The Profile Dossier: R.L. Stine, the ‘Goosebumps’ author who’s been scaring kids for 30 years
Humor comes in many different flavors, but fear is universal.
R.L. Stine is the author behind the ‘Goosebumps’ horror series you devoured as a child. (Or if you’re like me, you avoided them at all costs.)
Stine has written more than 300 books and sold nearly 500 million copies all over the world because he became an expert at, well, terrifying children.
For more than 30 years, Stine’s iconic books like ‘Fear Street’ and ‘Goosebumps’ have been staples in the genre of children's horror. During the 1990s, the Goosebumps series were adapted into video games, plastic toys, a Taco Bell sponsorship, a television show, and even a Disney theme park. Today, many of Stine’s original readers are in their 30s, but he has never stopped writing.
“It took a long time to get used to being nostalgia: that was hard to take for a while,” he says. “I’d do book signings: seven-year-olds came, and 10-year-olds, then 30-year-olds, and 35-year-olds. But I got to really like it.”
Ironically, Stine started out his career in humor, not horror. He wrote joke books and a humor magazine. In 1986, he wrote his first teen horror novel, Blind Date. It became an instant best-seller. Many scary teen novels followed, including Beach House, The Babysitter, and Hit and Run. "I told myself, Forget the funny stuff. Kids like to be scared,” Stine says.
Here’s what’s fascinating: Stine says humor comes in many different flavors, but fear is universal. “Most fears are basic: fear of the dark, fear of going down in the basement, fear of weird sounds, fear that somebody is waiting for you in your closet,” he says. “Those kinds of things stay with you no matter what age.”
Here’s what we can learn about idea generation, horror writing, and building suspense from the author who’s been scaring us for three decades.
✨ The rest of this newsletter is only available for premium members of The Profile, whose support makes this work possible. If you’re not already a premium member, consider upgrading your subscription below for access to the full Profile Dossier. ✨
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial