Susan Eloise Hinton was born in 1948 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a place that she has described as “a pleasant place to live if you don’t want to do anything.” She began her best-known novel, The Outsiders, at the age of fifteen, inspired by her frustration with the social divisions in her high school and the lack of realistic fiction for high school readers. The Outsiders, first published in 1967, tells the story of class conflict between the Greasers, a group of low-income youths, and the Socs (short for Socials), a group of more privileged kids who live on the wealthy West Side of town. The novel broke ground in the genre of Young Adult fiction, transcending established boundaries in its portrayal of violence, class conflict, and prejudice.
Hinton’s publishers decided that Hinton should publish her novel under the name S. E. Hinton in order to cloak her gender. They worried that readers would not respect The Outsiders, which features male protagonists and violent situations, if they knew a female wrote it. Hinton has said that she does not mind using an authorial name that is gender neutral.
After the publication of her first novel, Hinton felt pressure to turn out a successful sophomore effort. She had difficulty writing under this stress, and her boyfriend (who later become her husband) nudged her along by taking her out only if she had completed two pages per day. Hinton successfully finished her second novel, titled That Was Then, This is Now, published in 1971 Four of her young adult novels, The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, Tex, and That Was Then… This Is Now, have been adapted into films.