When it comes to getting creepy, especially this time of the year, author R.L. Stine has set the bar as far as penning “shiver invoking” books for children and teens. His iconic, gently scary “Goosebumps” series, celebrating its 20th anniversary, is a favorite with thrill-seeking youngsters. His “Fear Street,” series is the bestselling teen horror series of all time. But now the first generation of Stine’s fans are all grown up and want more thrills, and, well, “goose bumps.” That has prompted him to write his first official adult horror novel, “Red Rain” which comes out Oct. 9. Stine, along with fellow authors Steve Berry and Sandra Brown will be featured at the Mark Twain House & Museum’s “Mark My Words” program on Oct. 11 at Simsbury High School.
A former joke book writer who is enthralled with story lines that put his readers of all ages on edge, Stine was funny and hardly fearsome at all as he Spilled the Beans with Java.
Q: What is it about scary stories that keep us coming back?
A: Everyone likes really good scary adventures when they are safe at the same time. Frightening, terrible things are happening in the book but you are safe in your house. In my Goosebumps books, everything always turns out fine at the end and that is reassuring to kids. They can get through the story knowing it will be okay. I once wrote a Fear Street story that ended another way. The bad girls ended up going free and the kids let me know they hated that book. They turned on me! I never did it again.
Q; Speaking of Goosebumps, I can’t believe it is 20 years since the first one was written. How did you celebrate?
A: I took a nap. No we had a wonderful celebration at the big book convention at the Javits Center in New York City. There was a beautiful cake made to look like the cover of a Goosebumps book.
Q: And that bring us to your foray into adult horror novels. What prompted that?
A: I wrote “Red Rain” because I listened to my readers. I love Twitter. I love it. It is all 20 and 30-years-olds on Twitter, kids who read my Goosebumps books. Now they are starting families and have their own kids. And they were tweeting to me “write for us now.” So I realized I had this huge audience and that they loved my books then and wanted more. It was never on my mind to write adult books but I decided maybe this was the right time. I was surprised and delighted to have so many requests so we’ll see how Red Rain does and maybe write some more adult books.
Q: Was it harder or easier to write for adults?
A: Much harder. I am so used to “Goosebumps.” Writing those books is sort of like a runner who is a sprinter. Writing Red Rain was like a marathon. I usually spend a week planning and outlining a story for the Goosebumps series and then take two weeks to write it. Red Rain took five months. I did write one other adult book a long time ago but no one liked it. I hope I have a following now.
Q: What was the process for Red Rain?
A: I had to think about a story line that would be appealing to adults. I usually think through ideas while I am walking the dog. I thought people would find it funny if I wrote about evil kids because in my other books, I usually write about good kids. Then I got interested in twins, because there is something sacred about twins. And historically there are those who find them kind of creepy. I did some research and read mythology about twins. People were always worried about twins and having twins was once considered bad luck. Once I decided to use evil twins in the books, I watched three old movies about evil kids, “Village of the Damned,” “Children of the Damned” and “Island of the Damned.” The movies are not related to each other but each has really evil kids and naïve adults.
Q: What is more fun, writing scary for kids or for adults?
A: It’s all fun for me. Most writers like to “have written,” I like the “writing” part. Red Rain was a lot more of a challenge because I had to do research. In the kids’ books I make up everything. When I write for kids, I have to make sure they know it isn’t real. I don’t want to scare them. When you write for adults, it’s the opposite. Every detail has to be real or the adults aren’t going to go along with it.
Q: When you were a child, were you a “fraidy cat?”
A: I was a very fearful child which is why I spent most of my time in my room typing stories. I grew up in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio and would ride my bike around until dark when it was time to come in. I had this fear that there was something waiting for me in the garage. So I would get home and just throw my bike into the garage and run into the house. I remember that feeling of panic and have used it in my writing.
Q: Is there a down side to frightening people?
A: There is a right way to frighten kids but you don’t really want to frighten them. I hate it when parents write and say their kids are having nightmares after reading my books. I love it when a parent writes, ‘I love your books because they give my kids shivers not nightmares.’ When I started writing I was a funny guy who wrote books. When I started writing the horror stories, I would go to schools and ask kids why they like these books and most would say “I like to be scared.”
Q: What is Halloween like at your house?
A: If I am home, and usually I am not because that is a busy time of year, I drag out a life sized skeleton and hand out candy and books.
Q: You are among those being featured at the “Mark My Words” Mark Twain event in Connecticut next week. Are you a fan of his?
A: I have always been a fan. My favorite book of his is “Huckleberry Finn.”
Q: Something no one knows about you?
A: I am a big opera fan. Kids wouldn’t like hearing that. And I love football. I am a Giants and a Jets fan.
Tickets for “Mark My Words” range from $45 a person to $125 that includes a pre-show reception with the authors. Go to www.twainmarkmywords.com for information.