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Inside Connect the Pop

The R.L. Stine Interview, Part 1: Twenty Years of “Goosebumps”

There’s a very good chance that this will be my briefest intro to an interview ever because, quite simply, everyone knows who R.L. Stine is. After all, there are 300 million of his books in print—and I’m not sure if that figure even includes the latest Goosebumps title, Wanted: The Haunted Mask, which was published yesterday. If you’d like to learn more, however, you can always check out the author’s Web site.

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With the 20th anniversary of Goosebumps now upon us, we also have the fact that a lot of those early readers are now pros themselves working in genre film or fiction, or similar areas…

They’re doing all kinds of things!

Right—in fact, many of them spoke up on Twitter when I mentioned I’d be interviewing you. They said, “Wow, that’s great, you’re so lucky because those were the books that inspired me when I was twelve years old.”

Well, I’m on Twitter, and I hear from them—my old readers back from the ‘90s—all the time. And they’re now in their twenties and in their thirties, and it’s a wonderful thing for me. Because I hear from these people and they say, “You are my inspiration—I wouldn’t be a librarian today if it weren’t for you.”

Now, that’s an interesting one.

It’s good for my ego [laughs]—I hear it all day long from these people. “I wouldn’t be a writer… you got me into reading… I never read before you, thank you.” It’s very, very rewarding to me, and it makes Twitter a lot of fun for me.

Sure, and I hadn’t even thought of the librarian angle.

And I do a lot of school visits. I’m just back from a school in a little town in Georgia, and the teachers all say, “We grew up on your books, and now we’re reading them to kids.” It’s great. It was a shock at first. [laughs] That these readers are all grown up. And it’s so weird because when I do book signings, I get seven-year-olds, and ten-year-olds, and twelve, and then twenty-five- and thirty-year-olds.

You have books being signed that in some cases are two or three times older than the people in line.

That’s true—it’s very strange. And it has me scaring a whole new generation.

Yep, and we’ll get back to horror, but to stay on the topic of schools, librarians, and educators—we just touched on the idea of Goosebumps helping young people get more interested in books… but I’m also wondering is there a tendency among these same groups, same supporters, to see “books” in their own silo.

What do you mean?

In other words, is it easy to overlook the idea that—even granting the important literacy benefits of independent reading—your books have inspired folks to enter realms that have nothing to do with books: film, the performing arts, or the visual arts.

I don’t know if it gets mentioned that much.

So is it undervalued? Those who enter media production and so on…?

Well, I don’t know if it’s valued or undervalued. People don’t talk about it, but I don’t know if they need to. But also on Twitter I hear from young movie directors who say, “I got into horror because of you, and now I’m directing this—”

There you go.

I heard from John Landis’ son who had a film called Chronicle

Yes!

–who I guess was a Goosebumps fan when he was a kid, and now he’s doing movies. And, you know, a lot of people [are like that], and it’s a nice thing, but I don’t know if people have to talk about it or not. [laughs]

Only in that, and it’s a simple point, that reading can have benefits beyond the obvious of, “Great, now the kid is reading more.” It could inform an entire direction in life…

Uh-huh, yeah. I agree. But I think it’s more important to get them into a reading habit. I mean, that’s what these series books do. And that’s what Goosebumps—that’s my proudest achievement. Not just that they read a lot, but that they develop by wanting to read the next Goosebumps, and the next Goosebumps. They develop a reading habit, and then they go on and read for their lives.

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Please check out the next part of this interview in a couple of days—that’s when we’ll continue with a discussion of the benefits of series fiction generally.

†I got excited on this point because Connect the Pop has covered Chronicle twice: here and here.

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