Paul Dowswell

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Winner of the ‘Historical Association Young Quills Award’ for Secondary School fiction, 2012 and 2013.

If you're here, you probably already know I'm a writer. My specialities are historical fiction and information books. I am also a Fellow of the English Association and a frequent visitor to schools to talk about my books and take creative writing classes.

Paul DowsewellpI write

  • mainly for teenage readers, but have also written information books and a series of novels for 9+
  • on a whole range of different subjects (see the page on Published Books for a full and frank exposé),

My book Ausländer, about a teenager in Berlin during the war, came out in 2009. Published in eight different languages, it’s won six book awards, has been shortlisted for 16 others and has taken me all over the UK, and also to Europe, South Africa and Australia.

cover - AuslanderFollowing Ausländer, I wrote Cabinet of Curiosities, a story set in Renaissance Prague featuring large doses of alchemy, skulduggery and the Inquisition. My sixth historical novel for Bloomsbury, cover - Sektion 20Sektion 20, about teenagers in Cold War Berlin, was published in September, 2011 and won the 2012 Historical Association Young Quills Award. These three novels have a common theme – their heroes and heroines all face political or religious extremism.

Eleven eleven - coverMore recently I've written Eleven Eleven, about three young combatants who are thrown together on the last day of the First World War. It won the 2013 Historical Association Young Quills Book Award.

Red ShadowI followed this with a third book about living under a dictatorship 'Red Shadow’ which is set in Stalin’s Russia over the summer of 1941. This book was shortlisted for the 2014 Historical Association Book Award.

BomberMy most recent book Bomber, (published in 2015), follows the fortunes of an American Flying Fortress crew at a time in the Second World War when only one crew in four completed a tour of duty.

Previous to these five novels, I wrote a critically acclaimed trio of stories set in the early 19th Century about boy sailor Sam Witchall: Powder MonkeyPrison Ship, and Battle Fleet.

Please see the heading ‘Schools and Festivals’ below, if you would like me to visit your school to talk about my books.

About me

I've worked in publishing for thirty years. I went freelance in 1999 after eight years with Usborne, where I was a senior editor. Before that I worked for Time-Life, BBC Books, the Science Museum and the National Sound Archive.

History is my specialist subject but I also enjoy writing about natural history, science, geography, in fact almost anything, apart from golf and mechanical engineering. I have a shamefully encyclopaedic knowledge of popular music, and have presented occasional programmes on local radio station WCR 101.8 FM.

I’ve written over 60 books for UK publishers. Most of them have been published in the United States, Commonwealth countries, Europe and elsewhere. If you’d like to follow up what I did before Powder Monkey I could recommend any of the books from Usborne’s Newspaper History series (such as the Egyptian Echo and Roman Record ). These mix historical fact with spoof adverts and rabid tabloid journalism and have been a success with both adults and younger readers. Usborne’s True Stories series are real-life-adventure page-turners and two of them have been shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Award.

More recently I’ve written two new illustrated books on the World Wars for Usborne: The Story of the Second World War (2012) which was shortlisted for the School Library Association Information Book Award, and the Story of the First World War.

Write your own adventure storiesI also had great fun with Write Your Own Adventure Stories (2015), a guide to exactly what it says in the title.

I grew up in Chester and escaped to read History at London University (Goldsmiths’ College 1975-1978). After 15 years in London, I moved to Wolverhampton, where I live with my wife and daughter. I also play with a variety of bands in the pubs and clubs of the West Midlands. (Please see music page for more details.)

Schools and Festivals

Park Community School
With pupils at Park Community School, Barnstaple, which I visited as part of Appledore Book Festival.

I enjoy schools visits, festivals and library conferences. I’ve talked about my books on Radio 4, in schools all over the UK, and in Europe, South Africa and Australia. I’ve also appeared at the Edinburgh, Cheltenham and Hay Book Festivals.

Over the summer of 2011 I visited Western Australia to be writer in residence at Christ Church Grammar School, in Perth. In 2015 I visited South Africa to teach in four schools and talk at a library conference. Closer to home, I have also worked as writer in residence with St Peter’s Collegiate School in Wolverhampton and Summer Fields Prep School, Oxford.

Over 2011 and 2012 I helped devise and present Warwick University’s Young Researchers Programme – designed to get school pupils interested in writing, researching, and ultimately, going to University.

I give illustrated talks on the following books:

  • Powder Monkey. Sam Witchall and the terrifying life of a boy in Nelson’s navy.
  • Ausländer. Peter Bruck and life for teenagers in Nazi Germany.
  • Sektion 20. Alex Ostermann and life for teenagers in Communist East Berlin.
  • Eleven Eleven. Boy soldiers and the final day of the First World War
  • The Real Big Brother. Life in Nazi and Communist Berlin, based on my Auslander and Sektion 20 books.
  • Red Shadow. Set in Stalin’s Russia over the summer of 1941.
  • Bomber. The precarious life of aircrews in the Second World War.

I also give a general introduction to my books entitled Blood Sweat and Tears – where writers get their ideas.

I also take Primary and Secondary school writing workshops on the following subjects:

  • Turning Fact into Fiction
  • First Steps in Creative Writing
  • Keeping Your Reader Reading
  • Creating Characters
  • A Sense of Place
  • Writing for Newspapers.

Park Community School
Taking a writing class with pupils at Manor High, Oadby.

Recently I have been taking creative writing workshops linked to my book ‘Eleven Eleven’, set on the final day of The First World War. This has worked well and producing some excellent imaginative writing.

Between 2001-2005 I taught a course in writing children's picture books at the Midlands Arts Centre (mac) in Birmingham, and several of my students went on to be published. I now take workshops for festivals or writers’ groups on creative writing, writing children’s books and historical fiction.

Please contact me directly at if you would like to know more about my school talks and workshops.


I am represented by Charlie Viney of The Viney Agency.
T: +44 (0)20 7732 3331 
M: +44 (0)7734 072044.

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