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On Sale: March 10, 2009
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From the bestselling author of Pay It Forward comes a provocative and unlikely love story that starts on a New York subway car and blossoms under the windmills of the Mojave Desert.Both Sebastian and Maria live in worlds ruled by fear. Sebastian, a lonely seventeen-year-old, is suffocating under his dominant father's control; Maria, a young mother of two, is trying to keep peace at home despite her boyfriend's abuse. When their eyes meet across a subway car one night, these two strangers find a connection that neither can explain or ignore. They dream of a new future and agree to run away together, only to find that each has kept a major secret from the other. In this tremendously moving novel, Catherine Ryan Hyde shows us how two people trapped by life's circumstances can break free and find a place in the world where love is genuine and selfless.


This is the part that’s going to be hard to explain: How can I tell you why two people who were afraid of everything–other people, open places, noise, confusion, life itself–wound up riding the subways alone under Manhattan late at night?

Okay, it’s like this: When everything is unfamiliar and scary, your heart pounds just getting change from the grocery cashier. That feels like enough to kill you right there. So the danger of the subways at night can’t be much worse. All danger begins to fall into the same category. You have no way to sink any deeper into fear.

Besides, consider the alternative. Staying home.

That’s enough about that for now. I need to tell you about her.

She got on the Lexington Avenue Local at…what was it?…I think Union Square. Funny how a thing like that can be so damned important, but you don’t know it’s important until an instant later in the big scheme of time. Then you go back and try to retrieve it. You tell yourself it’s in there somewhere. But it’s really in that no-man’s-land of the moment before you woke up and started paying attention to your own life.

I’m pretty sure it was Union Square.

At first we looked at each other for a split second, but of course we looked away immediately. It’s part of what makes us like the animals, I suppose. Ever seen two dogs circling to fight? They look right into each other’s eyes. It’s a challenge. So when a dog doesn’t want to challenge anybody, he looks away. In case I haven’t made it clear by now, we were two dogs who weren’t looking for a fight.

But then, after we both looked away, we weren’t afraid of each other anymore. We knew we didn’t have to be. I mean, except to the extent that we were afraid of everything.

There was no one else on the car. It rumbled along again, with that special rocking, and the clacking noise, the lights flashing off now and then. And the heat. It was only May, but the heat had started early. It was after midnight, so I guess you’d think it was all cooled off by then, but it wasn’t. A little bit cooler up on the street. Not so much down there. It was stuffy, like more air would be nice.

Every now and then we’d hear a noise that could have been somebody opening the door from another car. And we’d jump in unison, and look up. But it was never anybody. Just the two of us all the way to the end of the line.

Once I looked over at her while she was looking away. Her hair was dark and thick and about down to her shoulders. Her face was thin, like the rest of her. I couldn’t figure out if there was something angular about her face, or something almost delicate. Maybe both.

I was trying to get a bead on how old she was. Older than me, that’s for sure. I mean, she was a full-grown woman. But young enough, I guess. But maybe old compared to me. Early twenties.
Every inch of her was covered. Except her face. Jeans, boots, some kind of shawl thing wrapped around her. Seemed like too much to wear in that heat.

And a hat. She was wearing a hat over all that dark hair. A gray felt thing with a big brim. So all she had to do was dip her head an inch or two, and she was gone again. She could break off eye contact just like that. It seemed like such a great plan. I wondered why I’d never thought of it myself.

And on one cheek, a dark spot. Not exactly a bruise, but something like one. Like a shadow. Like she’d had some sort of an accident.

I think I remember feeling that it was a lovely face, but maybe I’m adding that in after the fact. It’s hard to go back and describe what you thought of such an important face the first time you saw it. The memory gets colored with all those other things you felt later on. It’s hard to separate them out again. But whatever I thought about her face, I noticed it. And it held me.

Then she looked up and I quick looked away.

At the end of the line, we both waited. And neither one of us got off the train.

You see, it says a lot about someone when they don’t get off at the end of the line. When they just sit there with the doors open until the train starts back the other way. Right back to–or past–where they started out in the first place. That says a lot.

After the train started back up again, she looked right into my eyes. She didn’t look away and neither did I.

Something happened in me. I’m not sure how good I’ll be at explaining what it was. But it was an actual physical something. Something in my body. And I’m not going to go into any personal information about certain body reactions, because some things I’m just not comfortable discussing. Some things a gentleman doesn’t talk about. Or, anyway, that’s what I believe. But something happened in my gut. Like all of a sudden something that used to be solid in there turned to water. Hot water. In my arms, too, around my elbows. And a little bit down my legs. Especially around my knees. I remembered hearing an expression about being weak in the knees, and I guess I understood it for the first time. And there was a tingling associated with all this. A kind of all-over tingling, but mostly in my face. Which felt a little hot, like it might be turning red.

Then it was too much and we both looked away again. But not the same way we had before.

We rode like that for another hour or so, and never looked at each other after that. I wanted to look, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Then I woke up–which was weird because I’d never felt myself go to sleep–and I was on that subway car by myself, and she was gone. I looked at my watch, and it was after three.

All I could think was that I wanted to talk to Delilah about this. About what had just happened. But, what had just happened? What was I supposed to say? There was this woman on the subway, and she looked at me. But in the few weeks I’d been talking to Delilah, every time I told her something I’d been feeling, she seemed to know what that feeling was. It made me seem almost… normal.


When I got home, the apartment was dark and quiet, and of course my father was asleep. I came in on my tiptoes, even though it’s pretty hard to wake him after he’s taken his sleeping pill. You’d almost have to be trying. But I was careful all the same.

I looked at myself in my bathroom mirror. I wanted to look at myself the way someone else would look at me. I wanted to see what she saw.

I discovered something strange about myself in that moment. The moment I caught my own eyes in the mirror, I looked away. It was hard to force myself to look at myself. I wasn’t bad to look at. It wasn’t that. I wasn’t the handsomest guy in the world, but I wasn’t ugly. I guess I thought I looked fine. But it was almost as though I’d never really looked into my own eyes before. Like it was as hard to look at myself as it was to look at somebody else. And I wasn’t sure what that meant. Unless it meant I was the kind of dog who didn’t even want to challenge myself.

In the morning, I came to the breakfast table, and my father was staring at me. Taking my emotional temperature, as I like to put it. He only looked away once, to look at his watch. That was his way of telling me I’d slept too long. If he only knew.

Then he went back to scrutinizing me again.

I hate that. It makes me feel like I guess a worm must feel when some fisherman is about to stick him on a hook. Like you want to get away, but there’s no way to get away, so you just squirm. It’s no use, but you do it anyway.

He said, “Good morning, Sebastian.”

I said, “Good morning, Father.”

I know how weird that sounds, but that’s what I have to call him. He’s not into any of that “Dad” or “Pop” stuff. I’m Sebastian, all three syllables every time, and he’s Father. And that’s not negotiable. That is one of any number of things that are not negotiable.

He was wearing his glasses at the table, his weird little round wire-rimmed glasses. All the better to stare at me, I suppose. And some of his hair was spilling down over his forehead. His hair was curly and a little unruly, like mine, but gray. Suddenly, it seemed. Almost as if every morning you could see how much grayer it was than the day before.

And he was still studying me. It was as if he could see that something had changed in me. It was horrifying.

“What?” I said, finally, when I couldn’t take it anymore.

“You seem different.”

“I don’t feel different,” I said. Lying.

“You seem different.”

“Different how?”

“I’m not sure. Like you were happy or excited about something.”

Ah, yes. That. The sin of being happy or excited. According to my father, we must guard carefully against such things. According to my father, these emotions are the equivalent of dancing on our fifth-floor window ledge. Clearly inviting a nasty fall.

“Well, I’m not,” I said. Hoping that would be the end of it.

It wasn’t.

“I think you’re taking too much sleep,” he said.

“Sleep is good for you. You can tell because I’ve been so healthy. Think how long it’s been since I’ve been sick. It’s the running, if you ask me, and plenty of sleep.”

“There’s still such a thing as too much.”

I shifted tactics in mid-stream. “I was up late last night. I couldn’t sleep. Didn’t get to sleep until after three. That’s why I slept in.”

At first he said nothing. But I could tell by his mood that he wasn’t done. You could feel it shifting around in him. You can always tell when he’s mixing up another batch of something. But for a while he just stirred his bowl of cereal with a spoon. I remember thinking it must be getting really soggy.

Then he said, “What do you do? When you can’t sleep?”

“I don’t know. Just lie there.”

“And do what?”

“I don’t know. Think, I guess.”

“What do you think about?”

I wanted to jump into that. I always want to jump him when he does that. It makes me want to attack. Not physically; I’m not like that. Attack verbally, the way he does with me. It makes me crazy when he tries to get inside my head. The only place I have left. But it never helps to rise up against him like that. It just never does any good.

“I don’t remember,” I said.

The face of the woman on the subway came into my head, fully formed, perfect. A perfect recollection. I wondered if I would ever see her again. I couldn’t have imagined at that moment that I would.

I finished my lessons by 1:00 p.m., and went out for my run. My father frowned, the way he always did when I left the apartment to run. But he said nothing anymore. This point, at least, I had permanently won.

The whole time I was running, mostly in the park, I thought, Please let Delilah be there today. Please. It was like a chant that kept me going.

As I turned the final corner, I looked up at our building and there she was. Three floors up, hanging half out her window, waving at me. I smiled without even meaning to. Out loud but quietly, I said, “Thank you,” and then realized I didn’t even know who I was talking to.

I waited by the outside door, panting, for a few minutes, and then she hobbled down, and I held the door for her. She said what she always said.
“Thank you, child.”

It’s hard for her to get through the door without help. She has a bad hip, or maybe it’s both of them, and she’s very big, and walks with a cane. So getting through the door is hard unless somebody else holds it. Something about her hips or her back pushes the top of her body forward, so she looks like some kind of punctuation mark, though I’m not sure which one. Maybe a question mark that doesn’t really curve around all the way on top. And she walks with her huge back end kind of trailing in a noticeable way. But I’m not criticizing. She’s the best friend I have. She’s the best friend I’ve ever had. Maybe it seems weird we could be friends when she’s over fifty and I’m under eighteen. But we manage just fine.

We started off on our walk together. I had to remember to walk about twelve times slower than I would on my own.

Delilah took her little portable fan out of her pocket. A little plastic rocket of a fan, bright blue, with little blades like a miniature helicopter. She had to turn it on with her left hand, because she needed to lean on the cane with her right. The blades opened up like a flower and I could hear the buzz as they started to spin, and she trained the breeze onto her face and sighed.

“This weather, child,” she said. “Good Lord, this heat.”

She had a wonderful face, Delilah. Light-skinned black with freckles on her cheeks, and eyes the color of walnut shells, and the biggest teeth you ever saw in your life, so that when she smiled it seemed to take up her whole face. It was fun to make her smile, just to see it again. And it wasn’t hard, either. Lots of things made Delilah smile.

“So,” she said. “Where does that father of yours think you are right now?”

I looked down at the sidewalk and didn’t answer.

“So you still haven’t seen fit to tell him you made a friend.”

“You don’t know how he is,” I said. “You don’t know him.”

“Not sure I got a yen to. Not sure what I think of a man doesn’t want his own boy to have a single friend.”

From the Hardcover edition.
Catherine Ryan Hyde|Author Q&A

About Catherine Ryan Hyde

Catherine Ryan Hyde - Chasing Windmills

Photo © DorothyBuhrman

Catherine Ryan Hyde, an acclaimed novelist and award-winning short-story writer, is the author of the story collection Earthquake Weather and of the novels Love in the Present Tense, Walter's Purple Heart, Funerals for Horses, Electric God, and Pay It Forward, which was named an ALA Book of the Year and made into a feature film. She lives in Cambria, California. Her website is www.cryanhyde.com.

Author Q&A

An interview with Catherine Ryan Hyde
Q: When did you decide to become a writer?

In my sophomore year of high school. I had a great English and creative writing teacher. His name was Lenny Horowitz. He got us reading great stuff, the kind of fiction that reminded me why people read for pleasure, when no one is holding guns to their heads. I had loved to read as a child, but as I got deeper into school it became a chore, homework. And I’ve always hated ‘the classics’, so the books that had been thrust at me up to that point were nothing like my style. After reawakening my love of reading, he told me I had a talent for writing. I had written a little essay for Creative Writing, and he read it out loud to the class, and told them it was clever. Then, later, I learned that he had gone back to the staff lounge and told all my other teachers that I could write. As the student always picked last for basketball, it was a new experience for me. I wasn’t used to being called talented. It made an impression. I didn’t actually become a serious writer for nearly twenty years, though, because it’s so difficult to make a living in the field. It took a huge leap of faith to quit my day job, which I didn’t do until 1991.
Q: Your last novel, Love in the Present Tense, was shortlisted for Richard & Judy’s Book Club. How did you find the experience?
It was all very gratifying and exciting. I was thrilled to be invited to London for the Galaxy British Books Awards. I had never been to the UK before, but had always wanted to go, so it was a real trip of a lifetime for me, especially because I was doing it for such a happy reason. I loved the little film they made to accompany the discussion of my book on the program. I live in a tiny coastal town of about 6,000 people (counting part-time residents) where people all pretty much know one another, so you can imagine the splash it made when I was all over town with the British film crew. Breaking the top ten in the UK was a peak experience for me. For all the success I had with my book Pay It Forward, it never actually got into the top ten on the New York Times Bestseller list. I think it made #15, though it did better on the Publishers Weekly list, etc. Anyway, the point I'm making is that Pay It Forward is supposed to be my big title, because it was a major studio film and all. It's the one that has always dwarfed all the others. And then, because of Richard & Judy's Book Club, Love in the Present Tense actually jumped out ahead.
But I think this is the thing I enjoyed the most: Every book I write comes out with the words ‘By the bestselling author of Pay It Forward’ above my name. Now Pay It Forward is back in print in the UK and on the cover it says ‘By the bestselling author of Love in the Present Tense’ and that it was a Richard & Judy Book Club selection. I got such a kick out of that cover that I sent it to everybody who knows how hard it’s been for me to get attention for my other titles, how lost they tend to get in the big Pay It Forward shadow. And they found it every bit as gratifying as I did. It was just a wonderful experience all the way around.
Q: How long does each novel take to write?
I tend to write very fast when I write. Which isn’t always. My process is a little hard to explain. Maybe it’s best if I start right out admitting that I don’t completely understand it myself.
I’ve come to a place in my own creative process where I know the difference between work days and non-work days. That is, whether I have it in me that day to write something worth keeping. If not, I’d much rather balance my checkbook or get the car serviced. Because when the work catches fire again, I’ll ignore those things completely. And also because I find it’s not good for my morale to write pages and pages that are destined for the recycle bin. As a result, I’ll go weeks without producing any new work. Then I’ll often sit down and write ten pages a day for ten days running. It works out to a little better than a book a year, so people probably assume I’m very organized and disciplined. But I guess I just put that theory to rest, didn’t I?
Q: Do you work out your plots before you begin?
Yes and no. I try to know enough about the plot that it starts off in a nice clean direction. But not so much that I’ll miss good opportunities as the work progresses. I like to think of it the way you’d plan a long, multi-day trip in the car. You know what day you’ll leave and what you’ll bring. You had better know your destination, or the trip is likely to be a disaster. It helps to have a map and some intelligent thoughts about a good route. But you don’t want to micro-manage things to the point where you decide to drive exactly 425 miles and stop at a certain motel. Because then you’ll miss the Carlsbad Caverns simply because they weren’t in your plan. I try to leave myself open to side trips that I didn’t know would be interesting until I got there.
I also try to ‘listen’ to the characters as I go. The more I get to know them through the writing of them, the more their individual personalities dictate the direction of the work. I try to be careful how I discuss my relationship with my characters, so that I never find myself strapped down for a three-day mandatory psych evaluation. There is a very real sense that they begin to talk to the writer. But I don’t literally hear voices. So far.
Q: You write for teenagers as well. Is your writing process any different?
Probably, but I have no idea how. I’m kidding, but only partly.
It seems that almost every time I write a book for adults, I’m told it would work better in the young adult market and vice versa. It’s not literally every time, but I think I’m wrong more often than I’m right. Bear in mind that I’m writing to a very mature segment of youth, usually around fourteen through eighteen, though it varies from book to book. They are extremely sophisticated readers. In fact, their reading level and sensibility are really not much different from the adult reader. The only real difference is that, in young adult literature, you have to present a story and a protagonist that won’t bore a teenager to death. There has to be a sense of identification.
A couple of decades ago, fiction for youth tended to be a bit whitewashed. There was this sense of wanting to shelter youth from some of the harsher realities of the world. But that has broken down in a big way. We’re in the information age now, and kids know a lot more than we think they do. More than we even want to imagine. So it’s too late to shelter them. Now it’s time, in my opinion, to be willing to discuss the world with them. And, perhaps more importantly, to give them role models for walking through real-world situations. That’s why I take on some very difficult topics in my young adult books. Which, by the way, are suitable for grown-ups as well.
Q: Do you put friends and family in your books? How do your characters first come to you?
No! I want to state very firmly that I do not put my family and friends in my books. I try to be clear on that, because otherwise my family and friends start behaving very strangely around me. If indeed they are willing to be around me at all.
My characters really are genuinely from my imagination. The sense is that they just find me and start talking to me. But I won’t go too deeply into that, for fear of that psych evaluation I mentioned earlier.
There is a degree to which I cull aspects of people I know and use them in entirely fictional characters and in an entirely fictional way. An example would be Reuben in Pay It Forward (the book–alas Reuben did not make it into the movie, in spite of being, arguably, the book’s main character). He was a Viet Nam veteran. Now, I’ve known two Viet Nam vets very well. In both cases they were deeply scarred men. But their scars were on the inside, where no one could see. And when they tried to explain it, they were usually told, ‘Hey, buddy, the war was a long time ago. Get over it.’ So I made Reuben St. Clair a Viet Nam vet with his scars on the outside. So no one would dare say that to him. To that extent I might use people I know. But Reuben is still completely fictional.
Q: Where did the idea for Chasing Windmills come from?
I had a friend at the time who was telling me a great deal about her marriage. It wasn’t physically abusive, but it had such a huge element of control. It reminded me how many people are living lives completely shaped and limited by the whims of another controlling person, whether it’s a parent or partner or something else altogether. It seems almost as though the need to control others is a modern social disease.
But again, by the time the thing was written, it was entirely fiction. I did borrow the concept of guarding carefully against happiness, but other than that, none of the characters in Chasing Windmills reflect this friend in any way.
Q: You alternate between two young voices in the book. How do you find and latch on to those different voices?
You know, it almost seems to be the opposite situation. It almost seems as though they find me and latch onto me. As if these stories want to be told, so the tellers find me and catch my ear. But, again, I’m sane enough to know that they are really just parts of my own personality. So far.
Q: What are the advantages of writing with more than one narrator?
First, just being able to know two or more characters extremely well. There is a different experience, I feel, that the reader (and writer) can have with a ‘viewpoint character.’ When you’re inside a person’s head, it’s a whole different world. And I think it’s fascinating to see how the same situation can be viewed so differently by two different minds.
But additionally, in all three of the books we have been discussing (Pay It Forward, Love in the Present Tense, Chasing Windmills) the use of multiple viewpoints takes on a whole new dimension. Because in each of these books, the reader knows something very important, something that even the other characters don’t know. In Pay It Forward, the reader knows that the concept is spreading and taking on a life of its own. But even its creator, Trevor, doesn’t know this for most of the book. In Love in the Present Tense the reader knows what happened to Pearl, even as Leonard and Mitch struggle with their own best guesses and intuitions. And in Chasing Windmills, the reader knows that Maria has two children, and he or she gets to watch Sebastian build an image of a new life without that crucial information.
So in a sense the reader gets to be a fly on the wall throughout the book, watching others struggle–as indeed we do in real life–with only the information they have been given. I enjoy this as a reader, so I’m hoping my readers will enjoy it as well. To my mind it’s a satisfying way to tell a story.
Q: What do you like most about Sebastian? And Maria?
I like Sebastian most for his gentleness. He is not a weak character. He can be extremely brave. But even when he’s furious, as he is with his father during the book, he hopes that no one gets hurt, but that if anyone does, it’s him. Because he simply refuses to turn out like his father He refuses to repay abuse for abuse, and I respect him for that. It’s so much easier to return bad treatment than it is to transcend it. But Sebastian never loses sight of that goal.
I think I like Maria most for her vulnerability. She makes so many bad decisions. And all too often she’s not as brave as we might like. But I think she stays empathetic because she’s vulnerable and afraid. And, through that enormous fear, she really is doing her best.
Q: Your novel Pay it Forward inspired a national movement in the US. What was the inspiration for this story?
About twenty years ago, I was driving alone at night in a rough area of downtown Los Angeles. My car, an old Datsun 1200, was the best I could afford at the time. I drove it constantly for business, relied on it for every cent of cash I earned; as a result, it was not in great condition. When I braked at the end of a freeway off-ramp, the engine suddenly died. All the lights went out–headlights, dash lights–and then the passenger compartment started to fill with smoke.
I jumped out of the car to see two men running toward me, one holding a blanket that he had pulled from their car's trunk. My panicked first thought was ‘I'm dead.’ Pushing past me, one of the men popped the hood of my car. My engine was on fire; flames were burning along the throttle line. This total stranger proceeded to smother the blaze with the blanket. The car could have exploded at any moment, killing all of us. The fire department arrived quickly, called by another thoughtful motorist, but by then, the fire was out. The two men had saved my car, saved me–my livelihood, possibly my life–all the time putting their own lives at risk for a stranger. Once the emergency was over, I looked up to thank them, but they were gone.
Over the following months, I decided that if I couldn't do anything to repay those two men directly, I would have to return the favor elsewhere. I started looking for someone who needed help as much as I did the night my engine burned. I believed that brand of caring could be contagious.
Q: What happened?
When I did have the opportunity to help someone, it didn't seem all that dramatic at first. I had stopped to help a woman who was stranded by the side of road in the dark. Her car wasn't in flames, just unable to hold radiator fluid. The problem wasn't serious; all I had to do was take a utility knife from my car's glove compartment, cut off the split end of the radiator hose, and reclamp it. It was when we took a drive to get water that I found out how important my help was to her.
She never told me what had happened to her in the past; what type of violence or assault she had survived. And I didn't ask. But it became clear as we talked that, in her mind, she had been in a life-threatening situation. That I was the first person to happen by, that I cared enough to stop, that I had no bad intentions toward her, was a life-and-death flip of the coin for her. She kept asking how she could repay me, offering to give me money. I wanted to hold onto the idea that I could send one more person into the world owing a favor to a stranger. ‘Don't pay it back to me,’ I said. ‘Pay it forward to someone else.’ She understood. Then I spent the next twenty years wondering what kind of world it would be if an idea like that caught fire.
Q: Pay it Forward was also made into a star-studded film. Were you pleased with the film?
I thought the book was better. But then, I would, wouldn’t I?
Seriously, though, I wish the movie had an ending that people found more uplifting. I think the end of the book leaves people in a better place. If you’ve only seen the film, and didn’t understand the ending, I hope you’ll give the book a try. You’ll feel better. I’m not just saying that to sell books–you can check it out of the library if you like.
I also wish that my African-American Viet Nam vet protagonist, Reuben St. Clair, had made it into the film. I think in a number of ways the movie lacked the human diversity of the book, and I find that regrettable.
I do think, though, on the positive side, that the Pay It Forward concept came through very well in the film. Since that is the core message, and the movie reached millions of people that the book did not, I feel grateful.
Q: What advice would you offer for writers just starting out?
Learn to deal with rejection and criticism early on, because your work will be rejected and criticized, no matter how successful it eventually becomes.
Don’t write in a vacuum. Join a good critique group, or otherwise seek the feedback of others. Listen to others, but don’t necessarily believe everything they say. This is just as true when you are being praised as it is during criticism. Never change your work just because somebody else tells you to. Instead, try to develop an inner voice that will tell you if you agree with their points or not.
Learn your market and be realistic. Really get in and find out how hard a business it is. How badly do you want to be a writer? Because, if there’s something else you might want to do, you would probably be happier doing that, almost no matter what it is. There’s only one good reason I can think of for being a writer, and that’s if you know you’ll never be happy doing anything else. If that’s your situation, then forget everything you’ve learned about how hard it is. It’s what you’re going to do, and the odds mean nothing to you. Proceed in spite of the odds and never give up.
Q: Your novel Electric God will be coming out in the UK soon. What inspired you to write this? Is it true that a film is in production?
I began thinking about Hayden Reese and Electric God not long after the dreadful Columbine incident here in the U.S., in Colorado. It came on the heels of so many other acts of violence and rage perpetrated by boys and young men. I began wondering what was going wrong with the raising of males in our society. Are we failing them in some way? Are we not allowing them a vent for their anger, their emotion? Why don’t they feel they can seek help when they are in that depth of anguish? I don’t think I caught the direct connection at the time, but not much later I began this character study of an angry man.
There is a film in development. I’m not entirely sure how development differs from production (I’m really not a Hollywood person at all). But a filming date has not been announced. I never set my clock by Hollywood, but the option was recently renewed and I have no reason to feel it’s not moving forward. As to when it will hit the big screen, I’m afraid that’s anybody’s guess. Pay It Forward was snapped up for film before the book even sold for print. And the principle filming began while I was out touring for the book. It just grew wings and flew, which is very unusual. I think people wonder why Electric God is taking so long, but really, I think Pay It Forward is more the exception and Electric God more the rule. I have a very good writer friend, Barnaby Conrad. He wrote Matador, which was a huge, runaway bestseller in 1951. It’s been optioned ever since, and really still has a chance of making it to the screen. So, from that perspective, I think Electric God is moving along quite well.
Q: Can you give us a teaser about what you are writing next for adults?
Maybe just a small one. I might say that I have been haunted by a short story of mine. It was published seven or eight years ago, but I began thinking about it recently. At the time I was sending it around for publication, several editors rejected it saying they liked it but thought it felt like a novel. Nonsense, I thought, it’s a short story. And I found an editor who agreed, and that was the end of that. Or so I thought. Now it’s come back up in my imagination, and the characters have so much more to say. Their stories seem so much bigger and deeper and more complete than the parts I’ve touched on already. So, as of this writing, I have almost fifty pages of the novel version, and I’m very happy with how it’s going so far. But it’s early in the process, so it might be premature to say much more.

From the Hardcover edition.



“Simple and captivating. It is [the characters'] voices—at once utterly credible and heartbreakingly naïve—that make the book.” —Publishers Weekly "A sweet tale openly modeled on West Side Story . . . centering on how people come to grip with their pasts." —Kirkus Reviews“A reimagining of the classic tale of star-crossed lovers . . . but fresh and new. . . . A page-turning read. . . . The distinct voices are sweet, soul-baring, and honest. Hyde writes evocatively of the visceral nature of first love.” —School Library Journal
Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions|Suggestions

About the Book

"Simple and captivating. It is [the characters'] voices—at once utterly credible and heartbreakingly naïve—that make the book."
Publishers Weekly

The introduction, questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Catherine Ryan Hyde's Chasing Windmills.

About the Guide

From the bestselling author of Pay It Forward comes a provocative and unlikely love story that starts on a New York subway car and blossoms under the windmills of the Mojave Desert.

Both Sebastian and Maria live in worlds ruled by fear. Sebastian, a lonely seventeen-year-old, is suffocating under his dominant father's control; Maria, a young mother of two, is trying to keep peace at home despite her boyfriend's abuse. When their eyes meet across a subway car one night, these two strangers find a connection that neither can explain or ignore. They dream of a new future and agree to run away together, only to find that each has kept a major secret from the other. In this tremendously moving novel, Catherine Ryan Hyde shows us how two people trapped by life's circumstances can break free and find a place in the world where love is genuine and selfless.

About the Author

Catherine Ryan Hyde, an acclaimed novelist and award-winning short-story writer, is the author of the story collection Earthquake Weather and of the novels Love in the Present Tense, Walter's Purple Heart, Funerals for Horses, Electric God, and Pay It Forward, which was named an ALA Book of the Year and made into a feature film. She lives in Cambria, California. Her website is www.cryanhyde.com.

Discussion Guides

1. Do you think it is a coincidence or a pattern that Maria, who had an abusive father, then found a man who abused her?

2. This leads us to consider the next generation: might Natalie's life turn out differently through having known Sebastian?

3. Do you think Maria could have found her way out of her abusive relationship without the support of her sister? Does breaking free from abusive control rely heavily on the support of others, and from having someone mirror back a different reality?

4. Similarly, how differently do you think Sebastian's life would have turned out without the support of Delilah?

5. Do you understand the decisions Sebastian's mother made when he was young? Do you forgive her for her actions?

6. In what ways do the themes of this novel match those of West Side Story? Did the novel's nod to this famous story effect your reading of it, and if so, how?

7. In your experience, is there a fine line between love and possession? Can the two be easily confused? What different kinds of love are illustrated in the novel?

8. How are Sebastian and Maria alike and how are they different? If they had met under happier circumstances, do you think they would still have fallen in love?

9. How important are your childhood memories to you? Is there a single memory you feel defines who you are?

10. How did you feel about the way the novel ended? Was it as you expected? Would you have preferred a different outcome?

Suggested Readings

Amy Bloom, Love Invents Us; Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees; Ann Packer, The Dive From Clausen's Pier; Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes; Elizabeth Strout, Amy and Isabelle; David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

  • Chasing Windmills by Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • March 10, 2009
  • Fiction - Literary; Fiction
  • Vintage
  • $13.95
  • 9780307279385

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