S. E. Hinton made a relatively rare personal appearance at the L.A. Times Festival of Books this week, and made sure to drop plenty of juicy details during her Q&A (“S. E. Hinton, a.k.a. Your Majesty,” by Cecil Castellucci, Jacket Copy). Mostly Hinton was there to talk about her recent Some of Tim’s Stories, but let’s face it–we want the scoop on how, at the tender age of 16, Hinton pounded out a masterpiece like The Outsiders.
“When I was young, all the books were about a Mary Jane and the football player and the prom and ending up with the quiet guy and making your mom happy,” she said. “Well, I’d been to a few proms, and it was about who got killed in the parking lot and who’s got the booze inside.”
Yeah, that pretty much squares with my prom experience, too. And how did Hinton shape that crackerjack of a plot?
As the story expanded, she began telling her friends that she was writing a book. “I asked my friends what should happen in the story, and they would say, ‘Oh, the church should burn down.’ ” So she would say OK, and then the church would burn down.
Plot by committee? Whatever works! And her influence continues: I’m currently reading Break, the debut novel of recent high school graduate Hannah Moskowitz (August, Simon Pulse), and both Moskowitz’s age and style remind me of Hinton. Here’s hoping Moskowitz, too, can stay golden.