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Exclusive interview with Thomas Block author of Captain

First off, Thomas, I'd like to thank you for taking time for this interview, I'm sure you are busy with all you

1) 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

2) 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.

3) 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, 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 (and a companion attention to detail) 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.

4) 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 Star Wars) 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.

5) 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.

6) 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.

7) 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, again thank you for your time and enjoy your upcoming Florida winter!