Susan Eloise Hinton was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She has always enjoyed reading but wasn't satisfied with the literature that was being written for young adults, which influenced her to write novels like The Outsiders. That book, her first novel, was published in 1967 by Viking. Once published, The Outsiders gave her a lot of publicity and fame, and also a lot of pressure. S.E. Hinton was becoming known as "The Voice of the Youth" among other titles. This kind of pressure and publicity resulted in a three year long writer's block. Her boyfriend (and now, her husband),who had gotten sick of her being depressed all the time, eventually broke this block. He made her write two pages a day if she wanted to go anywhere. This eventually led to That Was Then, This Is Now. That Was Then, This Is Now is known to be a much more well thought out book than The Outsiders. Because she read a lot of great literature and wanted to better herself, she made sure that she wrote each sentence exactly right. She continued to write her two pages a day until she finally felt it was finished in the summer of 1970, she got married a few months later. That Was Then, This is Now was published in 1971.
In 1975, S.E. Hinton published Rumble Fish as a novel (she had published a short story version in a 1968 edition of Nimrod, which was a literary supplement for the University of Tulsa Alumni Magazine). Rumble Fish was the shortest novel she had published. It received a great deal of contrasting opinions, with one reviewer claiming it to be her best book and the next claiming it to be her last. The latter was apparently wrong. Tex was published in 1979, four years after Rumble Fish. It received great reviews and people raved about how the writing style had matured since previous publications. Tex would be the last book S.E. Hinton published for nine years. After another span of four years, S.E. Hinton's son, Nick was born. Four years after Tex was released, quite a few major events took place in S.E. Hinton's life. In March of 1983, the movie The Outsiders was released. The following August, Nicholas David was born. Two months later the movie Rumble Fish was released. In 1985 the movie version of That Was Then, This Is Now was released. Three years later S.E. Hinton became the first person to receive the YASD/SLJ Author Achievement Award, which was given by the Young Adult Services Division of the American Library Association and School Library Journal. Taming The Star Runner was released in October of that year. It was the first book that S.E. Hinton had published that wasn't in first person. With a seven-year wait, S.E. Hinton released another book in 1995. This time she did something that no one expected. Big David, Little David was written for children around the kindergarten age. This deviation from Teen fiction seems to be a reflection of the current important things in S.E. Hinton's life: Family. The children's fiction trend continues with her latest release- The Puppy Sister, which is a fantasy book written for Elementary school level children. S.E. Hinton currently still lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her husband David, and her son Nick. She began writing The Outsiders during her sophmore year at Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Even though The Outsiders was her first published novel, it was actually her third novel. She had written two previously- neither of which were published - all before the tenth grade. She had been writing since the third grade, and her stories had almost completely been about cowboys and horses, including her first two unpublished novels.
It took Hinton only a year and a half to write The Outsiders (the same year she managed to earn a grade of 'D' in a Creative Writing class). "The whole status thing drove me nuts," she says of her high school years. "It drove me nuts that people would get worked up over who they should and should not talk to in the hall."
She got the call that the book had been accepted for publication the day she graduated from high school. The book was released by Viking in April of 1967, as she was in her freshman year at the University of Tulsa.
It is well known why the initials of S.E. Hinton were chosen by her publishers at the time the book was initally published. However Ms. Hinton continues to utilize the name for publishing as it gives her the anonymity she loves at home and in her private life. She is a very private person and using the initals help protect that.
Speaking with S. E. Hinton
Interview from the back of the current edition of the book
Q: You were a sixteen-year-old high school student in
Oklahoma when you wrote The Outsiders. Where did you
get the Idea for the story?
A: I was actually fifteen when I frist began it. It
was the year I was sixteen and a junior in high school
that I did the majority of the work(that was the year
I made a D in creative writing). One day, a friend of
mine was walking home from scool and these "nice" kids
jumped out of a car and beat him up because they
didn't like him being a greaser. This made me mad and
I just went home and started pounding out a story
about this boy who was beaten up while he was walking
home from the movies-the beginning of The Outsiders.
It was just something to let off steam. I didn't have
any grand design. I just sat down and started writing
it. I look back and think it was totally written in my
subconscious or something.
Q: So was there a real-life Ponyboy? A real Johnny?
A: Ponyboy's gang was inspired by a true-life gang,
the members of which were very dear to me. Later, all
the gang members I hung out with were sure they were
in the book-but they aren't. I guess it's because
these characters are really kind of universal without
losing their individuality.
Q: What were you like as a teenager? Were you a
greaser; a Soc?
A: I was a tomboy. I played football, my close friends
were guys. Fortunately, I was born without the
need-to-belong gene that says you have to be in a
little group to feel secure. I never wanted to be
classified as anything, nor did I ever join anything
for fear of losing my individuality. I didn't even
realize that these guys, who were my good friends,
were greasers, until one day we were walking down the
street and some guys came and yelled, "Greaser!" It's
funny to look at people you've known all your life, to
suddenly see them as everyone else sees them, with
their slicked-back hair and cigarettes hanging out of
their mouths and their black leather jackets and
respond, "My God, they're hoods." You know them and
know they're not hoods, but they just look like hoods.
I had friends on the rich side of town, too, and saw
that they had their share of problems, also.
Q: How did you pursue getting The Outsiders published?
A: When I wrote it I hadn't thought of getting it
published. but at school one day I mentioned to a
friend that I wrote, and her mother happened to write
children's books. I gave her a copy of the Outsiders,
ad this woman showed it to a friend who had a New york
agent. the agent liked it and sold it to a second
publisher who read it. She has been my agent ever
since. I recieved the contract from the publisher on
Q: What made you want to be a writer?
A: The major influence on my writing has been my
reading. When I was young, I read everything,
including cereal boxes and coffee labels. Reading
taught me sentence structure, paragraphing, how to
build a chapter. Strangely enough, it never taught me
spelling. I have always loved to write, almost as much
as I love to read. I began goofing around with a
typewriter when I was about twelve. I've always
written about things that interest me, so my first
years of writing(grades three through ten), I wrote
about cowboys and horses. I wanted to be a cowboy and
have a horse. Writing is easy for me because I never
begin to write unless I have something to say. I'm a
character writer. Some writers are plot writers. . .I
have to begin with people. I always know my
characters, exactly what they look like, their
birthdays, what they like for breakfast. It doesn't
matter if these things don't appear in the book. I
still have to know. I get ideas for characters from
real people, but overall they are fictional; my
characters exist only in my head.
Q: What books and authors inspire and influence you?
A: Well, as an adult, I can pick a lot of authors who
have influenced me. My favorite authors are are Jane
Austen, Mary Renault, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Shirley
Jackson. My favorite books are The Haunting of Hill
House, Fire from Heaven, Emma, and Tender is The
Night. I like Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s novels, but not his
short stories, and the other way around for J. D.
Salinger. But people want to know your childhood
influences, and I'll have to say just books in
general. I loved to read, and as soon as I learned how
I was reading everything I could get my hands on. I
was a horse nut, and Peanuts the Pony was the first
book I ever checked out of the library. I still
remember that book. The act of reading was so
pleasurable for me. For an introvrted kid, it's a
means of communication, because you interact with the
author even if you aren't sitting there conversing
Q: Why do you use your initials instead of your full
A: My publisher was afraid that the reviews would
assume a girl couldn't write a book like The
Outsiders. Later, when my books became popular, I
found I liked the privacy of having a "public" name
and a private one, so it worked out fine.
Q: Why do you think the book has remained so popular
through the years?
A: Every teenager feels that adults have no idea
what's going on. That's exactly the way I felt when I
wrote The Outsiders. Even today, the concept of the
in-group and the out-group remains the same. The kids
say, "Okay, this is like the Preppies and the Punks,"
or whatever they call themselves. The uniforms change,
and the names of groups change, but kids really grasp
how similar their situations are to Ponyboy's.