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The Writer’s Almanac for October 8, 2017: Just Now

October 8, 2017: birthday: R.L. Stine

It’s the birthday of R.L. Stine (books by this author), born Robert Lawrence Stine in Columbus, Ohio (1943). He loved horror stories as a kid, and when he discovered that the local barbershop carried copies of two horror comic strips, he started getting a haircut every Saturday. He wrote lots of jokes and stories, kept writing through college, then moved to New York City to work as a writer. The first job he found was with a fan magazine, and he said that it was good training because it taught him to write fast and make stuff up.

He edited a humor magazine for a few years, but when it folded he decided to try horror, and his series for teenagers, Fear Street, became a huge success. So he wrote a series for younger kids, Goosebumps, and his sales went through the roof. When someone asked him how he first knew that Goosebumps was going to be a big success, he said: “I was in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, driving to a bookstore for a book signing. I remember I was stuck in a huge traffic jam and I was really worried I would be late and was growing more and more annoyed at all the traffic. When we finally approached the bookstore, I realized that the traffic jam was caused by all the people who were coming to see me.” For several years in a row in the 1990s, he was voted not just the best-selling children’s author in the country, but also the best-selling author. He has written more than 100 books and sold more than 400 million copies. He said that his favorite fan letter ever was: “Dear R.L. Stine. I have read 40 of your books and I think they are really boring.”

He said: “I’m really a writing machine. I have no rituals. I don’t need a special desk or special background music. As long as I have a keyboard in front of me, I can write. I work from an office room in my apartment, which I share with my dog. And I do have some creepy atmosphere — a life-sized skeleton, some plastic rats, and a cup full of eyeballs. But that’s just in case kids come by.”

Before the total eclipse in August this year, Stine announced on Twitter that he would be selling glow-in-the-dark books for fans to enjoy.