Welcome to Wild Card Wednesday. Anything can happen here at Full-Tilt Backwoods Boogie. Today, we’re journeying to fictional worlds.
Each author’s world is like a fingerprint. The author’s experiences, lifestyle, and voice paint her fictional world. An author’s world is unique, nearly impossible to duplicate. Done right, reading about an author’s world feels like going to a favorite vacation spot to meet esteemed friends.
Authors often revisit locations, socio-economic classes, and sometimes even characters.
Nobody writes about the super-rich and famous like Jackie Collins. South Louisiana belongs to James Lee Burke’s fictional detective, Dave Robicheaux. California is Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone country.
Perhaps each of these authors is writing about a place–or people–so deeply ingrained in their imaginations it’s part of who they are. Today, we’ll look at one author’s fictional world and the way she carried setting, storyline, and characters through four non-series books.
Susan Eloise Hinton–better known as S.E. Hinton–grew up in a working class family in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her 1967 debut novel The Outsiders gave young adult fiction a new face.
Forget the prom queen worrying about whether she she should date the captain of the football team or the shy boy next door. The Outsiders was about class wars between high school kids. The stakes were life and death, not embarrassment over wearing the wrong dress.
[Fun Factoid: Ms. Hinton gets letters from librarians which claim The Outsiders is the book most stolen from school libraries.]
S.E. Hinton was 16 when she wrote The Outsiders. She received the paperwork–the publishing contract for the book–the day she graduated high school. The Outsiders was based on the social divide at Hinton’s Tulsa, Oklahoma high school.
In an interview, Hinton said The Outsiders was based on the two most extreme groups in her high school–the Socs and the Greasers.
- The Socs wore madras shirts and wheat jeans and did cool things like get drunk, beat each other up, steal things, and have drag races.
- The Greasers wore leather and had long hair and did trashy things like get drunk, beat each other up, steal things…and have drag races.
So the two groups did the same things. The difference was that one had money and the other one didn’t. Socs–the group who had money–were cool. Greasers were trashy.
The Outsiders plays out in a bleak landscape of absentee parents, financial worries, and kids who end up getting each other killed. It’s tragic, yet relatable.
S. E. Hinton wrote three more YA novels by 1979. They were
- That was Then, This is Now (1971)
- Rumble Fish (1975)
- Tex (1979)
These four books were so well loved, they were adapted into movies.
[Note: S. E. Hinton has written one other YA novel, Taming the Star Runner. I have never read it, and that’s why I don’t discuss it in this post.]
S. E. Hinton created a whole world to showcase her special brand of YA.
The books–with the exception of Tex–take place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tex takes place in Garyville, a small town a short distance from Tulsa.
Ponyboy Curtis — introduced in The Outsiders. He shows back up in That was Then, This is Now.
The Shepard Family — Tim Shepard is introduced in The Outsiders. His brother, Curly Shepherd is mentioned in That was Then, This is Now. Their sister, Angela, shows up in That was Then, This is Now.
Mark Jennings — is introduced in That was Then, This is Now. He appears in Tex as an adult. Mark was fathered by a golden-eyed cowboy, and so was Tex. It is implied that Mark and Tex are half-brothers.
Cathy Carlson — is introduced as a teenager in That was Then, This is Now. She reappears in Tex as an adult.
Contiuity of Events:
That was Then, This is Now takes place shortly after The Outsiders. The narrator, Bryon, indicates the events of The Outsiders led to the end of the social wars.
Rumble Fish takes place a few years later. The narrator–Rusty James–longs for the days of rival gangs and social wars. He idolizes his older brother who came of age during that era.
For more on continuity in S. E. Hinton’s novels, please check out this excellent wikipedia entry.
The world of S. E. Hinton is only one author created universe.
Stephen King has done similar things with Castle Rock and Derry, Maine. Joe Lansdale writes about La Borde, Texas–likely a fictionalized Nacogdoches. Dennis Lehane writes about his native Boston, Massachusetts.
I write about the tall pine trees and winding two lane blacktop of East Texas. It isn’t that I can’t write about other places. It is that I don’t want to. That place gouged a deep mark in me and made me the writer I am.
Perhaps other authors feel something similar when they return to the same setting and the same characters.