R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series debuted in 1992 and went on to sell more than 350 million copies in 32 languages. Stine returns to this chilling landscape in Goosebumps HorrorLand, a 12-book series launching with Revenge of the Living Dummy and Creep from the Deep, due from Scholastic with a 100,000-copy first printing each. Bookshelf talked with Stine about his new venture into the realms of humor and horror.
What was it like to revisit the world of Goosebumps?
Oh, I am having a very good time! After eight years it is really fun to be back writing Goosebumps and especially fun to be doing something new with it. After writing 87 Goosebumps stories I thought, “I’ve got to be crazy to do 12 more,” but everywhere I went over the years, kids kept asking me when there’d be more Goosebumps. I realized I should go back and write more—as long as I could think of something new to add to the books.
And how did you decide what to add?
Well, I got together with the folks at Parachute Publishing [Stine’s wife is co-chair] and with the folks at Scholastic, and we came up with the idea of adding a serialized story to a traditional Goosebumps story. When I first came up with the concept of Goosebumps, no one had published a scary middle-grade reader series and some people thought it couldn’t be done. Now we realized that no one has published a serial like this, so we decided to try that and give the books two parts. After kids finish the first story, just when they think it’s safe to close the book, they come across a whole new story with the same characters, but this one takes place in HorrorLand, a scary theme park.
Why a theme park?
Because I love theme parks. When my son was young I took him to Disney World two or three times a year. We went so often that my wife finally refused to go with us any more. And one of my favorite books is Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, about two boys in the Midwest who sneak out at night and discover an eerie carnival, an evil place. I think about that book a lot. It was really fun to design HorrorLand and come up with things like a werewolf petting zoo, a free-fall bungee jump with no cord and a quicksand beach. I couldn’t believe that someone was actually paying me to think up this stuff.
Do you think that today’s kids are ready for scarier tales than those read by the original Goosebumps fans?
I don’t think kids’ scare level and shock level have changed. In fact I think Goosebumps could have been written when I was a kid growing up in the 1950s and ’60s. Kids still like the same cliffhangers and surprise endings, and I still write the same way. If I think a story is starting to get too scary, I put in something funny. And I still make sure that no reality intrudes. That’s my big rule, not to let any of the real world get in and to make sure that kids know it’s fantasy. Kids haven’t changed—what have changed are technology and the ways they spend their time.
Speaking of which, what role will Goosebumps HorrorLand’s Web site play in the series?
Actually the Web site provides a whole other world that kids can get into, which is something we obviously couldn’t do when the first Goosebumps books came out. I see this as the third component of the books in the new series: there is the initial story, the episode in the serial and then the Internet presence. Kids can actually enter HorrorLand via the site—it’s kind of creepy. They’ll find all kinds of clues about what is coming up in the series and hints for solving the mysteries. There will be games and downloads and other things to let kids immerse themselves in this world.
Do you expect that this site might encourage young Internet browsers to reach for the books?
I definitely hope so. I hope it will work both ways, with readers of the books searching out the Web site and other kids reading the books after finding the site.
And Revenge of the Living Dummy recently received a starred review….
I was very happy to know that someone appreciated this book. My wife told me, ‘Whatever you do, don’t say that this is your first starred review.’ But it is the first one I’ve ever received. In my entire life.
So you must feel that this bodes well for the series?
The most important thing to me is that so many awards and honors I’ve received have come from kids themselves. I am looking forward to hearing what they think of this new series. Their feedback is so honest. One of my favorite letters I received recently was from a boy who said he had just read two of my scary books in one day and now he sleeps with his mother.
Revenge of the Living Dummy and Creep from the Deep by R.L. Stine. Scholastic Paperbacks, $5.99 each 978-0-439-91869-5; -91870-1 ages 8-12