Friday, October 10, 2008

This book is a little different: it’s not written by our favorite writer R.L. Stine. But it is called My Favorite Writer: R.L. Stine! Such a good find right? My local library has everything you need to stalk R.L.

Alright, let’s start with childhood. R.L. was born October 8, 1943, which means we just missed his 65 birthday! Gosh, I wish I knew about this book sooner, we could have had a shin dig. He was born in Ohio and grew up near some railway tracks. Random. When he was a kid he wrote books like The All New Bob Stine Giggle Book, which sounds weird to me. I think probably because I’m picturing him and he doesn’t look like he giggles very often. Nor should he. Bob liked to tell scary stories to his brother Bill, with whom he shared a room (that sucks!) and got a typewriter for his bar mitzvah present. Mazal tov!

The College Years: His nickname was Jovial Bob. He was the editor of the college newspaper. Wow. University was different back then apparently. Jovial Bob? That must have been a sarcastic nickname.

Getting Started: Bob published his first magazine for kids called Bananas. His first book ever was called How to Be Funny and is described as “a very silly guide book to help children be funny.” Must. Find. Copy. He also wrote for a children’s show called Eureeka’s Castle in the 1980s. This “writing for kids” thing is actually pretty surprising considering how much messed up crap he wrote later with Fear Street. When do you think he got his fabulous idea of having shitty heroines fall in love with their attackers? Hopefully while writing a show for ages three-five!

Hoooooorror: So apparently Bob wanted to write a horror book that was “funnier” and less gory than others aimed towards an 8-12 audience. So he wrote Blind Date (which I also don’t have!) Weird that he wanted to write funny books since Fear Street books aren’t supposed to be funny (OMG, wait, are they?! Were all those puns in the taglines … bad jokes?! Mind. Is. Blown!) Blind Date was a best seller, and then came Twisted and the Babysitter. So someone was SO impressed with the BABYSITTER, that they asked him to write a whole series like that? 1989 was a bad time for books I guess. The first Fear Streets were The New Girl, The Surprise Party and The Overnight (none of which are stellar…)

Since Fear Street was so successful, he decided to write for kids again and introduced Goosebumps in 1992. My Favorite Writer tells us that the main difference is that “children do not die in the Goosebumps stories”. *Sigh* But wouldn’t those books be better if they did? In 2000, Bob was still riding that success wave, and so launched Nightmare Room, which no one really knows about.

The end of the book has some of his favorite books. The two Fear Streets are: Switched and The Face. Embarassingly, I squealed when I saw that. The Face is MY absolute favorite, and one that I’m going to review verrrry soon for you all. AND Switched is one of L.K.’s favorite which we haven’t found yet, but oddly talk about all the time. So the three of us are on the same wavelength! I bet Bob would like our website if we told him about it.

The rest of the book is pretty boring with creative writing tips and a how-to of “writing a biography review”. WTF? Is the author trying to get kids to review his book?

There is some Fan Information though. Apparently Bob answers EVERY letter he gets! He used to have a staff of five to answer his fan mail. So guess what my next project is?! I’m going to write Bob and tell him how big a fan I am! I’ll post my letter AND response when I get one.

There is also a quiz. I’ll give you some sample questions. If you try to answer them in the comments I’ll let you know if you’re right!

1. Where and when was Bob Stine born?
2. What is the name of Bob’s most successful series?
3. Who did Bob marry? (HAH, I didn’t tell you! Just try…it starts with a J)
4. What is the name of Bob’s brother?

And FYI there is a glossary in the back that includes the words bar mitzvah and gory. The more you know!

Alright, I feel that we are much better acquainted with Our Favorite Writer. I can’t wait to get my hands on Blind Date. O I forgot to mention the cover! (Yes I realize that it's terrible quality. Do you know how hard it was to find this?) Bob looks… well, he looks bored. And kinda like Eugene Levy. Too bad. It also needs a tagline. Maybe “R.L. Stine wouldn’t sneak into your room at night to kill you… would he?” Yeah!


Anonymous said...

Oh God best tagline ever.

I was surprised when I heard the other day that Fear Street preceded Goosebumps; I always assumed it was the other way around, for some reason. And I know The Babysitter was published as part of Point Horror, but does anyone know what... were Blind Date and Twisted published as stand-alone novels or something? I'm so used to seeing R.L. Stine books as part of some series or other that it feels weird to think of him writing a book that's just a book and not #25 of something.

LongWinter said...

One thing I'm curious about is RL's son, Matt. He's always mentioned in the about the author, and I want to know how he turned out. I googled him and there's a few interviews from when he was young (early 90s-ish), but I want current info, dammit!

And I didn't realize that How To Be Funny was Stine's first book. I have that. It's in my basement and I might need to dig it out.

A. M. Stine said...

I was a little surprised that his son was completely cut out of the "biography". I secretly hope that Matt is now the head writer of anything that is in R.L.s name and the terrible teen horror books will carry on for generations!

To anon... I actually have no idea how Blind Date and Twisted were published... I assumed Blind Date would be a stand alone book but I have no idea why :) I'm gonna go scour Ebay.

Shawn said...

Interesting note about Matt: You know the boy on the cover of The Perfect Date? That's him. He also claims to have never read one of his father's books.

I read about this in It Came From Ohio.

Devika said...

Haha I used to watch Eureeka's Castle as a kid!! It was seriously trippy, and I still remember the theme song.

Chad Walters said...

I know there has been some conversation and speculation about which books (if any) were ghostwritten.

Well, as I started to read "Fear Street Sagas #1: The New Fear" this morning, I noticed a note in the front that said "R.L. Stine wishes to thank Brandon Alexander for his contributions and efforts on this manuscript."

That's a polite and somewhat obscure way of saying that it was ghostwritten, so you should look for that or something similar in any of the books that you own.

Anonymous said...

I LOVED Eureeka's Castle. I had no idea it was written by Stine. I seriously love the man.

A. M. Stine said...

Chad, that is sneaky sneaky of R.L.! I just checked the book i'm currently re-capping (What Holly Heard) and no such note. I thought it might be ghostwritten because it was one of the last Fear Streets to be released. Maybe he just had the Sagas ghostwritten? That would explain why none of them make sense!

Chad Walters said...

That's pretty standard practice, actually. What's bad is when the ghostwriters have to sign nondisclosure agreements and therefore get no recognition of any kind, which happens probably more than anyone can know.

A website I found says that Brandon Alexander also wrote 7, 12, and 14 of the Sagas series, but it doesn't mention 1 for some reason. It also says that Cameron Dokey wrote 4, 8, and 13; Wendy Haley wrote 6 and 11; and Eric Weiner wrote 9 and 10, with the rest supposedly written by Stine. So yeah, most of the Sagas series.

But I have #10, and it doesn't have a contributor's note. So either this site has misinformation or some of the Fear Street books are ghostwritten without any tell-tale signs.

A. M. Stine said...

So I checked the Sagas that we own. #15 says "Door of Death written by Eric Weiner"! #5 says "The Hidden Evil written by Wendy Haley"! #12 is written by Brandon Alexander but #2 has no acknowledgements... An R.L. original? interesting either way... I'll have to see its the differnt authors are noticable!

Chad Walters said...

It would be great if R.L. Stine turned out to just be a mass pseudonym like Carolyn Keene, but a really elaborate one with an autobiography and an actor hired to be the face of Stine and everything else.

As it stands, even if that's not really the case, it pretty much is. There's no way one guy wrote everything attributed to him, even discounting the ones we already know to be ghostwritten.

Shawn said...

Would ghostwriting Fear Street novels not be the greatest job in the world? At least in my mind it would be.

Seriously, these books seem like the easiest things in the world to write. At the height of its popularity you could probably get a decent chunk of change for writing one, you'd get to write a fun and trashy teen thriller, and your name isn't on the cover. Score!

Anonymous said...

I know! If mass-produced Fear Street and Goosebumps were still around, I'd totally want in on the ghostwriting action.

LAK said...

Wow, some good points from everyone in the comments. Make me think why don't you!

It would be awesome if the RL Stine thing was all a big fake like Carolyn Keene. It does make sense though, as there were so many books coming out at one time with the multiple series. However, they are so easy to write, I am sure you could bang out at least one a week!

Anonymous said...

Didn't R.L. Stine say that he used to write one Goosebumps book a month? If not more. If you did write them for a living, I'm sure one a week would be easy. I wrote one for fun, once - a sort of hybrid homage/parody (because with Goosebumps it's hard to tell the difference) - and I'm pretty sure that took less than a month.

I imagine that R.L. Stine's a real and normal author whose fairly short books grew so popular and so out of control that he had neither the time nor the interest to keep up with the furious publication pace, so they used his name as a sort of umbrella name associated with fear in general. Ironic given that they supposedly eventually cancelled Goosebumps due to falling sales; the market was just too saturated, I guess, and even readers couldn't keep up. Hence the Goosebumps comeback is just the twelve books in direct continuity. So if they did a Fear Street comeback it'd be similar, I guess - like one of the Sagas or trilogies or what have you.

Shawn said...

The only other book I know to be ghostwritten is The Thrill Club, which was ghostwritten by Tom Perrotta, but I'd love to know more that haven't already been mentioned here.

Given the short length, general lack of originality and formulaic nature, I could believe that an author could write at least one Goosebumps and Fear Street book a month. R.L. himself claims to have written every single one. He also claims to be a one-finger typer, using just his index finger to write every single book.

I do have to admit, some part of me died when I found out his books used ghostwriters. It was like finding out Santa Claus doesn't exist.

LAK said...

After that many books, you figure he would have figured out how to type no?

There has to be a list somewhere... I'd love to find it. Then the Stine sisters could see if certain books written by certain ghostwriters have some of the same flow!

A. M. Stine said...

Genius! From now on, I'll check every book I review to make sure its a TRUE R.L. book and if not... see if I like the ghostwriters better! :)

Anonymous said...

Re: "R.L. himself claims to have written every single one." Well, he has to, doesn't he? He has to maintain the illusion. Like you said, it's like finding out Santa Claus doesn't exist when you find out some books were ghostwritten, and in his interviews Stine seems to like kids.

Holy moly, I wonder if you can apply the ghostwriting copyright check principle to Goosebumps, too. Unfortunately, my old books are all boxed-up in the attic. You can probably reliably guess based on series length and gimmick-ry. I bet the new Goosebumps HorrorLand is written by Stine, though. Cheating us out of a revival would be a new low. You know some of the older books got retconned by the new series? I take this as evidence that he's ignoring books he didn't personally write.

Which leads me to the crucial question: Who'd win in a fight between Stine and his ghostwriters? We'll see!

Chad Walters said...

I do agree with the notion that finding out your favorite book series was written by ghostwriters is similar to finding out Santa Claus doesn't exist.

Not so much with RL Stine, as I always suspected a little bit, but I remember finding out that not every Animorphs book was written by Katherine Applegate - she had planned to write every one, but there were some problems with another series of hers and she had to devote most of her time to that - I was older by that point so I wasn't devastated, but I was pretty shocked.