There seem to be few dull moments in the life of R.L. Stine, and the second half of 2022 is proving this adage true. The dean of middle-grade horror will introduce a new series on August 30, when Feiwel and Friends releases Stinetinglers: All New Stories by the Master of Scary Tales, a fiction collection showcasing the author’s trademark amalgam of funny and frightening. The publisher has a 75,000-copy first printing on order.
Each of the book’s 10 tales features an introduction by Stine and a protagonist grappling with the unexpected. A boy who hates bugs starts to see them everywhere. A basketball player notices his skin beginning to drip off his hands—but no one else can see it happening. And three friends find a hole in the ground that just keeps getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger.
“I must have been nuts to take this on,” Stine quipped about committing to writing Stinetinglers, a planned three-book series that will include another anthology published in fall 2023 and a third in fall 2024. “Writing this book was kind of like writing 10 novels, since you need 10 ideas, 10 story lines, and 10 endings. I like writing short stories, since it’s possible to knock them out more quickly, but you have to be careful that you fit everything in, make sure that the story is complete, and find a good ending that fools the reader.”
Senior editor Kat Brzozowski, who edits Stinetinglers, has a horror-tinged history with Stine, having acquired six of his Fear Street hardcover novels for St. Martin’s in 2013. She was impressed with the author’s prowess at short-story writing. “With this format, Bob was able to dip into different genres, which I really like,” she observed. “He never runs out of ideas and never repeats himself, and always maintains a fast pace—which makes the stories all the scarier. He knows exactly how to play on readers’ fears, but always in an age-appropriate way.”
F&F publisher Jean Feiwel similarly praised Stine for providing, in Stinetinglers, “the same leavening of horror that he does in Goosebumps, but in shorter versions. He gives kids safe scares that are like rollercoaster rides—he packs a scary punch, but readers know that everything will be all right.”
Goosebumps Takes Flight
Publishing history is famously circular, and it was Feiwel, who launched her 23-year editorial career with Scholastic in 1983, who gave Stine, then a magazine editor at the company, his first horror-writing assignment. At her request, Stine agreed to author Blind Date, a YA novel released in 1987 as the inaugural title of the Scholastic Point Horror line.
Before he wrote under the name of R.L. Stine, the author had created a gallery of joke books and lighthearted fiction for kids using the fitting alias of Jovial Bob Stine.
In 1992, R.L. Stine’s profile and output escalated precipitously when Scholastic Paperbacks debuted Goosebumps with Welcome to the Dead House. The monthly series, produced by Parachute Press (a company founded by the author’s wife, Jane Stine, and Joan Waricha, plus the editor Susan Lurie), quickly found—or more accurately created—a market niche, and by the mid-1990s, Goosebumps novels were selling at the anything-but-scary rate of four million copies a month.
“At the time, there really wasn’t any other middle-grade horror, except books by Alvin Schwartz,” Feiwel noted. “In fact, Tim Jacobus’s Goosebumps covers were criticized for being too scary, which we ignored.” And wisely so: three decades later, Goosebumps has more than 400 million copies in print in a total of 32 languages, and has inspired two feature films starring Jack Black (which grossed a combined total of more than $250 million), television series, video games, and numerous consumer products.
Let the Celebration Begin
Scholastic is heralding the 30th anniversary of Goosebumps with considerable fanfare. Slappy the ventriloquist dummy reappears in Goosebumps: Slappy Beware!, in which Stine reveals Slappy’s origin story. The second-ever Goosebumps title to be released in hardcover, this anniversary edition features four full-page illustrations of original art by longtime Goosebumps artist Brandon Dorman.
“This book came about because we wanted to publish something special to mark Goosebumps’ 30th anniversary, and his origin story felt like a natural for a special format and illustrations,” explained Abby McAden, associate publisher, Scholastic Trade Fiction, who has been overseeing the Goosebumps brand since 2007. “We published the very first Goosebumps hardcover (Goosebumps Wanted: The Haunted Mask) 10 years ago for the 20th anniversary, and this felt like a new and different way to mark this anniversary.”
In addition to illustrator Dorman, McAden credited Stine, senior editor Anna Bloom, and associate art director Maeve Norton for creating Slappy, Beware!
Stine is characteristically humble—and humorous—about his publishing success. “I often think of Agatha Christie’s line, ‘I just stumbled on something people liked,’ ” he said. “I am just lucky.”
Feiwel, not surprisingly, is more objective. “There is a formula for success, and the amount of work Bob puts into his work is astounding,” she said. “He is incredibly dedicated and hardworking and there is no substitute for that—whether you are lucky or not. Bob did not travel on anyone else’s path—he created his own, unique creative road.”
Stinetinglers: All New Stories by the Master of Scary Tales by R.L. Stine. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 Aug. 30 ISBN 978-1-250-83627-1
Slappy, Beware! by R.L. Stine. Scholastic Inc., $12.99 Sept. 20 ISBN 978-1-338-84707-9