On a Book Tour: A good Author Interview
I’ve done a great many book tours over the years, including a few radio/TV/newspaper mega-tours that included not only most of the U.S., but also England, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand. Different parts of these tours have run the range from great to horrible, although the overall experience was always memorable! Now, in the era of Internet, so much is done online and book tours are no exception. For Captain, we’ve launched with several online venues that have included book reviews, giveaways, author guest spots and author interviews. Here is one of those interviews:
Thomas Block Interview, author of ‘Captain’
- Where are you from?
I was born in New York City, grew up on Long Island very near to Kennedy Airport (which was Idlewild back then). I was hired as a copilot for Mohawk Airlines in 1964 and based at LaGuardia/Kennedy until moving to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1971. After many years there, I eventually moved to Florida.
- What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?
I’ve got lots of favorite quotes and, in fact, I like to use them at various spots in my novels. After all, why try to improve on something that has basically ‘said it all’. One particularly pithy quote that certainly meets the requirement of having ‘said it all’ is this succinct thought from noted psychologist Abraham Maslow: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” I like that quotation so much that I used it in Captain to lead off a section where it more than applied to what was about to happen.
- What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?
From all I’ve seen, I’d have to agree with the cliché that ‘Life’s a journey, not a destination’. That being the case, the entire journey has been basically a satisfying trip for me (don’t get me wrong; I have bad days, too – but as the old song goes, “…too few to mention…”). On the skills side, over the years I developed myself (and with lots of help from others) into an airline pilot, a magazine writer, a novelist, and now into a ranch owner and horse-involved person. All of those directions have been satisfying and meaningful personal journeys, so I might as well be proud of all of them – especially since I can’t changes any of what has already become ancient history!
- Since you have retired, what do you miss most about working as a pilot?
When I speak with the folks who are still flying airliners these days, I realize that the career has turned into something that isn’t what I was looking for back when I set myself on that path and goal. Captain has exactly that theme as one of the underlying issues running through it.
- When and how did you decide to write your first book?
I’ve always enjoyed playing with stories in my head, and I had done a good deal of writing in high school. Once I got settled into the beginnings of my airline flying career, I saw the opportunity to get back to writing again – something productive to do on those long airline layovers. I began with aviation magazines, but then worked myself over to the novels side of the writing business.
- Do you have any author influences?
Nelson DeMille and I have been best friends since we were small kids (7 and 5 years old; Nelson is much older than me!), and we basically developed together as writers with each of us helping the other with their projects throughout our writing careers. Once Nelson finished (with some assistance from me) “By the Rivers of Babylon” which was his breakthrough novel, he then helped me with my first novel “Mayday”. Nearly 20 years later we decided to do a co-author rewrite of ‘Mayday’, and publish it with both our names on it. That version was bought as the CBS Movie of the Week that aired in October, 2005. For all those reasons and more, Nelson DeMille has been my biggest single ‘author influence’.
- What is your all-time favorite book (that you didn’t write)?
Too many for me to name just one; here are a few: Ernest K. Gann’s “Fate is the Hunter” and “Island in the Sky”, Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove”, Nelson DeMille’s “The Lion’s Game” – but that’s cheating a little, since I worked with him on that novel from initial development on through “The End”(But I just loved what Nelson did with the storyline and how he brought all our ideas together to create a very clever finished package). Some of the Robert B. Parker “Spenser” books, particularly the earlier ones.
- What is the best way to overcome writers block for you?
For me, ‘writer’s block’ is when you hit a point where you just don’t know where to take the story next. If I bang up against that solid granite a few times, I’ll just write around it knowing that down the road I can revisit that area and revise. I like to kid myself that I can write a novel in one pass and not have to go back except for some minor adjustments, but reality has made me go back to do lots of revisions.
- What was your favorite part of the book to write and why?
What a great question! There were a number of little ‘scenes’ in my head that just had to occur, and whenever I was approaching one of them I was really buoyed up about getting to it and through it. Sometimes they were entire sections (such as when Lee and Tina were sitting down to talk), and other times it was just a quick line or a character impression (such as the Captain Jack moment toward the end of the book). It’s those fun times that more than keeps you going and motivated to keep pressing on.
- What was the hardest part about writing ‘Captain’?
Since I wanted the novel to be extremely accurate from a piloting/flying point of view, making certain that all the zillions of details that go into flight planning a Trans-Atlantic flight (especially one that had these many problems) were lining up just as they should. That stuff took LOTS of visits to the book’s details and my North Atlantic plotting charts.
- What’s more important, characters or plot?
Nelson DeMille is going to want to poison my coffee because this is the one area of writing that we’ve always disagreed on. I’m a ‘plot determines character’ person, while he comes from exactly the other direction. That’s probably the secret how we’ve managed to work well together all these years – we each bring a different perspective to the book party.
- Do you have any upcoming books or projects in the works?
One the things I developed right after finishing the novel was the Captain Reader Survey (you can find it through our website at www.ThomasBlockNovels.com, or directly at www.SurveyMonkey.com/S/Captain). On it, one of the questions (and any reader who takes the survey can see the answer tally when they finish) is whether readers would like to see a sequel of Captain and, if so, which of the characters. So far, 83.4% have said yes – and you can see which characters by going to the survey! So something along those lines is what the readers want, which makes it into what I want, too.
- Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Write it your way. That’s no guarantee that you’ll create a real likeable product by going that direction, but if you try to force a style/direction that isn’t yours, that’s a guarantee that you’ll fail.
- Is there anything else you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Enjoy the story! It was fun to write, and many who have read Captain have said that it was an engaging and exciting ride for them, too. Take the Reader Survey, and go to our website where you can email your thoughts on what you’ve read. We’re all in this to have a good time; let me know if you did!