Who Is R. L. Stine?
In 1990, R. L. Stine was a successful author. He had already written a best-selling series called Fear Street. Young adults loved his spooky stories. But he wondered if he could write a series for even younger readers—something scary, but not too scary. R. L. Stine never began working until he had the perfect title. He thought day and night about what to call this new children’s series, but the name just wasn’t coming to him.
One morning, as he was reading the TV listings, R. L. saw an advertisement that said “It’s Goosebumps Week on Channel 11!” And he thought that would be the perfect name for his new series: Goosebumps! He knew it was going to be something special.
Goosebumps was equal parts scary and funny. It combined ideas from Fear Street and all the other scary stories, funny magazines, and silly joke books he had created as a child.
By July 1992, the first book in the Goosebumps series, Welcome to Dead House
, was in bookstores. And children around the world loved it!
R. L. Stine’s previous books had been popular, but nothing like this. At one point, his Goosebumps books were selling four million copies a month! The series grew into the biggest worldwide best seller of the 1990s. R. L. Stine worked as hard as he could. He became one of the most famous authors in the world and has written over three hundred books over the course of his career.
Along the way, the horrifying and hilarious Goosebumps tales have inspired children to read—and to read more! Many fans race to check as many titles off their reading wish lists as they can. The series has been featured on television, in film, onstage, at sleepovers, in backyards, and around campfires all over the world. Chapter 1: A Totally Typical Family
Robert Lawrence Stine was born in Columbus, Ohio, on October 8, 1943. Bob, as he was called by his friends and family, was the first of three children. His brother, Bill, was born three years later. His sister, Pam, was born seven years later, in 1950.
His father, Lewis, worked for a restaurant-supply company. His mother, Anne, was a stay-at-home mom. In the city of Columbus, the Stine family lived in the wealthy neighborhood of Bexley. But their home was close to the railroad tracks—not where the really rich families lived. Growing up in a town where most of the other kids had more money was tough for Bob—sometimes he felt as if he didn’t fit in.
But Lewis and Anne always made sure their children got the best education they could, and gave them everything they needed. Bob was even able to go away to camp in the summer.
Bob and Bill shared a bedroom. Before bedtime, the brothers would tell each other scary stories. Bob’s stories were usually about a younger boy who was a lot like Bill. When Bob got to the scariest part, he would end the story quickly. Bill was left wondering what terrifying thing might have happened to the kid in the story!
Bob would often get in trouble with his mother for spending too much time listening to the radio. In the early 1950s, not every home had a television set. Most people still listened to the radio for news reports, music, and entertaining story series, sometimes called “serials.” Bob liked The Lone Ranger
, The Shadow
, The Whistler
, and Gang Busters
. These were continuing stories with new episodes each week. Bob learned how to be a better storyteller by listening to all these radio shows. But he was too scared to listen to the show called Suspense
, because the voice that narrated the show was so terrifying.
Radio also connected Bob with the world outside Columbus, Ohio. Most of the shows he listened to were broadcast from New York City. And Bob dreamed of moving there one day.
He was a big fan of comic books, too. Bob discovered whole new worlds inside their pages. Although his mother had banned comic books from the house, Bob had found a sneaky way to read them: His barber kept a stack in the barbershop, so Bob would get a haircut every week just to read the comics! EC Comics were his favorites.
But Bob wasn’t happy just reading
comics. He wanted to create his own funny and scary stories.
The Stines lived in a big, old house with many rooms, a basement, and an attic. Bob and Bill loved exploring the attic, and one day when he was seven, Bob was lucky enough to find an old typewriter there. As soon as he found it, he started to type up stories and jokes. He’d peck away at his work one letter at a time, with just one finger.
When he was nine, Bob created his first full magazine: The All New Bob Stine Giggle Book.
It was much smaller than a regular magazine, but it was packed with jokes, riddles, and illustrations he had drawn to go along with the words.
He went on to create a series of magazines with titles like Tales to Drive You Batty
, Stine’s Line
, and HAH, For Maniacs Only!!
Bob’s family had just bought their first TV, and his handmade magazines made fun of some of the TV shows he watched, just like the Mad
comics he loved. He used not only the typewriter he had found in the attic but also pens, pencils, crayons, tape, glue, scissors, and a stapler. It was hard work, but being able to share his art and words with his brother and classmates, and to hear them laugh, was well worth it.
Bob wrote so much
, in fact, that he rarely went outside. His parents would knock on his bedroom door and tell him to go out and play with his friends. But Bob was very shy. No matter what other kids wanted to do (or what his parents said), he would rather stay in his room, writing and drawing. Bob didn’t mind observing what other people were doing from a distance. He was paying close attention to the world around him so that he could write stories in a very realistic way—a way that was actually quite funny.
Bob also stuck close to home because he wasn’t really adventurous. When it was his turn to jump into the pool at summer camp like the other kids, he was too scared to do it. He wasn’t very good at sports. And he even stayed away from his own garage after dark because he thought there was a monster hiding inside.
He was happy to stay safe in his room, typing away. For a kid in grade school, he worked very hard at putting together his magazines. And all that hard work was already starting to pay off.
Copyright © 2019 by M. D. Payne. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.