R.L. Stine needs no introduction, but here goes: He's the bestselling children's author of all time. His books, including the Goosebumps and Fear Street series, have sold over 300 million copies. Let's put that in perspective, shall we? For every person currently living in Portland, he's sold nearly 568 books. Move over, J.K. Rowling—Stine can do "funny" to boot! His latest endeavor is a humor series called Rotten School. Stine spoke with WW from his home in New York, where he revealed that his Wordstock fashion plans will include a blazer with the official Rotten School motto: "Growth, Learning, Pizza."
How would you describe your work?
I would say that, basically, I write for kids from 7 to 14, and that my whole career, really, has been about getting kids to read. I'm most proud of when I do book signings and all the parents come up to me and say, "My kid never read a book in his life, and then he got hooked on your books and won't stop reading." It's really exciting, and you never get tired of hearing it.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I started writing when I was 9. I found this old typewriter and started banging away...I've been writing ever since, really. I don't know why I found it so interesting, I was just a weird kid. I was very shy and very fearful, and I liked staying in my room and typing.
Why should people come and see you instead of other writers reading at the same time?
My readers will come out, I don't have to sell it. [laughs] We always have fun. I'm going to write some ghost stories with the kids. I'll have a Rotten School skit with some of the kids. It's not just me standing up there, reading. We have a great time.
What are you reading now?
I normally just read novels, but right now I'm reading two books of short stories: Deborah Eisenberg's Twilight of the Superheroes, and Joyce Carol Oates has an amazing book of really nasty short stories called The Female of the Species: Tales of Mystery and Suspense. I read a lot of very quaint British mysteries. I love Ruth Rendell and Agatha Christie—I've read almost all of those. And my all-time favorite author in the world is P.G. Wodehouse. But that's very bad for my horror image, isn't it?
But it's good for your humor image. Do you have a weird anecdote from a reading you've done?
A couple times I've had gigglers, kids who couldn't stop giggling. I find that very strange. They just don't stop laughing! Ann Martin, who wrote The Baby-Sitters Club series—that was the big phenomenon before Goosebumps—she always used to get fainters, which I'm really jealous of. I've never had a fainter.
NOTE: This story published to the web 4/20/2006
R.L. Stine reads at noon Saturday, April 22, and at 1:10 pm Sunday, April 23, on the Target Children's Stage.