It may surprise you to learn I do research while I write these posts. I google, I read reviews, I try to find out stuff before I start the next novel, mostly because I don’t want to read three boring ones in a row. So I’ve come across an interview with R.L. Stine on Fear Street. The original interview was in January 1, 2014, as Stine was ready to release new Fear Street novels. You can see the original interview here.
For Stine, the request came as quite a shock. It had been more than fifteen years since he’d abandoned the harrowing halls of Shadyside High School, leaving behind nearly one-hundred books that have sold more than eighty million copies worldwide.
“Before I knew it, a whole bunch of people started tweeting me with the same request,” he says. Fans of all ages began reminiscing about gory deaths, favorite characters, and the books they’d dug out of their basements and passed on to younger generations. “These kids grew up on FEAR STREET and to my surprise, they wanted more of it.”
It does surprise me that people remember Fear Street. It seems we all read it, but I don’t know that many people who talk fondly of it, especially when Goosebumps is far more recognizable and loved. Apparently publishers didn’t think it’d be worth reviving, which is a sad thing right now. With the success of Scream Queens and American Horror Story and other horror themed television, someone is missing out on a successful TV show (yes I am obsessed I hope this dream comes true some day).
I do find this tidbit interesting:
Stine admits he doesn’t quite understand the zombie apocalypse currently sweeping pop culture. “Zombies are boring as characters,” he says. “You can’t disguise them as humans. There’s really not much that can be done with them.”
Stine has definitely used zombies, so it’s a little funny to hear him say this. But you go through as many ideas as he has, and you have to start pulling from somewhere. He does like vampires.
Bloodsuckers on the other hand, are a different story. “Vampires are sexy. Interesting. I understand that phenomenon.”
I could write three hundred papers on vampires and pop culture, so I guess I’m agreeing with Stine on this one.
He does mention revisiting the cheerleaders. That must be the most loved part of the Fear Street canon.
I find most interesting his writing advice.
Stine says a typical FEAR STREET book takes about two to three weeks to write (minus one from the late 80s that he penned in just eight days.) The secret to his productivity, he says, is thorough plotting.
“You can’t get writer’s block if you do that much planning,” he says. “Once I’ve finished the outline, I can just enjoy writing the story.”
This doesn’t surprise me in the least. His books are so short and they’re all plot. I can easily see him creating the outline and then hitting each beat he needs to hit. I find this particularly interesting because it’s a writing tool I’ve used and have moved away from, mostly because I don’t think it gives the story time to breathe. But Stine isn’t here to create great novels, he’s here to push them out and get them on the shelves, and it’s worked really well for him.
As for adults, his advice is a little more pointed. “Figure out your audience. Go into a bookstore and pinpoint where your book belongs, where it will fit on the shelf. It drives me crazy when authors talk about writing for themselves, or writing from the heart. I’ve never written a single word from my heart—why would I? I write to entertain people. To tell a great, scary story.”
I love this advice too, and honestly it makes a lot of sense to his success. I was a spooky kid, and spooky things have only recently permeated kid culture on a major level. Stine probably saw there weren’t too many horror books on the shelf, and he made room for them, and now Goosebumps is one of the most remembered kid series of all time.
I felt like, after reading this, I understood Fear Street and Stine’s writing style a lot more. It’s certainly an interesting look into everyone’s favorite horror series.