Scream King R.L. Stine Shows Off His Funny Side

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Horror writer R.L. Stine only ever wanted to make readers laugh, but it turns out that “life is full of surprises,” and he embraces them happily.

Stine made that the theme of his closing keynote speech Wednesday, December 12th, at the AAP’s annual Young to Publishing Conference held at Random House (1745 Broadway). The conference included a daylong series of educational seminars given by professionals throughout the industry on topics ranging from marketing to apps, to the nature of the shrinking bookshelf.

A wave of whistles and cheers erupted from the audience at Stine’s introduction. His 35-year-career has yielded Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards, a Goosebumps-themed attraction at DisneyWorld, TV shows, and the titles of bestselling author in America from 1993-95 and bestselling series author in history.

Stine revealed he was especially happy to be there because a librarian at a recent book signing had asked for a picture to prove to her students he was “still alive.”

He’s had numerous other strange encounters with fans over the years, many of which he remembers fondly in detail. At the height of his popularity he received 2,000 letters per week. He read from a few of his favorites to kick off his speech.

“I’ve read forty of your books, and I think they’re really boring.”

“Your friends and family are proud of you—no matter what anybody says.”

“I’m such a big fan of your horror stories, my parents have to escort me to the bathroom.”

From New York City taxi drivers to airport security, to children in China just learning English, Stine has heard one question over and over again, one that he finds it difficult to answer. “Where do you get your ideas?”

But he welcomes the interactions, and his fans are the reason he joined Twitter (yes, that’s actually him penning those silly takes on current events). He now has more than 64,000 followers. “It’s a way for me to reconnect with my original fan base, all the kids who are now adults,” Stine said.

Another way he’s getting back in touch is with his latest novel for adults. Red Rain, a horror novel about evil twins, was released in October by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Attendees snagged a free copy, along with his latest Goosebumps title published by Scholastic, MOST WANTED #1: PLANET OF THE LAWN GNOMES.

Although Stine’s Twitter bio states, “My job: to terrify kids,” he never imagined this was what he would end up doing with his life. While other 9-year-olds were roughhousing, he opted to sit in his room alone, typing stories with one finger. And when his mother urged him to play outside, he would respond, “It’s boring out there!” He brought home horror comic books, but his mother threw them out, calling them “trash.”

“From that day on I had a very high regard for ‘trash,’” Stine said.

After graduating from Ohio State University, he moved to New York City to become a writer. He was so embarrassed by his first job penning sexy stories based on violent photos for a men’s magazine that he would sign them with the name of his brother and high school principal.

He then landed a job as an editor at Scholastic. Having dreamed of running his own “MAD Magazine,” he created “Bananas,” and wrote under the name “Jovial Bob.” The gig lasted ten years. When the magazine died, he managed to come out on top. An editor and friend at Scholastic asked him to write a teen horror novel called Blind Date. The book became a #1 bestseller. Stine was shocked, and realized he had stumbled on to a new career.

“I wondered, ‘Why do I like killing off teenagers in these books?’ Maybe because I have one at home,” Stine joked.

To this day he hasn’t learned how to type properly. He held up a crooked, left pointer finger to prove it. “If the finger goes, there’s the career,” Stine said.

The only difference is now he’s using it to keep adults up at night.

So what scares the master of chills? Perhaps meeting his idol. He was so nervous when he ran into Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury that he blurted out, “You’re my hero.” Bradbury responded, “And you’re a hero to a lot of other people.”

As for parting advice, he’s learned to not turn down any opportunity that comes his way. “Just say yes to everything,” he said. “You never know where you’re going to land.”

Dressed in all black, a suggestion from his wife to be scary and avoid looking like “someone’s father,” Stine rounded out the day by signing books and chatting with each attendee. So it turns out that the master of horror isn’t so scary after all.

Just don’t ask him where he gets his ideas.

R.L. Stine’s new novel, for adults

Young to Publishing Conference Young to Publishing Conference
Young to Publishing Conference Young to Publishing Conference
Young to Publishing Conference

Morgan Vines is an editorial assistant for Perigee Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA). She previously worked in television production and hopes to see her own name on a book spine someday soon. You can contact her via LinkedIn or follow her at @morganavines.

Neither the Association of American Publishers (“AAP”) nor the Young To Publishing Group (“YPG”) represents nor endorses the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other information displayed, uploaded or distributed through this website by any member, user, information provider or any other person or entity. Member-generated content published on this website reflects the views of the provider of the content, and does not constitute the opinion of the AAP, the Young To Publishing Group, or any of their respective members or divisions.

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