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Does Anything Scare R. L. Stine?

Goosebumps author tells all to Kid Reporter

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

After writing 100 books of humor, author R.L. Stine turned to horror and created a hit, first with his Fear Street series, and then with Goosebumps. He is now working on Goosebumps Horrorland, which will include 12 books in all, each with two stories. The second part of the series takes place in Horrorland, a theme park where all your worst nightmares come true!

Scholastic is hosting a live webcast event with Stine on Wednesday, October 28 at 1:00 p.m. ET / 10:00 a.m. PT. Log on to scholastic.com/goosebumpswebcast to participate.

Stine talked to Kid Reporter Andrew Scarafile recently about his creepy career creating creatures of the night. Check it out—if you dare!

Q: Right now, you're working on your legendary Goosebumps books with the new HorrorLand series. I understand that by the end of the series, all the characters will be reunited in a single plot. You say that by the time you begin writing a book, you already know how it will end. Do you know, yet, how the series will end—and can you give us any hints?

STINE: Yes, I do know how the series ends, because I've written all 12! The Horrorland series books have a story up front and a continuing story in the back where more and more kids find themselves at Horrorland. I'd never done anything like that where it continues. It was hard for me. I had to plan in advance and know how it would end. Kids disappear, and I had to know where they went and why. It was very complicated.

When I write, I always like to know the title first. Then, I have to know the ending, because when I write it, I can figure out how to fool or surprise the reader. I don't want to spoil the end for you, but they don't end up in Horrorland, they end up somewhere else.

Q: Do you base your characters on people you know?

STINE: No, I just make them up. I do use names of people I know, though. When my son was in school I used to use his friends' names. But I've never used anyone real. I pretty much make up everything.

Q: You're one of the best-selling children's authors of all time, yet at first I understand that some schools and libraries tried to ban your books. How did it feel to be at the center of such controversy?

STINE: There wasn't much controversy. Very few schools wanted to ban the books. A few people thought horror wasn't good and people shouldn't have horror in school. But it didn't happen much. Teachers and librarians mostly liked the books because they get kids to read and get them in the reading habit.

Q: What do you have to say to parents who are afraid to let their kids read your books?

STINE: Parents these days know that the covers are scarier than the books—and that they're a lot more funny than they are scary. By now I've done so many that parents are familiar with my work. My books never get too scary. They're supposed to give the kids shivers, not nightmares.

Q: I heard you write two books a month. How do you keep up that pace?

STINE: I don't anymore. That was a long time ago when I was doing the Fear Street series for teenagers and I had just started with Goosebumps. I don't know how I did it—it was crazy. But I had so much fun and I was so thrilled that the books were popular and everyone liked them so much. Now I'm just doing Goosebumps books—about seven or eight a year.

Q: How do you keep the ideas coming?

STINE: I just walk along and a title pops into my head. Like I'll think, "Little Shop of Hamsters"...hmmm what could I do about hamsters? And then there's the "Wizard of Ooze," which I'm working on for next year.

Q: How much editing and rewriting is involved?

STINE: A LOT! One of the people who edits them is my wife. It's hard to revise. I like to just write and go on to the next one. But other people are able to find all kinds of things you can't see yourself. My wife edits them for her company Parachute Press. She's a very hard editor.

Q: You have a good handle on what scares kids around the world. What scares you?

STINE: Not much. I'm here in my apartment writing all the time, so what could scare me? I do have one phobia, though: Jumping or diving into a swimming pool. I've had this fear ever since I was a kid growing up in Cleveland. It's some weird kind of phobia. I have to take the steps.

Q: Do you still dress up for Halloween?

STINE: Nope. Halloween is my busy time of year. I'm usually out working on Halloween, visiting bookstores or telling ghost stories. This year I'll be doing a live webcast for an hour at Scholastic books. (The webcast is on Wednesday, October 28 at 1:00 p.m. ET / 10:00 a.m. PT. Log on to scholastic.com/goosebumpswebcast to participate.)

Q: What has been your most memorable costume?

STINE: One Halloween when I was a kid was terrible for me because I wanted to be a scary guy: a mummy, monster, or Frankenstein. My parents went out and bought a costume for me and it was a duck costume with a fuzzy yellow tail. We were poor, so I couldn't go out and buy another, but I was so embarrassed to go out in that costume.

I used that story in The Haunted Mask—one of the most popular Goosebumps books. The main character, Carly Beth, puts on a mask and can't take it off. I use the duck story in that.

Q: What is the scariest monster of all?

STINE: I think the scariest things are those you don't see and only imagine. For example: there is something in the basement, you can’t see it, you don't know what it is, and you have no idea how horrible it is. My most popular villain is Slappy the evil dummy. I don't know why, but I think people don't like the idea of dolls and dummies coming to life. People think it's my scariest creation.

Q: Which of your books do you think is the scariest?

STINE: Night of the Living Dummy, Revenge of Living Dummy and in an early series, The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight. You hear them walking and scratching, scratching at the door. I think those are my scariest stories.

Q: What is your next project, after HorrorLand?

STINE: I don't know. I’m doing seven new ones, then I hope there will be a bunch more. I also spend lots of time on my Web site, rlstine.com. I put lots of new stuff on there. Right now I'm doing an iPhone app called RL Stine Haunted House of Sound. When you buy the app, you get a bunch of scary stores and then you add the sound effects and you pick which ones you use in the story.

Also, log on to the official R. L. Stine site.

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