Today I am interviewing Damian Dibben, author of the new historical fiction novel, Tomorrow.
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DJ: Hi Damian! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Damian: Tomorrow is my first novel for adults having written the children’s/young adult series The History Keepers. The books, three so far, are acclaimed internationally, have been translated into twenty-seven languages with a movie under option with Working Title/Universal. Prior to writing books, I worked as a screenwriter – and occasional actor – in the UK and Hollywood, on films as diverse as Puss in Boots, Phantom of the Opera and Young Indiana Jones. I live with my partner and three dogs half in central London – on the river opposite St Paul’s cathedral – and half in rural W Sussex. I’m a keen explorer and interested in everything from cosmology to archeology to quantum mechanics. I am patron of the Kids In Museums charity and do a good deal of work for them.
DJ: What is Tomorrow about?
Damian: The book follows the quest of a 217-year old dog who must travel through the courts and battlefields of Europe in search of the man who granted him immortality. His journey takes him from Elsinore Palace to the London Frost Fair of 1608, from the strange court of king Charles I to the wars of the Spanish Succession, the golden age of Amsterdam and to nineteenth century Venice. He befriends both humans and animals, falls in love (only once), marvels at the human ability to make music, despairs at their capacity for destruction and gains insight into both the strength and frailty of the human spirit. But Tomorrow’s journey is also a race against time. Danger stalks his path, and in the shadows lurks an old enemy. Before his pursuer can reach him, he must find his master – or lose him forever.
Tomorrow is a story of love that spans the centuries, of hope as the world collapses into war. A story of devotion and courage, and the unbreakable bond between two souls.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Tomorrow?
Damian: Obviously my love of dogs, and all animals, was a major influence. The bond between a human and their dog is one of the strongest and purest that exists on earth. When you look into the eyes of certain dogs, you seem to see something that is wise and ancient. This was my starting point. The book though is also an examination, and ultimately a celebration, of human progress over the last 500 years. I am fascinated by the people who have changed our world in that time, the inventors, explorers, thinkers, scientists. artists and trailblazers; as well as by those who have halted advancement, the despots, megalomaniacs and naysayers. I’m passionate about learning and try to discover at least five new things every day.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Damian: Our narrator is a dog, and a very erudite one! He has lived for 217 years and has a unique perspective, having seen more than any human, both the wonders and the horrors. A human will lose many dogs in their lifetimes, but he is a dog who loses humans. His master went missing 127 years ago, whilst they were on trip to Venice, and he has spent every decade since searching for him, waiting for him to return. He is not without his flaws, but ultimately he is shrewd, brave, philosophical and kind to his core, even when it is dangerous to be so.
His master – whose name we do not discover until the end, like the narrator’s – may also be hundreds of years old. He is man who has faced many demons over the centuries, but has conquered them with his sense of purpose – and humour – with his devotion, duty and belief in right and wrong. Vilder, the last of the three main characters, is at once mercurial, quick-witted, vain, brilliant, selfish, cruel and entirely magnetic. Understanding the precise relationship of these three souls provides the book with a good deal of its tension.
Threaded throughout the story are real characters from history, though often just glimpsed in passing: from King James I and Charles I of England, to Galileo, Rembrandt, Moliere, Lord Byron and Napoleon.
DJ: What is the world and setting of Tomorrow like?
Damian: The world is Europe in the glorious, deeply textured and war-torn centuries from the death of Elizabeth I of England to beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign. The action takes place within the major courts of Europe, in London, Amsterdam, Elsinore, Vienna and Oxford, and also across the wars of those times, most particularly the thirty-years war and the Napoleonic. The aim is to bring the world of the past alive, to give it a beating heart. It is incredibly visual, but you will be able to ‘smell’ this universe too, just as a dog could. (History in general is incredibly pungent!) After the prologue, the first third of the book takes place in 19th century Venice, which is a city steeped in atmosphere and layer upon layer of history and intrigue.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Tomorrow?
Damian: The research was fascinating. I started by taking a trip to Venice, with my dog naturally. (The history of Venice and dogs go hand in hand. If you look at any painting of the city from the early renaissance onwards, you will see our four legged companions everywhere..!) I loved learning about how the renaissance came about, what shaped the great minds of the era, and how those minds then shaped our civilisation. Further visits to Amsterdam and Vienna gave me incredible insights into the evolution of those cities and the parts they played in the great human drama of this half millenium.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Damian: What it would mean to be immortal, what priorities they might make in their lives, which part of history would be most agreeable and which most terrifying.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing Tomorrow? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Damian: It sounds grandiose to say it, but I am essentially optimistic about the human race. For all the steps back we might take, I believe the general motion is and will always be forward. I wanted to tell a story that illustrated this, that rejoiced in what we’d achieved, whilst keeping an eye on where we might fall. ‘Life is what you make it,’ is a well used phrase, a cliche perhaps, but I believe in it. This is the theme the characters wrestle with most.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Tomorrow that you can share with us?
Damian: ‘Tomorrow we begin again..’ is a phrase that is used throughout the book, but its meaning and impact changes as the story progresses.
DJ: Now that Tomorrow is released, what is next for you?
Damian: I have started writing a new book, a thriller set in the renaissance art world.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: Damian Dibben
Facebook: Damian Dibben Author page
Goodreads: Damian Dibben
Twitter: Damian Dibben
Instagram: Damian Dibben
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Tomorrow that we haven’t talked about yet?
Damian: I’m very handy with a drill and power saw and recently built my own writing shed – a shed to end all sheds – a large vaulted timber room with triple aspect windows looking onto the South Downs of England. If I can build it, fix it or cook it myself, I will!
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** Tomorrow is published by Hanover Square Press and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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A wise old dog travels through the courts and battlefields of Europe and through the centuries in search of the master who granted him immortality
“Ornate, vivid, deeply colored, and so precise I could smell and taste the worldâ€¦ The story of a dog crossing continents and centuries in search of the man he loves is moving and tender. I was captivated by its charm from the beginning.” —Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Tomorrow tells the story of a 217-year-old dog and his search for his lost master. His adventures take him through the London Frost Fair, the strange court of King Charles I, the wars of the Spanish succession, Versailles, the golden age of Amsterdam and to nineteenth-century Venice. As he journeys through Europe, he befriends both animals and humans, falls in love (only once), marvels at the human ability to make music, despairs at their capacity for war and gains insight into both the strength and frailties of the human spirit.
With the rich historical vision of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and the captivating canine perspective of A Dog’s Purpose, Tomorrow draws us into a unique century-spanning tale of the unbreakable connection between dog and human.
About the Author:
DAMIAN DIBBEN is the creator of the internationally acclaimed children’s book series the History Keepers, translated into 26 languages in over 40 countries. Previously, he worked as a screenwriter, and actor, on projects as diverse as The Phantom of the Opera and Puss in Boots and Young Indiana Jones. He lives, facing St Paul’s Cathedral, on London’s Southbank with his partner Ali and dog Dudley.