I would like to thank Tom for allowing me to share this interview with you. His story truly touched my heart and reminded me that nothing is impossible with God. Tom's life was headed nowhere fast when God touched his life. I hope his story inspires you as much as it did me.
Tom Blubaugh 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.
Tom started writing poetry at the age of fourteen. His vision of turning them into lyrics for rock and roll songs for popular artists didn’t develop. He considers writing to be a God-given talent and feels led to develop it. His first novel was published at the age of 69. Tom says it’s never too late. He is now writing a sequel.
Please introduce yourself, then tell us how you got started writing.
My first writing was done when I was fourteen. I wrote poems. 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 continued to write poems, mostly to girls in my class. At age thirty, I started writing nonfiction.
Tell me about yourself.
I’m a very transparent person. I have no secrets about myself. I’ve lived a tough life having been sexually abused when I was twelve years old. I was out of control and a felon by the time I was fifteen—I had been stripped of any trust or respect for authority, including God although I was afraid of Him. Fortunately, I joined the Navy for four years and they had boundaries I knew better than to cross. The Lord revealed Himself to me when I was twenty-eight and I became a Christian. My life has been on an upward path from that day—Dec. 13, 1970. All of these are reasons why I direct my writing toward the YA genre. I didn’t plan to write to this genre in the beginning, it seems to be a subconscious thing.
What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
What makes it unique actually works against me in determining the genre. Years ago I heard that if a speaker talks to a ten year old, she’ll reach the whole audience. I never forgot this. When I was in business I used to use concepts to show people what I was saying rather than try to educate them with technical language. I was also told in an English Comp. class to write like I talk. Night of the Cossack is classified by most—a YA novel. I consider it historical fiction. I had readers from 12 to 86 read and enjoy it—more adults than YA’s by far. It frustrated me that it is considered YA because I was afraid adults wouldn’t read it. I still have that fear.
What is the best writing (or life) advice you have ever heard or wished you had followed? Why?
Join a critique group. This scared me. I never took criticism well. I found out that the group I joined were caring and sensitive. Most of them were published in one form or another and their goal was to see me published. I love having my writing critiqued now. It’s healthy and I’ve learned so much.
What do you enjoy most about being a published author?
Everything, but I know that’s too broad of an answer. Most of all I like the open door I have into middle and high schools to talk to young people who are interested in writing. I’m very transparent about my teen years in hopes I’m speaking to someone like I was so they know making a mistake doesn’t have to ruin their life. Next, the challenge of marketing and the fellowship with other authors and writers.
How does your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
It’s a deep part of my life and is a part of my writing. When you read Night of the Cossack, you’ll see how the protagonist’s faith is weaved into the story. Everything I write has a spiritual aspect.
Have you received a particularly memorable reader response or peer honor? Please share.
Two, in fact. I received a letter from a twelve year old boy who told me he read Night of the Cossack in one sitting and that it was the best book he ever read. Later, his mother put a review on amazon.com stating that her son raved so much about the book that she decided she better read it and gave me an outstanding five star review. I also received a letter from an eighty-six year old woman who is Jewish. She said she thoroughly enjoyed the book, but wept through a lot of it thinking about her own ancestors. Both touched my heart.
Tell us about a "God incident" related to your writing.
This truly is a God thing. I wasn’t sure I was going to publish the story because I was creating a legacy for my children and grandchildren. Both my grandfathers died before I was born so I never had the experience of having that role model. Now I have fourteen grandchildren and am winging it. When I was nearly done with the manuscript a friend called me and wanted me to help him set up website. I met with him and his wife. They told me they were starting an independent Christian publishing company. I didn’t think anything about it because I wasn’t writing the book from a Christian perspective since my grandfather was a Jew. In the process of helping them, I showed them my website. They picked up the fact that I had the first chapter of my book on the site for reading. They didn’t say anything, but when they got home they read it (I found this out later). They called me and said they’d like to read some more of the story, so I sent them a couple more chapters. They then asked to read the entire manuscript after which they wanted to meet with me and my wife, Barbara. During that meeting they asked to publish the story. Not your normal publishing story, but I certainly know who is in charge.
What have you published and what is your current project?
I self-published a book in 1974 for my ministry, Behind the Scenes in the Bus Ministry. I also wrote some articles for denomination magazines and a business magazine. In 2009 I co-wrote a devotional journal for Barbour Publishing under contract. On April 6th, my first attempt at fiction, Night of the Cossack, was published by Bound by Faith Publishers. At this time, I’m working hard at marketing my name and book and trying to enjoy some of the summer since I missed summer last year due to writing. In the fall I’ll continue with a sequel to my novel. I also have some children’s books in my mix.
Is there a story behind this book?
Yes. Both of my grandfathers died before I was born. I knew very little about either of them. I did know two things about my paternal grandfather, he was a Jew and he was a Russian Cossack soldier*. This always intrigued me. The older I got, the more I longed for a grandfather especially when I became a grandfather—I now have fourteen grandchildren. When my mother died I was left with only one relative on her side of the family who is older than I. I decided it was time to create my own grandfather and develop a heritage for myself and my heirs.
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.
What was your greatest roadblock in writing this book and others, and how did you overcome it?
My grammar skills. I was a terrible English student in school. I regret that deeply now. If it wasn’t for my critique group I would have been in serious trouble.
Did you find anything particularly difficult in writing this book?
Most of my adult life I’ve written nonfiction. Writing fiction, to me, is much more difficult.
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.
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 the results 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.
Besides entertainment, what do you hope readers will take away from it?
Life is all about choices. Some things are not our choice, but we still have choices to make in the midst of it. God directs us in everything and His purpose always prevails. This is not a story about a Christian—the protagonist is a Jew. Nevertheless it is about faith.
Do you have a nugget of writing advice that has completely changed how you view of writing?
Writing is a group thing. Surround yourself with a good critique group. One of the most valuable things I learned is this—if one person says a part needs to be rewritten, it may be just their opinion; if two say a part needs to be rewritten, you should take a good look at it; if three or more say a part needs to be rewritten—rewrite it.
Any last words?
There is a great need for clean, wholesome literature for young adults.
Thank you for interviewing me, Theresa.