Judith McConnell Steele has concentrated on fiction and poetry for the past 20 years after 15 years as a reporter and columnist for The Idaho Statesman. Her poetry and short stories have been published in the anthologies Woven on the Wind (Houghton Mifflin, 2001) and family, in cold-drill literary journal, Cabin Fever, Boise Magazine and ArtIdaho. Two collections of her newspaper columns are in print - Stories from Home (Sassafras Books, 1989) and More Stories from Home (Tamarack Books, 1993).
Steele grew up in Denver, Colorado, was a Peace Corps volunteer, translator and journalist in northeast Brazil, and lived in Chicago, Illinois, and Switzerland before moving to Boise, Idaho, where she lives with her husband, Dick. She is now at work on a second novel, as well as poetry, and is finding real pleasure in nurturing the gifts of young and adult writers through workshops and ongoing classes.
Of The Angel of Esperanҫa, Steele says, "Angel is set in northeast Brazil, where I lived for four years. The sometimes lush, often harsh country and its people - passionate, devout believers in a heady mix of Catholicism and African religions - took hold of me. I came away with many stories and images.
"One of my most vivid memories was an afternoon spent with a wealthy landowner in his tiny town in the outback. We ate a delicious lunch in his dining room while we discussed art, politics, projects that might benefit his town. Throughout the afternoon, the calm of his dark house was shattered over and over by the screams of a woman somewhere overhead. No mention was made of the screams.
"That memory became the seed for The Angel of Esperanҫa. It opens with Helena in the tower, then explores the growing catastrophe that put her there."