Interview with author John Tippets

Of the many marketing initiatives I undertook in promoting my book 35 Miles From Shore, one that stood out was my month long blog tour with Pump Up Your Book virtual book tours. Recently, I was asked to serve as a host for a touring author. John Tippets is the author of the new book Hearts of Courage. The book tells the true story of a plane crash that happened in Alaska in 1943. You can read my review here.

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John's father was one of the surviors of the crash, and most of the story is told from his viewpoint.

Since one of the goals for this blog is to bring attention to great nonfiction stories, I am happy to help get the word out on John's new book.

Below are a few questions I had for John and his answers:

How long did it take you to write Hearts of Courage?

Over several years I have been writing chapters of my parents' life histories for the benefit of their descendents….Dad's and Mother's years growing up, Dad's years in the U.S. Navy, Dad's service as a Mormon Bishop in the Washington D.C. area in the 50s, etc.. But, I always knew that writing about Dad's Jan/Feb. survival of the 1943 crash in Alaska was going to be much more than the other pieces of the project, and I wanted to do it really very well.

I looked for all possible sources, and wanted original illustrations, pictures etc. to really help tell the story right. As the process proceeded over about 4 years, and as I kept making improvements/finding new info etc. it became increasingly clear it was going to be a quality book and not just a chapter of the history project for the family.    

How did you come up with the title?

We had considered several (one, Cheating an Icy Death) but Hearts of Courage was my wife's choice and it seemed a title that was more inclusive of my Mother's part of the story and of many others who were participants. 


Did you give any thought to telling the story in third person rather than using your father’s own writing?


I had started writing in the third person but because much of my source material was Dad’s telling of the story I found the substantial translating was difficult and was losing something. I finally decided it was his story to tell and my job was more to pull all of the different sources together, smooth the resulting combination and work in additional facts and perspectives. I also then worked hard to find illustrations of all kinds that would help Dad tell of his experiences in the book in a way that he was never able to do in life.


Were there other written accounts that you could have drawn from? Anything from the other survivors?


Other survivors were sources as they were quoted in newspaper interviews but Cutting and Gebo also had magazine articles that I drew from…see in the Resources “Hell in God’s Country” and “The GILAM Plane was Missing” respectively.


The crash was precipitated by the loss of the left engine. An oil leak mentioned twice in the book seems to be implicated as the most likely cause of the engine failure, but the investigative excerpts in the book don’t mention the oil leak. Was the oil leak the cause of the accident?


As I read all of the accounts…I think the answer is no.


I understand that you’ve given presentations about the accident. Can you talk a little about that?


Using a PowerPoint with many of the pictures from the book I have told the story to many different groups. It is gripping and seems to be appreciated by young and old, especially those who enjoy Aviation stories…But it is also a story of courage, faith and prayers answered. The presentations take about 45 minutes plus Q&A time. Audiences have been wonderful in their feedback.


How many times have you been to the crash site?


I have only been to the crash site once, but Dad’s quote on page 131 tells the impression you get…”I have been present at the scene of many airplane crashes. I can honestly say that I have not seen a plane in the condition ours was in and known anyone to survive.”


Have you considered releasing the book as an eBook?


Not likely, the illustrations (art, photography, maps, contemporary news articles, etc.), I think are too important to the impact of the book and would be lost in an eBook.




  1. Thank You for letting folks know about ‘Hearts of Courage”. Many seem to really appreciate Aviation stories and true accounts of survival. The Alaska winter setting and the WW II timeframe also seem to add to the appeal. “Hearts of Courage” is available from Amazon and other online book retailers.
    I have already booked presentations of this story for five groups/meetings in 2010. (I did about 20 last year).

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