R.L. Stine - About the Author
What is R.L. Stine's personal hall of horrors? It's not the series of the same name that launches this month from Scholastic. No, it's the feeling he gets as he sees the diverse audience that shows up for his events. "At first I was horrified, seven-year-olds would come, ten-year-olds would be there, 20- and 30-year-olds would be waiting for me--I realized that I was nostalgia for them!" laughs the best-selling author. In spite of the reality of having generations of fans, he loves being in touch and has embraced the twitter age.
R.L. Stine has been writing professionally since the mid-1960s when he first headed to New York City and wrote joke books under the moniker Jovial Bob Stine. He doesn't give advice to kids who want to be writers in general. "Having started writing when I was nine, I understand that kids who really want to be writers, know it. I just tell them to read as much as they can, and read a variety (not just me) because you pick up so much without really realizing it at the time." He adds, "Don't worry about being published!"
So, Stine started with joke books and worked his way into a position editing a humor magazine titled Bananas for ten years. Then in 1986, he turned his talents to creating his own unique brand of horror and humor that started with Goosebumps.
Things haven't really changed that much in the 30+ years since Goosebumps began giving kids the chills. "Technology has evolved," acknowledges the author, "and the things kids use to type on or talk into is different, but fears don't change." He adds, "Kids are still afraid of the dark, that there might be something under the bed waiting to grab your ankles."
But that something under the bed might not be the horrible monster you imagine but rather something that has sprung from the mystical mind of R.L. Stine. The man who begins a book title first is always on the alert for something that sounds full of possibility. "Little Shop of Hamsters just came to me and then I had to think of a way to make hamsters scary," he confesses. "Say Cheese and Die hit me when I was walking the dog in the park and I began to think "Maybe there's an evil camera that takes pictures . . . ," ponders the author.
Perhaps this explains why Goosebumps books are the most fun to write. "They're on my mental level"I can be really goofy with Goosebumps. I'm not interested as much in being scary as I am in being funny." That said, Stine is enjoying a new challenge: "I'm taking a few months off to do an old fashioned horror novel for adults." Stine confesses that "I've never done research before!" Remember that Village of the Damned is among his favorites and you have an inkling of what his as-yet untitled book will be like. Stine's adult debut is set to be released in spring 2012.
Meanwhile, he has just finished the sixth Halls of Horror book set on the fringes of the Horrorland world. "This is the place where kids come to tell their scariest stories to the Storykeeper," explains Stine. Fans of humor writing might detect a hint of P.G. Wodehouse's golf stories where the Oldest Member" retells stories vouchsafed to him when the occasion arises.
As it turns out, P.G. Wodehouse is one of R.L. Stine's favorite authors of all time. He recalls fondly the author photo taken of P.G. at the age of ninety where the irrepressible Plum stood on his head. Another major influence is Ray Bradbury and Stine remembers with reverence the moment he actually met this literary giant. "It was at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival and he was in a booth eating a hot dog. I had to say something so I said, "Mr. Bradbury, you're my hero." Ray Bradbury shook hands with R.L. Stine and responded "You are a hero to a lot of people." "I couldn't speak," reflects Stine.
Decades earlier, a young boy asked a librarian for something to read. "What kinds of books do you like?" she asked. He responded with a litany of his favorite comic books including Tales from the Crypt. The wise librarian then asked "What do you like about them?" "I like the surprise endings," the boy said. She then countered that she knew just what to give him and handed him a book of short stories by Ray Bradbury.
"The writing was so beautiful and the stories were so imaginative--I then started reading all the science fiction, fantasy, Norse legends, Greek myths I could get my hands on," explains Stine. "Ray Bradbury turned me into a reader."
-- Interviewed by Ellen Myrick, March 2011