The first time I heard about The Outsiders, my older, cooler cousin Lea was spending the week at our home in rural Oklahoma. (She lived in a small Oklahoma town, too.) “You have to hear about this book,” she said, and proceeded to tell me the entire plot without missing a single detail.
The next time I went to B. Dalton, the bastion of 1980s bookselling (in Tulsa, where The Outsiders was filmed), I picked up a copy and joined what turned out to be a worldwide group of people whose lives were touched by the story of Ponyboy Curtis and the Greasers navigating adolescence in a Soc-controlled world. Soon after that, I watched the movie, which by then was on video.
I read The Outsiders so many times the front cover fell off my paperback, and then I read the rest of the author’s books: Tex, Rumblefish, and That Was Then, This is Now. Suddenly, it didn’t feel like New York and California were the only important places in the country.
Almost as enthralling as the book itself — not to mention the movie that launched a thousand careers — was the legend of its writer, S.E. Hinton, who was from our own state and who had written The Outsiders when she was 16 years old.
People are so invested in this book and movie that one of them, rapper Danny Boy (House of Pain), recently bought the house used in the movie as the home of the Curtis brothers and is turning it into a museum. Last week, Rob Lowe, who played Sodapop Curtis, came to town on his birthday to be interviewed. Later this year, many of the cast members will be on hand for a 50th anniversary event that will raise money for the museum. (And if I’m really lucky, I’ll be there, too!)
For many years, S.E. Hinton lived a private life in Oklahoma, raising horses and seldom allowing interviews or appearances. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Outsiders, and she has graciously agreed to take part in the many celebrations of the book and movie, including a Q&A session presented by the Tulsa Literary Coalition that was broadcast live (but not archived) on the Facebook page of Booksmart Tulsa.
Here is what she had to say:
On why she wrote The Outsiders:
On how she came up with the idea for The Outsiders:
On what it was like to get published:
On her continuing relationships with the stars of the movie:
On why she uses her initials:
On what gave her the confidence to send her book to a publisher:
On her advice for young writers:
On people who say The Outsiders saved their lives:
Stay gold, Susan Eloise Hinton.