Hard Choices

R.L. Stine on Writing Horror for Grown-Ups


R.L. Stine on Writing Horror for Grown-Ups

I had no pent-up desire to write this kind of thing. But I’m on Twitter all day and kept getting asked to write an adult book. I’ve been writing Goosebumps for 20 years. A lot of my followers were kids when it first came out and kept saying, “Write something for us!” I thought, well, I can’t really ignore my original audience.

It’s hard for children’s authors to be accepted when they try to write adult books. J.K. Rowling is the exception because people are so eager to read anything by her, but it took Judy Blume three or four tries before she had a success. I found it a real challenge. It’s like a runner who’s used to doing sprints and then decides to do a marathon. When I write for kids it has to be kind of believable, but they also have to know it’s a fantasy. But when you write horror for adults, every detail has to be real. I actually had to do research on things like vegetation on the Outer Banks.

Normally, I spend a week on the outline and take two weeks to write the book. It took five months to write this 400-page book, which was weird for me.

I first got scary by accident. It was never my idea. An editor said, “I need a scary novel for teenagers. Go write a book called Blind Date.” She even gave me the title. It was embarrassing. I was at that point in my career where you don’t say no to anything. I went home, wrote it, and it was a No. 1 bestseller in Publishers Weekly. I’d been writing 20 years and had never been on that list. I’d struck a chord with kids, so I’ve been scary ever since.

My big fear is that some kid will see my name and assume this is a book for him. Parents have to watch out. Maybe kids who are in late high school can read this. It’s too sexy and upsetting for the Goosebumps audience. There’s a lot of grisly stuff—graphic, horrible killings.

I think it’s a good, scary horror novel with a bunch of twists. But who knows? If people like it, I’d be happy to try another one. I’d love to do some horror comics—the old Fifties stuff like Tales From the Crypt. If I had a talent for drawing, I’d be a cartoonist. Seriously. When I was in fourth grade, I’d do comic strips. People said, “These are terrible. You can’t draw.” At least I can write. I still do six Goosebumps books a year. Every day I don’t get up until I’ve done my 10 pages. — As told to Diane Brady


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