R.L. Stine on 30 years of ‘Goosebumps’ and how he almost never wrote scary kids’ books

Kids have grown up reading "Goosebumps," and now Stine is sharing the personal inspiration behind the series.


“Goosebumps,” the enormously popular series of children’s books, almost never saw the light of day, says author R.L. Stine.

The first “Goosebumps” book came out 30 years ago, and more than 400 million titles in the series have been sold since. The books — which have inspired a TV series and pair of movies and are among the selections in Jenna Bush Hager’s Read With Jenna Jr. initiative — maintain the same formula, with a child fighting a monster.

Stine said the thread of his books were sewed in his own childhood.

R.L. Stine has been captivating young readers with his "Goosebumps" series of books for three decades.TODAY

“I was always afraid of a lot of things, which later came in handy, of course, because I could remember that feeling of panic, that feeling of what it feels like to be a frightened kid,” he told Jenna in an interview that aired Monday. “And I could bring that to my books.”

Stine’s love of writing began when he was 9 years old after he found a typewriter in his attic and spent hours in his room typing. He later served as the editor of a humor magazine while in college and says writing scary books for kids wasn’t his goal.

“Here’s a secret. I never wanted to do ‘Goosebumps,’” he said. “And my editors, my wife and her partner, said, ‘No one’s ever done a series for 7- to 11-year-old, scary books. We have to try it.’ And I didn’t want to do it. That’s the kind of businessman I am. Then, finally I said, ‘OK.’”

Stine then got to work, following his own son, Matt, then 10, and his friends to see what made them tick.

“I spied on him and his friends a lot,” he said. “Matt was like a little guy and he was down on the floor trying on a green, rubber Frankenstein mask. And he pulled a mask over his head, and he couldn’t get it off. And I’m watching him. I’m watching him, and he’s tugging and tugging. And I thought, ‘What a great’ — well, I should have helped him, right? I should have helped him with the mask. Instead, I said, ‘Oh, great.’ I started taking notes.”

While time has marched on, Stine’s books have remained the same and retained a timeless quality.

“‘Goosebumps’ hasn’t changed at all in 30 years. The technology has changed. Kids aren’t walking around with Walkman. That’s all changed. The thing about ‘Goosebumps’ is they could have been written when I was a kid. Because our fears never change,” he said.

“We are still afraid of the dark, afraid something’s lurking under the bed, afraid of getting lost, afraid of being somewhere we’ve never been before.”

Another “Goosebumps” book, "Haunting with the Stars," will be released Tuesday, followed by one more in September. Millions of kids have read the books over the last 30 years, with Stine playing a central figure in their childhoods. It’s an honor that fills him with pride.

“I never get tired of hearing about people, kids who read under the covers with a flashlight. I love that story,” he said.