It's Been 50 Years, Ponyboy.... A Q&A with S.E. Hinton

Seira Wilson on May 23, 2017

Outsiders225I was kind of taken aback to see a 50th Anniversary edition of The Outsiders released (has it really been that long!?), but I'm not surprised that it remains one of the most widely read and remembered coming-of-age novels of our time. Reading The Outsiders is almost a rite of passage, and I don't know about you, but once I think about that particular book, memories of S.E. Hinton's other novels that I loved so much come flooding back--Rumble Fish and That Was Then, This Is Now being two of my personal favorites.  

The movie adaptation of The Outsiders is also a classic, filled with actors who are went on to become box office giants--Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, etc.)--and directed by none other than Francis Ford Coppola. There's a fascinating story of how Coppola came to make the movie that's just one of many cool extras inside the 50th anniversary edition. S.E. Hinton is active on social media and continues to get letters from fans new and old, so to mark this milestone in the book's life, I sent her some questions:

Seira Wilson: The theme of being an outsider or in an “us vs. them” situation has become a steady theme young adult literature, but The Outsiders is still the touchstone for it and transcends its time period. Why do you think that’s the case?

S.E. Hinton: The idea of feeling like an “outsider,” even among your own friends, is a universal and timeless experience.

In the 50th Anniversary edition Author’s Note you say that the letters you receive telling you that the book changed the reader’s life or influenced their life choices scare you--why is it?

I love the letters saying "I learned to love reading from this book," or "This is the best book I've ever read." But who am I to change anyone's life? The only way I can deal with it is to think The Outsiders was meant to be written, and I was chosen to write it.

Of all the covers The Outsiders has had, both U.S. and foreign, which one is your favorite?

I'm fond of the original abstract cover, though it did startle me. I also love the movie tie-in cover.

From the letters between yourself and your editor it looks like there were many title ideas. Who ultimately came up with The Outsiders, and if that hadn’t surfaced, which of the contenders did you like most?

The publishers came up with the title after many back-and-forth letters between us. I have never thought about what it could have been.

If you had to choose only one quote from the book, what would it be and why?

Of course, "Stay Gold" is used around the world. I like "I lie to myself all the time, but I never believe me." Think this one applies to all people.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I've been a big fan of Shirley Jackson since 8th grade when I slammed The Haunting of Hill House shut in the middle, scared to go on. (I did, though.) What a craftsman!

Mary Renault's Greek historical novels have affected the way I view things. Beautiful writing, too. I re-read all of Jane Austin at least once a year, and find something new each time. Best writing teacher ever!

One of the many pieces of correspondence about what to name Hinton's book:


The original abstract cover of The Outsiders--still one of Hinton's favorites:


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