S. E. Hinton Biography

S. E. Hinton was drawn to writing novels for young adults because she couldn’t stand the literature she was forced to read when she was in high school. She was only a freshman in high school when she started what would become her most famous work, The Outsiders, the second biggest seller in young adult books even today. Unafraid of exposing teenage rebellion, acts of juvenile delinquency, and social conduct found in teenage subcultures, Hinton went on to write four more novels, including Rumble Fish, which spoke directly to teens, expressing their feelings as best she could rather than trying to preach to them. Not surprisingly, Hinton herself is a bit of a rebel. She now refuses to speak or to read in public to promote her books.

Facts and Trivia

  • Susan Eloise Hinton chose to use only her first and middle initials (S. E.) when it came time to publish her first novel. She figured that boys wouldn’t read her book if they knew a girl had written it.
  • Not only did one of the greatest directors ever, Francis Ford Coppola, direct the movie version of The Outsiders, but some of the greatest up-and-coming young movie actors, including Emilio Estevez, Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon, and Tom Cruise, starred in it as well. 
  • Hinton’s realistic depiction of life in her novels changed the trend in books written for young adults, which had previously displayed only sugarcoated versions of the struggles real teens dealt with.
  • When it came time for her to write her second novel, That Was Then, This Is Now, she was stumped and couldn’t write at all. Her future husband helped out by refusing to take her out on a date until she showed him that she had written at least two pages each day.
  • Hinton was trained to be a teacher, but she never taught. After her practice-teaching, she realized she became too emotionally involved with her students’ life stories.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 526

Susan Eloise Hinton was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1948. As a teenager, she was shy and did not like to draw attention to herself, yet she did not conform to the expected pursuits of a teenage girl at that time. She was a tomboy who loved horses, and although she generally did not suffer directly from the social tension that existed between the socioeconomic classes in her town, she felt keenly the effects that such tension had on those around her.

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While Hinton was in high school, her father was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was hospitalized for extended periods of time. In response, Hinton threw herself into the novel she had begun writing in order to create the type of realistic fiction she herself craved as a reader. She completed the first draft during her junior year, around the same time her father died. She then polished the work in subsequent drafts but did not consider submitting it for publication until a writer acquaintance advised her to send it to her own agent. The book was quickly accepted, and during the editorial process, Hinton graduated from high school and began attending the University of Tulsa, initially majoring in journalism and later switching to education. It was during this time that Hinton’s publisher encouraged her to use the gender-neutral initials for her byline, fearing that reviewers might dismiss a male-oriented book written by a female author.

Although it was not technically an overnight sensation, benefiting instead by word of mouth among its target audience and eventually teachers, The Outsiders received enough attention that Hinton’s life changed drastically. Her inherent shyness made interviewing difficult, and her study of other writers negatively impacted her confidence in her own abilities. Hinton developed a severe case of writer’s block that persisted until her boyfriend David Inhofe convinced her to sit down and write two pages per day before allowing herself to go anywhere. Hinton graduated in 1970 with a degree in education; in that same year, she married Inhofe and sent off her second book, That Was Then, This Is Now, which was published the following year.

Hinton continued to keep a relatively low profile for a successful author. Her third book, Rumble Fish, was published in 1975, and her fourth, Tex, was published in 1979. Both novels continued to explore the theme of teenage boys trying to find their place in a sometimes heartless world, often with little or no parental support. In the early 1980’s, Hinton’s comfortable routine was shaken up when Disney purchased the rights to turn Tex into a film. Hinton was closely involved in the making of the film, even convincing the producers to use her own horse in the film and teaching the young star, Matt Dillon, how to ride. Hinton also gave birth to her son, Nicholas, in 1983.

As Hinton concentrated on her family life, her writing pace slowed further. A fifth young adult novel, Taming the Star Runner, was published in 1988 to generally positive reviews. Then, after the largest gap since she had begun publishing, Hawkes Harbor, an unusual vampire novel for adults, appeared in 2004, generating confused reactions from reviewers.

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