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Featured Interviews

Most Read Interviews

All TopShelf Interviews

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In case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard of the legendary R.L. Stine, I’ll give you a very brief rundown. Robert Lawrence Stine is one of, if not the most famous author of children’s literature in the entire world. Often called America’s #1 Bestselling Author, R.L. Stine created the iconic children’s horror series Goosebumps, and hundreds of bestselling books for kids, teens, and adults alike––including the wildly successful teen series Fear Street, which has sold over 80-million copies worldwide. 

Now, with that out of the way, let’s dive right into my discussion with R.L. Stine:

 

You’re so well known and beloved around the world. What would you like our readers (primarily booksellers, librarians, and authors) to know about you that perhaps isn’t so well known?

People think if you’re a horror writer, your whole life involves horror. I think many would be surprised to know that I have a subscription to the Metropolitan Opera and also am a big ballet and theater fan. You can’t be scary ALL the time!

 

In a January interview with thisweeknews.com, you said, “I think anyone who opens a new independent bookstore these days is a hero.” I couldn’t agree with you more. How do you feel about the future of the independent bookstore industry?

I’m optimistic about the book industry altogether. Despite all the entertainment distractions, more people are reading these days, especially young people. Trade book sales actually went up in 2016. When I started in children’s publishing, it was a tiny little business, a few desks at the back of a publishing house. Now it’s a billion-dollar industry. Someone has got to be reading all those books. I’m so happy to see new independent stores opening all the time.

 

Do you frequent any independent bookstores? If so do you have a favorite that you’d like to plug? We love helping bookstores.

I go to a lot of bookstores. In my neighborhood, the Upper West Side of NYC, a new store called Book Culture opened last year. It’s a wonderful store with a great children’s department, with all kinds of little rooms and hidden crannies for kids to hang out in. A friend opened a new bookstore on Main Street in the town where I grew up, Bexley, Ohio. It’s called Gramercy Books and it’s right across the street from the public library, so they can do author events together. Very nice.

 

Do you read reviews left by readers of your books? If so, how do you deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly ones?

Here’s the best review I ever got on Amazon: A 5-star Review— “The packaging was very good. And it was very easy to open.” My favorite review!

 

Do you write an outline before you start a novel?

Yes. I do a chapter-by-chapter outline of every book I write. By doing that, when I sit down to write, I know everything that’s going to happen in the book. I’ve done the hard part. I can just enjoy the writing. Everyone hates to do outlines, but I can’t work without one.

 

We just received a copy of your upcoming novel, GIVE ME A K-I-L-L. TopShelf Reviews is excited about this reboot of your Fear Street series. Readers can find our review on page___ of this issue. What inspired you to reboot the series?

I love killing teenagers.

 

How are you feeling about the reboot and is this just the start of a whole new string of Fear Street novels?

I’ve written six new Fear Street titles for St. Martins. The first one is called Party Games. I’m now going to write a bunch more for Harper-Collins. The first one is called You May Now Kill the Bride. I’m excited to say we have a Fear Street movie in development at Fox, so even more teenagers will bite the dust.

 

Of all the series you’ve created (Goosebumps, Fear Street, The Haunting Hour, Mostly Ghostly, Nightmare Room, etc.) which has been your personal favorite to write?

Goosebumps. Because the 7-12-year-old audience is the best audience in the world. I get my readers the last time in their lives they will ever be enthusiastic about an author.

 

What do you think about the eBook/Kindle revolution?

I think it’s great for people to have as many ways to read as possible. I don’t think it matters whether people read on a screen or a phone or a book, as long as they are reading. I read hardcover or paperback books at home. But I always travel with four or five books on my Kindle.

 

What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a published author?

My whole career has been a surprise to me. I never planned to write for kids. And I never planned to be a scary guy and write horror. It has all been this amazing accident, all a surprise.

 

Do you still go on book tours? If yes, how might an independent bookstore participate in one?

I’ll be touring a lot this year because it is the 25th anniversary of Goosebumps. Do you believe it— 25 years of these books? In September, I have a picture book— Mary McScary— that I did with Marc Brown of Arthur fame, and Marc and I will be touring for that. To arrange an author appearance, it’s best to contact the publicity dept. at Scholastic in NYC or the Simon & Schuster speakers bureau, also in NYC.

 

Do you have a favorite conference that you attend? If so, which one?

I go to ThrillerFest in NYC every summer. I’m on the board of the International Thriller Writers, the only board I’ve ever been on in my life. I also try to do a lot of book festivals. The annual one in Tucson is a favorite of mine, and I love the Texas Book Festival in Austin.

 

You have this fantastic writing program for teachers and librarians. Could you please take a moment to explain a little about the program?

This is a 16-page writing program with all my writing tips and secrets. It can be downloaded from rlstine.com for free and used in classrooms or by anyone who thinks it might be useful. Some of the questions covered: How to get ideas? How to avoid writer’s block? How to revise? There are many writing projects for students included. I hope a lot of people try it out.

 

Rainy Night Theater. How cool... Can you please tell us a little about this cool feature on your website and what inspired you to start it?

I’ve been a fan of radio drama all my life. I still listen to the great shows of the 40’s and 50’s. I thought it would be fun to do some short, creepy radio plays and have them dramatized by New York actors. These are for kids and adults to listen to in the dark. My son Matt is a sound designer for theater productions, and he produced the ten short scary plays at rlstine.com.

 

Switching gears. As you know, our readership is primarily booksellers, librarians, and authors––though we have seen a rather large uptick in general readership over the last couple issues––so the next series of questions will focus on how you, as an experienced author, may be able to help them. Please explain to aspiring authors and booksellers how much work is required, even as a traditionally published author, to maintain your current level of success?

I spend a lot of time on social media, mainly because I enjoy it. Twitter is a wonderful medium for keeping in touch with my original 90’s readers. I hear from them all the time, and it’s very rewarding. I also do a lot of marketing on Twitter and Facebook, telling people about my new books. I think it’s smart to be where your readers are. 

 

How should an author divide their time between writing and marketing?

Well, writing your book comes first, of course. Once it’s written, you have to figure out how much time and in what matter you want to promote it. In other words, there’s no good answer to that question.

 

Are there any marketing strategies that you've seen bookstores use that stand out as particularly successful?

Bookstores who build good relationships with nearby schools have led to very successful appearances for me. So many bookstores have good mailing lists now, so they can alert their customers when an author is visiting. 

 

What’s the most important thing a bookstore can do for an author to promote sales? Obviously, every book cannot be front and center.

I think the key is knowledgeable salespeople who can guide readers to books they will enjoy and help them make new discoveries.

 

How much work do you personally put into promoting your book signing events? And how long before the event do you start promoting?

I use my website, Facebook, and Twitter to tell readers in advance where I’ll be appearing. I love meeting my readers, so I do everything I can to let them know when I’ll be nearby.