Thursday, December 13, 2012

Captain by Thomas Block: Interview:PUYB Tour Stop


With your experience with flying and writing for the aviation market, when did you first decide to write for the public at large and fictionalize your writing?

That came from working with my childhood friend and bestselling novelist Nelson DeMille. But I was actually a ‘professional writer’ before he was, because I was working for FLYING Magazine, doing monthly columns and features, when Nelson returned from the army in the early 70’s. He decided that he wanted to become a novelist, so I began helping Nelson with all his earlier works - which was my first experience of working with novels. Matter of fact, the major plotting and storyline for Nelson DeMille’s big breakthrough novel ‘By the Rivers of Babylon’ was written by the two of us in a Uhaul truck while taking my furniture to western Pennsylvania after the airline I flew for moved our crew base from New York to Pittsburgh.

In 1978 I was ready to try some of my own fiction and, with Nelson’s help and introductions, I signed a contract to produce my first airplane action/adventure novel Mayday - which went on to be an International bestseller. In 1997, Nelson and I took the out-of-print Mayday, revised and updated it together, then republished the novel with both our names as co-authors. That version became a CBS Movie of the Week in October, 2005, and is still readily available from Nelson DeMille’s extensive backlist.

During the 80’s I wrote five additional novels that had a good run of success throughout the world. For various reasons I didn’t find myself writing any novels through the 90’s, although I did do even more work with Nelson DeMille through that period and well into the new century. With all of my old novels long out of print (excepting Mayday), I realized that with the dawning of this new era of publishing for both print editions and ebooks, that I could go back to those old novels (the rights to those works had since reverted back to me), extensively revise and update them, and then send them back out to see the light of day once again -- now dressed up in their modern-day clothing. All of these novels were basically airplane-theme action/adventure, although they ran a gamut from hypersonic airlines on through Airships and even a detective story. You can see all of the details of these novels -- which continue to sell nicely and receive good reviews -- at our website at

 If you had to choose a first love would it be flying or writing? And why would this be your first love?

Tough question, because you love different things to varying degrees at different points in your life. My experiences with airplanes and, in particular, with airliners, was an enormous part of my life for nearly 50 years, but the ‘active’ portion of that part of my life is now behind me. My writing has been a constant for me for an even longer period, and I’ve become more focused on my professional writing as the years have gone by. If the definition of ‘first love’ means the love that literally comes ‘first’, then it was unquestionably flying - but if you are asking which one has meant the most to me, then it’s a toss-up.

Of your various titles, which would you say draws the most on your own experiences?

I realized that with the dawning of this new era of publishing for both print editions and ebooks, that I could go to my older novels (the rights to those works had since reverted back to me), extensively revise and update them, and then send them back out to see the light of day once again -- now dressed up in their modern-day clothing, and I could add more personal observations and insights than I had when I wrote them originally. All of those novels were basically airplane-theme action/adventure, although they ran a gamut from hypersonic airlines on through Airships and even a detective story. You can see all of the details of these novels -- which continue to sell nicely and receive good reviews -- at our website at

But in the back of my mind I now had a new story; a story that needed to be told in what some might call an older way, and with emphasis on character and plot, motivation and timing. As always, it would be an aviation-theme action/adventure -- but unlike many modern stories, I refused to pump in gratuitous violence, sex and mayhem. To me, so many modern novels (and especially movies!) are hardly more than comic books with storylines that don’t hang together and with endless and brutish snapping from scene to scene as if they expected that the audience had an attention span that could only be measured in the smallest portions possible.

So I wrote Captain with a beginning, middle and (what I wanted to become a very satisfying) ending. It is a story about what happens to the crew and passengers on a particular flight from Rome, Italy to New York when unthinkable things begin to happen to their airliner. It is full of characters that readers have told me that they loved -- and also loved to hate. It is an action/adventure tale with a backdrop of real emotions. It is a novel that slowly moves from scene to scene -- but at a fast pace. Is that sort of mix possible? Look at the movies Casablanca and Dances With Wolves, or the novel Lonesome Dove. That’s what I was trying to do with Captain, and a number of reviewers and general readers have told me that, to them, Captain is a powerhouse of emotions while it is simultaneously packed with a very high level of action, intrigue and adventure. From the standpoint of my own experiences, Captain has drawn on them the most.

    Do you have a favorite title among your books or are you the like the perfect parent and they    are all your favorites?

While they are all ‘action/adventure’ novels that have an aviation theme to them, they are all quite different. For example, Forced Landing is a bigger-than-life story (like a James Bond or Starwars) with an aircraft carrier, a submarine, a hijacked airliner, and packed with lots of suitable characters and action. Open Skies is my only first-person novel, and it is told through the eyes of a former airline pilot who is now a private investigator and has been hired by an airline to check out some recent events. Captain, of course, is my most recent novel and - to quote the jacket copy - my ‘most ambitious, intricate and action-packed aviation tale yet’. Like a perfect parent would say, I love all my kids and they’re all measurably different from each other.

The Prologue of Captain definitely draws one immediately into intense and agonizing action, have you ever experienced a similar situation where you had take off in a dangerous situation?

Well, certainly not to the degree we see in Captain! That’s one of the nicest parts of being able to write an action/adventure novel - you can defy death on a regular basis while doing it in perfect safety.

What is your favorite genre of book and how do your favorite authors compare to your writing style? (Bragging is okay!)

I like action/adventure and plot oriented fiction. While it is an argument that goes back to when novel writing and storytelling first began, from my point of view it is plot that determines character. Others (including my great friend Nelson DeMille) say it exactly the other way. I like to get a situation (storyline) going, and then see how the characters will be affected by it and how they’ll handle it. Captain is very much along those lines, as are all of my other novels.

Naturally, I’m automatically drawn to other novelists who have slanted a particular storyline in the same manner that I would have, although I do have to say that I can readily appreciate a really good example of most any approach to the art and craft of writing and storytelling.

As a writer is there a question that you wish someone would ask you about your writing but never has? What would this question be and how would you answer this unasked question?

While I can’t say ‘never’, a great question that I’m very seldom asked is what was my favorite part of the novel to write. For Captain (and, actually, all of my novels) 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 (in Captain, 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 scene toward the end of the book). It’s those fun times that more than keeps you going and motivated to keep pressing on, and it’s great to be able to share that experience with the readers.

Thomas Block has created 'Captain' - his most ambitious, intricate and action-packed aviation tale yet . It is a chilling and all-too-real story about a routine Trans-Atlantic airline flight that suddenly turns absolutely insane. In the doomed airliner's cockpit, inside the passenger cabin and on the ground, a complex array of characters have been propelled at jet speed into a sudden and frantic race for survival.


'Captain' is about the individual and collective struggles of each of these men and women as they attempt to deal with and ultimately fight against the odds and circumstances that are stacked against them. 'Captain' is a novel that pits man against man while also pitting man against machine. It is a story about the need for human judgments, hard-learned experiences, gut feelings and unbridled perseverance in an effort to rise up against a world where the strict adherence to written rules, regulations and procedures have been accepted as the norm.


'Captain' is about the way real airline pilots think, feel and react, especially after those giant airliners that they've strapped themselves to have suddenly turned vicious and unpredictable.

Thomas Block has written a number of aviation-oriented novels, many which have gone on to acquire best-seller status in numerous countries. His novel writing began with the publication of "Mayday" in 1979. That novel was rewritten with novelist Nelson DeMille in 1998 and remains on DeMille's extensive backlist. "Mayday" became a CBS Movie of the Week in October, 2005.


Several of the other novels by Block include "Orbit" (a top bestseller in Germany, among other nations), "Airship Nine" (Airship Nine has been described as "Exciting, riveting, high altitude suspense" by none other than thrill-master Stephen King!), "Forced Landing" (also done as a radio serialization drama in Japan), "Skyfall", "Open Skies" and his latest novel, "Captain". Thomas Block is still writing both fiction and non-fiction, and has edited and updated his earlier novels into ebooks in all the major formats.


Block's magazine writing began in 1968 and over the next five decades his work has appeared in numerous publications. He worked 20 years at FLYING Magazine as Contributing Editor, and as Contributing Editor to Plane & Pilot Magazine for 11 years. Block became Editor-at-Large for Piper Flyer Magazine and Cessna Flyer Magazine in 2001. During his long career as an aviation writer he has written on a wide array of subjects that range from involvement with government officials to evaluation reports on most everything that flies.


An airline pilot for US Airways for over 36 years before his retirement in April, 2000, Captain Thomas Block has been a pilot since 1959. Since 2002, he has lived on a ranch in Florida with his wife Sharon where they board, compete and train horses. Visitors are more than welcome to tour the Ranch website by clicking on the following link:


Next Stop
Friday, December 14
Book reviewed at Teena in Toronto


Pump Up Your Book and Thomas Block are teaming up to give you 5 chances to win an Amazon Gift Card!

amazon gift card

Here’s how it works:

Each person will enter this giveaway by following the details below, make sure to read carefully as this one is a little different than some of the others we have done. The Rafflecopter will still be available to be placed on blogs throughout the tour. If your blog isn’t set up to accept the form, we offer another way for you to participate by having people comment on your blog then directing them to where they can fill out the form to gain their entries.
This Amazon Gift Card promotion will run from October 1 – January 13. Five winners will be chosen randomly by Rafflecopter, contacted by email and announced on January 14, 2013.
Each blogger who participates in the Captain virtual book tour is eligible to enter and win.
If you would like to participate, email Tracee at tgleichner(at) Last day to sign up is December 25. What a great way to not only win this fabulous prize, but to gain followers and comments too! Good luck everyone!
Since we’ve always been interested in what our readers have to say, we thought that you might be, too. Go to our website at and look at both the ‘Reader Comments’ and the ‘Reader Reviews’ sections (you can locate them at the bottom of the home page, or listed along the sidebar). Match these review/comments with the same quotation on the raffle entry form, then simply enter the missing words from the end of each sentence (three, four or five words) from that particular reader’s review/comment. That’s it! Now you’re entered in the drawing for the gift certificates from Amazon!
Each Reader can enter the raffle contest one time (only one entry per email address; multiple entries will invalidate all entries from that address). Also, no individual can win more than one prize. To be eligible to win a $25 gift certificate, correctly enter any TWO of the six available Reader quotes. To be eligible to win either a $25 or a $50 gift certificate, correctly enter any FOUR of the six available Reader quotes. To be eligible to win ANY of the gift certificate prizes to be given away at raffle, enter all six of the available Reader quotes AND register a ‘Like’ at both of our Facebook sites:

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