Did you have a hero you looked up to when you were a child? Maybe it was a family member, or a historical figure, or even a fictional character from your favorite book. When you look back, it’s amazing to see how much of your life was influenced or inspired by these inspirational women and men.
As a child, I wasn’t very into history, but there was one historical figure I always came back to: Amelia Earhart. I remember choosing her as the subject of a project in elementary school and reading a book about her that fascinated me. The nerves she had to follow her dream, and the daring adventure of a life she lived was such a departure from who I was, but ultimately it sparked a dream to chase my own adventures.
Today, I’m thrilled to have the chance to share a conversation with another woman who was heavily influenced by women like Earhart. Women who pushed beyond the limits of expectations to follow big dreams. Captain Tammie Jo Shults, author of the upcoming memoir, Nerves of Steel, is a commercial aircraft pilot known for her masterful landing of the severely crippled Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 last April, helping save the lives of 148 people after a catastrophic engine failure. But her career in aviation has seen many more accomplishments. She was one of the Navy’s first female fighter pilots, a
We interviewed Tammie Jo to talk about her relationship with books and what inspired her as a girl, and what still inspires her today. Take a look!
Do you have any literary inspirational women or men that had a positive impact in your life? Why are they meaningful to you?
TJS: Early in my life, I loved adventure books – well, I still do! Edgar R. Burroughs wrote a series of Tarzan books my older brother and I used to share. I loved animal books, Brighty of the Grand Canyon, Rascal (the racoon). One summer my girl friends and I read every single Nancy Drew we could find – then set out to solve some mysteries ourselves. The Bible always held a special place – not for noble reasons at first. It was varied and had depth. Now I enjoy a wide variety from my favorite fiction author, Pamela Aidan, to Carolyn Alexander and Beryl Markham.
What did you find so magical about aviation at a young age?
From inside a cockpit: it was magical and the best of all, it was objective. Gravity and Bernoulli’s Principle of Flight has no favorites. I love challenges based on facts.
In your book Nerves of Steel, a major overarching theme is that it takes constant perseverance to reach and accomplish your life goals it takes constant perseverance. Can you share one example pulled from your book that will resonate with young career minded individuals who may be faced with hard decisions?
TJS: Look beyond the obstacles and look at the objective. When you are told “no,” do some digging. Is it an answer, or an opinion? Then proceed.
When I was told “girls don’t fly,” I had no other information to connect my understanding of my options. But I knew, if they even opened it up, I would need a college education. Going on – preparing for life – without flight – had me qualified to apply when I did find a way in. Don’t stand still, keep moving.
Do you consider yourself an occasional reader, or a “page chaser”? What types of books are you most drawn to read?
TJS: I’m a reader. I love true stories. The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty, Night Witches, The Man-eaters of Tsavo…all kinds. I will say I am American in my tastes – I like a happy ending. I love stories from all over the world, I just like a happy ever after.
Can you tell us one fiction book, one biography, and one memoir that you love and why you recommend them?
TJS: Condoleezza Rice – great biography, truly an outstanding, inspirational woman. Pamela Aidan’s trilogy of Fitzwilliam Darcy – the only fiction I re-read every other year. It’s my mind candy after my yearly checkride at SWA. West with the Night – Beryl Markham’s memoir.
What advice would you give to girls and young women who might feel intimidated by the prospect of chasing their dreams?
TJS: Take heart! Amelia Earhart – who became a very daring aviator (among men or women) searched for a woman flight instructor because she was intimidated by men instructors. One female hearts are naturally more cautious – that can actually make us even better at our jobs – if we get in there and try! II Tim 1:7…we are not to be timid – read all of that verse – power is the opposite. <NIV: For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.>
If you could speak to yourself as a young girl, what advice or encouragement would you give yourself?
TJS: There is rarely one magic moment to step out of childhood into “the real world” and a vocation or profession. Like many roads, in life, there are multiple exit ramps and frontage roads – just make sure you’re making sensible strides in the right direction. I wish I had not lost so much sleep or joy in my life hoping I had not “missed it” or was making a “perfect” decision.
What are a few of your personal favorite books today? Are there any books that you return to often?
- Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
- Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton
- Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose
- Footsteps of the Messiah by Arnold Frutenbaum
TJS: I also enjoy Mary Stewart, a British author from the 50's, who writes very clever mysteries. And also Eric Metaxas, who has written a couple of my favorites, Amazing Grace and Bonhoeffer.
It’s official – Tammie Jo Shults is an honorary Page Chaser!
If you want to learn more about Tammi Jo and why she was our first feature in the inspirational women series, be sure to check out her upcoming book, Nerves of Steel, where she shares how she followed her dreams, earned her wings, and faced her greatest challenge. DEAL ALERT: If you pre-order Nerves of Steel, (first 100 only!!) you’ll get a free copy of Gary Sinise’s Grateful American. Seriously, it doesn’t get any better than that.
HarperCollins Christian Publishing operates Page Chaser, and is the publisher of Nerves of Steel, Grateful American, Amazing Grace, and Bonhoeffer.