Osceola grad was Backstreet Boy's girl

by Mark Pino

Samantha Stonebraker's storybook tale about her four-year romance with a member of the Backstreet Boys should start off with the words "Once upon a time...."

The fairy tale about first love and high school sweethearts even has a happy ending. But even though there is a happily ever after conclusion, the couple don't ride off into the sunset together.

The romance is long over. Each has someone new in their life. But the many memories and experiences remain with Stonebraker, who met Brian Littrell when she was a 17-year-old student at Osceola High and he was just a lonely 18-year-old far from home, starting out with a group no one had heard of-- or knew would someday sell millions of records.

Stonebraker, 23, has written a book about her experiences. What You Wanna Know: Backstreet Boy Secrets Only A Girlfriend Can Tell was released Nov. 18. But don't get the wrong idea. If you're looking for the dirt on Littrell or the group, you won't find it here. The book is aimed at fans and answers 50 questions that they are likely to ask such as, "Is Brian a good kisser?" (The answer is yes.)

The way and format some subjects are treated make this a book that parents of young fans of the group, the first-time author said. Stonebraker wrote it with her 11-year-old sister and 13-year-old brother in mind.

"During the four years that Brian and I dated, he lived with my family for two years. After we broke up it was difficult for them because they're so young. I did it mainly for my 11-year-old sister, so she would be able to remember the time she spent with him," Stonebraker said. "Plus I tried to throw in as many positive messages as possible. Just things I knew girls that age needed to hear. And with the Backstreet Boys being on the cover they might actually listen to it."

In addition to her first kiss with Littrell, the 1994 Osceola homecoming queen deals with the question of members' sexuality in a discreet manner while advising female readers, "I've watched the Backstreet Boys for four years and truly believe they like a girl to save herself until the time is right. I would like to say there's nothing wrong with waiting until you're married. You might be surprise by how much respect you gain."

At one point in their relationship, Littrell gave Stonebraker a "promise ring". And for two years, while she was attending college in Orlando, he shared a room with her oldest brother in Kissimmee.

The pair met through a school connection. Her partner in the New Song ensemble was Alex "AJ" McLean, who had auditioned and been accepted into the group put together by Orlando's Lou Pearlman. Is was McLean who played Cupid, matching Littrell and Stonebraker, a Kissimmee native whose family has deep roots here.

The pair broke up in 1997 and Stonebraker went back to college after interrupting her education to travel with the band. She and her brother even made an appearance in the group's first video for "We've Got It Goin' On."

Even with a background as a performer, Stonebraker never contemplated becoming a star herself. She watched as the group's popularity overseas soared and they became stars at home. She said the life of a professional entertainer has a business side that left her conetent to watch from backstage.

In the time between the end of the relationship and now, Stonebraker says she re-discovered herself.

"After we broke up, that's when I really got the incentive to go back to school and to graduate from college. That's another one of the messages I wanted to get across in the book. There are a lot of girls who don't realize there is life after a breakup and it can be a very positive and wonderful one, too. I wouldn't trade the experiences I had with him for the world, but I also wouldn't trade where I am today."

She waited to write the book so it wouldn't "be all about our relationship, things that are too personal for him or I. When you look back on things they're always sweeter."

She graduated in May from the University of Central Florida with a degree in communicative disorders and began putting together ideas for the book and shopping for a literary agent.

"It's kind of a fine line that I'm treading because I'm a former girlfriend and I didn't want it to be malicous or vindictive or any sort of revenge at all," she said. "I figured a cool way to do this would be to get my brother and sister and ask the kind of questions kids wanted to know about the Backstreet Boys. It's kind of a cool Cliff Notes."

Stonebraker doesn't expect to get rich from the book, but she says it's been successful already because of it's impact on her family. Her youngest brother designed a webpage-- http://www.go.to/bsbsecrets-- that compliments the book.

And life goes on, Stonebraker is interviewing for a job and thinking about graduate school. Littrell is making his movie debut with fellow group member McLean in Olive Juice, an independent film being shot in Lake County. His current girlfriend, Leighanne Wallace, is the star. Stonebraker has a new star in her life, too, and wishes Littrell the same kind of happiness that she says she's enjoying.

She says her brush with stardom could happen to anyone.

"I'm as normal as normal comes. It's not like I'm some beautiful actress bred to be in the entertainment business or anything. I'm the girl next door. If it could happen to me, it could happen to them.

I like to remind people that the nerdy boy in the corner of your chorus class could turn out to be someone spectacular. Be nice to everyone 'cause that was Alex to me."

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