Most people probably aren’t aware that “Pay It Forward,” Catherine Ryan Hyde’s bestselling novel about passing on your blessings, was set in Atascadero — even though the movie based on the book shifted the locale to Las Vegas.
Fewer people still probably know that Ryan Hyde lives in Cambria, and has for more than three decades.
The seaside community in the pines is where she honed her craft, wrote her first novels (she’s penned more than 30) and continues to craft them at a rate of two a year.
She moved to Cambria with her mother in 1985 with the intention of just staying through the summer but wound up making it permanent — her mother had moved to Cambria four years earlier.
She later joined the Cambria Writers’ Workshop, a group that still meets every Wednesday at the Jocelyn Recreation Center, and where she spent five or six years gaining feedback on her early work.
“I learned to write by writing,” she said in 2015, “taking it there and reading and getting feedback. That was kind of my writing school.”
The Central Coast makes its way into her writing, as well. Not all, but some of her novels are set here. In addition to the Atascadero setting of “Pay It Forward,” she included scenes at Cambria’s Leffingwell Landing and Big Sur in her 2006 novel “Becoming Chloe,” while “The Day I Killed James,” published two years later, featured scenes in Cambria and at Hearst Castle.
When she isn’t writing, Ryan Hyde can often be found riding: She has an 11-year-old dressage horse named Soul.
On the whole, she’d rather do that than make public appearances. But she was on hand this summer for the second annual Celebration of Cambria Authors, a fundraiser for the Cambria Historical Society — to which she donated 100 percent of the proceeds from the books she sold that day.
And her sparse public schedule gives her more time to write. There’ll be more to come from her in the near future: “The Wakeup” is set for December release, and “Heaven Adjacent” will follow.
All from right here in Cambria.