Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Interview with Thomas Block, author of "Captain"

Find out more about author, and pilot, Thomas Block, through this interview about his latest novel, "Captain"

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”, “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 and also into handsome full-sized (6? by 9? Trade Paperback) printed versions.

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.

His latest book is the suspense/thriller novel, Captain.

What inspired you to write your first book?

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 - matter of fact, the major plotting and storyline for his 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, 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

What books have influenced your life the most?

My life was involved with aviation and, in particular, airline flying from when I was very young until I retired as an International airline captain a dozen years ago, when I was taking widebody jets back and forth to Europe several times every month. Because of that, my greatest inspirations were the airliner stories from Ernst K. Gann (“Fate is the Hunter”, “The High and the Mighty”, “Island in the Sky”) and other great aviation tales from Guy Murchie, Neville Shute and Antoine de Saint-Expurey. These books not only ‘set the tone’ for my subsequent airline career, but they also greatly influenced me years later as a writer and budding novelist since they were the sorts of stories that I wanted to write.

What are your current projects?

One the things I developed right after finishing my latest novel was the Captain Reader Survey (you can find it through our website at, or directly at 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.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

A novelist could tinker with their creation forever and always find something to ‘change’ - and with our modern publishing technology (ebooks and even print books) we could go back and change things. But Captain has been ‘put to bed’ because it turned into the story that I wanted to write, and most (but, of course, not every) reader has found it to be very exciting, engaging and most everything that was stated on the jacket cover. That being the case, no, I don’t want to change anything in Captain.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

When a reviewer or reader is negative about something that the writer specifically designed and created and was pleased with how it fit into the story, those sorts of criticisms are difficult to understand and accept. You just shake your head and move on. Fortunately, Captain hasn’t seen too much of that with most readers and reviewers saying that the novel was certainly a good read with lots action, intrigue, adventure and true-to-life emotions.

What has been the best compliment?

Getting a sort-of ‘wow’ response from a reader, or a specific response to something that you were particularly happy with. Here are a few examples (there are many more; go to our website at to see a collection of reviews and reader responses):

“The Viktor Frankl quote stirred my soul.”

“Read it in 3 sittings and LOVED it!”

“I'm a B767 Captain and was in Rome when I started reading!! WOW! You had me...Well done!!!”

“An excellent job! If I had to give Captain a rating between 1 and 10, to be perfectly honest, I would give it a 13+.”

“The worst thing about this book is that I am finished. Captain is one of the best thrillers I have read in a long time. I found myself slowing down just so the story would last. It is a roller coaster ride way above the clouds.”

“If you haven't bought Captain, you're missing out. Very exciting and can't be put down.”

Do you have any advice to give to 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 share?

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!

About the Writer

Novel Noise is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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1 comments on Interview with Thomas Block, author of "Captain"

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By melanie jean juneau on October 06, 2012 at 02:42 pm

Wonderful advice for new, green writers like myself. Even better advice for readers as well. "We’re all in this to have a good time; let me know if you did!"

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