Best-selling author R.L. Stine reminisces about Bexley upbringing

Chris Bournea
ThisWeek
Author R.L. Stine (upper left) participated in a virtual discussion Oct. 30 with Bexley Middle School eighth-graders Ben Stebenne (upper right) and Nandni Patel.

Best-selling author R.L. Stine spoke about how growing up in Bexley shaped his literary tastes during a virtual panel discussion Oct. 30 featuring Bexley Middle School students and hosted by local bookstore Gramercy Books.  

Stine also discussed his new graphic novel in his “Just Beyond” series, titled “Welcome to Beast Island.” 

Born Robert Lawrence Stine, the author, 77, began writing in the horror genre with the release of his debut novel “Blind Date” in 1981. He said his career didn’t fully take off until the 1989 release of “Fear Street,” a young-adult series that now includes more than 100 books.  

Stine’s popularity soared with the 1992 release of “Goosebumps,” which was adapted as a hit TV series and a 2015 blockbuster film and 2018 sequel starring Jack Black. 

During the discussion with Gramercy Books proprietor Linda Kass and Bexley Middle School eighth-graders Nandni Patel and Ben Stebenne, Stine shared memories of growing up in Bexley, attending public schools and the literary influences that led him to become a writer. 

“When I was a kid in Bexley, I didn’t read books at all. I read only comic books,” Stine said. “When I was a kid, there were these incredible horror comics called ‘Tales from the Crypt’ and ‘The Vault of Horror’ and ‘The Witch’s Cauldron’ and I just loved them.  

“The art was amazing and the stories were gruesome, bloody, horrible stories and they all had funny twist endings. So as you can see, that was a major influence on me, those comic books.” 

Stine said it was a natural progression to branch into writing graphic novels such as his new book, “Welcome to Beast Island.” The story focuses on a character named Karla and her little brother, Benny, who accompany their Uncle Bill on a scientific expedition to study unidentified species on the remote island of Mala Suerte. They soon discover a strange swamp creature.  

“Because of my love of comic books, I’m thrilled to be writing graphic novels,” Stine said. “I’m having so much fun writing the ‘Just Beyond’ book, and I’m very proud of this third one … which is sort of my retelling of the King Kong legend.” 

When asked what his favorite Halloween story is that he wrote, Stine cited “The Haunted Mask,” which he said is the only one of his stories that was based on a real-life incident. He said when his son, Matt, was growing up, the boy got a Frankenstein mask stuck on his head while putting on a costume to go trick-or-treating.  

“He’s tugging and he’s tugging and I’m watching and I’m thinking, ‘What a great idea for a story,’ ” Stine said. 

The author said of all the books he’s published, the “Goosebumps” series is his favorite. 

“It’s just fun,” he said. “It’s all over the world. What an amazing thing.” 

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