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Interview TranscriptBy Philippe Teston
Amusement parks are usually places brimming with fun and laughter. For R.L. Stine, author of the bestselling Goosebumps and Fear Street series, they are also filled with crazy personalities and outlandish — and sometimes dangerous — park rides. Parent & Child magazine chatted with Stine about his new series, Goosebumps: HorrorLand, ways to get children reading, and why he thinks kids love being scared.
Parent & Child magazine: You've written a lot of scary book series - Fear Street, Dangerous Girls, and of course, Goosebumps. What inspired you to first start writing scary stories, and what keeps you motivated to scare kids — and adults — today?
R.L. Stine: Somebody has to scare the kids of America, right? I don't really like scaring kids, I like entertaining them and getting them reading — that's the best part. I did funny books before Goosebumps, and then when I wrote my first scary book, it was an immediate, number-one bestseller. I started going to schools asking kids why they liked my books, and they told me it was because they liked being frightened. So I listened to them, and I've been scaring every since.
P&C: It's been eight years since you wrote your last Goosebumps title. What motivated you to bring the ghouls back from the dead and start writing again?
Stine: Kids motivated me. Everywhere I go, kids say, "When are you going to do new Goosebumps books?" It's been eight years, but half of the e-mails that I get from kids say, "More Goosebumps!" or "We want to see more Slappy!" You have to do what kids want, I always say.
P&C: HorrorLand looks like a place kids might not want to go to. What's it like?
Stine: I think it's a place kids would want to go to! It's all fun scary, or at least it's supposed to be. There are all of these insane rides and things to do — there's a werewolf petting zoo, a bottomless canoe ride. The ice cream cart sells garlic and onion cookie dough ice cream. I think kids will like it. Unfortunately, the kids in the book who go to HorrorLand find out that these scares are suddenly turning real.
P&C: The first book in the HorrorLand series, Revenge of the Living Dummy, hit bookshelves in April. What do you think makes the new Goosebumps so great?
Stine: I think we've really made it new. It's not like the old Goosebumps books. What you get is a complete Goosebumps story like the old days, with all the surprises, the villains, and a big shock ending, and then just as you think its safe to close the book, there's another story. I think that's the big change. And the other change is, now we have this amazing website, and now we have HorrorLand on the Internet, which we weren't able to do before.
P&C: How will the new Web site enhance the creepiness of Horrorland?
Stine: You actually get to enter HorrorLand. You can read about it in the book, but when you go to EnterHorrorLand.com, you actually get to go into the park and meet all the weird characters in the books and some of them that aren't in the books. And you have amazing games you can play. It's filled with clues to what's going on in the serial and what's happening to the kids in HorrorLand. I think it's really fun, and it's just a whole added dimension for kids. There is also a second site, EscapeHorrorLand.com, which has clues as to how the kids are going to get out.
P&C: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for your fans who love writing?
Stine: I get so much mail from kids, and so many of them say, "We wanna be writers," and "I want to be a scary writer too." And I think that's really a nice thing. My advice has always been — it's actually pretty boring advice — write something every day. And my only other advice is to just READ READ READ. And not just from the same author, but from all sorts of authors. You pick up all sorts of things from other writers by reading them.
P&C: How can parents help their kids enjoy reading?
Stine: If kids find something they enjoy reading, let them read it. Almost no matter what it is. Just let them read.