RL Stine Interview with Writers Talk

welcome to writers suck well thank you Chad it's great to be here not too scary tell me about a typical day in the life of Bob Stein the undergraduate well you have to understand I had the worst college experience any person could have not anything because of Ohio State but because I had to live at home and go to college okay so my roommate was my brother that's pretty sad right yeah and so I really I didn't have much fun I had just commuting back and forth and I missed out I just feel I missed out on a lot so I would you know would get a ride or somehow get to campus and I was editor of the sundial the humor magazine here and actually that's all I did in college so I would go to the Student Union where the magazine office was and I would hang out at the office and we would put out this magazine every once in a while I would go to a class but not that often and that's basically what I did here any mentors or significant figures within the university here no no okay I don't you feel that I didn't I you know my mentor all the people who influenced me were people who wrote scary books or authors other authors or people like Rod Serling in the Twilight Zone those people some of my big inspirations came from comic books when I was a kid there were these incredible horror comics called Tales from the Crypt and the vault of horror and I just loved them I just they were gruesome bloody comics they were awful I just thought they were terrific and they were scary and funny at the same time they always had funny twist endings and they they were very influential on me as far as mentors I don't think I ever had a real you know in in person live mentor okay so your time in Ohio State was pretty much just been the student union my time was pretty much spent going to football games or being in the student union occasionally I would go to class and you know I did have I was an English major worthless worthless major and I turned out okay but you know who is worthless and but I did have some very entertaining classes and some very interesting English classes back then there was a guy named a teacher named Jonathan mom Bach who I took a course from I'm just remembering this in playwriting modern it was modern theater and he went on to NYU and my future wife unbeknownst to me was taking a course from him and NYU now when you were writing for the Sun Dial you were writing under the pseudonym jovial Bob correct yeah well the magazine hadn't been doing the magazine had been around for like a hundred years it'd been around forever James Thurber worked on the magazine in 1917 and so it had a nice old tradition but it wasn't really it's sort of fallen into hard times and I really I this was like a goal of mine to have a magazine and be able to write funny stuff I always just wanted to be funny I never thought about being scary ever I always just wanted to be a funny guy and that wasn't new to you right well I wrote a humor column at the newspaper in high school in Bexley High and I when I was nine years old I started doing my own little magazines little funny joke books and things I'd been writing since I was nine but this was a real dream of mine and to come to the University and find there was a magazine that you know an actual magazine that would go out to people was exciting to me so I thought well maybe I need a personality maybe that'll help the magazine if I give myself like a personality and I'm just saying and I don't know where it came from I had no idea and I called myself jovial Bob Stein and I'm but now I thinking about it probably 90% of the kids had no idea what the word jovial meant right sure probably had no idea maybe I could have had a better choice but I was jovial Bob and then later on I did a national humor magazine for kids I was at that's scholastic in New York and I did a magazine in the 70s and 80s a humor magazine called bananas and it was like Mad Magazine you know it was all in color and that was a great time and I was jovial Bob Stein again okay but then you know when it came time to be scary somehow jovial bomb scene not too appropriate doesn't quite capture or no no it didn't so that's when I started using my initials okay so when you are when you're writing under these different pen names are you are you navigating different personas or is it no not really no but you know and I wrote humor and I wrote you know joke books for kids wrote about a hundred funny books for kids before I started writing scary and it wasn't that big a transition I always think there's a very close connection between humor and horror there when you go into a scary movie you hear people screaming and laughing at the same time right or when you go into an amusement park and you go up to a roller coaster the same thing you hear screams and you hear laughs and I just think there's a very close connection and I in writing the horror books I sort of treat every chapter of the chapter ends as a punchline it's sort of like writing a joke you've got all this stuff happening and then there has to be like a punch line at the end okay now I've read that that when you write you have everything planned out is that how you boys or is that something that you've come into over the years well when I started writing Fear Street books and then goosebumps and then they had to be very carefully plotted they they had to make sense probably discuss that's the hard part they have to make sense and so I started and my editors actually asked me they said before you write the book we want to see an outline you have to show us you have to have an outline approved first now everyone hates to outline right and I go into schools now and I talk to kids and I say well I outline all my books were they Oh No every their hate out everyone hates it but I really can't work without it yeah and I do a very complete chapter by chapter outline of every book before I write it kids always ask about writer's block what do you do about writer's block well you can't you really can't have writer's block if you've done all the thinking already I mean all the hard part is in the outline I've done all the thinking and all the plotting and I know everything that's going to happen in the book so I can just relax and enjoy the writing so the hard part is done before you got into the Goosebumps series you did Eureka's Castle you've done work in television do you also carry the same outlining into your work with with creating television shows well that was my whole TV career Eureka's Castle that was a lot of fun I did that for four years I was a head writer and we wrote all of the puppet episodes it was sort of like Sesame Street except we didn't teach them anything they didn't learn anything he was just yeah it was just fun and it was a very different writing process you didn't plan it out quite as much and also it's you know when I write a book I sit in my room I'm in my apartment and I type them I'm writing this book but when you write for television it's a major collaborative effort and I would write a script and then we'd bring it in and everyone would sit around the table all the puppeteers the producers the network people the director would be a huge crowd and go over my script line by line and everyone had different ideas about what it would be about and then I would go home and try to incorporate their ideas in the script it's totally different from writing a book then I would come back and we'd sit around the table and they tear apart everything I did and then I would go back and write a third version of the script and then we'd come back and then we would shoot the script and we go up on the set and the puppeteers would say whatever they wanted that was that luckily that's how that's how it worked they would just go up an ad lib and say anything and luckily they were really funny yeah so I could take credit for it even though you know about half of it was my work and anews too much of what we did but it worked out okay yeah okay so beginning in 1995 you started four seasons of the television series goosebumps mmm how does working on the television show differ from working on the books is it the same well I didn't worry you know I was at that time I was writing a goosebumps book every month actually I was doing two book series I was doing Fear Street for teenagers and goosebumps so I was actually writing a novel every two weeks so yeah I know I know I don't know quite how I did that you know it must have been nuts I mean I didn't get out much yeah writing these books and so I didn't really have time we had a lot other writers who did the scripts for the TV series it's all based on the Goosebumps books and it was kind of exciting for me to see what would happen when another writer took my story and then went off with it it was it that was that was fun actually yeah but I I liked it a lot when kids would come up to me and say you know the book was a lot better than a TV show I always enjoyed that your goosebump series has had a major impact on the on the children's market what – what do you accredit that success you know just kids and luck got very good luck mostly luck but goosebumps came out of 92 this is actually the 20th anniversary goosebumps can you imagine yeah I know we had no advertising no hype of any kind I didn't do any appearances I didn't do any book signings I was home writing these books you know we had there was no way the only way word got out was from kids it was like the secret kids network of kids telling kids about it it was totally word-of-mouth and I think whenever there's some kind of publishing phenomenon there for them that's the only way it can happen it has to be kids telling kids yeah somehow I know it's very mysterious to me I mean somehow it happened all over the world I don't know how that happened but I mean that's really lucky but I think if you have something you want to sell the kids and you do a million TV ads and you advertise it and you do all these it you can't force kids to buy it right you know Harry Potter I think started exactly the same way it's very small and the audience grew and grew and I I think that was all word of mouth – yeah certainly that social dynamic is a big player in that yeah being outside of that peer group how what was your first indicator that you were onto something big well goosebumps just sat there we we were originally signed for four books that was going to be it for book and they books went out and they sat there on the bookstores for months for like six months nothing and we just considered it was a failure in the market today they would have just been taken off they don't have any patience for anything today and they would have just seeing well these aren't selling and they would have been gone and then after six months they just took off like crazy and no one had any idea knowing you know it's not the kind of thing you plan we just we just we couldn't believe it so a huge part of your career is is giving kids the creeps I remember reading the the headless ghost and when the the old seamen pop the the kids head off I know no my parents were begging me to put it down but I couldn't how do you know when to win enough is enough when to pull back yeah I have you know I have to be pretty I don't really want to terrify kids I hate that story Chad I have one rule and that is the kids have to know it's not real they have to know it's a fantasy and it couldn't really happen and if they know that I can go pretty far and as long as they know oh okay this is just a fantasy I'm sitting in my room I'm reading all right you know I like to call my books safe scares and so I mean they know it's not gonna go too far right and they know it isn't real so they're okay with it and that's all I care about last summer I wrote a horror novel for adults which is going to be out in October and that's the complete opposite process right totally opposite when you write for adults it all has to be really real they're not gonna buy it at all if it doesn't sound real and it was very hard for me to like turn everything around and make sure I had to do research I've never done research never done research I had to do research and I had to just make sure that all the details were right something I usually just you know just make it all up and I found it a lot harder it's a lot harder to write for adults is there has there ever been a time when you were writing for children that you felt that you just had to scrap something and start over because it just wasn't not very often mainly because first I have to get the idea approved by my editors and then I have to get the outline approved I've had to scrap a lot of outlines sure what my wife is my editor for real I'm married to my editor can you imagine and at one time she gave me back an outline and on the top it just had two words on the top it said psychotic ramblings that's tough right yeah that is really tough so like I've had a lot of outlines that were rejected really got a separate work for me yeah well you have to try that's the only thing we fight about these plots yeah so is it is it be the the liberties that you get to take with writing from a fantasy standpoint that draws you towards the the child demographic or what is it that makes you they're just a great audience you know I've written for adults before but they don't have time to write to authors right there are dolls they're busy they don't have time i have such amazing contact with my readers and you know most my readers are like 7 to 12 it's a great audience i get them the last time in their lives they'll ever be enthusiastic right because you know 12 13 they discover sex and they have to be cool and that's it they're not enthusiastic anymore they have to they have to be cool and that's it for authors I think that you've just scared me more now so it's anyway it's a wonderful audience and you hear from them constantly right I get you know maybe at this point even 300 letters a week and hundreds of emails and it's great you have great contact with your readers which I love yes so you're you're not only inspiring kids to read but also to write is there anything that you've read from a child beat a letter or if they send you I'm sure you've gotten little manuscripts and whatnot is there anything that sticks out in your mind not really no no but I will tell you that the stories that kids said to me are much scarier than the stuff I do it's really you know gruesome horrible stuff they send it's amazing yes things I would never do you know these kids said but they're you know I do get to see stuff and then every once in a while there's a really talented you know I can write back to this kid and say you've really got it you know keep going you know you know you're really good right which is a nice thing and what advice would you give for child I usually don't give advice because like me you know when I was 9 years old I'm there in my room typing typing I mean I knew I wanted to be a writer I just knew it and I think kids who are going eventually going to be writers especially of fiction anyway know it they know they want to do it and they're just they're going to do it no matter what you tell them they're going to do it it's just something they have to do and so I don't you know I have my have standard boring advice you know read a lot read all different kinds of authors and write something every day I always tell them keep a journal just so you're always writing always writing something but these kids know they're going to be writers yeah and I I'm interested in hearing your opinion on the future of writing the e-book market is quickly picking up steam and what does that mean to you or as a writer so far it hasn't affected children's books that much but it's going to I you know no one I live in New York and a lot of my friends are all in publishing and they don't know what's happening know and everyone's in a quandary yeah no one really knows I think my own prediction is that there's going to be a balance between electronic books and books right and they're both will exist side by side and the interesting thing to me about all the ebooks is that people are reading more they're selling millions and millions of them and people say when they have a Kindle they have a look people say they read more than they did before that's great yeah that's a wonderful thing a major part of the goosebumps experience for me as a child was collecting these artifacts that I could put up on my shelf and I could fill in the gaps between the numbers it's very exciting uh-huh how can the electronic market compare to that well something's lost there sure but something's lost in all look at music and you know people not buying CDs and before that even albums you know with record albums there was a whole wonderful world of these incredible illustrators who did album covers yes and they were so creative and wonderful artists who did all these great covers and created all gone that's all gone that whole world is gone and with CDs which you couldn't really do very much design-wise that's all gone with people downloading and so you do wonder what's going to happen so many nice things are being done with book covers and you you know is that going to be lost I don't know my most cliche question I don't I don't know I I don't get scared for one thing I have to say I'm maybe this is weird but when I go to a scary movie I just laugh yeah I'm always the one laughing you know the shark comes up and chews up the girl and I'm the one laughing have you I don't yeah it to me it's just funny humor horror is just funny and so I I don't know if I have a good answer for you Bob thanks for being here with us today Chad I really enjoyed talking with you this is great all right from the Center for the Study and teaching of writing at the Ohio State University this has been writers talk you

23 thoughts on “RL Stine Interview with Writers Talk

  1. What a wonderful man and an influential writer! He’s the reason I started writing and became such a horror fanatic. I’ve started rereading his Fear Street series and it’s amazing how it transported me back to being a pre-teen, scared in my room while I read them at night. Thanks for the scares, Mr. Stine!

  2. there's something cliche and cheesy about them and that's why I love it. It's not depressing or super gory . I like the tone and the vibe. It's so simple yet so great.

  3. ain't nothing wrong with living at home while going to college. That shit will save you money. That's how the undergrads these days rack up so much debt. They're not just paying for tuition but living expenses too.

  4. I never even read the book I just remember the show

  5. Lol his wife is his editor, that made me laugh. Their arguments are over plots LOL

  6. Fascinating listening to Mr. Stine talk about his life and writing. He is amazing and I have been a fan since the early 90's when Goosebumps came out and still today Iam a huge fan of anything he writes or does I buy it, read it, watch it. 

  7. Wow I got sleepy within the first 4 minutes. Fuck. Great writer though

  8. Sam Raimi is another storyteller who gets the humour/horror thing.

  9. he's a brilliant writer…who should've shine more.i have been his a fan of him since i was 10..i m 20 now..and i still cannot find a better comparison of his books with anyone else's.he's has been the most consistant.long live sir R.L.Stine..i'll love to watch the next generation reading ur amazing books

  10. the connection between horror and comedy I think is you get so scared and then you realize are so safe, and that ridiculousness of being super scared in like the safest upright position is really fun. I loved his books, thanks for posting.

  11. He has so much character and personality in his voice! He would be a fantastic book narrator aside from being such a creative mind!

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