After giving kids goose bumps for two decades—and continuing to do so—R.L. Stine taps into grown-up fears in Red Rain, his second adult hardcover horror novel (after 1995’s Superstitious). In the novel, which Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone imprint will publish with an announced first printing of 150,000 copies, a travel writer impulsively adopts two orphaned boys—with horrific results.
“I wanted to do old-fashioned horror, real horror,” says Stine of the genesis of the novel. For inspiration, he watched a trio of films: Village of the Damned, Island of the Damned, and Children of the Damned. “The three didn’t have much in common, except they all had really evil children in them,” he observes. “This novel is kind of a reimagining of these movies. I thought it would be ironic for me to write about evil kids and very naïve adults who have no concept about how evil the kids are.”
Stine, who continues to pen Goosebumps books and other middle-grade novels, found writing horror for adults somewhat tricky. “I thought I needed a challenge, and believe me, it was a challenge,” he says. “The kids’ stuff comes naturally to me now. When I write horror for kids, I have to make sure that they know it’s not real—that it’s pure fantasy and could never happen. Writing for adults, I have to do exactly the opposite. It has to be real or they won’t buy it. It was fun to turn it around in Red Rain and have the chance to be really horrifying. Some really ghastly things happen in this book!”
The author will likely have a built-in audience for his new novel, given that the first Goosebumps books rolled off press 20 years ago. “Kids who grew up on my books in the 1990s are now in their 20s and early 30s,” Stine notes. “They show up at my book signings, which is a very nice thing. And I’m on Twitter a lot, and I hear from them all the time. The notes I get are incredible: ‘I would have had a miserable childhood without you,’ or, ‘I wouldn’t be a librarian today if not for you.’ It got me thinking I should write something for my old audience. With Red Rain, now I get to scare them all over again!”
It’s a good thing that Stine is a high-energy guy, given his full schedule at BEA. He signed copies of Red Rain in the S&S booth, then donned his children’s author cap to autograph copies of his very first Goosebumps hardcover release, Goosebumps Wanted: The Haunted Mask. That novel is due from Scholastic, which will host a Goosebumps 20th anniversary celebration.