Bestselling author R.L. Stine is best known for Goosebumps and Fear Street, which combined have sold over 400 million copies worldwide. At age 71, Stine shows no signs of slowing down as he continues churning out new Goosebumps and Fear Street novels, and has multiple film projects in just this year alone.
Before the highly anticipated Goosebumps movie (finally) hits theaters next month, Stine presents horror fans with an entirely new world to be afraid of in Monsterville: Cabinet of Souls. Monsterville follows a group of high school friends who find themselves in danger after visiting a mysterious carnival that pops up in their small town. The film stars an array of Disney channel stars, including Descendants’ Dove Cameron, and takes younger audiences on a family-friendly Halloween thrillride.
Stine spoke with Wicked Horror about his newest film project, his adult Goosebumps fanbase, and how cell phones have ruined horror!
Wicked Horror: 2015 has been a busy year for you!
R.L. Stine: Yeah, I’ll say…if you saw my schedule, you’d cry.
WH: How did you find time between the Goosebumps movie and your book releases to take on another project?
R.L. Stine: Well, [Monsterville: Cabinet of Souls] was a fun thing that came up last year. I love working with these two guys who have done all of my TV, pretty much. Billy Brown and Dan Angel were the producers and the showrunners of the Goosebumps TV show, and then they did The Haunting Hour for four years, which I’m also really proud of. It was a good scary kids series.
They just get me—these two guys. They understand that it’s not straight horror, what I do; it’s a real combination of horror and humor. A lot of people don’t get that, but they do. They make sure that the laughs are there as well. So when they actually came up with this idea…to do another series after The Haunting Hour…we thought why don’t we base it around monsters? And we came up with the name, Monsterville.
R.L. Stine: We hope so. The plan is to do a whole bunch of these. There are going to be books to go with it.
WH: Can you tell me a little more about your involvement in the making of the film? Where did the idea come from?
R.L. Stine: One of my early influences is Something Wicked This Way Comes, a book by Ray Bradbury—a very important book to me. It’s about a boy in the Midwest who sneaks out of his house late at night…and gets involved in this very evil carnival. It’s a terrifying book. Ray Bradbury was a very important influence to me, and also the whole carnival idea always stays with me. So, I loved the idea of doing a carnival for the first Monsterville.
WH: So, each episode of Monsterville will follow a new story?
R.L. Stine: Yes, each one will be different, just like Goosebumps. Every single one starts all over again. I like to make things as hard as possible for myself.
WH: Like Goosebumps and The Haunting Hour, Monsterville is horror about young adults, for young adults. Why do you think young people connect with the genre so well?
R.L. Stine: I think it’s because their world is basically scary. I think it’s kind of scary to be a teenager in a lot of ways. I think they go to horror movies because you have these horrifying experiences, but it ends OK and you come out of it OK, and you’re fine. I think that’s very attractive. Of course, we all like scary stories when we know we’re safe and inside.
WH: Do you find it harder to scare audiences now, especially when kids are exposed to gratuitous violence regularly on TV?
R.L. Stine: I think the main thing that’s changed—people always ask me, how have kids changed in the time you’ve been doing Goosebumps—and I don’t think kids have changed at all; the technology has changed a lot. The fear always stays the same. These stories are all about the same kinds of fears…that never changes. What you have to do now is get rid of the cell phones. Cell phones have ruined every horror plot.
I’m doing Fear Street again. I’m back to killing off teenagers. My problem now is that I’ve got to do something about the cell phones! [In] the very first book (The Lost Girl available now), these kids go to an island for a birthday party…there’s a murderer loose on the island and they have no way off. So in the very first scene, when they arrive on the island, the host of the party collects all of their cell phones. I had to get the phones out of the way so they couldn’t just call for help!
WH: Speaking of Fear Street, will we ever see a TV show or movie in the future?
R.L. Stine: That’s what everyone asks me on Twitter. I get this all the time. As if we never thought of it, right? [Laughs] I hope to have really big Fear Street news very soon. That’s all I can say.
WH: With the success of shows like The Walking Dead, do you ever feel pressured to be scarier or up the violence in your work?
R.L. Stine: Just a little bit, not really. This new Fear Street is really gruesome. Somehow I went further with this one. It has a really awful scene that I should really be ashamed of. It involves horses. I guess I’ve upped it a little bit, to keep up with the times. I think Monsterville goes a little further than The Haunting Hour.
WH: Well, a lot of your fan base has grown up and they can handle scarier content.
WH: I am!
R.L. Stine: Yeah…I think it’s going to be people your age; nineties kids who grew up with Goosebumps. It’s kind of weird because we have to get all of the 30 year olds who loved Goosebumps back when they were ten years old, and we have to get the seven and ten year olds as well. We have to get two very different groups to the theater for that movie.
WH: Does the film cater to the original, older fans of the series as well as to new younger audiences?
R.L. Stine: Yes. It has all of the original monsters that they’ll remember. A lot of the humor is aimed at adults. I think it will be a good nostalgia. They just took all the monsters, all the creatures from the early books. The Abominal Snowman of Pasedena, the Lawn Gnomes, and Slappy the Dummy, and mud monsters—all the old ones, they all come alive!
WH: As for the original monsters, everyone always loves a good monster mash-up. If you could have any two monsters from Goosebumps fight each other, who would you pick?
R.L. Stine: That’s hard for me. I suppose if I really had to do it, it would be Slappy the Dummy and he would probably have to be with Dr. Maniac. That would be fun to write.
WH: Do you see the movie revitalizing the series and bringing it back?
R.L. Stine: It never left!
WH: The TV series, I mean.
R.L. Stine: No, I don’t think it will be back on TV. I would hope maybe it will be a movie series and we’ll do a couple more movies. But I’ve been doing the books now 23 years. The newest one is called Trick or Trap—a Halloween one—I’m doing four a year now. I used to do twelve—and two Fear Street books a year. So, I’m still having fun with it. Somehow I still get ideas.
And horror fans everywhere are very thankful for that. R.L. Stine has inspired readers and writers around the world with his books, and they can continue having fun with his stories by watching his latest creation Monsterville: Cabinet of Souls which will be on DVD September 29th.