S. E. Hinton: “When she was 15, she started working on a book called The Outsiders”

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of novelist S. E. Hinton, born Susan Eloise Hinton in 1948 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Growing up she loved to read but her biggest dream in life was to be a cowboy. So she wrote a couple of books about cowboys and then, when she was 15, she started working on a book called The Outsiders. She said, “Nobody believes that, so I usually say 16. My editors say 17, just in case.”

She wrote and edited much of her novel during her junior year of high school, the same year that she got a D in her creative writing class. The Outsiders was the story of two rival gangs, based on the gangs at her high school in Tulsa — one of them was a group of kids from working-class families, the other, rich children of families who had made money in the oil business.

Hinton knew a friend of a friend whose mother wrote children’s books so she sent the manuscript to that woman’s agent and Viking paid her $1,000. The Outsiders was published in 1967 during her first year of college at the University of Tulsa. She said: “Before it was published I thought I knew how to write. Afterward, I knew I couldn’t. I was a teen-age writer, which is similar to being a teen-age werewolf, only it doesn’t last as long.”

But The Outsiders became one of the most popular young adult books ever. It has sold more than 14 million copies, and continues to sell hundreds of thousands each year.

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