“The Haunting Hour: Don’t Think About It” slinks onto store shelves on Tuseday, September 4. Children’s author R.L. Stine took a few minutes out of writing creepy kids books to share a bit about his audience, his interest in reading and he role in the production of the movie.
R.L. Stine’s “The Haunting Hour: Don’t Think About It” tells the story of 13-year-old goth girl Cassie who copes at her new school by playing pranks on all the popular kids. As Halloween approaches, Cassie stumbles upon an unusual book entitled “The Evil Thing”.
Despite the book’s warning that states, “Do Not Read Aloud” Cassie reads the story to her younger brother Max. The siblings soon discover that “The Evil Thing” mentioned in the book is really a horrifying two-headed monster, and the only defense the pair has against the foul beast is to try and block thoughts of it from their minds.
Starring Emily Osment and Cody Linley of Hannah Montana, Brittany Elizabeth Curran of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and the quintessential movie villain, SAW’s Tobin Bell, R.L Stines “The Haunting Hour: Don’t Think About It” is sure to send a shiver down your spine!
R.L. Stine is an American novelist and writer, well known for targeting younger audiences. Stine, who is often called the Stephen King of children’s literature, is the author of dozens of popular horror fiction novellas, including the books in the Goosebumps, Rotten School, Mostly Ghostly, The Nightmare Room and Fear Street series.
M&C: What sort of role did you play in the production of “The Haunting Hour: Don’t Think About It”?
Stine: Well, mainly I was the script consultant. What happened was…we had decided to do a whole series of DVD movies based on my short story book “The Haunting Hour”. But Billy [Brown] and Dan [Angel], the two guys who are the executive producers and did the Goosebumps TV show, had a story idea that they wanted to do first. It was a really cool idea, and I had some ideas for it. I was mainly involved from beginning to end with the script.
M&C: What are some of the differences that separate the movie from the short stories?
Stine: Well, it’s not really any different. It really is exactly like something I would do. And it’s my kind of story…I mean, it’s really creepy. Did you see it? I love the monster…it’s a great two-headed monster. I also love it when the pizza guy gets it. It’s a really good, creepy adventure for kids, but it never really goes too far, sort of like my stories.
M&C: After the enormous success of Goosebumps and Fear Street, where did you continue to pull inspiration for new stories and series?
Stine: Well, after those I did a series called Nightmare Room, which also became a TV series, but I don’t think anyone really noticed that series too much. It was too soon after Goosebumps and it was also very similar to that series. And I thought, “You know, I’ve already done something like this. I really need something different. So I did a series for Random House [Publishing] called Mostly Ghostly. It’s based on Topper, a man whose house is haunted by two ghosts who used to live in the house. [Note: Descended from the 1937 film “Topper”] Topper is this very stuffy, uptight banker and the ghost is a married couple who just love to have fun. They just want to turn him into a very fun guy. When I was a kid I just loved this story, and so I thought I’d do one for kids.
“Mostly Ghostly” is like Topper for kids. It’s about this square kid who has two fun-loving ghosts living in his house. And after that I thought I need to do something really different, so I signed on to do a 16 book series called “Rotten School”. It’s just about this crazy boarding school with this fourth grade con-man named Burnie Bridges who’s very likable and very fast talking…a real schemer. He’s crazy to take all the kids’ money away from them. He’s a gambler. It’s just total silliness. The headmaster’s name is I. Will Upchuck, and the coach is called Coach Manly Buns.
M&C: Do you ever feel that being pegged as a children’s author has limited you? Do you ever have the desire to write for older audiences?
Stine: Well, I don’t ever feel like I’m stuck at the children’s table. To me, this is the best audience to have. I mean, I’ve done [written adult books], paperbacks for Ballantine [Books]. It’s no fun writing for adults, because they don’t like writing back to you! You don’t ever hear from them. Adults don’t have time to write to an author, but my age group, seven to twelve year-olds, and they’re just so enthusiastic. I get letter and e-mails…it’s a really wonderful audience.
M&C: Most of your stories have innocent forces taking on sinister ones. Do you always try to emphasize a sense of morality?
Stine: No, not really. I don’t worry about that. There’s always been a rule in childrens’ books that the characters have to learn a lesson or grow in some way. I hate that. So in my books, the characters are just normal kids who come across some kind of evil, some kind of terrible thing, and they have to use their own wits and imaginations to defeat the evil.
Their parents are useless. If you remember in the Goosebumps books, the kids’ parents never helped the kids. The only moral thing is that if you can be strong and use your own imagination and use your own wits you can come out victorious.
M&C: In a time when young students are being pushed to test well in school, where do you think entertainment reading fits in?
Stine: I think it’s getting harder and harder for kids to find time to read, but when they find something they really love, they’ll do it. Like Harry Potter. I mean, there’s a lot of pressure on kids to do all of the other stuff that they do.
M&C: And the Goosebumps books were fairly short…not too long of a read.
Stine: Exactly, and that was deliberate. They’re fast and totally plot driven. There’s not a lot of time spent on characterization, so that kids’ can identify with the characters themselves. I keep them very easy to read. I know a lot about writing level and reading level. My books aren’t supposed to be about challenging the kids. They’re entirely about reading motivation.
So a kid will say, “Man, I read that book in two hours! It was fast, funny and had some cheap thrills. I can read!” And so they feel like they’ve really mastered reading and are encouraged to go on and read other stuff.
M&C: Which do you enjoy more: writing for teens or children?
Stine: I really enjoy both. The “Fear Street” series was a lot of fun. I wrote a ton of those…around 100. I think I killed off teenagers and way you can kill them. I will say, once the children get passed age twelve, they have to be cool, so they’re not quite as good an audience.
M&C: They’re a little more distracted with other things…
Stine: Well, they discover sex, and things like that, and it’s a little harder to get to them.
M&C: What sorts of stories do you find yourself getting enveloped in?
Stine: These days, I read a lot of mysteries. When I was my readers’ age, I was a real science fiction freak. I started out with E.C. Horror comics: Tales from the Crypt and such. And I guess when I was about 10 years old, I discovered Ray Bradbury. I just thought his science fiction stories were incredible, with all the great surprise endings. I just loved that. I went on to read Isaac Asimov and Robert Sheckley.
M&C: You mentioned that there will be some more DVD’s that will be coming out. What can readers expect to see in the next one?
Stine: I don’t know if I’m supposed to talk about it or not. There’s a story that’s in “The Haunting Hour” called “The Bad Babysitter” and I think that might be the second one.
M&C: Is the new Goosebumps series the next thing up on your plate?
Stine: Yeah, that’s what I’m working on now. I’m working on them this summer, and I just finished the last book in the “Rotten School” series. I just signed up to do twelve new books called “Goosebumps Horror Land”. It’s a little different than before. You’re going to get an entire Goosebumps story in the front, and then in the back is a continuing serial that is in each book. And that’s what I’m working on right now. It’s going to be a huge website with all sort of strange things on it.
M&C: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us!
Stine: You’re welcome, and thank you for all the kind words.