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Interview: October 8, 2004

October 8, 2004

Cindy Lynn Speer and Wiley Saichek of interview bestselling young adult author S.E. Hinton, who has written a novel for an adult audience titled HAWKES HARBOR. Hinton talks about the fictional town in which the book is set, why she chose to write a tale that features a vampire and her decision in the 1980s to take a break from fiction writing. What inspired you to write HAWKES HARBOR?

S.E. Hinton: I hadn't written in a while and wanted to do something for fun. I wanted the freedom to write an "adult" novel. I wanted to have some adventures.

BRC: Is the town of Hawkes Harbor based on an actual locale you've been to? What was involved with creating a "new" town? Will we see future books set in this location?

SEH: Hawkes Harbor is a fictional town. I needed an East Coast town, as Jamie Sommers and Kell Quinn meet in Hawaii and slowly drift west, until they arrive at the other side of the United States; the climates becoming colder and colder. I pictured Hawkes Harbor as a small, economically depressed town, the kind where most people know each other. Kell refers to it as "an uncanny little place," and I tried to give a few details to strengthen the "oddness," such as a history of disappearing people, a high rate of insanity in the population, an unusually strong cold current, the inability of the local mailmen to find Hawkes Hall. I scattered these details through the book, the emphasis on the characters and story rather than place.

BRC: Vampires have captivated readers for centuries. What drew you to writing a tale with a vampire? How did you decide which characteristics of vampire lore to use in HAWKES HARBOR?

SEH: I was drawn to the Vampire as a character definition more than anything. I don't read vampire books, although I am very interested in the paranormal. I didn't research Vampires, relying on the traditional lore of coffins, blood, stakes, etc. Grenville Hawkes was a man who valued self-control almost above all, and dealing with his reactions to being subjected to this "curse" was an interesting dynamic for me.

BRC: We love the different adventures Jamie went on. Why did you make him a sailor, and a man of sometimes questionable character?

SEH: Well, he had to be of a questionable character to reform. I don't believe he was a hardened criminal as much as a hardened man. The murder of a crew mate affected him deeply. I went into this book wanting a sense of freedom, and Jamie being a sailor gave him a lot of freedom.

BRC: Your earlier novels were written for a Young Adult audience. What inspired you to write for an adult audience with HAWKES HARBOR?

SEH: I was living with a teenager and it's hard to work up much sympathy for them in those conditions. Also, I just plain wanted to write about adult characters for a change.

BRC: Your last book, BIG DAVID, LITTLE DAVID, was written in 1995; your last novel was nearly 20 years ago. Why the gaps between your books? What keeps bringing you back to writing?

SEH: TAMING THE STAR-RUNNER was published 16 years ago, and I wrote two children's books since. I was busy raising my son, and didn't have the emotional energy to put into a novel. I knew I'd get back to writing, and certainly wasn't as worried about it as others seem to have been. It's all I ever wanted to do --- I began in grade school --- and it's all I know how to do.

BRC: You've seen several of your books made into movies. Have the rights to HAWKES HARBOR been bought? Do you think a movie has an effect on how the book is remembered either positively or negatively?

SEH: There's nothing definite about a movie version of HAWKES HARBOR right now. Movies can't ruin books. They can only ruin movies.

BRC: THE OUTSIDERS has become required reading for so many teens. How do you feel knowing that you've written something that has endured like this?

SEH: Proud, and humble at the same time.

BRC: What do you like to read? Who are some of your favorite authors? What authors influenced your work?

SEH: I read a lot of nonfiction, history, biography, social commentary, paranormal. I like Victorian novels. Jane Austen, Mary Renault, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Shirley Jackson are some of my favorite authors. Anything you read can influence your work, so I try to read good stuff.

BRC: If someone were to define you with one word, what would you like that word to be?

SEH: Honest.

BRC: What are your future plans? Will readers have to wait 20 years for another novel?

SEH: No. I am in a stage of life where I feel very free to write.