Takethefamily.com has been lucky enough to grab a few minutes with bestselling author Damian Dibben, whose children's series The History Keepers has been published in more than 40 countries and translated into 26 languages. Damian is also a patron of the charity Kids in Museums and ambassador of its annual Takeover Day, when children are given meaningful roles in museum, galleries and historic homes.
• Hello Damian, many thanks for sparing the time to talk to Takethefamily.com. I know how busy you are with your writing and travels. My first question is: Did you travel much as a child, and what were your favourite places?
I was lucky enough to go on a school cruise (on a de-commissioned navy ship) when I was just 10, visiting Venice, Crete, Istanbul and Pompeii. It was absolutely awe-inspiring at that age and opened my mind up to the wonders of the past and the possibilities of the future. I still find Venice inspiring on every level. Further afield, I think Rio a surprising and exciting city and have visited many times.
• The History Keepers has been a smash-hit around the world. How did the original idea come about and why do you think it was gone down so well with kids in so many different countries?
Growing up, I loved adventure stories and films (anything from classic Robert Louis Stevenson to Indiana Jones and James Bond) but I also believed history was the greatest story of them all: the epic sweep of it, the extraordinary locations, the cast of heroes - explorers, inventors, world-changers - as well as the villains. I was fascinated by how the course of history could change in a day, maybe with a discovery or a battle. I thought history would be a magical and illuminating backdrop for a thrilling adventure story. I hope the books are popular around the world because they are great fun, full of danger and humour but also deal with things that are important to everyone.
• Do you travel much for research, and if so, what has been your best trip to date?
Nightship to China takes place in Jacobean London then Ming Dynasty China. I travelled to China to research and to get a feel for the country. (Detail is really important to transport readers back to the past).
The previous year, when working on Circus Maximus, I spent five weeks in Rome. It was wonderful to walk into the Senate House that Julius Caesar himself had built and find it still standing, with a roof on! I visited the site of Circus Maximus too, which was the largest stadium ever constructed in the world, fitting up to 160,000 people – double the size of last year's Olympic stadium.
• Any sneak previews as to where the fourth installment might take readers...?!
It's is likely to go back to Egypt in the time of the pharoahs, where forces of evil are congregating for a battle to end all battles. Jake may also make an extraordinary discovery there, about his family...
• If you could time-travel yourself, to what historical era would you go and why?
I am drawn to so many places - perhaps Ancient Greece for its wealth of ideas, or to the Age of Enlightment in Europe, when scientists and astronomers were understanding the world in groundbreaking ways. I love the Minoans, the Aztecs, the reign of Elizabeth I, the artists and thinkers of the Renaissance, Tany Dynasty China, Ancient Egypt… I also have a soft spot for the mad excesses of France in the time of Louis XIV!
Read our tips on educational holidays/tying family holidays in with the National Curriculum.