You would never know from his books that Goosebumps and Fear Street author R.L. Stine used to write joke books for kids under the name Jovial Bob Stine. Here's some wit, wisdom, and a few stories from the man himself as he turns 70.
1. On his introduction to horror:
“[It] was Pinocchio. My mother read it to me every day before naptime when I was three or four. The original Pinocchio is terrifying. First he smashes Jiminy Cricket to death with a wooden mallet. Then he goes to sleep with his feet up on the stove and burns his feet off! I never forgot it!”
From an interview with Harper Collins.
2. On what scared him as a kid:
"I was afraid of lots of things ... I had this one fear. I'd have to park my bike in the garage after dark, and I always thought something would be lurking in the garage. I used to take my bike and just throw it in so I wouldn't have to go in there. That's a painful way to go through childhood, I think ... But in a way, it's kind of lucky. It helped me out later, because now, when I write these scary books for kids, I can think back to that feeling of panic. I can remember what it felt like, and then I can bring that feeling to my books."
From an interview with Reading Rockets.
3. On writing horror:
“There’s no formula. I think you have to create a very close point of view. You have to be in the eyes of the narrator. Everything that happens, all the smells, all the sounds; then your reader starts to identify with that character and that’s what makes something really scary.”
From an interview with mediabistro.
4. On being scared by things he reads or sees in movies:
"People say, 'Your book keeps giving me chills,' but I don't know what that feeling is. Horror always makes me laugh. Normal adult things scare me, but not things from a book or a movie."
From an interview with the Village Voice.
5. On the biggest problem facing kids today:
"When I was a kid we had childhoods; we didn't have to be sophisticated and cool. We could just be kids. … I think the biggest problem is that kids are growing up too fast and not having fun just being a kid. It's a very tough job to be a kid."
From an interview with Teen Ink.
6. On his writing process:
"I think of the titles first. I think I work backwards from most authors. Most authors get an idea for a story and they start to write it, and then later they think of a title. But I think of the title first and then the title sort of leads me to the story. ...I know the ending, so then I know I can always get there. I plan out every book first before I write a word. I do a chapter-by-chapter outline of every book. So before I start to write, I know everything that’s going to happen in the book. I have it all planned, and then I can just enjoy the writing. I’ve done all the hard part. I’ve done the thinking before I start to write."
From an interview with The Author Hour.
7. On meeting Ray Bradbury:
"A few years ago I got to meet Ray Bradbury for the first time, and it’s so hard to meet your heroes! I was so nervous. It was at the LA Times book festival at a campus near UCLA, and he was sitting in a booth eating a hot dog. And I thought, 'I have to say something to him. I have to say how important he was to me.' When I went over, I was shaking. I was so nervous to meet him. I was like one of my kids, you know? And I went over and I shook hands and I said, 'Mr. Bradbury, you’re my hero.' And he was so nice. We shook hands and he said, 'Well, you’re a hero to a lot of other people!' It was such a nice thing to say. I was totally choked up. I couldn’t even talk. It was such a sweet thing."
From an interview with The Strand magazine.
8. On cats versus dogs:
I've always been a dog person. Had one most of my life. You can tell I don't like cats—because I've written so many books with evil cats. It's much harder to imagine an evil dog.
From an interview with Colby Marshall.
9. On the best advice he’s gotten:
"An editor once wrote on the top of a manuscript I'd written: 'Needs more lore.' MORE LORE is the best advice I ever got."
From an interview with C2E2.
10. On his favorite fan letter:
"My all-time favorite letter was from a boy who wrote, 'Dear R. L. Stine, I've read 40 of your books and I think they're really boring. ' Isn't that perfect?"
From an interview with Teen Ink.
11. On writing for adults versus writing for kids:
"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."
As told to Diane Brady of Businessweek.
12. On what advice he would give to kids who want to be writers:
"My advice is to read, read, read. Don't just read one author. Read as many different kinds of things as you can. Later, when you start to write seriously, all the things you read before remain in your brain and will help you with your writing."
From a live chat with CNN.