Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Author Interview: Catherine Ryan Hyde!

Here's the feature author interview for Author Week: Catherine Ryan Hyde!

About the Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author
of 11 published and forthcoming titles. Among those, Pay It Forward was made into a major motion picture, named an ALA Best Book For Young Adults, translated into 20 languages for distribution in over 30 countries, and also became a national bestseller. (And don't you dare watch the movie first. If you have, read the book, too!) Electric God is optioned for film and currently in development. Her latest releases are Becoming Chloe, Love In The Present Tense, The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance, and Chasing Windmills. The Day I Killed James is due for publication in May 2008.

You can visit her online at or on her MySpace page.

On The Writing

Could you describe your road to publication?

The hardest thing I have ever accomplished. A real “dark night of the soul.” If I weren’t pathologically stubborn, I doubt I would have made it. I couldn’t get an agent for several years. They just weren’t interested. So I wrote short stories and marketed them myself. I got 122 rejections before I placed one. I eventually placed over 50. And racked up over 1,500 rejections.

Your book, Pay It Forward, has been made into a movie. And now I hear that you have another movie deal under wraps! How does it feel to have your books go to the big screen?

Not sure if I’d say it’s under wraps. It’s in development. I know they’re doing something with it, because they keep re-upping the option. But I’m not sure what exactly. I think a movie is under wraps when it comes to a theater near you. (Steph stands humbly corrected!)

It’s a very mixed experience. They never make the movie you would want, as the author. It hurts to watch them “Hollywood-ize” it. But it’s worth it for the recognition of your work.

How important is music to your writing? Any artists you want to give a shoutout to?

You know, I hate to admit this, but I almost never listen to music unless I’m driving. And then I go through phases. I’ll listen to nothing but Elvis Costello for a month. Then I’ll wear out my Counting Crows CDs. Sometimes it’s all REM all the time. I’m very obsessive, and will listen to the same song a dozen times in a row.

What makes a good writer?

In my estimation? Heart. A real knowledge—or even thirst for knowledge—about human nature. The human condition.

What's the most important lesson you've learned about the publishing industry?

That bigger is not always better. It’s not always best to have the biggest publisher or the biggest agent. It’s about who will understand the work, be enthusiastic about it. Give it their best.

What's the best thing about being a published writer? The worst?
The best? Making my own schedule. The worst? The way the publishing industry is breaking down. Tilting toward celebrity books and page-turners.

But even the worst things about being a writer are still high-class problems.

How long does it take for you to finish a story?

Depends on whether it’s cooperating. I can usually hammer out a first draft of a novel in about five months.

Of the books you've written, which is your favorite?

Becoming Chloe.

What's the biggest difference between writing for adults and writing for teens?

I’m no longer sure there is a difference. All of my YA novels (it seems) were originally written as adult and all my adult novels were originally written for YA. I can’t remember the last time I was right. The only difference I can see is that YA has a character and a story that a younger person will not find boring.

Tell us, does writing for young adults rock or what?

It so rocks.

On Self

What's your favorite place in the world?

The Grand Canyon. Below the rim.

What's your all-time favorite food?

I’d have to go with sushi.

What's the craziest thing you've ever done?

Quit my day job to become a full-time writer.

What makes you laugh?

I Love Lucy. And sometimes the old, original Looney Tunes cartoons. I particularly like Pepe Le Pew. Also Jon Stewart makes me laugh.

If you were having a huge, fancy dinner party at your house and could invite any five people you wanted (dead or alive), who would they be and why?

Count Basie and Ruth Gordon. Because they had an inner goodness that shone through. They made me feel good just by being who they were. Albert Einstein. Because he possessed a knowledge that seemed to link science with God/Spirit. My old first spiritual teacher, Thane Walker. Because I know I would understand what he had to say much better now than I did thirty years ago. And my friend Jody, who took his own life in 2005. So I could ask him why.

What's your most treasured possession?

My dog, Ella. If she could be considered a possession. I don’t really see her that way. Actual material possessions, my little house by the ocean and my little motor home. Because they allow me to live the way I love to live.

(If anyone's wondering, Ella is, according to Catherine, "a weird little mix of Scotty/Chinese Crested".)

If you had to pick any other profession, what would it be?

There are other professions? Seriously, public speaking is fun and I could teach writing. But it’s all about writing for me.

What are your favorite movies and TV shows?

My favorite TV shows are The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Real Time with Bill Maher. I watch very little network stuff. Mostly cable.

Movies: Everything Is Illuminated, Stranger Than Fiction, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Little Miss Sunshine, Six Degrees of Separation, Harold and Maude.

What are you reading right now? How do you like it?

Teach Me by R.A. Nelson. I’ve pretty much just started. But I like it very much. The prose is sharp and intelligent, and boy, does he ever get inside the head of this teenage girl.

Complete the following sentences:

Flowers for Algernon is my favorite book because it gets you to spend time with someone you probably would not want to know in real life. And you end up loving him.

In a perfect world, people would say to me, “I haven’t seen the Pay It Forward movie yet…but I did read your book!”

Most people would be surprised to find out that I often go weeks—even months—at a time without working on my writing.

When I'm not writing, I spend as much time as I can outdoors.

My favorite fictional character is Jordy from Becoming Chloe.

I wouldn't be who I am today if it weren't for Lenny Horowitz, my high school English teacher. He told me I could write.

Now it's time for your creative side! Make yourself a question and answer it.

Q: What is your biggest consciousness-raising challenge about your own career?
A: The people who adore the Pay It Forward concept, preach it, share it, live by it, have seen the movie twelve times, but have never read the book. Or don’t even know there is one. I’m trying to spread this one simple sentence to as many ears as possible: “Did You know Pay It Forward started with a book?”


Thanks to Catherine for doing the interview and for participating as much as she did this week!

Stay tuned for tomorrow, when we're having our first ever contest!


Amee said...

Great interview! Loved the picture of her dog. So cute!

Steph said...

Thanks!! I know, I loved Ella too. And for anyone who wants a little more info on Ella, I just added to the review what kind of a dog she is. :)


The Whirlwinds said...

Lovely interview! I can't wait until you start up with your contest. Best of luck to you. The Maelstrom will help advertise if you'd like.


Steph said...

Thanks Aella :) I'll be sure to use that help of yours!

Nurin said...

great interview ;)
her doggie is cute lol

My sister really likes her stuff ;) maybe i should check some things out

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Hey! For some reason, this embedded comment form makes most people click twice before the comment is processed and published. It's not you - it's just that it's a new Blogger feature with kinks and all that. (But I adore it and don't wanna get rid of it!) I removed Captcha to make the process easier. You don't have to rewrite the comments twice; just click on SUBMIT twice and it should work. If not, email me. Thanks! -Steph