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Damian Dibben

Author of the first three installments of The History Keepers series, launched in 2011 and already translated into 26 languages, Damian Dibben has been described by the Observer as ‘one of the hottest properties in children’s fiction today.’ Coming to writing for children comparatively late, he previously worked as an actor and then screenwriter. The central plot of his series revolves around a select band of young History Keepers able to travel through time. Their mission is to protect the fabric of history as we know it against the machinations of an evil genius intent on re-writing the past to his own but no-one else’s advantage.

Nicholas Tucker spoke to him for Books for Keeps.


eeting Damian in his fabulous flat on London’s South Bank which he shares with his inseparable companion Dudley, a handsome Jack Russell terrier, I ask him first about the language he uses for characters living in the

past. Is the time in historical fiction for the inclusion of the odd ‘gadzooks’ or ‘eftsoons’ in day-to-day speech now well and truly over?

‘Well, the first in the series, The Storm Begins, starts in the present which is where I wanted to anchor the books. After that, because my characters originate from different parts of the world I have tended to reflect where they come from geographically in the way that they speak. But I have also tried to avoid obvious modernisms in their dialogue.’

But how do you explain the fact that everyone else is able to speak and understand English wherever the Seekers choose to go?

‘It can be a problem. But because English is now almost a universal European language, just as Latin was centuries ago, my main characters are all allowed to speak it fluently. And because their enemies are actually related to them, it seems logical that they should speak in English too.’

Their first main enemy Zeldt is described by you as ‘pure evil.’ Is this something you believe in yourself?

‘I do believe it exists, and I have definitely created characters who possess no redeeming features. In Nightship to China, for

16 Books for Keeps No.206 May 2014

example, there is a villain who seems addicted not just to anarchy but also to inflicting pain.’

How graphic should you be here? There is one moment, in The Storm Breaks, for example, when you describe a villain stabbing someone in the arm and making sure that they skewer the sinew as well.

‘I am to a certain extent led by my publishers on this. I occasionally ask them whether some details may be too much for a younger age-group, but they have never so far said no. And the age group itself changes from country to country. In Britain I write for an early teenage market, but in Germany my books are published for adults. In general there does seem to be a taste for violence among today’s young readers. But with me it’s all rather James Bond – villains with a pinch of salt. Not exactly the stuff of nightmares, I hope.’

Is the actual job of writing for you a joy or a chore? Or perhaps a bit of both?

‘The coming up with ideas and the research involved is something I absolutely love. It will

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