Editor’s note: Every Friday, HLN brings you the "My First Time" series. It explores the first time your favorite celebrities did something significant or memorable (so get your mind out of the gutter!).
In this installment, author R.L. Stine, the beloved childhood author whose books “Goosebumps” and “Fear Street” scared kids and teens across the country and who recently wrote his first adult horror novel, “Red Rain,” opens up about the first story that’s ever scared him.
HLN: What was the first story you heard or read that scared you?
R.L. Stine: When I was really little — maybe 3 — my mother used to read a chapter of a book to me before naptime everyday. And for some reason — I really remember this — she picked the original Pinocchio to read. It is the most horrifying, violent book. This is what I remember from when I was three: Pinocchio takes a big wooden mallet and you know the Jiminy Cricket character? He smashes him against the wall and crushes him. Then, Pinocchio — he’s a wooden puppet — falls asleep with his feet on the stove and burns his feet off. I’m three years old! He burns his feet off? I’ve been twisted ever since from this!
HLN: When did you start writing your own scary stories?
RLS: I got into writing scary stories by accident. I’ve always loved horror when I was a kid — I loved all the horror comics, and my brother and I used to go to a horror movie every Saturday afternoon. But I never planned to write it — I’ve always wanted to be funny.
My very first book was called “How to be Funny.” And this is kind of an embarrassing story because I was having lunch with an editor, and she said, “I need a scary novel for teenagers. Go home and write a book called ‘Blind Date.’” She even gave me the title! So I said sure no problem, but I had no idea what she was talking about. Three months later, I wrote this book — it was the No. 1 best-seller on Publisher’s Weekly list. I’ve been writing 20 years. I’d never had a best-seller.
Then I wrote a second horror novel for teenagers, “Twisted,” -- another No. 1 best-seller! And I thought, “Wait a minute, I’ve struck a cord here: I’ve found something that kids really like. They like to be scared.” And I’ve been scary every since.
HLN: What prompted you to write your first adult horror novel, “Red Rain?”
RLS: All these people on Twitter were saying, “Write something. We’re your original audience -- We read you back then. Please write something for us. Why don’t you write something for us?” And that’s really why I wrote “Red Rain.”
HLN: Since you are social media savvy, we’ve got some questions from our Facebook fans for you: Who inspired you to write horror fiction novels (Anastasia Lanaro)?
RLS: When I was a kid, there were these incredibly scary comic books called "Tales from the Crypt," and "The Vault of Horror," and "The Haunt of Fear." They were bloody, gruesome comics, beautifully drawn, and they always had a funny twist at the end. Oh, I loved those comics when I was a kid! I think they were a major influence on me. Because that’s what I try to do: I try to be scary and funny at the same time.
HLN: How have you remained inspired to write over the years (Steve LaGrand)?
RLS: I just love to write! I don’t know why I find it so interesting. I was nine years old when I started writing: I was this weird kid, in my room, typing all day. Why? I don’t know why I like it so much, but I do. When I was very young and starting out, there was an old writer I was talking to. He said, “Most writers like having written but they don’t like writing. Where do you fall in?” And I said, “I like the writing part — I actually like that part.” And he said, “You’ll do fine.”
HLN: What is your favorite horror film of all time (Sara Kandan)?
RLS: I have two or three. One is “The Shining” — the Stephen King film. I think that’s a great horror film. And “Arachnophobia” — it’s a comedy, basically, but there are thousands of spiders and it’s real creepy. And there’s a movie that takes place in Venice called “Don’t Look Now” with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. Venice is a very scary place. This kept me from going to Venice for 20 years because it’s a terrifying film.
HLN: Which books did you enjoy more: “Goosebumps” or “Fear Street” (Angel Bunting)?
RLS: Here’s the thing about “Fear Street.” Every month, I’d kill off more teenagers. I was killing teenagers! And I enjoyed it — why did I enjoy it so much? Then I realized that I had one at home. I think maybe that helps. But, I liked doing both. They were both fun for me.
HLN: Is there another genre of books you like to read or that intrigues you besides scary books (Misty Adams)?
RLS: I don’t read that many scary books. I read only fiction novels. I hate anything real. And I read mostly mysteries and thrillers. People like Harlan Coben and Michael Connelly. I like L.A. cop novels. But my all-time favorite writer is Ray Bradbury, the science fiction writer. He was a big influence on me and a real hero of mine. His stories are so creative and so imaginative. I got to meet him too!
HLN: Is he the one you look up to? Who do you look up to (Joseph Damiano)?
RLS: There are a lot of people I look up to: A lot of writers, a lot of people I admire. Ray Bradbury is certainly one of them. Rod Serling was one. He was a major hero of mine too. I never missed a “Twilight Zone.” I loved those!
HLN: What will you be for Halloween?
RLS: I will be out working.
HLN: You won’t be dressing up?
RLS: No, this is my costume [wearing a black button down shirt and black slacks]! I’m a scary guy. But I’m always out working. Halloween is my national holiday, right? So I’m always out talking to kids, appearing somewhere or going on TV for Halloween. Whenever I’m home, kids in the building come. I have a skeleton in my office that I drag out, and we give away candy and books.