and James Bond. That special mix of action, mystery, danger and humour is irresistible.
Do any of the characters in your books originate from a real life person you know or have known?
Definitely. Charlie is based on a good friend of mine, and Yoyo too, a new character who appears in Nightship To China. Rose – though I hadn’t realised when I was first writing it – has my mother’s eccentricity, her sense of humour and fun. And Zeldt, the villain of The Storm Begins, was inspired by a film producer that I once worked with.
Have you always been interested in writing?
I was never particularly good at writing when I was at school, but I loved performing (I was an actor for five years in my twenties) and I was always putting on shows from a young age. I learnt how to write through my time as a screenwriter, working here and in Hollywood. Obviously, writing novels is a completely different art form and I feel that I still have a huge amount to learn. That said, in my brand new book, not in the History Keepers series, I might finally be cracking it.
Do you have any other hobbies other than writing and reading?
Eating definitely. I love my food and am not a bad cook. I also have dogs and walk at least ninety minutes a day. Since childhood, I have always spent a lot of time at museums and still make visits every week. I am interested in everything really, science, cosmology, physics, architecture, fine art, furniture. Excitingly I am now patron of the Kids In Museums charity and do a lot of work for them. Finally I am passionate about films and go to the cinema at least twice a week.
If you could give our young writers one writing tip what would that be?
If it was just one tip, I would say be disciplined. Everyone’s subconscious contains material for a number of brilliant books, but often it’s hard and unnatural to get going. So be strict with yourself, say you will write a certain amount of words, or work for a specific amount of hours, and stick to it! After a while it will become easier and your mind will take over. I would also advice you to fill your head with as much as possible, museums, books, travel – the more you learn about the world, the more passion you have to write about it.
What has been the stand out moment in your career so far and why?
When I got my publishing deal with Random House three years ago, I went in to meet the team of people I was going to be working with. They were so welcoming and excited that I couldn’t help feeling very proud. It’s not really career related, but the other great day I remember, was attending the opening ceremony of the Olympics in 2012. Having been born in London and mad about the city, I have dreamt of that moment all my life. I was not disappointed!
Are there any more books to come in The History Keepers series? If so could you give us a sneak preview of what it will be about?
I hope there will be another History Keepers book as book three ends on a terrible cliffhanger. Jake and the secret service will almost certainly travel to Ancient Egypt. I am writing another book first, more for adults, but I definitely hope to return to my friends.
You have had a fantastic career so far, what are your plans/hopes for the future?
I would love to keep writing more books. I have many stories to tell and I am hopefully getting better at telling them. But, whatever I write, I hope it will be thrilling, thought provoking and full of warmth and humour. When I read a book I like to laugh, learn and cry – so that’s my objective.