Writer Wednesday: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Catherine Ryan Hyde

Catherine Ryan Hyde

Catherine Ryan Hyde is our very special guest today. You've probably heard of her, and maybe you've read some of her books, or perhaps you've seen the movie "Pay it Forward" with Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey..... Now I've got your attention! Yes, Catherine Ryan Hyde wrote that book. The book that was adapted into a movie and began a social movement across the country.

But she's so much more than that. With 24 books under her belt, both published and self-published, this hybrid author is pioneering the industry and creating her own path. She's a voice for equality, she's a photographer, she's an outdoor enthusiast, she's an inspiration for authors and readers everywhere.

What is your name?

Catherine Ryan Hyde

Describe your books/genre to our readers.

I’ve written 24 published books, if you count the two that will be released this year. Three are story collections, and one is a collection of essays. But the vast majority are novels. They are really not "genre novels" in the most common definition of the term. They are very character-driven, and fall somewhere in the overlap between mainstream and literary fiction. I think many of them also fall loosely into the category of contemporary and/or women's fiction.

You've written so many books spanning a number of topics. At this point, what one book would you really like our readers to know more about and why?

My most recent novel is called Where We Belong. It was independently published between the time Amazon Publishing picked up the two previous novels, but before those editions released. So we chose to go indie with it here in the US (in the UK it will be coming out soon with Transworld/Random House Group). It's not getting quite as much attention as When I Found You (but what is?) which has enjoyed huge sales in the past year, but it’s holding its own up there with my other frontlist novels. But the main reason I'd like to focus on it, other than the fact that it's my newest release, is because it has the best reader reviews of anything I've ever written.

You created a real life social movement with your book and subsequent movie, "Pay it Forward". Please describe the Pay It Forward Foundation in your own words and what you see for the program in the long term..

I think the best description at this point would be to call it a foundation in a state of flux. For years we considered ourselves purely an educational foundation. We ran a self-service website that allowed teachers or other educators to download all the free information and supplies they needed to teach Pay It Forward in the classroom. And once the students came up with projects, we gave out "mini-grants" or "seed grants" to classes to put their ideas into action. But it began to feel limited. Adults wanted to be involved, too. So now our new president, Charley Johnson, is working to pull all the different facets of the world-wide movement together. Not an easy task! So, like those of you reading this, I wait to see what the next couple of years will bring.

You've experienced life as a published and self-published author. What prompted your decision to publish independently and what was that like for you in the beginning?

When the huge shake-up hit publishing in about 2009, I found it hard to find a new US publisher for my work. I was doing very well in the UK, so we sold my books directly to Transworld, but they just stacked up here at home. It made a great deal of sense to bring them out indie, because I had US readers waiting for them. At first they didn't do much. It was tricky to let people know they were there to buy, at least on a large scale. Then we put the indie edition of When I Found You (now in an Amazon Encore edition) on a 5-day free promotion as an experiment. 81,000 copies were downloaded in those five days! When it reverted to paid, it jumped up to #12 in sales and #3 in popularity. That's when Amazon Publishing contacted me. Which has been a wonderful thing. But I still use indie for my backlist, story collections, etc., because those are not the big-ticket items and publishers are less interested in them.

Share a bit with us about your photography and what draws you to this medium. I read that you're publishing a collection of photos in the future.

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The very near future! It's being proofread as I type, and we're in the process of choosing a cover image. I love to travel, and I love to hike. I have a special place in my heart for the natural world, for anything found in the great outdoors. So it stands to reason that I began to take pictures. Soon photography took on a life of its own. I posted photos almost daily to social networks, and the feedback I received on them kept me going. For years I've been posting a Daily Gratitude every day online (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and a little over a year ago I combined the two. That is, I began posting a Daily Gratitude photo every day. That's a whole different kind of challenge, finding something to be grateful for that can be photographed and shared. But what a life-changing experience! It's caused me to look at the world in a whole different way. So the ebook will be a collection of 365 gratitude photos. It's a wonderful way to share what you love most about the world.

You've mentioned that your short story collections haven't received as much feedback as your novels. We've heard of a recent surge in popularity of "commuter fiction". Do you think that this new interest will affect the short story market?

I certainly hope so. For years I've been wondering why an increasingly busy and attention-fragmented society doesn't embrace short fiction. I keep hearing that the short story is back, but I'm waiting to see it with my own eyes.

I love your stance on equality for all. Can you tell us more about it?

Well, it's pretty simple. I firmly believe that none of us is free until all of us are free. If anyone's rights can be abridged, then yours are in danger as well. So I am a big supporter of LGBT rights and marriage equality. This is not to say that I focus on it to the exclusion of other groups. As I say, equality has to cover everybody or it's not equality at all. But LGBT rights is experiencing its moment in history, and I want to be clear which side I'm on. As I’m fond of saying, "What part of liberty and justice for all don't you understand?"

You're an outdoor enthusiast. What are your favorite outdoor activities and what do you plan to tackle in the future?

Hiking and kayaking are my two favorites. I have a little motorhome, and I like to go out into nature with my dog, and we hit the trail. I also like self-guided motor tours of our national parks, but the more I can get out on the trail, the better. I just finished a wonderful life-list hike in January. I took my motorhome up to Hualapai Hilltop in Arizona, overlooking the western Grand Canyon, and hiked down to the Native-American village of Supai and back. I stayed two nights at the lodge, and on the middle day I hiked a round trip to Havasu falls and the other amazing blue-green waterfalls. I don't have any big plans right now, but I'll rustle up some. I always do. I do want to go hiking with my dog in the Trinity Alps (Northern California) when they thaw out in the spring.

What are 3 things most people don't know about you?

I’m extremely introverted. People don't guess this, because I used to be a professional public speaker. I think people confuse introverted with shy. I'm not shy. It's just that being in a public setting, for me, is like running my headlights with the motor off. I can do it, but not for very long. And then I need lots of time to recharge. I have a fairly silly sense of humor. I enjoy broad comedy like I Love Lucy and the old original Looney Tunes cartoons. I hate to dress up. Hate it. The slouchier I look, the happier I am.

Are you working on any new projects this year?

Right now I'm working on the photo book, but that's just wrapping up. And I'm in that delicious position where I haven't typed a word of this new novel yet, but I know who and what it's about, and it's really coming together in my head. And nobody knows a thing about it except me. And I know almost enough to start. I expect to start working on it as soon as next month.

How can our readers contact you? email, Facebook, Twitter, blog, website

Email, yes. My email address is on the "Contact Me" page of my website. And it really does come to me, and no one else. And I really do answer. My website is www.catherineryanhyde.com, and my blog is part of my website. I have a Facebook author page. But I really like it best when readers friend me at my personal Facebook profile. Actually, both is nice. I’m on Twitter. I’m also on PinterestGoodreads and Google+. I’m easy to find!

Feel free to add anything about yourself or your books. Also include any parting comments or words of wisdom for M.L. Gardner's readers.

I guess I want to mention that I'm only recently moving my newer books out from under the huge shadow cast by Pay It Forward. I love the book and the movement, but it’s hard when you’ve written 20-some books and no one really seems to have discovered the ones that weren’t adapted for film. But now, with the success of Walk Me Home, Don’t Let Me Go, and especially When I Found You, I have a huge number of new readers who know my later work best, which I love. That said, those who love Pay It Forward (and that’s fine, and I didn’t mean to suggest it wasn’t fine!) may be interested to know that in August it’s coming out in a new edition suitable for kids as young as eight. Which is really exciting, to be able to bring that message to a whole new age group. And as far as parting words go, I want to mention that I’ve had some major ups and downs in my career. Big ones. The kind that would have sent most people packing. My agent says I have more lives than a cat. I say I’m pathologically stubborn. But also, I’m working from a piece of advice my mother gave me as a teen. She said, “The problem with a fallback position is that you tend to fall back.” So that’s been the secret to my success as a writer. No Plan B. And I highly recommend that to anyone with a goal, no matter what the goal might be. You just have to be one of the stubborn ones who won’t give up and go home.