Friday, July 29, 2011

Interview with Sandra Stiles

 What is Steps to Courage about?
 Steps to Courage is the story of three teens who find themselves in the Twin Towers on 9/11.
Students at Eagle Prep are required to complete community service hours every year they attend.  Trina Lacy proposes a fundraiser to be held at Windows on the World.  The recipient of this benefit is “Angel Hope”, an organization that helps burn victims.  Trina is joined in this venture by Mark Jacobs.  His interest lies in the fact that he lost his parents in a fire.  The third teen is Lucas James.  He is joining Trina as her former boyfriend, the one responsible for her injuries.  He carries a secret that eats away at him increasing his guilt.  All three teens are in the Towers and must find a way to survive and then move forward in life.  This book crosses the Young Adult/Adult genre.

Where is your book available?
My book is currently available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  I am lucky that four independent bookstores in my city are carrying my book.

Where did you get the idea for your book?
On 9/11 I was in my classroom.  One of my students was pounding on the hall door screaming for me.  I let her in and she begged me to turn on the TV, because she’d heard on the radio a plane had flown into one of the Twin Towers.  Her family and our principal’s family had been there just six weeks before.  We watched the replay on the news then let the principal know.  He made us leave the TV’s on all day.  One of my students, a sixth grader, asked me if there were kids in the Towers.  I had no answer.  She was remembering the Oklahoma bombing and the daycare center that was in the building.  The students started talking about what they would do if they were in the Towers.  The idea began to grow.  There were three personal connections to that day that added fuel to the fire.  My husband’s sister lives a few blocks from the Pentagon and called to let us know she was okay and that the impact was so great her dishes were flung from the cabinet.  The second connection was through my husband’s cousin.  His daughter worked in the Pentagon and it was three days before we learned she was okay.  She had left her office and gone across the street shortly before the plane hit and took out her office.  The final connection was the worst.  My youngest sister’s former roommate had moved to New York and was one who did not make it out of the towers.  We checked with her aunt weekly and her body was never recovered.  Every year on the anniversary I would tell my husband about my idea for the book and he finally handed me a pad and said, “Stop saying it and start writing it.”  So, I did.

How did you come up with the title?
Titles are difficult for me.  My husband said to me one day that I wasn’t moving very fast on this because I was afraid.  He told me I needed to just grab some courage and take that first step.
Steps to Courage was about me taking those first steps, and my characters taking those first steps in the face of what seemed too difficult or almost impossible.  It was about facing our fears.

Who designed the cover?
Karen Arnpriester is a graphic designer and author of the book Anessia’s  Quest.   She designed my book cover, bookmarks, and business cards.

Do you have to travel a lot for your books?
I travel through books and the internet.  I had not been to New York at the time I had the idea for the book.  My daughter’s dance team had a National Dance Competition  in New York.  It was 10 months after 9/11 and since her dance instructor was a former Rocket  the decision was made to go to New York.  I bought post-cards, maps, city transit maps.  Took notes on restaurants and the people.  We visited Ground Zero twice and I took 20 disks full of photos. 

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
This is my first book.  However, I’ve always written stories and for a while I wrote puppet scripts because I did puppetry in churches.

If your book was a movie, who would you pick to play the main characters?
I’m not sure who I’d pick to play the parts.  I’m not up to date on the younger actors and actresses.  I actually picked the photos for the cover of my book because I’d had a mental picture of them in my head from the very beginning.  I’m open to suggestions.

Do you plan on writing sequels?
There is no sequel to this book.  However, I am working on three other books. 

How long did it take you to complete Steps to Courage?
I wrote the first 38,000 words in one month.  It was just a novella.  Mary, who became my agent, asked me if there was a sequel because it felt unfinished.  I suddenly realized what I needed to do to end it.  I took two more weeks to write the second half.  I had shopped it out  for almost two years to traditional publishers.  I finally decided I wanted it published before the tenth anniversary of 9/11 so I self published.

What is your favorite book?
It is funny you should ask this question.  When my students ask me I tell them it depends on what I am reading at the time.  I am an eclectic reader.  I read just about anything if it stands still long enough.  My all time favorite book when growing up was Charlotte’s  Web. 

About Sandra Stiles: 
I am a National Board Certified Teacher.  I hold teaching certificates in Elementary Ed. Grades 1 – 6, English 6 – 12, and endorsements in Reading and ESOL.  When I’m not teaching during the day I am usually there after school running writing or  sewing club.  I live with my husband and our cat Frosty who thinks he’s in charge.  My mother lives with us now.  I have a son, a daughter, a step-daughter and 9 grandkids.  I live in Florida and love the beaches and the parks, especially the Everglades.  However, I’d love to live in Tennessee in the summer and down here in the winter.

Social Media sites: 

 Links to where her book is available: 

Barnes and Noble:


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