Featured Interviews

Most Read Interviews

All TopShelf Interviews

SiteLock

Born in Pasadena, California, Steve Snyder was raised in the neighboring community of San Marino. He graduated from UCLA and during the Vietnam War years served six years in the California Army National Guard. In 1972, he moved to Seal Beach, California, where he lives today. In 2009, he retired from Vision Service Plan (VSP) after a 36 year career working in sales and sales management. Soon after retirement, Steve began his quest to learn more about the World War II experiences of his father, pilot Howard Snyder, and his crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth. It became his passion, and after 4½ years of dedicated research, resulted in book Shot Down, which has won 20 national book awards. One result of his new career as a World War II historian is that he is a member of numerous World War II organizations and is President of the 306th Bomb Group Historical Association.

 

What inspired you to write your father’s story?

When I started my quest to learn more about my father’s war experiences, I began by going through all the material my parents had kept from the war years. Two items were most significant. The first was a diary that my father wrote while he was missing in action and being hidden by members of the Belgian underground. The other was all the letters my father had written to my mother while he was stationed in England before being shot down. Reading those was absolutely fascinating, and I became fascinated with the story of my father and his crew. However, I might not have written the book if it were not for two Belgian gentlemen, Dr. Paul Delahaye and Jacques Lalot, who were young boys during the war and the Nazi occupation of Belgium. Later in life they became local historians and interviewed Belgian citizens and members of the underground, recording their testimony about events that took place involving my father and members of his crew. I owe them a great debt for all the information they provided to me about events that would have been lost forever without their detailed research.

 

How much research did you do for this book? 

It was 4½ years from the time I started my research to the time the book was released. I read book after book about the air war over Europe. I spent countless hours on the internet doing research and downloading declassified military documents. I joined several World War II organizations and went to their reunions where I listened to veterans tell their stories. I traveled to Belgium twice prior to writing the manuscript. I even found and interviewed the German Luftwaffe pilot who shot down my father’s plane. He gave me some wonderful insight about what it was like to go up against the 8th Air Force which is included in the book.

 

Writing this book must have been emotional. Please tell us a little bit about that journey. 

Initially, I thought the book was going to be about my father, but soon I realized that it was about his entire crew (five of which made it back home and five did not), and to a greater extent, about all the men who served in the 8th Air Force. During World War II, more men in the 8th Air Force were killed than in the entire Marine Corps fighting in the Pacific. It is also about the courageous Belgian people who risked their lives and those of their families to help downed airmen evade capture. While doing my research, it was so exciting whenever I came across a new piece of information, or I found someone who had a connection to the story.  I could hardly believe it when I found the German Luftwaffe pilot, Hans Berger, who shot down my father’s plane. Gunners on the B-17 Susan Ruth shot him down too. They shot each other down. However, Hans was able to bail out and made it through the war. Fortunately for me, he became a translator after the war and speaks English. We have become friends, and last May I traveled to Munich, Germany, to meet him in person and filmed an interview with him.

 

Is it true that the plane your father piloted was named after your sister?

Yes, after my oldest sister, Susan Ruth (Snyder), who was one year old at the time my father went overseas. My mother’s name was Ruth. My father was the first pilot and as such was commander of the plane and its crew.  Therefore, he had the final say in what the plane was named. Only three of the ten-man crew were married, and my father was the only one who had a child. My other sister, Nancy, was born while my father was missing in action.

 

Please tell us a little bit about the 306th Bomb Group Historical Association where you currently serve as President.

The Association was formed by Russell Strong who was a navigator in the 306th Bomb Group and became its historian after the war. Originally, it was strictly a veterans group, but with the passing of time and of the veterans, is now predominately made up of 2nd generation relatives like myself. Our mission is to Remember what happened during the air war over Europe, Honor the men of the 306th Bomb Group who fought it, and Educate the public about it. We hold annual reunions which this year will be in Indianapolis.

 

Please take us through your experience as a self-published author. Why did you ultimately choose that route?

Once I finished writing my manuscript, I had no idea how to get it published. I investigated various methods such as Amazon’s CreateSpace, Ingram Spark, different vanity presses, and a couple small publishers. However, I just wasn’t quite sure what to do so I kept searching the internet where I came across a book publishing coach, Judith Briles. With Judith as my consultant, I formed a one person limited liability company, Sea Breeze Publishing (named for the street I live on), and contracted with independent professionals for all the necessary services such as editing, cover design, interior layout, printing, and fulfillment. I just felt more comfortable publishing the book myself and having total control. I was sure the finished product would be professionally done and a book of which I would be proud.

 

Was self-publishing a positive or negative experience?

It was very positive. I learned a great deal in the process and am glad I chose that route. It gave me a feeling of real accomplishment.

 

How important would you say marketing is for a self-published author? Do you have any tips for others who have gone this route and are struggling?

It is absolutely critical since it is the only way your work can gain exposure and recognition. Unlike celebrities who can put out virtually any book and receive instant national exposure from the media and best seller status, self-published authors have to claw and scratch for everything. I have an advantage because I had a 40 years career in sales. In marketing my book, I am basically doing what I did during my career job. I am relentless and persistent promoting my book. You have to be if you want your book to get any exposure. I am active on social media, especially Facebook where I join every group I can find that relates to my genre. I list my book on every internet book website I can find and enter every book awards contest I come across. Some of which cost money and some don’t so this would depend on your budget. I basically contact any entity which might read my book or promote my book. I email individuals, websites, and magazines to review my book. I email every organization I can find and ask if I can make a presentation to their group. I keep at it every single day.

 

What does “It is our duty to remember” mean?

No event in history affected more people than World War II. It changed the course of the United States and the world forever. The brave young men who fought and died for freedom must never be forgotten. “It is our duty to remember.”  The expression also ties into a Belgian organization founded in 1984 by Dr. Paul Delahaye. Originally named the Belgian American Foundation to remember and honor the American troops who liberated Belgium from Nazi oppression, the organization was renamed the Association du Devoir de Mémoire de Momignies – Belgique or Duty to Remember Association in honor of all the Allied Armies. I have now visited Belgium four times and have made many dear, life-long friends. Sadly, Dr. Delahaye died in 2013, but his eldest daughter, Christel, now heads up the Association. To this day, the Belgian people are still so thankful and grateful for the Allies coming to their rescue, and they do a wonderful job of educating younger generations to remember the significance of that historical event.

 

Do you enjoy interacting with your readers? If so, how do you do so?

Oh, very much so! I am constantly interacting with readers on social media, however, in person is always best which I get to do at all the presentations I make and air shows I attend. I enjoy hearing stories of “their vets”, but unfortunately, most people know very little about their relative’s World War II history. In those cases, I try to help them discover information by either doing the research myself or informing them about websites they can search to do the research on their own.  

 

How much time do you put into promoting your book?

It is a full-time job. I spend hours everyday on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) and promoting my book to anyone who might read it or promote it. I make a lot of PowerPoint presentations to all sorts of organizations, and I travel around the country attending air shows signing copies of my book.

 

Are there any plans for another book in your future? If yes, when might we expect it?

Not at this time. I’d like to make a documentary and have just started the process for doing so. Of course, the dream goal would be a feature film or TV mini-series, and I have had some discussions with people about that, but it’s only a dream at this point.

 

You have quite the busy speaking schedule. How would a bookseller or library go about scheduling a visit from you?

Very easy. Just call me at 562-598-6902 or email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Do you enjoy visiting independent bookstores? If yes, do you have a favorite you’d like to let our readers know about?

Vroman’s Bookstore located in Pasadena, California where I was born is special to me. Acworth’s Bookstore & Coffee Shop in Acworth, Georgia is a wonderful military history bookstore. The Book Vine in Cherokee, Iowa where my great grandparents are buried is really a neat place.

 

Thank you for reading!