August 30, 2014
The Story of the First World War
Although I mainly write fiction these days, I’m pleased to see my Usborne book ‘The Story of the First World War’ is one of six children’s fiction and non-fiction books recommended by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport for their First World War Centenary Programme.
I love doing these information books with Usborne, not least because I get to work with a brilliant team – editor Jane Chisholm, designers Samantha Barrett and Tom Lalonde, and picture researcher Ruth King – who all worked with me on the companion volume ‘The Story of the Second World War’.
18th – 21st August
Edinburgh Book Festival
Four marvellous days in one of my favourite cities – and even the weather wasn’t too bad! Janet Smyth and her team at the Children’s Book Festival made me feel very welcome. I did three events – one at Loch Leven Community Campus, Kinross, and two at the festival site at Charlotte Square. Especially pleased to do an event with John Boyne – he of the striped pyjamas. John was a real gent and made some pertinent points about the need for stories to have a moral core – something I wholeheartedly agree with.
Signing copies of Hachette’s book of short stories ‘Stories of World War One’ with Tony Bradman and Linda Newbury after a v. interesting talk to 350 school kids.
A discussion with John Boyne, chaired by Jane Sandell, in the Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre. The lady on the far right is signing.
Celebrating the end of the festival (for us at least) with (l to r) Jane Sandell, Josie Dowswell, and three good friends from Italy: Chiara Codeca and Riccardo and Barbara Servidori.
July 25, 2014
Summer issue of Carousel
Really pleased to have been asked to contribute to much respected children’s books quarterly ’Carousel’. My article ’A Fresh Look at the Great War’ reviews the latest crop of non-fiction books.
Also delighted tosee a review of ’Eleven Eleven’ in Carousel’s WW1 fiction round up:
Paul Dowswell has crammed all the horror, fear, waste, cowardice and courage of that terrible time, into a powerful and meaningful read. ...It remains in the mind forever.
16th - 17th July
More visits down South
Final two school visits before the Summer holiday, at the Bennet Memorial School in Tunbridge Wells and Bishop Luffa School in Chichester. Lovely end to the school year, where, despite wilting heat on both days, kids produced some excellent work writing about soldiers in the trenches of the First World War. Thank you to Jenny Gleaves and Margaret Bone for looking after me so generously.
With pupils at Bishop Luffa in Chichester.
July 16, 2014
News from the Netherlands
Delighted to hear my new novel ‘Red Shadow’ is picking up good reviews in the Netherlands, where it’s called ‘Kameraad’. This is from the Dutch Equivalent of the ‘Radio Times’.
‘A realistic and exciting story about a 15-year old boy who moves to the Kremlin with his parents right before the Second World War... a brilliantly written novel, with a believable mix of fiction and non-fiction, that will certainly entertain the target group, but adults as well.’
Thank you to Sabine Joppe at Callenbach for keeping me in touch!
July 14-15 July
I was last in Salisbury as a teenager in the ’70s and it was wonderful to see this beautiful Cathedral again.
The city was barely bombed during the war, and local legend has it that this was because several top Nazis wanted a house in the close that overlooks the Cathedral.
This was a really exciting two days, working closely with staff at Sarum Academy, and the Cathedral Learning and Outreach Department, to encourage children to write stories based on a day out there. Special thanks to Sarah Rickett and James Oldham for inviting me to take part.
July 9, 2014
Chair Historical Association Young Quills Award
Fascinating few weeks reading through eight books on the ‘Young Quills’ shortlist with fellow judges Mel Jones, Alf Wilkinson and Dave Martin. We were pretty unanimous on the winners – Sawbones by Catherine Johnson, Sally Prue’s Song Hunter and Geraldine McCaughrean’s The Middle of Nowhere. All three were fresh and eminently readable and, most importantly, all made history exciting and accessible.
July 8-11 July, 2014
A week down south…
…with visits to Cardinal Vaughan and Beauchamps School in Essex. Thank you to Alison Bugg (again - I’m always pleased to visit Cardinal Vaughn) and Sally Perkins, for asking me to visit their schools.
July 4, 2014
A lovely visit to Outwood Academy, for their ‘Literacy Celebration’. Thank you to Leanne Holmes for inviting me, and buying a great caseload of my books for the school, and also to Rosie, the school librarian. It’s so important to encourage children to read, something Outwood are doing fantastically well.
July 3, 2014
Eleven Eleven makes the Guardian…
… in Tony Bradman’s round up of the best Great War novels for children and teens. Thanks Tony, you’re a geezer!
There’s nothing like a ticking clock to add plenty of tension to a story, and the run-up to the Armistice – 11am on 11th November 1918 – was probably the most lethal countdown in history. Paul Dowswell’s utterly gripping, award-winning novel follows three young combatants in the last hours of the war, when survival could only be seconds away.
July 2, 2014
Norwich Children’s Book Festival
A great couple of days in Norwich where Cheryl Wood and Andrew Murray had organised a magnificent day where I spoke alongside Cathy McPhail, Marcus Sedgwick and the Radio Two DJ Simon Mayo. Fascinating to see all three of them give very engaging talks to hundreds of kids in a great big tent. Cathy and Marcus were a real pleasure to meet.
Norwich Book festival in full swing!
With two prize winners from the Creative Writing Contest, which I was asked to judge.
June 23-25, 2014
International School, Groningen
Three days in the Netherlands, at the International School at Groningen. Lovely part of the world and a very warm welcome from staff and students, who amazed me with their multi-lingual writing talents. Thanks, especially to Caroline Bennett, for arranging my visit.
Round the corner from my hotel.
June 17, 2014
Article in Times Education Supplement…
…by me on Historical Fiction and Russia. Very curiously edited by someone in a hurry, but hopefully still worth a read. Here’s the link: ow.ly/y7LAm
June 13, 2014
More reviews for Red Shadow
... from the Netherlands and the UK.
Anyone who has read a novel by Dowswell will never look at their history books in the same way again, …and that is his power as a writer. Kinderboekenpraatjes
Fear creeps through the story giving the reader a real sense of life in communist Russia,. (It…) leaves the reader stunned by the atmosphere (the author) has recreated. For most young people nowadays Soviet Russia is in the past but recent events remind people all too well of how things were. so this is a timely novel. Books for Keeps
June 3, 2014
Rome and Bologna
Four baking hot days in Italy, where ‘Eleven Eleven’ (L’ultima alba di Guerra) has been shortlisted for two book awards. It didn’t win, but who’s complaining!
Two events at the Rome Book Festival: meeting with the jury for the Scelte di Classe Award in a scorching hot room at Villa Borghese. Despite the drowsy heat, none of them went to sleep during my talk, which counts as a victory in my book and it was a great pleasure to meet them. And then off the next day to Biblioteca Pasolini in Viale dei Caduti, where I met a class from a local school. Thanks to them for coming along and for the library staff who provided me with a fabulous lunch.
Off to Bologna that afternoon for the Hamelin Book Awards. Thank you to Barbara Servidori and her colleagues for their marvellous hospitality and for inviting me to visit Bologna again.
With the jury for the Scelte di Classe Award at Villa Borghese in the middle of Rome. My great editor at Feltrinelli, Francesca dal Negro, is second from the right. Far right is Claudia Quaglieri, who translated with aplomb.
With students at Biblioteca Pasolini in Viale dei Caduti.
With the Hamelin staff in Bologna, after an ill-advised liquorish liquor. This restaurant has been with the same family for four generations!
With Barbara Servidori and Chaira Codeca in a marvellous medieval bar which lets you bring your own food.
More reviews for ’Red Shadow’
Dowswell paints a gritty, realistic and well researched portrait of the political intrigue that seethed behind the Kremlin walls just prior to the Nazi invasion. The plot twists and turns carrying the reader on a rollercoaster ride that seems destined to end in darkness... Dowswell’s well-drawn characters draw the reader into the midst of the chaos and paranoia as the bombs begin to fall. Friends and neighbors disappear, spirited away by the ‘Black Ravens’. The story plays out against a rich background of vivid images and memorable secondary characters. Nancy Bell, Historical Novel Review
…an evocative account of Moscow 1941 just before and at the beginning of the German invasion. The appeal of this story lies both in its humanising of a totalitarian regime, as well as in its attention to detail and authenticity. As with all good historical fiction the reader has a sense of reading a true account. Readplus
‘Red Shadow’ Book of the Month
…in Literature Works.
More books awards for ‘Eleven Eleven’
Thrilled to hear my First World War book ‘Eleven Eleven’ has been shortlisted for both the Rome Book festival Scelte di classe prize and also the Hamelin/Xanadu Prize in Bologna. I’m going over there for the ceremonies at the end of May, so wish me luck!
The Italian edition of ’Eleven Eleven’ published by Feltrinelli.
Trinity Group of Schools Award
Also very pleased to hear that ‘Eleven Eleven’ has been shortlisted for this award – from schools in the Guildford area.
Young Quills Book Award
The Historical Association have asked me to chair the panel of judges for the Young Quills Book Award. Currently expecting eight books to arrive, which I will then have to read at top speed. (Cue one of my favourite jokes, from Woody Allan. ‘I’ve just been on a speed reading course. I read ‘War and Peace’ in two hours. It’s about Russia.’
Red Shadow launch
My new Bloomsbury novel is published on May 8
Here’s a selection of early reviews from the UK and the Netherlands, where the book was published last month.
Red Shadow is fascinating to read because it is so beautifully researched… But don’t think that it’s a worthy book beyond all else. It isn’t. It’s utterly gripping. As the climate of suspicion and series of denunciations closes in on Misha and Valya, you feel a real sense of dread. I really was on the edge of my seat. So this one comes highly recommended by me. Jill Murphy, Bookbag
The writer did a remarkable job with this book. From the first page you will be sucked into the time and the city of Moscow… You feel the threat of the Germans, they are breathing down your neck, you taste the fear of Misha and Valya. Eline Hoogenboom, Puurvandaag.nl
It is reminiscent of the voluminous book Whisperers (2007) by British historian Orlando Figes about life under Stalin. This impressive book is a must, but for the younger reader ‘Kameraad’ is an easier alternative read. Although it is fiction, the book provides a credible and chilling picture of how terribly the building of a better world went wrong… Kevin Prenger, historiek.net
28th April, 2014
Norwich and London
Brilliant three days in Norwich doing Great War workshops with Norwich School and other local schools. Thank you, especially to Cheryl Wood for her kindness. Thank you too, to the school for their generous write up of the event.
Then a fascinating day in Norfolk at Seething Air Museum talking to Jim Turner and Patricia Everson, researching my next book. Finish the week off with a trip to Surbiton’s Southborough High School for a day of talks and workshops with brilliant school librarian Alison Pike.
At Norwich School with some of the pupils who came for the day-long writing workshop.
April 16-20, 2014
‘Sektion 20’ has been shortlisted for the 2014 du Prix Ados du Festival Livres et Musiques de Deauville. Three days of top French Cuisine, fascinating company, and the poshest seaside resort in Normandy. It’s a rotten job but someone’s got to do it. They say never meet your heroes, but I met two of mine, writers Nik Cohn and Nick Kent, on Saturday 19, and they were both great! Thank you to Francoise and Patrick Cruz, and Benjamin Sayag of Naïve, for keeping me company and having me visit. Highpoint was a broadcast interview on national radio station France Musique and a British Council beano with a gang of writers from Granta.
Benjamin translating for me at Deauville. Thanks Benjamin – you were brilliant!
Naive’s fantastic cover art for ’Sektion 20’.
Mobbed by a frenzied horde of fans. (I don’t think any of these girls bought a book!)
Awaiting another horde of frienzied fans, with Maryvonne Rippert, who was also shortlisted for the Deauville teen book award. (The horde never arrived.) Maryvonne’s book ’Metal Melodie’ is soon to be made into a film.
April 14, 2014
English Association British Library Conference
Delighted to be asked to the British Library to talk at a symposium with Michael Morpurgo, Sarah Ridley and Marcia Williams. Also greatly enjoyed two workshops on popular fiction and propaganda during the Great War. Thank you to Helen Lucas and Margaret Mallett for inviting me.
April 9, 2014
A privilege to be invited to the funeral of Judi James, a school librarian and teacher who did so much in her life to encourage children to read. I met Judi through the Wolverhampton Children’s Book Group and she was one of those people you feel really lucky to have known. My thoughts are with her husband and son and daughter.
Judi (centre) after presenting the Booktrust Book Awards in 2009, with authors Marcus Sedgwick, Helen Grant and two of the younger Booktrust judges.
March 30 to April 4
Paris and Amsterdam
Three lovely days at the International Lycee in St Germain en Laye just to the west of Paris, being ably looked after by Catherine Vironda. Cath tells me the Chateau that is part of the International School there was taken over by the Germans during the war, and the spot where the Nazi High Command planned Operation Sealion (to invade Britain) and Operation Barbarossa (to invade Russia). Easy to see how you could get delusions of grandeur in such an opulent and beautiful location. Thank you to Cath and Anne, Claire and Sally, for their kindness and hospitality.
Here’s Cath at the Chateau.
Then off to Amsterdam and Utrecht for three days of school and bookshop talks and press interviews with my Dutch publisher Callenbach, to publicise ‘Red Shadow’, ‘Auslander’ and ‘Sektion 20’. Really enjoyed my trip as had not been to the Netherlands since 1984. Thank you to Harma Nijhuis, Caroline Mouwens and these good people:
With my editor and translator Wilma Seijbel and Ernst Bergboer at a bookshop event.
With Coen Verboom and Sabine Joppe of Callenbach in Gouda.
March 24, 2014
Agatha Christie Country
Brilliant day with librarian Sally Matthews at Pinewood Prep, a lovely school in Wiltshire countryside that looks just like a set in an Agatha Christie TV drama. Lovely oak panelled rooms, and some very good writers.
Then on to Trowbridge for a great day with librarian Jane Daniel at St Augustine’s.
March 18, 2014
Another visit to this International School in the middle of Shropshire. Always a fascinating mixture of students, and a warm welcome from Anne Williams.
At Concord College
March 16, 2014
Tour of the Pennines
Schools in Halifax and Huddersfield for the Pageturners Festival. Both fascinating towns, full of magnificent Victorian architecture. Thank you to Lynne Ashton and Lynne Hackett for inviting me along and Ben and Dianne for driving me around!
March 7, 2014
World Book Week
Brilliant week at St Peter’s, York, Sancton Wood in Cambridge, Highgate in London, and Surbiton in Surrey. Thank you to Pat Chandler, Rachael Janes, May Cunning and Joe Humphries for having me into the schools for talks and workshops.
St Peter’s, York
Desperate Men slay the masses
Get together with my old band to play New Hampton Arts Centre in Wolverhampton. Thank you to all our pals for coming along to a brilliant evening.
Heaps of News
Great start to the year with a new two book Historical Fiction contract with Bloomsbury Publishing. Delighted to be working some more with my brilliant editors Ele and Isabel. Also have a new book in the pipeline with my pals at Usborne, and have been doing some editing and writing for National Geographic. Perhaps the bairns won’t have to go to the workhouse after all.
Two excellent schools in London and Berkshire in January:
Emanuel in Battersea, where librarian Tony James, who is hugely well read, offered some fascinating insights into children’s fiction:
if you write series books, know when to stop. Readers get bored.
Historical fiction has never been super trendy (unlike ******* vampires) but it’s never gone out of fashion either. Hurrah for that!
Then off to Downe House, where I was made to feel very welcome by staff and girls and had a lovely day. Thanks to Ian and Tracy Valance, and Andrew Hobbs, for their hospitality.
Closer to home, visited Highfields School in Wolverhampton: recently rebuilt, full of bright and hardworking kids, dedicated long-term staff, and a fantastic example of how a well-run Comp can operate.
Three waterlogged days in Weston-Super-Mare and Wrington, teaching creative writing to Years 5 and 6 on Caboodle’s ‘Able Writers’ programme. Primary kids are so enthusiastic and its fascinating to see their emerging writing talents.
It never rains but it pours – a trip apiece to Tasmania and Beijing dangled, then cancelled. But still loads of school visits coming in. Week of World Book Day is frantic, with trips to York, Cambridge, Highgate and Surbiton. Many other schools booked over 2014, but currently still have plenty of days left in May (when I was supposed to be going to Tasmania), first two weeks of June, and much of the Autumn term.
Do get in touch on
if you would like me to visit your school. My illustrated talk about the First World War and my book ‘Eleven Eleven’, together with a writing workshops based around the first day of the Somme, has been very popular.
I also have a new book out in May: ‘Red Shadow’ – set in the Kremlin in 1941. I’ll soon have a school talk ready for that, too.
Busy November and early December, with school visits to Sutton Valance, The Judd School and Ashford School, all in Kent, Copleston in Ipswich, and Stewart’s Melville in Edinburgh – a bracing mixture of State and Independent schools, all of them staffed by dedicated teachers and filled with lively, enthusiastic pupils. Thank you to all the school librarians and English department staff who have invited me to visit. School visits are always an adventure, and a nice antidote to the solitary life of a writer.
School trips for 2014
Exciting news for the first half of 2014: festival and school trips planned for Paris, Normandy and Holland, and heaps of UK schools too, from Norwich to Surbiton, via Swindon and York.
Off Down Under
Also very exciting is a trip to Tasmania with Steve Rossiter’s Australian Literature Review organisation, planned for May. I’m going out to be author in residence at two novel writing retreats and hoping to visit other schools and festivals in Australia while I’m there.
You can find out details of the writing retreats planned for 2014 here:
and also, here’s an interview I did for the Retreat website:
My latest book ‘Eleven Eleven’, set on the final day of the First World War, has been longlisted for the Carnegie Book Award. It’s certainly a long list, so wish me luck with the shortlist.
Sektion 20 – now a school play!!!
Was thrilled to hear Don Bosco school in Padua, Italy, dramatized my book ‘Sektion 20’, set in Communist East Berlin in 1972, for a run of school performances. Special thanks to Bruna Calgaro who dramatized the book and Matteo Faccioli who played the book’s central character Alex Ostermann.
I can’t reproduce a photo here but if you’re interested there’s quite a few shots at
New Book News
Finally, I’ve spent the last few weeks pitching new ideas to my Publisher, Bloomsbury, and waiting to hear what they think. I’ve also been dotting i’s and crossing t’s on my latest Bloomsbury novel ‘Red Shadow’, set in Stalin’s Russia over 1941, which is out in May, 2014.
Here’s the cover, which I think looks absolutely magnificent.
Bits, and Bobs
To Bath Children’s Literature Festival for the School Library Association Information Book Award. Usborne’s ‘The Story of the Second World War’ was one of three titles selected for the Teenage section, over 2012-2013. Great to have the company of Sam Barrett, one of the book’s magnificent designers. Alas, we didn’t win but the companion volume ’The Story of the First World War’, which Sam also worked on, is out next year and maybe we’ll get lucky with that.
Please to hear another of my Usborne non-fiction books ‘True Stories of Escape’ has been selected for the Literacy Trust’s ‘Premier League Reading Stars’ programme, and an extract is being read on line by Aston Villa’s Stephen Ireland.
What a great thing for football stars to be doing. (Encouraging reading, I mean, not reading my book!)
And seamlessly borrowing from the world of football, I’m over the moon to hear my book ‘Eleven Eleven’ has been bought by French Publisher Naïve, and my new Russian book, out in May next year, has been bought by Callenbach in Holland, and Feltrinelli in Italy. Thank you, my dear friends in Europe.
Out and about
Lovely three days in Mantova in scorching sunshine. Italy is one of my favourite countries and it’s always a joy to be asked to a book festival there. Thank you to Matteo Corradini and Sofia Gallo who shared a discussion with me on the merits of Historical Fiction, to Aline Reinelt who arranged my trip, and Francesca Dal Negro, my editor at Feltrinelli, who came over to look after me.
Lovely three days at Appledore Book Festival, Devon, in rain and drizzle (and hailstones at one point). Four very good schools: Great Torrington, Park Community, Bideford College and Shebbear College. Kids were great and staff welcoming – thank you for having me into your schools. Thank you too, to Janet and David Fisher, and Carol Smith, for arranging my trip and looking after me so generously.
Off to Bath on September 30, where my Usborne Book ‘The Story of the Second World War’ has been shortlisted for the School Library Association Information Book Award. I still write the occasional non-fiction title and I’m pleased this beautifully-designed book has been selected by the SLA.
More ‘Eleven Eleven’ news
Great to hear ’11/11’ has been shortlisted for two more book awards: The Coventry Inspiration Award and the Southampton Favourite Book Award. Fingers crossed!
Thank you to Carousel and Trevor Thompson for the following review in the Summer issue:
How can such a long and complicated piece of history be encapsulated into a short novel…? Paul Dowswell has performed something quite extraordinary in the way he took on this task. …this book succeeds admirably in bringing that extraordinary time back to life.
June 18, 2013
Young Quills Award
Down to London and Senate House for the Historical Association 2013 Young Quills Award, with my agent Charlie Viney, and my desk editor Isabel Ford. Really pleased to win again with ‘Eleven Eleven’ and very much enjoyed the main event – a fascinating speech on old men in politics by Professor David Cannadine.
It reminded me of my favourite Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme moment, when a journalist described George H.W. Bush cronies Casper Weinberger and Al Haig as ‘two old men who looked incapable of making their own breakfast without incident.’
June 14-16, 2013
Rimini Mare di Libri
Marvellous three days in blazing sunshine, at the magnificently well organised Rimini Mare di Libri book festival. Special thanks to Nicola Galli Laforest who interviewed me at a packed event in Rimini Museum, and Chiara Codeca who translated with aplomb. Thank you too, to festival staff Alice Bigli, Alice Fiorini and Emma Ianni for organising my visit. And top marks to the Brit in my hotel who shouted, headmaster-style and in English, ‘I say, will you boys please keep the noise down’ at some noisy locals at four in the morning. Their response was torrid and I’ve been laughing about it ever since.
June 11, 2013
Usborne 40th Birthday Party
Down to the Kensington Palace Orangery to celebrate Usborne’s 40 years. Brilliant to see the company really thriving and Peter Usborne full of energy and enthusiasm. They’re my non-fiction publishers and it’s a real pleasure to work with them. Here I am with my friend and Usborne editor Mairi Mackinnon.
May 23, 2013
‘Eleven Eleven’ wins Historical Association Young Quills Award (Secondary Section)
…following on from last year’s winner ‘Sektion 20’. I’m very pleased to win two years on the trot. Congrats to Tom and Tony Bradman, too, for their ‘Titanic, Death in the Water’ which won the Primary award.
The Historical Association say ‘Amongst the many strengths of this story are the vivid action sequences and the very atmospheric settings, such as the aerial sequences or the sniper in the wood. As one pupil reader commented, ‘It’s very tense and leaves you on the edge of your seat.’ Most important of all is the way that the reader becomes caught up in the (story) and find themselves willing the three young men to survive those final hours of an awful conflict.