Why R.L. Stine Wants His Latest Book to Freak Out Adults, Not Kids
There has never been a figure in children's literature quite like R.L. Stine.
Image courtesy Simon & Schuster The man responsible for childhood nightmares.
In his early career, he wrote humor and joke books for children under the pen name Jovial Bob Stine. In 1986 he wrote his first horror novel, Blind Date, which quickly climbed the bestseller list, soon followed by a series of other horror novels that would become his first breakout series, Fear Street. Encouraged by his success with spooky novels aimed at teenagers, Stine decided his next series, Goosebumps, should target a slightly younger demographic of kids ages seven to twelve. It was the first series of its kind.
Shrewd move, Mr. Stine.
Since launching Goosebumps in 1992, Stine has sold more than 350 million books worldwide. This year, in celebration of the series' twentieth anniversary, Stine has released his first novel aimed at his now grown-up fans, titled Red Rain. On Friday, November 9, he stops by the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival at the Jewish Community Center (2 Millstone Campus Drive; 314-432-5700) to talk about Goosebumps and Red Rain.
Daily RFT caught up with Stine -- who goes by "Bob," by the way -- to learn what fans can expect from Red Rain and what it's like to terrify children for a living.
You defined horror fiction for a generation of kids in the '90s. What inspired you to write Red Rain, very much a book for adults?
R.L. Stine: It's my first book for adults in fifteen years. My original readers grew up. That's why I wrote it. It's is the twentieth anniversary of Goosebumps. All those kids who were ten, eleven, twelve back in the '90s, reading Goosebumps, they're all your age [mid-20s, early 30s] and I hear from them on Twitter all day.
Your Twitter account (@RL_Stine) is very entertaining.
RLS: I love Twitter because it really helps me keep in touch with my old audience. They're wonderful, they're just wonderful to me. They say, 'Thank you for getting me through my childhood,' or, 'You were my childhood,' or 'I wouldn't be a librarian today if it wasn't for you.' Just wonderful notes. Then they all say, 'Please write something for us.' So I thought: Here I have my old audience, it's huge, I should listen to them. That's really why I wrote Red Rain.
The humor in Goosebumps books helped keep even the creepiest narrative light. The same is true in Red Rain.
RLS: Whenever I think it's getting too intense I throw in something funny. There's just a lot of teasing in Goosebumps.
The police officer in Red Rain provides a lot of comic relief, especially in a certain scene. Was it fun to write that kind of Barney Fife, bumbling cop character?
RLS: He was not a good cop. He was bad. That's one of my favorite scenes, I loved that. I sort of can't help but put funny stuff in. That's just my personality. My idea was that he'd be a really incompetent cop. Very unhappy because he moved to Sag Harbor to have a quiet life. He just wanted to do traffic. Then suddenly he's facing these hideous murders. It's not why he moved out there. He's totally disoriented. I thought he'd be the bad cop but the hero at the end. And he actually is.
Red Rain sees you delve into sometimes gory, sometimes sexy territory where kids are evil and adults are the vulnerable ones. Sort of turning Goosebumps on its head.
RLS: It's a little more evil, a little more gruesome, right? No one ever died in Goosebumps. It worked out fine. Always a happy ending. The thing about Goosebumps, seriously, is that it never goes too far. It's kind of creepy, but you know it's not going to be upsetting. I thought people would find that ironic. If I wrote about evil kids. My idea for Red Rain was to do really evil kids and very naive adults. In Goosebumps, the kids are really good and they're totally on their own. The parents are useless in Goosebumps, they never believe the kid or they're not there. The protagonist has to solve the thing and be victorious, they have to use their imagination and wit and get out of it on their own. That's the only moral message in Goosebumps. No other messages.