Venture into R.L. Stine's 'HorrorLand' -- if you dare!
For a man who makes his living scaring children, R.L. Stine seems like a pretty mild-mannered guy.
Known as "Bob" to friends, Stine has a relaxed manner and an easy laugh. It's hard to believe that this is the same man whose "Goosebumps" series has frightened millions of kids around the world. But it's important to remember that he's also made them laugh themselves silly with his outrageous, often gross, humor.
That's Stine's trademark: blending humor with fear in a way that makes it impossible for kids to stop turning the pages until they've reached the end of his books. That formula has brought fame and fortune to Stine, whose 87-book "Goosebumps" series has sold more than 300 million copies and has been translated into 32 languages.
In addition, the "Goosebumps" television series has been a hit with young viewers, while the official "Goosebumps" Web site -- www.scholastic.com/goosebumps -- receives more than 2 million page views each month, according to Scholastic.
Eight years ago, however, Stine, 64, decided he needed a break from "Goosebumps" and focused on writing other series for kids, including one called "Rotten School." Kids liked that series but still clamored for more "Goosebumps."
"Everywhere I went, kids asked me: 'When are you going to write new "Goosebumps" books?' " Stine said in a recent telephone interview from his New York home. "I thought that if I could do something different with the series, I would give it a try."
So Stine created "Goosebumps HorrorLand," a new 12-book series that connects with a special Internet site, www.enterhorrorland.com. The first two books, "Revenge of the Living Dummy" and "Creep From the Deep" (Scholastic, $5.99 each), have just been published. Two more books will be published this summer.
Each of the books contains two separate stories. The first part is a stand-alone tale featuring a couple of normal kids caught up in some terrifying adventures. In the second part of each book, the same characters head off to a mysterious theme park called HorrorLand, billed as a place "where nightmares come to life."
The kids don't know why they've been invited to HorrorLand but figure it looks like a great place to scare themselves silly. They soon realize, however, that the scary stuff is for real and that the theme park is populated by some of the meanest villains from the original "Goosebumps" books.
The HorrorLand sections are part of a serial, so readers won't know the entire story until Stine publishes Book 12 in 2010. Meanwhile, as each book in the "Goosebumps HorrorLand" series is published, readers can check on the Web site for further pieces of the story. The site also will offer readers other HorrorLand material not included in the books, including several Internet-only stories and interactive games.
Fans of "Goosebumps" are sure to love the new books, which show Stine at the top of his form as he spins stories filled with creepy characters, graveyards, scary noises, cliffhanger chapter endings and loads of wacky humor. The new series already has gotten a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which called it "deliciously chilling."
"It's fun to create these kinds of creepy worlds," Stine said. "And I get a wonderful response from my readers. We're also doing something that we couldn't do in the original 'Goosebumps' -- we have a huge Web site for this new series."
Writing comes naturally to Stine. Born in Columbus, Ohio, he began writing at the age of 9 when he found an old typewriter in his family's attic. He carried it down to his room and began writing stories and joke books.
After graduating from Ohio State University (where he edited the campus humor magazine), Stine headed to New York. He made a living writing joke and humor books for kids before publishing his first horror novel, a young-adult thriller called "Blind Date," in 1986.
He followed that best seller with a teen series called "Fear Street" before launching "Goosebumps" in 1992. Other Stine series include "Dangerous Girls," "The Nightmare Room" and "Mostly Ghostly." Altogether, Stine has sold more than 400 million books.
While some adults have long decried the "Goosebumps" books as too formulaic and low-brow, many librarians and other children's book experts see the series as a great way to get kids interested in reading. In fact, Stine has gotten thousands of letters from readers and their parents who say the books have been a gateway into reading.
"That's the biggest thrill -- meeting and hearing from so many kids who enjoy my books," he said.
Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md., Library, can be reached at Kam.Macpherson@gmail.com .