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Why R.L. Stine Wants His Latest Book to Freak Out Adults, Not Kids

Categories: Books
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Image courtesy Simon & Schuster
R. L. Stine's newest novel for adults, Red Rain.

Was it a challenge writing for an adult audience? What was your process like?

RLS: I hope they'll have the same kind of reading experience and I hope it will creep them out. That's my job, scaring people. That's what I do for a living.

It's sort of like a sprinter who suddenly decides to do the marathon. It's sort of the same skill but you have to change everything. Everything you do is different. Partly because it's so much longer than a children's book. It has to be so much more real than a children's book. So much more detailed. I actually have to do characterization, which is something I don't do in Goosebumps deliberately. I want the Goosebumps reader to think they're the protagonist. I want the reader to identify with the main character so I don't do a lot of characterization to get in the way of that. When you write for adults, of course you have to create real characters for them. That was a challenge.

Goosebumps were such page-turners. It was easy to read one in a day.

RLS: I wish I could write them that fast. That would've been good. In the '90s they came out once a month. I never got out much; I was always home. I had to write one a month. It was unbelievable.

How did you get started writing Fear Street, Goosebumps, horror fiction for children?

RLS: I'd been writing for kids a long time before that. I never really wanted to be scary. I was always funny. I only wanted to write funny stuff. I wrote about a hundred joke and humor books for kids before I got scary. Here's the embarrassing part: Being scary wasn't my idea. This is embarrassing. I always loved horror but I never thought about writing it. One day I was having lunch with an editor and she said, 'I need a scary novel. I need a horror novel for teenagers. Go home, write a book called Blind Date.' She gave me the title and everything. That's how I got started. I went home, I spent like three months on it, and it came out and it was a number one bestseller. Like top of the publisher's weekly list. And I thought, 'Wait a minute, I've been writing for twenty years. I've never had a bestseller. What's going on here?' Then I wrote another one called Twisted. And it was a number one bestseller. And I thought, 'Wow I've stumbled onto something here. I've struck a chord with kids. I've found something they like.' And that's how I got scary. I've been scary ever since. That's really how it started. Then we did a series and I started the Fear Street series for teenagers -- killing off teenagers. No one had ever done a scary series for seven- to twelve-year-old and we tried a few. It just took off; it all got crazy.

Speaking of beginning with a title, I read that's how you wrote Goosebumps books. You always begin with the title and then go from there.

RLS: Always. I guess that's backwards from most authors, right? Most authors get an idea and then they work on it and eventually think of a title. I've written 110 Goosebumps books, that's a lot. Almost all of them started with the title. I was walking my dog in the park and these words popped into my head, 'little shop of hamsters.' I don't know where it came from, I just had it. I thought, 'Great title. How do I make hamsters scary? What if there are hundreds of them? What if there's this weird pet shop?' That's kind of how I do every book. I get the title and it sort of leads me to a story.

Was that how you approached Red Rain too?

RLS: Red Rain was kind of different. I started out with the idea of evil twins. Then evil twins and naive adults, cause there were a lot of horror movies I watched that had really evil kids. I went back and I watched them, they were called The Village of the Damned, Island of the Damned and Children of the Damned. They all had these really extraordinary, sometimes supernaturally evil kids, and adults who were just clueless. I watched those movies again and I thought that's what I'd do. Then I got really interested in twins. I realized that people find twins scary. Right? All through time, even today, people have weird ideas about twins. Even today people think that if you poke a twin with a pin that the other one will feel it. Things like that. In the old days there were tribes that would separate twins at birth because it was such bad luck. There's all this mythology.

Do you have children? What's it like having R.L. Stine for a dad?

RLS: My son Matt is 32. His claim to fame is that, this is true, he was the right age for Goosebumps and everything, he never read one. Isn't that horrible? Just to get Dad. Just to make me nuts. He never read one. I actually put him in a Fear Street book. He's the star of one. He never read it. Only Garfield comics, his whole childhood. That's all he would read. Then he went off to college and he was an English major. Go figure. He'd bring [Goosebumps] books to his friends. He'd ask me put his friends in the books. He just never read one.

At the St. Louis Jewish Food Festival you're speaking about Red Rain and Goosebumps. What can people expect from both speaking events?

RLS: I guess I'm doing both. We'll find out who shows up. That will be fun. My current tour is a Red Rain tour and it's really adults but you can't stop kids from showing up. And I always love to see them. I'm the author who likes to tour. I enjoy it a lot. I usually just talk a lot. I'll talk about Red Rain. Maybe if there are kids there I'll read something from Goosebumps or tell a ghost story. Sometimes I like to write a ghost story with kids if there are a lot of kids there. That's always fun. I'll do a book signing and sign whatever they have.

Will you write more books for adults?

RLS: It all depends if people like it. If people accept me as an adult author and if my old readers pick it up and people buy it, I'd love to do more. It's a challenge for me, but it's fun, too.

What do you hope your grown-up fans gets out of Red Rain?

RLS: I hope they'll have the same kind of reading experience and I hope it will creep them out. That's my job, scaring people. That's what I do for a living.

R.L. Stine will be at the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival on Friday, November 9, speaking to kids about Goosebumps at 10:30 a.m. and about Red Rain, his latest novel for adults, at 1 p.m. alongside author Heather Brewer.


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Jewish Community Center

2 Millstone Campus Drive, St. Louis, MO

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