With Halloween fast approaching, ‘tis the season for orange, black and the creepy fluorescent green of Goosebumps! R.L. Stine, infamously beloved for scaring kids into reading, was a guest author of honor for Blood on the Bayou, the 2016 Bouchercon (pronounced bough'·chur·con). The annual World Mystery Writers Convention lured over 1,900 authors and attendees to the Marriott on Canal Street with proceeds going to New Orleans Public Libraries. Stine headlined Bouchercon for Kids at the 219 Loyola Ave. branch on September 17 where the 'Stinester' hosted a free Q&A and signed books for fans.
The writer behind Goosebumps debuted his teen horror novel Blind Date in 1986. In 1989, Stine’s Fear Street series slayed teenage readers. Many credit Stine with the invention of the teen horror genre. He comments below during his interview with Where Y’at that there were other teen horror authors before him. This shocking amount of humility and hard work has resulted in 400 million book sales and several series including Fear Street, Goosebumps, Mostly Ghostly and The Nightmare Room.
Where Y'at: Next year is the 25th anniversary of the Goosebumps series. Congrats!
R.L. Stine: That’s unbelievable, right?
WYAT: Do you have a favorite monster?
RLS: Well, there is a book called The Horror at Camp Jellyjam, which has a huge monster at this summer camp, and he smells so bad. He has to have the campers bathe him every single day because he smells that bad. I’ve always liked him.
WYAT: In Revenge of the Living Dummies from the Goosebumps Horrorland series, the protagonist narrates, “My mom says I will either be a writer or a crazy person.” Is there a fine line between the two?
RLS: I don’t remember that line. That’s really funny. I can’t believe I wrote that.
WYAT: Let’s talk Slappy. Mannequins are particularly creepy in so many of your books and on-screen stories. I noticed a very R. L. Stine-like mannequin on your desk during a YouTube interview.
RLS: I have two dummies in my office. One is Slappy and the other one is a dummy of me that looks just like me. That’s pretty creepy, right? We used it in an intro to a Goosebumps TV show a long time ago—Night of the Living Dummy III, and I did the intro to the show with the dummy. Then they gave it to me, so I have it in my office.
WYAT: Does your Slappy ever creep you out?
RLS: No, I don’t really understand it about dummies. I write about them all the time. I don’t think they’re so scary, but other people do. We are doing a whole new batch of Goosebumps books, called Goosebumps Slappy World. In these four books, Slappy introduces the story. The first one is called Slappy vs. You.
WYAT: From the fascination with Harry Potter growing into more and more dangerous years at Hogwarts to family viewings of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, kids and teens are inundated with adult themes and violent imagery. How do changes in popular culture affect your work?
RLS: That’s a good question. I have to say I am very much in favor of violence. I am. I think it’s a very good outlet for young people. I think young people are really smart and they know the difference between violence in a book or a movie or a game and violence that actually happens on the street. There is a very big difference, and kids are smart enough to know the difference. I don’t think it affects kids in any way if you have a violent scene and violence going on in your book and it makes sense.
WYAT: The 2015 Goosebumps movie was so great! I love when Mr. Stine passes you as Mr. Black in the hallway. How did Jack Black first approach you with ideas for his “more sinister” version of R. L. Stine?
RLS: Well, he came in to New York the winter before he did the movie just to meet me and we had lunch. We had a nice talk. I think he just wanted to look at me to try to figure out how he would play me and what he would do. He said, “Is there anything in the script that is true about you?” and I said, “No. Not a thing. Not a single thing.” He said, “I’m going to be a sinister version of you,” and that’s what he did. He’s pretty mean in the beginning of the film, but he’s very funny. We had a good time.
WYAT: Your books were a favorite of my son, Dylan, and my stepson, Al. When writing fear into a book for young audiences, how do you keep the experience entertaining and fun without being way too scary?
RLS: I don’t know how to answer that, because I’ve written so many books. You just know. You know how far to go. You keep the language simple. My books are very easy to read, and, mainly, I put in a lot of surprises. That’s what’s most important to me. All the surprises and twists in the book.
WYAT: You are a master of your own genre. How do you feel Young Adult genre books in general make the grade for avoiding adult themes for this age group?
RLS: There are so many good Young Adult novels now, which is one reason I think so many adults are buying those novels instead of adult novels, because so many people are writing really good stuff.
WYAT: Please tell us about your newest Goosebumps Most Wanted book, The Haunter.
RLS: [Jokingly] The Haunter is like my 4,000th Halloween book. It’s about someone who gets a ghost inside him who starts ruining his life. He’s haunted.
WYAT: Do you ever feel sorry for your characters and the intense situations you put them in?
RLS: Yeah. It’s terrible, I know. Horrifying.
Trick or treat yourself to a Goosebumps book from your favorite branch of the New Orleans Public Library. Read more about R. L. Stine and his work by following @RL_Stine on Twitter or checking out RLStine.com.