* I have had the privilege of befriending Tom Blubaugh, the author of, “Night of the Cossack.” What follows is a very interesting look into how the books came about, and some looks back into Tom’s life. This is a must read. I particularly like his thoughts on the importance of joining a critique group.
Thank you Tom for allowing me to talk to you.
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 his age of 69. Tom says it’s never too late. He is now writing a sequel.
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 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.
You’ve been a speaker for more than twenty-five years. What sparked your writing journey?
Although I was a speaker, I was writing along the way. I had some articles published in company and denomination magazines. I self-published a book back in the mid 70’s. Nonfiction writing has always been a part of my adult life.
How does your faith play into your writing?
Everything I do is an act of worship. I learned this from Julia Cameron in the Artist’s Way. Until then I thought only spiritual things could be a worship. My favorite verses are Prov. 16:9 and 19:21.
As a writer of faith, what is your philosophy on marketing?
Great question. I believe my talents come from the Lord and that I’m to do everything to the best of my ability, which includes marketing. I think He expects me to do all I can do and He’ll do what I can’t.
What Makes This Story 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 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.
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.
What are the keys to success for a writer?
Have a passion other than making a name for yourself and money. Never give up on your story. Everyone has one, but most don’t write it. If it doesn’t ignite your passion, it won’t excite others.
Tell us about your future projects?
I’m thinking about that now. Everyone who has read my novel asks about a sequel. I’ve taken the summer off because I missed last summer due to my writing. However, I’m still missing the summer because of heat—107 degrees today. I will continue building my author platform. I enjoy public speaking so I’m working with elementary, middle and high school creative writing groups and classes. When it turns cold, I’ll stay in my office and probably work on the sequel.
Can you tell me a little bit about your newest book?
Both of my grandfathers died before I was born. I knew very little about either of them. One of the things I knew about my material grandfather is that he was a Jewish Russian Cossack soldier. This always intrigued me. I took seven facts of him and wove them into a historical fiction book.
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.
The Night of the Cossack looks like it required quite a bit of research. How did you go about that? Did you encounter any obstacles?
Night of the Cossack did require a lot of research. I worked hard at it and took my first fifty pages to a Russian History professor at a local university and asked her to read it. She did and told me there wasn’t a word of truth in it, which really threw me. At the time, I was tutoring English as a second language and there were some students from Russia and Ukraine. One of them read it and told me it was all true. I told her I was confused. She asked me where the professor was educated and I told her in Russia. She told me that was the problem—that there is one version of history taught in the universities and there was the true history written by those who escaped and immigrated to the USA. After that, I continued researching and writing.
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.
Share with us your journey to publication?
I wrote poetry at age fifteen. There were always ads in comic books about turning poetry into song lyrics. I was really into rock and roll, sideburns and duck tails. I had a dream of my poems becoming lyrics for Elvis, Conway and others. I would always get a packet back with a letter telling me if I’d send money, etc. I didn’t have money so the dream died. My writing stopped until I was twenty-eight, when I became a Christian. I began writing nonfiction and I self-published a book for my ministry in 1974 and sold it at seminars. A few years later, I was published by two denominational magazines and a business magazine. In business I wrote newsletters and then text for websites. It wasn’t until my mother passed in 2005 that I started writing fiction. As I stated earlier, both of my grandfathers died before I was born. I became a grandfather in 1998 and I didn’t have a role model to follow. The hole my grandfathers would have filled kept getting bigger. I didn’t know much about either of them, but one thing I knew—my maternal grandfather was a Russian Cossack soldier. This intrigued me enough to start me on a path of research. The Russian history of the Cossacks grabbed my interest and I started creating my grandfather for myself and my heirs. I joined an online Christian writer’s group and was encouraged to pursue publication. I found a local critique group and joined. They agreed I was on to something. When I was close to completing my manuscript, a friend called me and wanted help with a website. He and his wife were starting an independent Christian publishing company. I didn’t think anything about it because I wasn’t writing a Christian novel. My grandfather was a Jew. During the process of developing their website, they read the first chapter of my book which was on my website. They wanted to read more and decided they would like to publish the story. This, of course, is not the usual process, but it was God’s way.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
There are several things I could say about writing, but if you want your book read by readers other than your friends and family, work diligently a build a platform. Not after you’ve written your manuscript, but from the very beginning. People need to know who you are before they will want to read what you have written.
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.
Tom’s new blog: http://www.tnblu.com/theWriteTrailBlog
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.