Arts & Culture News

Catching Up with R.L. Stine at the Teen Book Festival: 'How Would You Like to Be Nostalgia?'

RL Stine with one of his Goosebumps creatures.
RL Stine with one of his Goosebumps creatures. courtesy RL Stine
The teen angst was palpable this weekend as 10,000 vessels of raging hormones packed into the Irving Convention Center for the North Texas Teen Book Festival. Without intentionally eavesdropping, we heard no fewer than four variations of: “Hey, after this, want to take a selfie?”

Headlining Dallas’ comic con of the young adult genre was iconic Goosebumps author R.L. Stine. He goes by Bob in real life. Nineties kids remember him, whether they were fans or not, because he was to book fairs as cookies were to Girl Scouts. He’s a gateway drug to Stephen King, and he’s still cranking new stuff out after all this time. He’s also horrible at pool and has an insane stalker.

Observer: What do you want to talk about?
Stine: This is the 25th anniversary of Goosebumps.

Twenty-five years?!
It’s crazy. Were you a ’90s kid?

See, my readers all grew up. And it was a horrible shock to me. Horrible. All these 30-year-olds show up now. I say, ‘What are you doing here?’ I’m nostalgia to them. Nostalgia. It’s weird. How would you like to be nostalgia?

I think I might like it. You’re still doing Goosebumps, right?
I’ve been doing it all 25 years. That’s a lot of books, right? That’s why I look like this. We’re doing a new series called Goosebumps: Slappy World. You know, after the evil dummy. And the first book in the series is called Slappy Birthday to You. Just came out this week. Yeah I keep going. We’re doing it.

You probably get asked the same questions all the time.
I hope. I hate new questions. I hate them. [laughs]

Oh good, because I don’t have any.
Oh good. [laughs]

Well, maybe one. Do you know the author of the Babysitters Club books?
Ann? Ann Martin, yes. Ann worked for my wife when she was really young. She was like in her 20s. She was an assistant editor at Scholastic. And my wife was Ann’s boss. So I’ve known her since she was like 25 years old.

That was an irrelevant question.
Yes. Yes it was. [laughs] Were you a Babysitters Club fan?

I was always so jealous of her because her fans were so cute. They were all these little girls. She had the best fans and sometimes they would faint when they met her. I got the shakers. And I had the gigglers. But I’ve never had a fainter. Ann had fainters.

Fainter. I’ve never heard that term before.
I just made it up. [laughs]

Have you read Fifty Shades of Grey?
[Smile disappears] No.

click to enlarge Man-Thing is R.L. Stine’s first comic book series for Marvel. - COURTESY RL STINE
Man-Thing is R.L. Stine’s first comic book series for Marvel.
courtesy RL Stine
Will you read Fifty Shades of Grey?
No. These are good questions.

I read somewhere that you’re a really bad pool player.
Oh, terrible. Awful. We moved around every room in our apartment to make room for the pool table. And I turned out to be horrible at it. My son won’t even play with me. [Frowns] He said I was ‘noncompetitive.’ So he stopped playing with me.

So the table just sits there dormant?
Well, I have a 3-year-old grandson, so it gets a lot of use. When he was little he sat on the table and rolled the balls. Now he loves rolling and hitting the balls. So it gets a lot of use now.

Do you hear a lot from the 30-year-olds who were big fans of yours when they were kids?
I’m on Twitter all day, so I hear from my ’90s kids a lot. It’s a wonderful way to keep in touch with my original readers. And I hear from them all day. I hear, ‘Oh thank you, I wouldn’t be a librarian today if it wasn’t for you,’ ‘Thank you, I wouldn’t be a writer today,’ ‘Thank you for getting me through a hard childhood.’ It’s very good for my ego. My wife has to keep me humble. So I love Twitter. It’s a great way to keep in touch with these people.

You just wrote your first comic book series for Marvel.
This is my lifelong dream, I’ve always wanted to write comic books. And I just did a series of comic books for Marvel called Man-Thing. It’s about this horrible swamp beast named Man-Thing and it’s a series of five. The first one’s just coming out next week. I love swamp monsters.

‘Horrible swamp beast’ sounds like a good Twitter handle. Why haven’t you written comic books before now?
No one ever asked me. And then some editor called me from Marvel and said, ‘Would you like to do something? I’ll send you over a list of characters we’re not using. They sent over this list and Man-Thing was the ugliest character they had. The most hideous thing they had, so I picked it.

Do you have any crazy stalker stories?
I have a stalker.

Just one?
I have one stalker, a woman who shows up at every event, particularly in the New York area, where I also do some comedy things. And she shows up everywhere I am. She’s an orthopedic surgeon at NYU Hospital. She shows up with all this Goosebumps gear. She brings these Goosebumps things for me to sign. So she’s my stalker.

Right? She’s a doctor! I’m like, ‘Why aren’t you at the hospital?’

Any restraining orders?
No, she’s not dangerous! So far! She’s a doctor! I think she’s going to end up doing my knee. [Uproarious laughter in room]

What’s the interview question that annoys you the most?
The one I get the most is ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ Authors ask it, reporters ask it, kids ask it. Everyone asks it. And the other one I hate is ‘Where do you get your inspiration?’ Someone always asks that, and I don’t really know what that means. I guess it’s the same as ‘Where do you get your ideas?’

Do you think it’s because people who aren’t creatives don’t really get the fact that you’re always kind of “on”?
Well, the thing is that kids have to write more than any living humans. … Every week they’re writing a report, they’re writing an essay. They’re forced to write. And I think they think if there’s some secret way to get ideas it will help them. And I think that’s why they ask it. But ‘Where do you get your inspiration?’ [rolls eyes] I used to say ‘greed and stupidity.’ [laughs]

I think that’s the inspiration for a lot of things. I’m still confused about your stalker. She sounds very dedicated.
In the past two or three years, there’s been only one event she didn’t show up at. So the next time I saw her, of course, I had to ask why she missed it. Turns out she had been on a two-week-long Backstreet Boys cruise.
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Rachel Williams is the social media editor for the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Rachel Williams