R.L. Stine: His Life Story
"Why do I write these creepy books?" R.L. Stine asks. "I just like to scare people!"
He's been scaring people all around the world for a lot of years. So far, he has sold over 400-million books and his books have been translated into 35 languages, making him one of the best-selling authors in history.
Robert Lawrence Stine was born on October 8, 1943 in Columbus, Ohio. His mother was a home-maker. His father was a shipping clerk in a warehouse. Bob has a younger brother and sister, Bill and Pam. "We were very poor," Bob says. "I had to wear my cousin's old clothes to school. I think it made me very shy. It's one reason I liked staying in my room and writing."
When Bob was nine, he found an old typewriter up in the attic. That discovery changed his life. He carried it down to his room and started typing stories and little joke books.
His mother begged him to go outside and play. But Bob always said it was too boring outside. He stayed in his room typing away — and he has been writing ever since.
In school, Bob was not a great student. He was always making jokes and interrupting the class. He got mostly B's on his report cards, but he didn't work very hard.
He spent most of his time writing stories and drawing comic books. He thought he wanted to be a comic-book artist. But he had no drawing talent whatsoever.
He was terrible in Math, and he hated phys. Ed. The only sport he was ever good at was ping pong.
Bob graduated from Ohio State University in 1965. In college, he was editor of The Sundial, the school humor magazine, for three years. He boasts that he never went to class. He spent all his time writing the magazine. Of course, being at Ohio State turned him into a huge football fan.
Bob headed to New York City to become a writer. He went to work at Scholastic, writing for school magazines. Then he began to write joke books and humor books for kids. He wrote books such as How To Be Funny, The Sick of Being Sick Book, and 101 Creepy Creature Jokes. He created Bananas Magazine, a zany humor magazine, which he wrote and edited for ten years. In those days, he wrote under the name Jovial Bob Stine.
Bob married Jane Waldhorn in 1969. Jane became an editor and writer, and they worked together on several books. Later, Jane and her business partner formed their own publishing company, Parachute Press. They helped to create all of R.L.'s most popular book series.
R.L. got scary!
He wrote his first teen horror novel, Blind Date. It became an instant best-seller. Many scary teen novels followed, including Beach House, The Babysitter, and Hit and Run. Says Bob: "I told myself, Forget the funny stuff. Kids like to be scared!"
In 1989, he created the Fear Street series. Teenagers were in terror month after month! The series became the best-selling YA series in history, with more than 100 books. Recently, R.L. wrote six new Fear Street titles for St. Martins Press.
Goosebumps began in 1992. The series quickly became a hit around the world, and it made R.L. a worldwide publishing celebrity. The Goosebumps TV show was the number one kids' show in America for three years in a row. All of the Goosebumps shows can be seen today on Netflix.
2017 marks the 25th anniversary of Goosebumps. So far, there are over 130 titles in the series—and it's still going strong.
Bob's favorite Goosebumps books? The Haunted Mask—and all of the books featuring Slappy the evil dummy.
R.L. created several different scary and funny book series. They included The Nightmare Room, Mostly Ghostly, and Rotten School. He also published two short story collections, The Nightmare Hour and The Haunting Hour.
The Haunting Hour became a TV series that ran for four years and won three Emmy Awards for Most Outstanding Children's Show.
R.L. continued to bring out new titles. These included It's the First Day of School Forever, A Midsummer Night's Scream, and Young Scrooge, all published by Macmillan. He revived the teen series Fear Street in 2014. A Fear Street movie is planned for 2018.
Dylan Stine, Bob's grandson, was born in 2014. So Bob decided to do his first picture book. It's titled Little Shop of Monsters. Marc Brown of Arthur fame did the illustrations. Bob and Marc have more picture books in the works.
The Goosebumps Movie, starring Jack Black as R.L. Stine was released by Sony/Columbia Pictures. Featuring forty monsters from the Goosebumps books and Slappy, the evil dummy, it quickly became the #1 film in America. A second Goosebumps movie is in the works.
Bob continues to turn out Goosebumps books, taking the series into its 25th year. The new books are called Goosebumps SlappyWorld. In addition, he's working on several new projects, including a series of comic books for Marvel.
Questions and answers for your school report.
- Why did you decide to write scary books? Was there a certain movie or show that inspired you?
I always liked scary movies and books. When I was about eight or nine, I started reading scary horror comic books. They were called VAULT OF HORROR and TALES FROM THE CRYPT. My brother and I went to every scary movie. We didn't get scared-- we always LAUGHED!
- Have you ever seen a ghost? Do you believe in ghosts?
I've never seen a ghost — but I keep LOOKING!
- Where do you get your story ideas? Stuff that happens to you in real life? Your dreams/nightmares? From daydreaming?
Ideas come from everywhere. But most of my ideas start with a title. I try to dream up a really good book title first. Once I have a title, it leads me to a story. By the way, I've never gotten a story idea from a dream. I have the most boring dreams!
- How many books have you written in total?
It sounds crazy, but I've written over 330 books so far. (Maybe I AM crazy!) Right now, I' working on new Goosebumps titles, new Fear Street titles, I'm writing comic books for Marvel, and I'm writing picture books for little kids with my friend Marc Brown (of Arthur fame).
- Do you ever get writer's block and if so, what do you do to get rid of it?
I never get writer's block. Mainly because I do so much work before I start to write. I do complete chapter-by-chapter outlines of every book. And I make a list of all the characters-- what they look like and their personalities. And I always figure out the ending BEFORE I start the book. That's a big head-start and keeps me from having writers block.
- If you could be any character from any of your books, who would you be and why?
Slappy, the evil dummy from Goosebumps. He gets away with MURDER!