Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of 24 published and forthcoming books, including Where We Belong, Walk Me Home, When You Were Older, Don’t Let Me Go, When I Found You, and Second Hand Heart. Forthcoming are Take Me With You, and Pay It Forward: Young Readers Edition.
She is co-author, with publishing industry blogger Anne R. Allen, of How to be a Writer in the E-Age: a Self-Help Guide.
Her bestselling novel Pay It Forward was made into a major Warner Brothers motion picture, chosen by the American Library Association for its Best Books for Young Adults list, and translated into more than two dozen languages for distribution in over 30 countries.
Loren Kleinman (LK): Where would you live if you could live anywhere in the world?
Catherine Ryan Hyde (CRH): A This one gives me great pleasure to answer: Here. Right here. I live on the Central Coast of California in a tiny town called Cambria—with about 6,000 other people. It’s right on the ocean. In fact, I can see the ocean from most windows. It’s not a place I moved to when I finally started making some money with my writing. I’ve lived here for almost 29 years. I starved here when I was first trying to get published. My mom inherited a house here, and passed it on to me, and there’s just no room for improvement (in my opinion). I travel a lot, and spend a lot of time in the outdoors, and seek the most beautiful places… but when I get home to Cambria, I’m always glad. I’m not saying I’ll never leave here, just that when I eventually do, there’ll be a body bag involved.
LK: Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
CRH: All of them. Also none of them. Yeah, typical author, huh? I just have to be cryptic behind the guise of poetic. I find every single one of my characters by going under their skin and mine and finding the place where we’re not separate. And because that’s a relatively universal place (is that something like being fairly unique? What I mean to say is anyone can meet me in that place but not everyone will) I hope the reader can also relate. But each character who comes to me has a story. And it’s not my story. Still, if I didn’t know how it felt to be them I either couldn’t write them, or any attempt to do so would fall flat.
If there’s one thing I’m going for in my writing, it’s that our differences are very much surface stuff, and our similarities as humans cut very deep.
LK: Where do you get your inspiration?
CRH: A I’m a student of human nature. Human beings fascinate me. I’m spellbound by why we do what we do, and even more so by why we don’t what we don’t. I never grow tired of trying to understand why when we’re angry or hurt we say we’re not. I follow the fear the way investigative reporters follow the money.
If we ever straightened up and started telling each other the damn truth, I’d be out of a job. Until then, our quirkiness seems to yield endless stories.
Also, I don’t think I’m about to be out of a job.
LK: Which genres do you prefer to read?
CRH: A I don’t read what’s called genre fiction. I don’t usually enjoy fantasies, mysteries, romances, or thrillers. I’m not looking down on them, or insulting those who read them—everybody should read what they like. What I like are character-driven books that shine a light on what it means to be human, and give me a sense of hope without reminding me of a Hallmark card. I also like fiction that pulls no punches. I do like YA, but YA contemp, not paranormal or dystopian. When I look at the world, it looks bad enough right now. (Yeah, yeah, I know—it doesn’t sound like a statement from the woman who wrote the book on optimism.) I like books that have some literary meat on their bones, but any author who uses the phrase “literary high art” will send me screaming into the night. I believe in keeping it real.
Also, I read so many books as “homework,” because I should know about them, or because the author has asked me to, that the pile of books I find personally interesting keeps getting pushed farther into the background. But there are worse problems in life than “Too many books, too little time,” so I’m not complaining.
LK: What are your thoughts on ebooks? (i.e. love them, hate them, wave of the future)
CRH: A I’ll start by saying there’s no doubt that they are the wave of the future. Anyone who questions that premise is in some major denial (in my opinion).
Beyond that, I’m curious as to why they scare some people so. No one has ever died from an ebook. That I know of. The people who are scared of them make up crazy reasons why they’re bad, but they’re not bad, and the reasons are crazy. For example, the idea that they will kill print books… remember when we used horses for transportation? Then somebody invented the car. But horses still exist. If you want to ride one, or buy one, you can. Plus, ebooks are a first cousin of POD books, and POD books are paper. Everybody gets what they want, and is happy. I guess people just don’t like change.
Personally, I am hugely grateful to ebooks, because about 95% of my readership is among Kindle owners. My career was in a huge slump when an indie ebook revived it, so I have no complaints. And I don’t worry too much about the complaints I hear, because people get used to stuff. They say they never will, but then they do. See the above answer on where I get my inspiration.
LK: Anything else you would like to add?
CRH: When the indie revolution hit, snooty authors who were doing great in traditional publishing warned about the “tsunami of crap.” I was never worried. And nobody drowned. I welcomed the indie revolution because I’d rather see 100 crappy books uploaded than have one really talented author locked out of the system. Indie is hard, but then again, so is what it potentially replaces. The conundrum is always how to get your book noticed, so it can be purchased, and that’s hard no matter what the publishing model. But indie makes it possible, and puts it within reach for everyone. And I feel that should be celebrated. I’m wondering if you’re familiar with the Kristen Lamb quote “Great, thanks to that Gutenberg jerk, everyone can be published.” I think that just about says it all.
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