RL Stine may be one of the most successful writers of our time, but being a humble and fun boy, he much prefers to talk about other writers.
âIn fact, I’ve done entire interviews with author Sebastian Barry,â says the creator of Goosebumps. âHe’s a very good friend of ours in Wicklow. I think he’s the best prose stylist on Earth. I really do. We should just talk about him.
Published in 1764, Horace Walpole’s Le ChÃ¢teau d’Otranto is widely regarded as the first Gothic novel. Walpole’s use of ancient curses, a reluctant wife, tower entrapment, and things that happen at night have influenced centuries of later writing, from Mary Shelley to Bram Stoker, to Shirley Jackson to Toni Morrison.
No one, however, thought of writing such ghosts and fears in a children’s book; nobody, that is to say until RL Stine.
âI was always surprised that there weren’t more protests,â Stine says. âI expected there would be a lot more problems. Mostly conservative regions. The point is, we have had so much support from the librarians and teachers. And that really helped a lot. Now we’ve been around for so long that people don’t even think about it.
Stine is best known as the author of Goosebumps, the children’s horror book franchise that, since its beginnings in the early 1990s, has spawned television series, video games, plastic masks, its own land in a Disney theme park and a West End theater show.
A 2015 blockbuster movie starring Jack Black as the (very) fictional Stine and its sequel, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, grossed over $ 250 million at the box office.
“How lucky am I?” Stine shouts. It’s one of his favorite phrases, I learn quickly. âWhen it comes to movies, you never know what you’re going to get, right? Of course, I still have very little input. And as you know, I’ve been so lucky with movies and TV series. Both Goosebumps movies were great. They turned out to be really good. And these new Fear Street movies are really good. I think people will like them.
The Fear Street Trilogy, featuring Fear Street Part One: 1994, Fear Street Part Two: 1978, and Fear Street Part Three: 1666, is a major, fun, time-skipping sequence of Netflix films. Building on the RL Stine book series of the same name – a streak that Publishers Weekly has ranked as the best-selling young adult book series of all time – the Fear Street films are about various attractive teens from two small towns. American: perfect, healthy Sunnyvale and Shadyville, a man thirsty for crime.
While they are directly targeting Netflix’s growing teen market, adult kids of the ’90s will love the nostalgic soundtrack and remote access technology. Even older viewers will discover the episode of the 70s with its nods to the great camping horrors of that time.
Intergenerational fan base
By now Stine, who has sold over 400 million books, is accustomed to an intergenerational fan base.
âIt was very weird at first,â Stine recalls. âIt took me a while to get used to it. I showed up at the book signings and there were 10 and 12 year old children. And then there were the 35-year-olds. What are you doing here? But this is great. I can scare so many generations. This is a good thing.
Being married to your editor is a terrible idea. We’ve been married for many years and I’ve never won a bet
This latest on-screen incarnation of Stine’s work has already received rave reviews from critics with a soft spot for slasher nostalgia. Director and co-writer Leigh Janiak (best known for the Scream TV series) augments the clubhouse adventure of the original Fear Street books with (very ’90s) knowledge of the Scream movies and some R-rated grinding. Of all varieties.
âI’ve never written anything R-rated in my life,â laughs Stine. âI haven’t done anything R-rated in my life. They are much more mature. I would say they are a lot scarier than the Goosebumps movies. And they’re scarier than the Fear Street books. I think a lot of old readers will be surprised at how many screams there are and how many people get chopped up. But I think now that a lot of readers are older, they will appreciate it a lot.
In an age of increasingly gritty children’s and adolescent literature, RL Stine’s work retains a sense of innocence and wonder. The “Stephen King of children’s literature,” as he is often called, knows how to combine jump-fear and punchline. His stories often have the impression of camp tales or urban legends; they also share DNA with the characteristics of fun, high-level creatures and the 1950s B movies, in which the plot is trumpeted in the title. Unsurprisingly, the author of Jekyll and Heidi, The Knight in Screaming Armor, Secret Agent Grandma and Who’s Been Sleeping in My Grave? usually comes with the title first.
âI continue,â he said. âI am working on four different book projects. I just signed up to do six more Goosebumps books. Goosebumps are in their 30th year. It’s almost magical. It’s hard to believe. And so far, whenever I need an idea, I have an idea. Sometimes I take my dog ââfor a walk in the park and a title comes to mind. Say cheese and die! [the title of the fourth book in the original Goosebumps series] – where is that from ? In fact, I don’t even try to think of ideas anymore. I’ve done all the fuss a human can make, haven’t I? I’m only trying to think of good titles. And when I get the title, it’ll lead me to a story. One of the more recent Fear Street books had this title that I really liked called: You May Now Kill the Bride. And right away, there’s a cliffside wedding.
Become a writer
RL Stine’s journey in writing sounds like, well, something of an RL Stine story. Born in 1943 in Columbus, Ohio, Stine, the oldest of three siblings born to a stay-at-home mom and expedition clerk father, began writing joke books after finding a mysterious typewriter in the family attic.
âIt was so long ago, maybe that’s one of my stories,â Stine says. ” I do not remember. I was nine years old. I was a weird kid. I was a weird kid who stayed in my room. I was very shy and very fearful. And I think that’s one of the reasons I loved being alone, writing and creating all these worlds when I was nine and ten. I don’t know where it comes from in my family. I don’t know anything about my family. We came from all over. My grandparents came from Russia. They were mostly dead by the time I was born. My parents didn’t understand me. They didn’t understand anything at all. They would always say stop typing and go out and play. This is the worst advice I have ever received.
As a writer, Stine started out in the world of humor, writing joke books under the Jovial Bob Stine name and founding the comedy magazine Bananas. He invented celebrity interviews with The Beatles and Diana Ross in a now defunct New York magazine and spent a year working for a magazine specializing in soft drinks.
âI had a cousin who was determined to be a doctor,â says the author. “Something I could fall back on, right?” To be a surgeon. He never gave up. I think I was, like, 25 and I was already writing when he said, It’s not too late to go to medical school. I can always get you in. Who wants to be a writer?
People always say, oh, kids don’t read, it’s so hard to get kids to read. It’s not true at all
No one was more surprised than the author when he found himself on Forbes’ list of the 40 highest paid artists of 1996-97, or when in 2003 the Guinness Book of Records named Stine as the author of the best-selling children’s book series of all time. .
Although he has won numerous children’s and public choice awards, he is much more proud of his presence in libraries and schools.
âWhat I’m most proud of are the millions of children who learn to read from my books. All the parents who come to me and tell me that my child has never read a book in his life. And I caught him reading in the middle of the night under the covers with a flashlight. It’s exciting for me. I never get tired of hearing that.
Key to success
The key to his success, he says, is simple. Unlike the family dysfunction that underlies most of Spielberg’s adventures, Stine’s children remain entirely independent of the woes of the adults.
âI have a very strict rule for writing for children,â he says. âAnd the rule is that they have to know that it couldn’t really happen. They must know it’s a fantasy. And if you do that, and they know it couldn’t happen, then you can go pretty far with fear. But for teenage stories, it’s a bit the opposite. Everything must seem real. They won’t accept anything else. They want fantastic stories with the reality in the details. And it’s harder, and it’s harder to know how far to go. And often my editors say, make it scarier. “
Stine’s wife is editor and writer Jane Waldhorn, with whom he co-founded Parachute Press in 1983. For many years she edited his books.
âWell, it was basically a nightmare,â he jokes. âBeing married to your publisher is a terrible idea. We have been married for many years and have never won a bet. Because she is always right. So I was lucky. The only thing we fought for was the plots. So it worked out well. “
Stine has been around long enough to see his own little furrow in publishing become a fertile vein. It’s a good thing too, he says.
âWhen I started, like in 1970, children’s publishing was a very small business. You know, it was always a few women back in the publishing house that put out a children’s book. And now it’s billions of dollars. And people always say, oh, kids don’t read, it’s so hard to get kids to read. This is not true at all. Someone is reading all of these books.
The street of fear, part one: 1994 premiered on Netflix on July 2; Fear Street Part Two: 1978 premieres July 9; Fear Street Part Three: 1666 will be released on July 16