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Monday, August 1, 2011

Interview with author Tom Blubaugh

Please welcome author, Tom Blubaugh to New Life Dialogue and leave your comments. Tom's newest book The Night of the Cossack is in the top 50 on Amazon for action/adventure.

Tom is a freelance writer living in Southwest Missouri with Barbara, his wife. They have six children and fourteen grandchildren. Tom has written non-fiction most of his adult life, but has recently written a historical fiction titled Night of the Cossack, published by Bound by Faith Publishers. This is Tom’s first novel. He co-wrote a devotional journal in 2009 for Barbour Publishing titled The Great Adventure. His other writings include articles for a denominational magazine and an insurance publication. He also self-published a book, Behind the Scenes of the Bus Ministry in 1974.

Please introduce yourself, then tell us how you got started writing.

I am a father of six and grandfather of fourteen. Barbara, my wife, and I live in southwest Missouri in the Ozark hills just north of Branson. (I mention Branson because it is very well known.) I am retired so Monday can come on any day of the week without notice.
I started writing poetry at the age of fourteen. I was influenced by the advent of rock and roll and I had visions of my poems turning into lyrics for Elvis. If you can picture John Travolta in Grease you’ll see me. I’m not saying I was as good looking as he was, but I was that type of character. This poem to lyrics thing didn’t work out. I still listen to ‘oldies but goodies’ and dream of having my own band and singing. In reality, I can’t sing Happy Birthday and stay in tune. I continued to write poems, mostly to girls in my class. I haven’t written any poetry since high school. At age thirty, I started writing nonfiction.

What one issue ignites your passion? Does your passion fuel your writing? What would you do with your life if you didn't write?

Putting my thoughts into words and seeing people understand and accept what I’m saying or enjoy what I’m saying. It’s what my writing is all about. I’ve always expressed myself better through writing. My deepest prayers are written to the Lord. I would probably be a photographer.

Who or what most influenced your knowledge of the writing craft?

My mother wrote a lot. She was always sending articles into magazines. She really got excited when she got a rejection letter from Loretta Young.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?

When my first article was published in a denominational magazine. Up until then I wrote poetry, which, girls loved, and I self-published a book for my ministry. I didn’t consider any of that really made me a writer. When I actually saw my writing in a magazine, I believed I could write.

Where do your story and character ideas come from?

From my life, for the most part. One day I was out working in the yard and Barbara, my wife, called me to the phone. It was one of our granddaughters with a question. I answered her and I went back to work in the yard. Within forty-five minutes, in my mind, I wrote a children’s story based on her question and my answer. I distributed the story to all of our grandchildren for Christmas. I has become a part of my legacy never to be forgotten. Another time, our newly acquired black cat got into the duct work in our house and provided me with another children’s story—in fact, probably a series. Our minds are awesome creations.

In my newly released historical novel, the protagonist is based on my maternal grandfather. The rest of the characters are figments of my imagination.

Describe your special or favorite writing spot.

My office is a 15 x 15 room with walls full of meaningful pictures and collectibles. It’s the one place in the world where I can be completely alone with my thoughts. Through my computer, I have access to all the answers to the research I do and I can talk to people all over the world. This is where my thoughts are transcribed. Sitting on a swing on a patio in a back yard that is filled with flowers, trees, garden, birds, squirrels and butterflies is a place where I can really get in touch with God and thoughts develop.

Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?

More than one, but the most significant one involved my becoming homeless in 1998. It completely changed my course in life, how I think, my perception of life, myself and ultimately God.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading? (Book recommendations very welcome!)

I like Christian fiction –action/adventure and historical, in particular westerns. James Scott Bell and Louis L’Amour are my favorites. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think the Left Behind series collectively would be my favorite.

Let’s talk about your debut novel, Night of the Cossack (Bound by Faith Publishers, April 2011). Please tell us a little about it.

This is my first work of fiction, which took me five years to write. I have found writing fiction is much more difficult than writing nonfiction. It’s a story about a 16 year old who is kidnapped by a Cossack soldier in 1898 and is forced to be a Cossack himself.

What is a Cossack?

Cossacks were members of several peasant groups of Russian and Polish descent. They lived in autonomous communal settlements, especially in the Ukraine, until the early 20th century. In return for special privileges, they served in the cavalry under the czars. They were well known for their horsemanship. They raided villages for supplies, women and young men to increase or replenish their ranks. Eventually they became a part of the Russian army.

Where did you get the idea for the book?

It’s about my maternal grandfather. Both of my grandfathers died before I was born. I had a little information about my maternal grandfather. I wanted to know him so I started researching Russian history and found the information I had was fact. I began writing about him with the purpose of creating my own grandfather. Then I started writing for my six children and fourteen grandchildren. I let my wife read it and she thought it might be publishable.

Is this book self-published? If not, list the name of the publisher.

No. It was published Bound by Faith Publishers.
There are two author recommendations. Here are both:

Tom Blubaugh takes the reader to a neglected time and place in this touching exploration of his own roots. An encouraging story that should inspire appreciation of one's own family heritage.
-Author J.B. Cheaney, My Friend the Enemy

In Night of the Cossack, Tom Blubaugh has created an interesting fictional account of a young boy facing a series of tough life-or-death decisions when forced into the life of a Cossack soldier. Readers are sure to be entertained by this tale of Nathan Hertzfield's life, his struggle to maintain the upstanding character and morality set forth by his mother.
-Author Michelle Buckman, Christy award finalist

What two or three things would you do differently if you were starting your publishing career today?

I would work diligently at building my platform starting the day I began writing and not wait until the book was being published. I thought I was fairly well known on Facebook and locally having been in business for twenty-five years. It wasn’t enough. Whether you are published or self-published, you need a deep platform to market and sell your book.

What one issue makes you struggle the most as an author? How do you handle it

Getting my book before the public. I know if they’ll read the first chapter, they’ll buy the book. I do everything I can to make this happen through blog interviews, Facebook, Twitter, my own blog, book signing, public speaking in middle and high schools, speaking to writer’s groups and anywhere else I can speak, praying and trusting the Lord.

When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?

Popcorn. It’s crunchy and it’s a whole grain. I pop it the old fashion way—in a big pan on the stove. If we go out to celebrate—BBQ ribs at Cheddar’s.
How can readers find the book and where can they find you on the Internet?

At the present time, if you do a Google search for Tom Blubaugh, nearly 90,000 results show up. This is hard for me to believe with my last name seemingly not that common. Not all of are me. One in particular was recently convicted of fraud—definitely not me.

I can be found at http://tomblubaugh.com . http://nightofthecossack.com also feeds into my site. I’m on Facebook here and here. I can also be found on Twitter @tomblubaugh and I have a blog. My book is available on my site, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?

I’ve always had a fantasy of playing the guitar and singing. I can’t do either. One day I was walking in the park with some 5 and 6 year olds from Sunday School. I started singing Victory in Jesus. This little blonde girl looked up at me and said, “Bad singing brother Tom, bad singing.” Out of the mouth of babes.  In the mid 70s I did have a contemporary Gospel band. I wrote lyrics and they wrote the music. I was a lay preacher at the time. We were ahead of our time with drums, bass, rhythm guitars, keyboards and sound system. We overwhelmed the small churches we performed in with our sound system and contemporary songs. We did reach a lot of youth with our frank, no nonsense testimonies.

Do you have an all time favorite book?

This is a tough question for me. I was not encouraged to read as a child and I was an out of control teenager. The class I disliked the most was English. I didn’t know who made the rules or what right they had to make them. I would go back and apologize to my English teachers if I could. When they required book reports, I read the first and last sentences of paragraphs, enough to get the gist of the story, and wrote a report. Now I’m catching up on reading. At this point I suppose the Left Behind series. I have to look at them as one book because I liked them all.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

I’ll have to take the definition of way out for my answer. When I was fifteen I was swimming in a river with a bunch of buddies. We were wondering how deep the river was. I decided to find out by hauling a large rock on an inner tube to the middle of the river. I wrapped my arms around the rock and pulled off the tube. I rode it down until it got so dark and cold it scared me. I had a vision of a large fish waiting for me to drop into its mouth. I let go of the rock and I didn’t think I was ever going to break the water for air. I never found out how deep the river was and I decided I didn’t care.

Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you. (and why it's special)

I spent a lot of time reading about how to find God’s will for my life. I could never figure it out until I read Prov. 16:9—A man’s mind plans his way, but God directs his steps. A few days later I read Prov. 19:21—In a man’s heart are many ideas, but God’s purpose will prevail. From then on I planned and let God direct. I call it my scripture sandwich—I walk between these two verses.

What advice would you give to someone just beginning to write and wanting to publish?

Don’t wait another minute to start promoting your name and what you’re doing. A deep platform is extremely important if you want to see your work do well. I don’t know how the writers did it before the computer.