Brian Bloom (Beyond Neanderthal) Shares His Greatest Strength & Weakness

Posted on Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What’s your greatest character strength?
Take your pick. Either:
I have a sense of humour that is sufficiently well developed to enable me to mock myself when I start to take myself too seriously. Humour is a gentle pin for pricking the ego bubble.
Persistence. Like a fox terrier, I’m still holding the bone long after everyone else has gone home.
What’s your weakest character trait?
Take your pick. Either:
I too often say what I think without thinking
Too short a fuse and too blunt when I’m tired or frustrated.
How do you work through self doubt and fear?
I wait patiently until they pass. If I’m not going to take my strengths seriously then I’m certainly not going to take my weaknesses seriously either. We are all unique and we all have something unique to offer the world. The trick is to find out what it is and work within your limitations. There isn’t a man or woman alive who hasn’t made mistakes. The bigger you dare to dream, the larger the mistakes you will inevitably make. I’ve trained my ego not to be afraid of making mistakes. It’s more productive to act and then admit if/when one is wrong, than to sit and do nothing because of doubts and fears. But the flip side is this: I try not to let my successes go to my head.
What writing are you most proud of?
When I was writing my newspaper column, I forecast that Communist China would open its doors to trade with the West. This was at a time when China was still generally regarded as implacably communist. When the doors were finally flung open, I understood more clearly what was driving international affairs. That is what enabled me to write my two novels with clarity of purpose. The reality is this: politicians of today are generally not interested in you and me; they are interested in feathering their own nests. So, if you imagine yourself as a crooked politician and you ask yourself: “what would a crooked politician do under these circumstances” you can cut through all the media hype and garbage and get to the truth. What the opening of China’s markets taught me was that, typically, when a politician stands up in public and proclaims loudly that he is against something, you can probably make a safe bet that he’s actually in favour of it. And now ask yourself: “Why am I prepared to accept this abominable behaviour?” The short answer you will probably give is: “Well, what can I do about it?” Aha! And that’s where my two novels come in. They are not intended to be prescriptive. But they are intended to communicate the principle that the individual is certainly not powerless in today’s world. At the end of the day, the power lies with the people. The politicians and the media work to dumb down the people with sound bites that are often out of context. My novels work to enlighten the people. And, if you understand how things work, then you can draw a line in the sand and say: No More! I don’t believe what’s coming out of your silver tongued mouth. You no longer deserve my vote! Get it right or get out! That article on China’s true intentions – and being subsequently proven correct – was a seminal experience for me.
Can you tell us about your main character?
I have written two related novels. The main character in Beyond Neanderthal is Patrick Gallagher and the main character in The Last Finesse is Luke Sinclair. They are both in their 30s and were close friends when they were at university together in their late teens and early 20s. They both have the same hierarchy of values but their personalities differ at the margin. Patrick is a mining engineer by profession. He is a joker in his personal life and is forever telling irreverent stories and risky jokes to make people around him laugh or, at very least, react. The gregariousness is genuine but there’s more depth to him than meets the eye. He’s a one woman kind of man and he prefers the great outdoors to parties.
Luke fed off Patrick’s humour when they were younger; much like the straight man reacts to the funny man. Unlike Patrick, Luke was a bit of a playboy. Now, in his 30s, he also uses humour to manage stressful situations but his humour is still less front foot and more reactive than Patrick’s. The glamour of playing the romantic field is wearing thin for Luke and, when we meet him, he is primed to look for meaning in life.
In the stories, Luke is a professor of mineralogy with an expertise in nuclear energy; whilst Patrick’s “other” interest is in over-unity energy which, in theory, is impossible. He has an open mind on everything. His view is that anything is possible. Luke’s playboy façade quickly starts to disintegrate as his navy reservist responsibilities begin to weigh heavily. He grows up very quickly as challenges emerge from the situations into which he is thrown.
I guess both characters are modelled either on myself as a young man or my close friends. We were all into sport and we were all adventurous and we all liked to kid around a lot – often with irreverent humour. Both of the main characters have an old fashioned view of women, whom they treat with respect commanded of a gentleman by a lady, but with a roguish teasing that invites reaction. Both are attracted to women who respond to their humour and both would walk away from women who did not respond, for whatever reason. Even with Luke’s playing the field, he was never attracted to bimbos. Both are attracted to the female characters in my stories precisely because those female characters give as much as they get – and sometimes more. The relationships between Patrick and Tara; and between Luke and Katarina, are anything but mundane. There is a lot of laughter and mental sparring.
How did you develop your plot and characters?
I approached the writing of my novels in much the same way I approached the writing of a Business Plan. One starts off with a vision of what it is one wants to have as an outcome; and then one looks at where one is today, and then one generates a plan of how to get from where we are to where we want to be.
In this context the characters just pop out as “vehicles” for the storyline. For example, if I want to compare the Jewish religion with the Islamic religion then one of the characters needs to be a knowledgeable Jew and another needs to be a knowledgeable Muslim. Then, because in real life there is a genuine Clash of Civilisations, I saw that the characters needed to be non-threatening – which is the opposite of what one prospective literary agent wanted me to do. She saw the opportunity to create and build massive tension in the storyline and, in her enthusiasm, completely missed the fact that my intention was to show how the two religions might be reconciled.
In The Last Finesse, one of my objectives was to cut through all the media hysteria and disinformation regarding nuclear energy. It followed that one of my characters needed to be an expert in nuclear energy. The female characters in both novels were predicated on what I imagined would be seen as extraordinarily attractive to the male characters; and they also needed to be vehicles for light relief. The “power” of laughter cannot be overstated. Denise and I have been married for 42 years. We still have the capacity to laugh so hard that we are in danger of wetting ourselves. So, the characters in the stories evolved to have personality profiles that I felt would both facilitate communication of the storylines and be highly attractive from the perspective of the readers – not because the characters are black-hearted villains or superheroes, but because they are genuinely attractive human beings. I deviated from this in one respect in one of my novels in that one of the characters was a real prick. I had him killed off, with extreme prejudice.
Why did you choose to write this particular book?
There are two books: Beyond Neanderthal and The Last Finesse. Since I was 16 years old part of my mind has been preoccupied with my perception that the quality of life on earth has been steadily deteriorating – partly because the population of the planet has been rising and partly because the way we have chosen to cope with this is by emphasising “democracy” and “human rights”, and by allowing virtually unfettered “free enterprise”. All three concepts have become corrupted as the ethical fabric of society has become frayed. I finally decided to see if, in a similar way to how I used to draft Business Plans, I could write a novel that would address the main challenges which face society. The first novel got rave reviews, so I tackled the second one with the same attitudinal approach.
Who is your publisher?
That’s really a trick question. I have discovered that many organisations that label themselves “publishers” are really “facilitators” and/or “distributors” who perform an admin function, and the marketing of the books is left to the author. Nominally, Beyond Neanderthal was published by Citrus Press in Australia and the e-books of both books are being published by SBPRA. The reality is that I am self publishing and they are acting as facilitators/distributors/administrators. The mainstream publishers will probably not be interested in my novels because neither has a cookie cutter structure. But I am not ashamed of either book, Frankly, I think they are just as good as many so-called “best sellers” – and maybe even better than many – but my expectation is that unless I can generate a momentum of sales myself, no mainstream publisher will show any interest. By contrast, if they do start selling in numbers I can probably take my pick of publishers. The business risk will have gone out of my novels if sales can reach critical mass.
Who designed the cover?
This is potentially a very important question. Beyond Neanderthal was first published in paperback and my publisher at that time convinced me that it was critically important to have a cover that would stand out in a bookstore. I agreed and she arranged for a prize winning book cover designer to design that cover. When it came to The Last Finesse – which is currently available only in e-book – the cover was less important. I came up with a design concept and the e-book publisher introduced me to a designer who interpreted the brief and presented me with a much less inspiring design, but it serves its purpose.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Given that both my novels were based on fact, and that the facts were not in my field of expertise, I had to go to enormous lengths to find mentors who could guide me in subjects like religion and science in general and energy and climate change in particular. Relative to actually writing the story, the research was probably 85% of the problem.
I spent 10 years of my life as a member of the Board of Directors of a Muslim family owned company and this was of enormous assistance in allowing me to understand the Muslim way of looking at life. It did not happen by accident. I told the elder statesman of the family when we first became business associates that one of my objectives was to learn about Islamic culture even though this particular family was not religious in the formal sense. He was/is a true gentleman and also a sort of elder statesman in his community. We developed a strong relationship of trust and I believe I helped him significantly in his business. Over the years I came to understand that the “traditional” Muslim values and the “traditional” Jewish values are very similar. But it took over a decade. I already had a personal relationship with a highly respected Catholic priest, who kindly gave me invaluable guidance as to the Christian perspective.
Similarly, it took around four years under tutelage of my world-class scientific mentor for me to finally get to grips with the issues surrounding nuclear energy, over-unity electromagnetic energy and climate change.
As I had spent over 30 years in and around the finance industry, the central banking and economic issues were “my meat” so to speak, but it had taken a huge amount of research over a period of 20 years to finally understand what really drives the global economy; and it was quite frightening to discover that the central bankers don’t really understand the implications of what they have been doing. Effectively, their actions have been blocking the arrival of (meaningful) new energy paradigms. By analogy, we are travelling in dangerously shallow economic waters which are hiding exceptionally sharp rocks from view; and largely without either a compass or sonar.
Ultimately, the fact is that “energy” is what drives the world economy and that’s why both my novels focus on alternative energies to fossil fuels. Writing the fictional stories was the fun part. But even that took me a couple of years to master under the tutelage of Beyond Neanderthal’s editor/publisher. The big challenge in writing the books (the other 15% of the work) was how to communicate all the facts without boring the reader to tears. That’s why my stories lean heavily on humour and on the very human interactions and adventures of the attractive characters. I also rely a lot on travelogue type writing, where I take the reader to exotic places. If the books are ever made into movies, those movies will be visually unusually compelling in those scenes.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Abso-defi-lutely-nitely yes! The whole point of writing those novels was to communicate a primary message of hope, flowing from the subsidiary messages which define the seven “core” problems facing 21st century humanity and present some potential solutions to those problems. To find out what those seven core problems are, you will have to read the novels.

Beyond Neanderthal
There is an energy force in the world—known to the Ancients—that has largely escaped the interest of the modern day world. Why? There are allusions to this energy in the Chinese I-Ching, in the Hebrew Torah, in the Christian Bible, in the Hindu Sanskrit Ramayana and in the Muslim Holy Qur'an. Its force is strongest within the Earth's magnetic triangles.
Near one of these--the Bermuda Triangle--circumstances bring together four very different people. Patrick Gallagher is a mining engineer searching for a viable alternative to fossil fuels; Tara Geoffrey, an airline pilot on holidays in the Caribbean; Yehuda Rosenberg, a physicist preoccupied with ancient history; and Mehmet Kuhl, a minerals broker, a Sufi Muslim with an unusual past. Can they unravel the secrets of the Ancients that may also hold the answer to the future of civilization?
About the Author:
In 1987, Brian and his young family migrated from South Africa to Australia where he was employed in Citicorp’s Venture Capital division. He was expecting that Natural Gas would become the world’s next energy paradigm but, surprisingly, it was slow in coming. He then became conscious of the raw power of self-serving vested interests to trump what – from an ethical perspective – should have been society’s greater interests.
Eventually, in 2005, with encouragement from his long suffering wife, Denise, he decided to do something about what he was witnessing: Beyond Neanderthal was the result; The Last Finesse is the prequel.
The Last Finesse is Brian’s second factional novel. Both were written for the simultaneous entertainment and invigoration of the thinking element of society. It is a prequel to Beyond Neanderthal, which takes a visionary view of humanity’s future, provided we can sublimate our Neanderthal drive to entrench pecking orders in society. The Last Finesse is more “now” oriented. Together, these two books reflect a holistic, right brain/left brain view of the challenges faced by humanity; and how we might meet them. All our problems – including the mountain of debt that casts its shadow over the world’s wallowing economy – are soluble.
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Genre – Thriller
Rating – MA (15+)
More details about the author
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