Born in 1950, Susan Eloise Hinton was raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was an avid reader as a child and experimented with writing by the time she turned ten. Her early stories were about cowboys and horses, and she preferred plots with rough riding and gunfights. When Hinton reached her teens, however, she could not find anything pleasing to read. Adult literature was still a bit too complicated for her, while literature for teens consisted of innocent tales about girls finding boyfriends. To please herself, she decided to create a different fictional universe from these annoying “Mary Jane goes to the prom” novels. She wanted to create a realistic story about being a teen. Additionally, like her character Ponyboy, she wanted to record some events of her high school years. She took inspiration from real events and people to create a story of class warfare between teens. After working on the novel for a year and a half and through four re-writes, she let a friend’s mother read it. The mother liked it enough to refer her to an agent, Marilyn Marlow of the Curtis Brown Agency. A contract offering publication arrived during Hinton’s high-school graduation ceremonies.
The Outsiders was published in 1967, when the author was just seventeen. Susan Eloise shortened her name to S. E. Hinton so that boys would not know the author was female. It was published to critical acclaim, won several awards, and became a cult classic among teen readers. The success of The Outsiders enabled Hinton to go to the University of Tulsa, where she earned a B.S. in Education in 1970. While in school she met her future husband, David Inhofe, who encouraged her to write her second novel, That Was Then, This Is Now (1971). Over the next decade, she published a new novel every four years. In 1975, she published Rumble Fish, and Tex in 1979. Although she was no longer an adolescent herself, Hinton was still able to bring her sympathy for teens and insight into their lives to her work. She only published one work in the 1980s, 1988′s Taming the Star Runner, and in the 1990s she has focused more on picture books for younger readers than on novels.
Other than her writing, Hinton is kept busy by a family life and her son, Nicholas David. She has also served as a consultant on the film adaptations of her novels and has even appeared in minor roles. She continues to write and lives in Tulsa. Her pivotal role in the development of young adult fiction was recognized in 1988, when the American Library Association awarded her the first Margaret Edwards Young Adult Author Achievement Award for her body of work.