Welcome to R.L. Stine's 'Nightmare'
October 29, 1999
By Jamie Allen
(CNN) -- We pause from the usual J.K. Rowling-"Harry Potter" mania that has swept the country to bring you this message: The other children's author with the two-initial, last name nomenclature -- R.L. Stine -- is back.
Just in time for Halloween, Stine has released his first-ever hardcover for children. Titled "Nightmare Hour" (Parachute Press, an imprint of HarperCollins), it's a reference to the extra hour that will be experienced this Halloween when clocks are set back, giving ghouls extra time out from under the bed.
"The very first scary book I wrote was a best-seller. And I've been scary ever since."
The book includes ten new stories from the author of the overwhelmingly popular "Goosebumps" (Scholastic, Inc.) series. One story in the new book has a unique distinction: Stine, in a recent chat on CNN.com, called it's the most disgusting thing he's ever written.
"It is called 'I'm Not Martin!,'" Stine says. "It is truly disgusting; I should be ashamed of myself. It's about a boy who has to spend Halloween night in the hospital. It is a very creepy night."
Stine is the best-selling children's author of all-time, according to Guinness Book of World Records, thanks largely to "Goosebumps" stories like "Welcome to Dead House" and "Monster Blood."
He says he first started writing when he was nine.
"I found an old typewriter up in the attic," he says. "I dragged it down to my room and started typing stories and little joke magazines. I have been writing ever since."
After graduating from Ohio State University, he moved to New York, serving as editor-in-chief of the children's humor magazine "Bananas." Then he found the calling that would make him a household name.
"Actually I loved horror my whole life, but I never thought of writing it," says Stine. "I had so much fun writing joke books and humor books for kids. Then one day an editor asked me to write a scary book. The very first scary book I wrote was a best-seller. And I've been scary ever since."
It was the first book in the best-selling "Fear Street" series from Parachute Press. That eventually led to the "Goosebumps" series, which made Stine so successful that he has crossed international borders.
"My 'Goosebumps' books are actually more popular in France and Italy and England than they are here now," Stine says. "I guess it translates pretty well. I just got back from an Italian book festival. In Italy, 'Goosebumps' is called 'Piccoli Brevidi.' It means 'little shivers.'"
Of course, not everyone has read Stine's work. The author, who lives in Manhattan with his family, says his son doesn't go near Stine stories.
Success for Stine seems to come easy. He types using one finger, with the ideas coming quick.
"I'm used to writing at a very fast pace," he says. "I write a 'Goosebumps' book in about 10 days. But my grown-up novel, 'Superstitious,' took over four months to write. That was too slow for me. I feel that I can be more imaginative with my kids' books.
"I get most of my ideas by thinking up titles first," he says. "I think I work backwards from most other authors. Other authors get ideas first, but I always start with a title. When I have a good title, I start to think about what kind of a story will go with it."
The only problems Stine seems to encounter come from those who think his books are too scary for his young readers. For the past two years, he has maintained a high spot on the Office for Intellectual Freedom's "most challenged authors" list. But he takes this as a compliment.
"I'm proud and humble," he says. "I think it's more a sign of success. My feeling is that anything that becomes really popular in this country is going to be attacked by some people. It's just the price you pay for being popular."
And Stine is more popular than ever. He recalls one crowd that came to see him at a book-signing:
"My biggest crowd was at a mall outside Washington D.C.," he says. "We had given out tickets for 500 kids to come, but 7,000 showed up. It was a nightmare, but a thrill. We had to shut off the escalators in the mall so that kids wouldn't get crushed. It was a nightmare!
"But it was also a thrill for me," he says.
Sounds like the type of greeting reserved for that other popular children's book author. But this is Stine's hour.
CNN.com chat with R.L. Stine
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