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S. E. Hinton Biography

Susan Eloise Hinton, better known as S. E. Hinton is an acclaimed writer who has influenced the lives of youth through her writings for generations. Born July 22nd in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Hinton enjoyed reading and writing for both school and pleasure from a young age (Random House). Through the use of writing, Hinton was found she was able to express herself in a way that allowed for her to share her views without worry. At age 15, she began writing what would become one of her biggest literary accomplishments The Outsider (Thomas). When the book was first published, the author was at the young age of 17 and already on her way to was on her way to becoming a literary icon (Random House). When The Outsiders was published in 1967, Hinton’s publishers presented her with an idea that likely influenced that this novel made on the readers. The Narrator of this novel is a boy named Ponyboy and considering that Hinton is female, it was suggested that she publish under the name S. E. Hinton, fearing that “their readers wouldn’t respect a “macho” story written by a woman” (Random House).

It was not until Hinton was in college at the University of Tulsa that she began to write her second book That Was Then, This Is Now (Random House). This was done with the encouragement of her then boyfriend, now husband who was able to see how her writers block was upsetting her and refused to go on dates with her unless she would write two pages a day (Random House). While this method took time, it was effective for Hinton as she was able to finally over come her writers block.

Hinton currently lives with her husband David in Tulsa Oklahoma (sehinton). Their only son Nick is away for college. In her off time, Hinton enjoys horse-back riding, walking the dog and reading (sehinton.com). These leisure activities have influenced her writings by expanding her mind and giving Hinton ideas for some of her later works.


            Hinton has published seven books, five of which are novels for young adults and two that are children’s books. These literary works are The Outsiders (1967), That Was Then, This Is Now 1971), Rumble House (1975), Tex (1979), Taming the Star Runner (1988), Big David, Little David (1995) and the Puppy Sister (1995).

The Outsiders was Hinton’s first novel and the one that she is best known for. This life changing story was something that Hinton felt passionately having heard by the world, having lived her own version in her hometown (Gillespie, 45). This novel looks at the harmful life altering effects the stereotyping can have on a group or individual (Gillespie, 45). This novel was also later turned into a film. Hinton is quoted as saying “I wrote it at the right time in my life, I lived that book” referring to The Outsiders (Write Stuff).

That Was Then, This Is Now, Hinton’s second novel is a story of drugs, delinquency, and a tough kid making a tough decision (Random House). This novel took longer to write than others because of her process of writing only two pages a day until completion.

Rumble House was published as a novel in 1975 after having been previously published as a short story in 1968 (hinton.com). The short story was originally published in an edition of Nimrod, which was a literary supplement for the University of Tulsa Alumni Magazine (hinton.com). This novel earned Hinton two awards; the ALA Best Book for Young Adults award and A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year award (Random House).

Tex was the third novel for Hinton and the first of her writings to be transformed into a motion picture (hinton.com). Hinton’s third novel earned her three awards including the ALA Best Book for Young Adults award, A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year award and A Booklist Editors’ Choice award.

Taming the Star Runner is Hinton’s last novel to date and was written after taking a seven year break from writing novels when her son Nick was a young child (Random House). Hinton told Random House Publishing in an interview “I couldn’t think of a single thing to say. I didn’t have a writer’s block—I was writing plenty: screenplays for my novels, television scripts, advertisements. I simply didn’t have a story I wanted to tell.” This novel earned another ALA Best Book for Young Adults award (Random House).

Big David, Little David was Hinton’s first children’s book that was written for kids of the kindergarten age. This story was published in 1995 (hinton.com).

The Puppy Sister was published later in 1995 and written for children (hinton.com).

Hinton became the first writer to be the recipient of the American Library Association’s first annual Margaret A. Edwards Award, an award that honors authors “whose books have provided young adults with a window through which they can view their world and which will help them to grow and to understand themselves and their role in society” (Random House). In 1988 Hinton became the first person to receive the YASD/SLJ Author Achievement Award (hinton.com).

Writing Motivations and Practices

Hinton has been asked in various interviews about her writing process. She explains that it began with her passion for writing that  in grade school because she loved to read and found the idea of creating her own stories was empowering (Write Stuff). Hinton begins her process the same but each writing ends differently. She begins with creating a character in her mind, and deciding on what the end result will be. After that, she works out the middle which Hinton believes to be the hardest part about writing (Random House). In regards to The Outsiders, Hinton realized that she was “not satisfied with the literature that was being written for young adults” and thus took it upon herself to write something that young adults such as herself could relate to (hinton.com). When it comes to physically writing, each book is different, The Outsiders was written three times before being it was published and for That Was Then, This Is Now, it was written in one draft, two pages a day. (Write Stuff)

From Novels to Films

Tex was Hinton’s first novel to be turned into a movie version in 1982 by Walt Disney Studios (Random House). Hinton on the filming of Tex: “Tex was just plain fun to shoot. My horse, who I based Tex’s horse on in the book, played Tex’s horse in the movie and did a great job!” (hinton.com). Hinton on her role in the film: “I play the typing teacher. I was supposed to look terrified, which was lucky, because I was.” (hinton.com).

The Outsiders was Hinton’s second novel turned film and was released as a movie in March of 1983 (hinton.com). During this filming, Hinton became close with the cast, “I was sort of a greaser den-mother—I still miss my boys” (hinton.com). Hinton on her role in the film: “I play the nurse in Dallas’ room—Matt and I had a hard time keeping a straight face during that scene!” (hinton.com)

Rumble Fish opened 1983 after The Outsiders and was her first film to be rated ‘R’ (hinton.com). Hinton on her part in the film: “I have a bit part as hooker. I don’t know why” (hitnon.com)

That Was Then, This Is Now, was turned into a film by Paramount Picture in 1985 (Random House). This was the first film that Hinton was not involved in the filming of but still felt that a good job was done in its adaptation (hinton.com). Her main comment on the film was “I knew Hollywood wouldn’t be brave enough to handle the ending, and I was right! Still a pretty good movie, though” (hinton.com).

Reviews of Hinton’s Writings

The reviews for S. E. Hinton have been primarily positive from both young adult such as Julie Wall, exclaiming that the novel That Was Then, This Is Now was “ a fantastic story of love, friendship, growing up and even growing apart”.  Young reader Michael Arbeiter proclaimed that Tex “[had] everything—action, romance, comedy. Hinton’s realistic characters have real-life problems that you might find familiar, like I did”.

Hinton is an author who faced few literary criticisms in her career. Her books are loved by many as they speak to an age group about the everyday challenges they face in a way that they can relate to.

Other Facts:

  • When Hinton’s not writing, she rides her horse, takes courses at the university, and is involved in Nick’s school (Random House).
  •  “I think if you want to learn to write better, you need to read better”- Hinton (Random House).
  • After The Outsiders, Hinton was becoming known as “The Voice of the Youth” among other titles (hinton.com).
Shown here with her novel Rumble Fish

Shown here with her novel Rumble Fish


“About the Author.” Random Hosue. Random House LLC., n.d. Web. 09 Feb 2014.

“Biography.” S. E. Hinton. sehinton, n.d. Web. 09 Feb 2014.

Arbeiter, Mihael. “Bonding with Books.” Voices From the Middle. 8.4 (2001): 76. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.

Fed-Feitel, Lisa. “S.E.Hinton has the Write Stuff.” Scholastic Scope. 54.6/7 (2005): 14. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.

Gillespie, Joanne S. “Getting inside S. E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders”.” English Journal. 95.3 (2006): 44-48. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.

Marcuccilli, Nicole M. “The Book Review Grade 5 & Up.”School Library Journal. 49.8 (2003): 186. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.

Wall, Julie. “That Was Then, This Was Now.” Voices From the Middle. 11.3 (2004): 71. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.