1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Born in Pasadena, California, I was raised in the neighboring community of San Marino whose first mayor was George S. Patton, father of the famous World War II General George S. Patton Jr. who grew up in San Marino.
I attended UCLA and was in the same class as Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), graduating with a B.A. in Economics. During the Vietnam War years, I served six years in the California Army National Guard. In 1972, I moved to Seal Beach, California where I still live today. My wife, Glenda, and I also have a second home in Sedona, Arizona. We raised three sons and are now empty-nesters.
After working at a couple different jobs following college, I enjoyed a 36 year career in sales and sales management working for Vision Service Plan (VSP) which is the largest vision insurance company in the U.S.; retiring in 2009.
Our yard in Seal Beach is a virtual tropical botanical garden with close to 100 palm trees planted in the ground, and I enjoy working to keep it looking pristine. I am a die-hard UCLA sports fan and an elder at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Huntington Beach, adjacent to Seal Beach.
2. What inspired you to write this book?
After I retired from VSP in 2009, I finally had the time to go through all the material my parents had kept from the war years with the most significant being the many letters that my father had written to my mother while he was stationed at Thurleigh, England with the 306th Bomb Group. Reading them was absolutely fascinating, and the story of my dad and his B-17 “Susan Ruth” crew became my passion.
I read many books about the air war in Europe, spent untold hours doing research on the internet, and started attending reunions of various WW II organizations. I was just recently elected president of the 306th Bomb Group Historical Association.
Initially I had no intention of writing a book, and it wasn’t until December, 2012 that I actually decided to do so. Based on that all I had learned over the previous three years, I felt that the story of the my father and his crew was so unique and so compelling that it just had to be told and people needed to know about.
3. What were the challenges: ex. research, literary, psychological, and logistical to bring this book to life?
In addition to my father’s letters, my parents had retained all his military records, his hand-written diary about the “Susan Ruth” being shot down, letters from crew members and their relatives, newspaper articles, and photographs. I was incredibly fortunate to have the detailed research material of two Belgian gentlemen, Dr. Paul Delahaye and Jacques Lalot who were young boys during the German occupation. Later in life, they became local historians and interviewed Belgian citizens and members if the Underground who were involved in the events that took place. As a result, everything in the book is factual and based on first-hand testimony..
What I contributed to the story was a considerable amount of historical information and anecdotes about and surrounding WW II to put the story of the crew in context and provide background.
The biggest challenge was how to publish the manuscript once I finished writing it as I had no idea how to publish a book. I explored several methods of doing so and finally decided to independently publish it myself. I formed a one person LLC (named for the street I live on) and then contracted with independent professionals for all the necessary services. It took me 12 months to write the manuscript and 8 months to publish it; being released in August 2014.
4. How did you come up with the title?
SHOT DOWN just came to me early on, and I really could not think of anything better. Judith Briles (The Book Shepherd), the book consultant I worked with to oversee the project helped me develop the subtitle; The true story of pilot Howard Snyder and the crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth.
5. Who designed the covers and why did you choose this design?
The photographs on the covers were my idea, but I contracted with Nick Zelinger (NZ Graphics) to design the covers and do the interior layout. Nick designed everything else (font, background, colors, etc) for the covers, and Judith Briles and I came up with the wording for the covers. It was a challenge to fit in over 200 time period photographs into the text, but Nick did an excellent job.
6. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
What I want readers to grasp is the sacrifice of the brave, young men who fought and died for the freedom that we enjoy today. People need to be aware of what they went through. Although the story is specifically about the crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth, it is also about the men of the 306th Bomb Group and the entire Eighth Air Force. A very gratifying result of people reading the book is that it stimulates their interest in learning more about “their vet” whether it be a father, uncle, grandfather, etc.
We are rapidly losing WW II veterans, and we will not have the honor and opportunity to show them our appreciation much longer. No other event in history affected more people than World War II. No one alive was untouched by it, and no nation was spared the cost and horror. WW II changed the world and set its future course. We must not forget, and as my tag line states, “It is our duty to remember.”
7. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Trying to make sure that all the details were 100% accurate. I wanted the book to appeal to WW II buffs and history buffs, but I didn’t want it to be just a “war book” for guys. I also wanted it to appeal to the general public; to people who didn’t know much, or even cared to know much, about WW II. My desire was to write a book about people and the human spirit that women would enjoy reading as well.
8. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Early on, I assumed that the book was going to be about my father, but I soon realized it wasn’t only about him, but about each member of the crew. Then subsequently, I recognized that it was also about all the Belgian people who risked their lives to help them.
In addition, I received a real education about book publishing, book distributing, and book marketing. An off shoot of this is that I have learned and am still learning about the effective use of social media.
A very gratifying result from my endeavor was locating and developing friendships with relatives of “Susan Ruth” crew members. We have a special bond that unites us. However, I have to say the most most amazing outcome was finding and interviewing Hans Berger, the Luftwaffe pilot who shot down the “Susan Ruth”.
9. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
No, I will not. My entire focus is on making SHOT DOWN a nationally known book. It has been a critical success – winning 15 national book awards in 12 months, receiving excellent “industry” reviews, being carried by 14 national air & war museums, having a 4.9 reader review rating (92% 5 star) on Amazon and achieving Amazon #1 Best Seller status.
However, it has a long, long way to go to be a commercial success. No matter how good a book is, unless people know about it, they won’t buy it and they won’t read it. Exposure and awareness are huge challenges.
It’s not at all about monetary success as I did not do this to make money. I just want as many people as possible to read SHOT DOWN and become aware of its message. To help gain awareness, I do a lot of speaking and PowerPoint presentations at all sorts of venues; book stores, libraries, veterans’ groups, senior living communities, corporations, museums, church groups, and service and fraternal organizations.
An audio version will be completed and available in about a month. My ultimate goal is to have SHOT DOWN made into a theatrical production. I am working with some professionals to develop a treatment for a 6 hour mini-series to pitch to television. A two hour movie just wouldn’t be enough time to cover everything in the book. The icing on the cake would be for my youngest son, Clayton who is an actor, to appear in it. Also in the works is a book trailer in which Clayton will play the role of my father. Clayton is 28, the same age as his grandfather when the B-17 Susan Ruth was shot down.
10. A last question, do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers and fans?
I am just so appreciative and grateful for the overwhelmingly, positive response SHOT DOWN has received. I am very humbled by the wonderful comments on Facebook, in reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, in emails sent to me, and even on telephone calls I have received. I feel very blessed that SHOT DOWN is resonating so well with it readers. It is wonderful that people realize and value the message it is meant to convey; to be aware of, and be thankful for, the heroic efforts of a special generation of men – The Greatest Generation.
Thank You, Steve, for this fantastic and honest interview.
Steve Snyder’s book “Shot Down – The true story of pilot Howard Snyder and the crow of the B-17 Susan Ruth” was reviewed by us on July 15, 2015 and we’ve concluded “It is, in this reviewers opinion, the definitive work of a personal narrative to date relating to the Allied bombing of Germany during World War II. I would highly recommend that you get and read a copy of this book. Buy, beg, borrow or steal it.” (Read the full review here)
We have scored his book a honest 9,9/10!