Author R. L. Stine was born on October 8th, so perhaps his place in the world of children’s horror was always meant to be! The Goosebumps books, as well as the TV show adaptations, were a spooky staple for kids growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s. He’s often referred to as the “Stephen King of children’s literature,” and Stine’s horror legacy continues to grow with new adaptations and books still on the way.
Although he’s best known for his Goosebumps and Fear Street stories, we bet there’s a lot you don’t know about this influential writer!
Stine Started as a Humor Novelist
Shortly after moving to New York City to pursue a career in writing, Stine wrote dozens of humor books for kids under the name Jovial Bob Stine. He created the humor magazine Bananas with Scholastic Press. Bananas was written with teenagers in mind and published 72 issues between 1975 and 1984. Stine served as the main editor for the magazine and was responsible for much of the writing.
He used a different name back then, too! “When I was a joke book writer,” Stine said to Scholastic, “I was known as Jovial Bob Stine. When I started writing horror, I decided to use my initials because they sounded more serious.”
He Began Writing Horror “By Accident”
When asked why he started writing spooky stories after years of writing what he called “joke books,” Stine said, “It was completely by accident, a bit of an embarrassing story. I was meeting my editor at Scholastic for lunch. Till that point in time, I had basically been writing joke books and never delved into scary novels. During our meeting, she said that she needed someone to write scary novels for teenagers, ‘You can do it! Go home and write a horror book.’” Later, that book was released as Blind Date, Stine’s first novel in the horror genre.
He’s One of the Best in the Business
First published in 1989 with The New Girl, Stine’s Fear Street books were what really put his name in the children’s horror world. Taking place mostly in the fictional town of Shadyside, the series was meant for young adult readers, and often had scary or twist endings.
Then Stine launched the Goosebumps books in 1992, a series aimed at a younger audience, much like his original humorous kids’ books. Goosebumps books often involve child characters who find themselves in frightening and unusual “spooky” situations. The series, known for its kid-friendly scares and clever plots, quickly shot into popularity in the 90s and has allowed Stine to sell over 400 million books worldwide.
At 350 million books sold, his Goosebumps series, in particular, is currently the second best-selling series of all time, with the Harry Potter series claiming the best-selling spot just ahead. That’s incredibly impressive!
For three consecutive years in the 1990s, USA Today called Stine the No. 1 best-selling author in America.
“The thing that ties ‘Fear Street’ to people all over the world is that we all have the same fears,” Stine said when talking about the spooky legacy of his horror books. “It doesn’t matter what country you’re in, everyone is afraid of the dark, or afraid somebody’s lurking in the closet, or afraid of being in some strange new place they’ve never been before. We all have the same fears.”
He Always Writes the Title First!
“When I write, I always like to know the title first,” said Stine in an interview. “Then, I have to know the ending, because when I write it, I can figure out how to fool or surprise the reader.” He makes an outline of the entire book, chapter by chapter before he really starts to write. When he’s done with the book, he gives the manuscript to his wife Jane, who is an editor, to read. He says she is “a very hard editor.”
He Only Has One Fear…
For someone who writes horror all the time, you would think Stine would be pretty tough to scare! But it turns out that his biggest fear is something many of us don’t think about.
“I have one phobia,” Stine admitted. “I can’t jump into the water. I have to step into a swimming pool; I can’t jump or dive in. My nephews think it’s a riot that a scary guy like me is afraid to jump into a pool!”
Happy birthday to R.L. Stine! Here’s to many more spooky adventures in his scarily creative world.
For more spooky season related articles, check out another one of Bookstr’s originals here!