Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A Chat with Author Catherine Ryan Hyde

I am so proud to bring to you the author who brought us Pay It Forward, a very popular, heartbreaking and yet so beautiful story of a young boy who attempts to make this world a better place.  I cannot begin to tell you how awesome she is...but without much further ado, I bring to you the amazing Catherine Ryan Hyde.  Pay It Forward is only one of her novels.  please visit her website HERE to know more about her books.

Our Chat

Len:  I’ve seen the film, Pay It Forward, and saw how much it’s grown into a movement and a foundation.  It’s amazing that a book turned into a film continues to help people.  Please can you tell us how you came up with the story idea?

Catherine:  Yes, absolutely. I used to not like this question because it was a long story and I had told it literally hundreds of times. But I found what I think is a good solution. I edited a videotaped speech where I told the story in proper detail, and I posted it on my YouTube channel. So now I’m glad you asked. Because I’ve put a lot of work into my YouTube channel, and there’s a lot out there for my readers to explore. So I’m happy to be able to give a link to that.

The story of my inspiration for the Pay It Forward idea is here: 

And the channel main page is here: 

I have video excerpts for most of the novels, which are little videos I made myself, with excerpts read by me. I have videos from my hiking and travel and other videos that are Pay It Forward related. I hope people will take a look around out there!

L:  You’ve written so many books.  Do you also have a day job?

C:  I do not. Since 1998, I have managed to keep the bills paid with my writing, as well as looking after my retired mom. Although I have to admit that there are times when I am not succeeding in doing so by as comfortable a margin as I might like. But I persevere.

I also have no spouse or children. Which really does explain a big piece of how I manage to get so much done. Nobody ever tugs my sleeve while I’m writing and says, “What’s for dinner?” or “Hey, mom, look at me.” This is not to denigrate spouses and children in any way. But the singular focus helps me to be more prolific.  

L:  Please can you describe to us your writing day?

C:  Well. I can describe two possible days. 
In one, I get up, do 15 minutes of Yoga, check my email, drink a cup of tea, and start writing. Sometime around 2:30 I realize my teeth are not brushed. Sometime around 5:00 I realize I should eat. Having remedied those issues, I get back to work.

On other days, I still do Yoga and tea, but I spend the whole day without writing. If I have a work in progress and I have something worth getting down, I work. If not, I balance the check book and get the oil changed in the car. Because later, when I’m working, I won’t do either of those things.

L:  Are you a plotter or a panster?

C:  Somewhere in between, I think. I like to know where I’m going so I don’t get lost and end up nowhere. But I don’t like to hammer down where I’m going so tightly that I miss an interesting side trip. So I’m forever trying to hit that balance. 

L:  I find your books focus on kindness and love...have you always wanted to write this kind, which I love, of stories?

C:  I think there was a time, a couple of decades ago, where my work was darker and edgier. And then, as I gradually got lighter, so did the stories. 

L:  In ‘When I Found You,’ it was interesting to know about guns  and duck-hunting.  Did you have to interview people about guns and duck-hunting?

C:  Interestingly, though I have never hunted, I know just a little bit about shotguns and hunting because I once took a hunter safety course. Even though I don’t hunt. It’s like this: There was a lottery for permits to hunt mountain lions. Very controversial. There are very few lions, and most people think they should be allowed to live. So a group of us got together and got our hunting licenses, so we could join the lottery. So one of us could hopefully win a permit which we would not use, thus saving one lion. But it all ended rather anticlimactically when the lottery was called off, which I think was for the best.
I did have a friend of mine, who is a hunter, in Pennsylvania, check my work before publication.

L:  In ‘Don’t Let Me Go,’ you wrote about child protective system and social services, was the research challenging to get information that’s in the book? 

C:  Not too much. I was able to learn a lot online. And every case is a little bit different.

L:  Who are your favourite authors?

C:  I read a lot of Young Adult novels (of course I write them as well) and I like Holly Schindler and David Levithan and Jerry Spinelli (who might not be well-known in the UK—I’m not sure).
My favorite adult author is Jonathan Safran Foer.

L:  Favourite books?

C:  My favorite “classics” from when I was young are Flowers for Algernon, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Of Mice and Men.

More recent favorites are Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Jonathan Safran Foer) and The Book Thief (Markus Zusak).

L:  Which writing books would you recommend that would help us writers to improve more our writing?
C:  For those having trouble getting started (or not stalling) I’d recommend Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. 

In general I don’t think I’d recommend books so much as a good writing (critique) group. I know books feel much safer. Which is the problem. Writers need to get used to hearing feedback. It’s unavoidable.

L:  Your biggest influence?

C:  Nature - particularly the breathtakingly beautiful vistas I see when I hike in the national parks

L:  Greatest weakness?

C:  Potato chips.  Otherwise, I am a fiendishly healthy eater.

L:  Please complete this into a sentence for me:  "When I was a child, I wanted to be...."

C:  A cartoonist.  A songwriter.  An actress.  A film producer.  An animator.  Always something creative.  Just took me a while to find my niche.


It is so nice to get to know you more.  Thank you ever so much for this lovely interview.  It is an honour to have you on my blog.


Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Len, thank you so much for introducing us to Catherine. I had no idea Pay It Forward was based on a book. I'll have to look for it. I love the movie...it made a big impression on me. It coached me into volunteering for Habit for Humanity and the Red Cross...even into approaching a homeless Veteran and helping him. Thank you so much for your inspirational work, Catherine.

Theresa Milstein said...

Len, thanks for introducing me to Catherine Ryan Hyde. I can relate to forgetting to brush my teeth! When I have days off and write that often happens to me! And I liked Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. That is a popular book in the US.

Old Kitty said...

Thanks Len for a wonderful interview with Catherine Ryan Hyde! I don't remember the film, I must admit, but now that I know a little about it - I'll root around for the book! Thanks again! Take care

M. Christine Weber said...

Lovely interview and great questions! The mountain lion lottery scheme made me giggle...very nice. :0)

Glynis said...

What a wonderful interview. Pay It Forward is amazing. Thank you both for entertaining me today.

The Golden Eagle said...

Great interview!

I've heard of Bird by Bird before; it sounds like a good writing resource.

Deniz Bevan said...

Lovely, in depth interview. I enjoyed The Book Thief as well, but haven't read the others - better start adding to my wishlist!

Samantha Sotto said...

Great interview! I am officially jealous of her writing day :)

DeniseCovey_L'Aussie said...

Thank you for hosting Catherine, Len! This was a terrific interview. I find I have many books I love in common with Catherine. Don't often here Bird by Bird mentioned but it is awesome.

I haven't read any of your books Catherine, but methinks you have convinced me.

Happy Christmas ladies!


Stina Lindenblatt said...

I hear her on the kids and husband part. At least my husband is understanding.

I didn't realize the movie was based on a book, but I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. Most of the good ones usually are. :)

Great interview!