Sunday, December 27, 2009

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH CATHERINE RYAN HYDE

Many people are familiar with the movie version of PAY IT FORWARD, but few realize the author of the book that inspired the movie is also the author of several YA novels. 

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of DIARY OF A WITNESS, THE YEAR OF MY MIRACULOUS REAPPEARANCE, and THE DAY I KILLED JAMES.  She graciously agreed to answer a few interview questions so readers could learn more about her.  Please enjoy the following interview.

Readingjunky: When did you first think about being a writer?

Catherine Ryan Hyde: When I was a sophomore in High School I had the pleasure of a year with Lenny Horowitz as my English teacher. He was such an inspiration to me that I wrote an essay about him, dedicated one of my young adult books to him, and am now searching for his son so I can share all this with him (sorry to say that, despite being very young, Lenny died many years ago).

For those interested in the whole story, it's "reprinted" on my blog at:

http://www.catherineryanhyde.com/catherineryanhyde/Blog/Entries/2009/3/20_“Reprint”_of_I_Owe_It_All_To_Lenny.html
RJ: What was your biggest inspiration for THE YEAR OF MY MIRACULOUS REAPPEARANCE?

CRH: Recovery. Recovery is incredibly difficult, but ultimately inspiring. I began my own recovery (from alcohol and drugs) on the 4th of February, 1989 (yes, I'm very old). I'll celebrate 21 years soon. It's hard to imagine taking such a rich-but-trying journey without finding a story in it, something I can share with others. Hopefully, I felt, this story might serve as a cautionary tale for young teens.
RJ: What drives your writing most? Characters, plot, personal experience …

CRH: I would say character. Definitely character more than plot. I let the character dictate the plot to some degree. If you know who the character is, and you know what "crosses him" (the basic conflict of the story), then it isn't hard to know what he will do and what he will learn from it. I want to take it a step further, though, and say it actually starts not with a character but with an emotion. The emotion leads to the character and the character leads to the story. And the emotion is my personal experience, because I could never write about an emotion I haven't experienced. Sometimes I weave in small bits of personal experience, just some of those little "life things" that you can't really make up, but they're never as key or important as people think. My fiction really is fiction.
RJ: Do any of your characters resemble you in any way?

CRH: I think they all resemble me in some way. If only in that we share emotion, as stated above. None of them are really a thinly-disguised me, however. They are all their own (fictional) people.
RJ: Does any particular type of music inspire your creativity?

CRH: Oddly enough, I really only listen to music when I drive. I never combine it with my writing. I have focus issues. I'm one of those people who can barely walk and chew gum at the same time. So writing is a pure experience for me.
RJ: Can you describe a day in your writing schedule?

CRH: Assuming I'm working on something, and it's going, I'll start right after my morning Yoga and tea. I'll work until I run into a natural stopping place (translation: what comes next isn't ready) and refine and refine and refine until I'm able to move forward again. I try to be mindful of taking breaks to eat, but I have a real singleness of focus, as mentioned. On a good day I might do this for ten or eleven hours.

RJ: What is most rewarding about being a published author?

CRH: There's a lot to choose from, because I really love what I do. But I would have to say it's when I open my inbox and find an email from a total stranger who loved one of my books enough to write and tell me so. Often it's a person who is clear about the fact that they have never written to an author before. Sometimes it's a teen who tells me he or she didn't even like books until reading ____ (fill in the blank with one of my titles). And it isn't really an ego-driven experience. It may sound like I'm saying I love it because they're praising me. But it's not really that. More that I've somehow made an emotional connection with someone whose path I never would have crossed otherwise. That's what I like best about writing. It's a type of emotional communication.
RJ: Who are some of your favorite authors?

CRH: I like Jonathan Safran Foer a lot. And I read a lot of YA fiction. Some YA authors I like are Marcus Zusak, Jerry Spinelli, Rodman Philbrick (though I guess he's more MG), David Levithan and Laurie Halse Anderson.
RJ: What suggestions do you have for aspiring writers?

CRH: Don't write in a vacuum. Join a group, let others read your work, listen to their feedback. It hurts, but it hurts in a way you'll need to get used to. Expect rejection. It can't be avoided in this business. I'm getting rejections right now. I got literally hundreds before getting published. Make up your mind that it won't stop you.
RJ: Can you tell us anything about your current projects?

CRH: I leak a bit of info about them onto my blog when the timing is appropriate. Here is the info on my next YA, and I'm very excited about this one (even more than most):

http://www.catherineryanhyde.com/catherineryanhyde/Blog/Entries/2009/5/23_What’s_(Really)_New.html

And then here's some info on the newest adult title, which is so far only scheduled for release in the UK (but that will change in time):

http://www.catherineryanhyde.com/catherineryanhyde/Blog/Entries/2009/12/6_What’s_Next%2C_the_U.K._Version.html

RJ: And finally, what is your favorite way to relax?

CRH: To me, nothing is more relaxing than being out in nature. So it's a tie between kayaking in a very quiet place on still water (where I can set down my paddle and hear nothing but wind and birds) and hiking to the top of a high peak and looking down at how high I've climbed. Even a good couple-mile dog walk by the ocean (I'm lucky it's close by) will do nicely.

A great big thanks to Catherine for sharing not only her thoughts on the interview questions, but also a signed copy of THE YEAR OF MY MIRACULOUS REAPPEARANCE.  Check out the next blog post for a chance to win that signed copy!

1 comment:

Lenore said...

I have focus issues too - I can only listen to music when in the car or cleaning :)