R.L. Stine is the author of ‘Goosebumps’, a series of terror books for children and young adults. He is known as the “Stephen King of children’s literature”. Do you have any idea how excited we were that THE R.L. Stine was coming to the National Book Festival?
Stine is known to many as ‘Jovial Bob Stine’ for his sunny demeanor, despite being one of the most prolific horror maestros of his (and his grandkids’) generation. Upon hearing that Stine would be at the same book festival as NY Times’ Economist Thomas Friedman, it only made sense to do whatever it took to get Friedman and Stine (not a law firm) in the same vicinity for a roundtable discussion on what the Huffington Post has recently described as ‘the coming Zombie Apocalypse’ and the steps the U.S. Military is taking to fight this terror threat. Who better to discuss such end-of-days scenarios than a man who writes about things that go bump in the night (monsters and creepy-crawlies) and another guy who writes about things that go bump in the day (free markets and nation states)?
The equally jovial folks at the Library of Congress, who run the National Book Festival, were more than game to arrange a meeting of the minds for such an important topic of national interest. Publicists were contacted and schedules were being arranged, but alas, Thomas Friedman had some sort of conflict that led to him leaving the book festival without being able to meet Mr. Stine and wax eloquent on the possible economic fallout from the rise of the undead.
Which left us alone with one Robert Stine, holding the literary bag, if you will. However, the coming Zombie Apocalypse isn’t an issue you just drop on a guy without some warmup, it’s a topic that must be eased into. We felt like some starter questions might be a good idea before getting into the (dark) heart of the matter…
Jeff Jetton: Is it a concerted effort to buck literary traditions by not publishing Goosebumps first runs in hardback?
R.L. Stine: No, we never did. It’s a paperback series.
Jeff Jetton: Why not?
R.L. Stine: Because, I’m a paperback guy.
Jeff Jetton: A paperback writer…
R.L. Stine: Yes. I want kids to be able to buy my books. A paperback is five bucks. A hardcover is seventeen. And so that’s very elitist in price.
Jeff Jetton: So it is a concerted effort to buck literary tradition.
R.L. Stine: There was a tradition, when you were a kid, that there were many, many paperback series’ that kids could afford. It’s more recently that most kids books have become hardback.
Jeff Jetton: I don’t know, The Hardy Boys was published in hardcover…
R.L. Stine: That’s not hard cover. That’s paper over board. Which is different. Most kids books were in paperback so the kids could afford them and they could sell a lot of them. But the bookstores today want more and more hardback books. It happened with Lemony Snickett. JK Rowling, Harry Potter. They’re all hard cover.
Jeff Jetton: So you’re bucking?
R.L. Stine: I’m bucking.
Jeff Jetton: What are you going to do to celebrate the sale of your billionth book?
R.L. Stine: If I’m around? I don’t think I will be. (laughs)
Jeff Jetton: Have you ever said the word billionth before? It feels really good to say it. Billionth. Try it…
R.L. Stine: Billionth. (laughs) I don’t know if that will be happening. But you know, Isacc Asimov sold over half a billion. He’s sold over 550 million or so books so far.
Jeff Jetton: Okay, here’s a little LSAT logic problem for you… the Aldecott Award is to the Pulitzer as the Daytime Emmy is to the _____________________________?
R.L. Stine: (laughs) No. I can’t do that. I can’t answer that one…
Jeff Jetton: Do you get a discount at Barnes and Noble?
R.L. Stine: (laughs) Well, I’m a member. So I guess I get a ten percent discount. Hey, I’m very grateful to Barnes and Noble, what can I say?
Jeff Jetton: How much did Travelocity pay you to put gnomes in your new book?
R.L. Stine: (laughs) These are evil gnomes. I doubt that Travelocity would want their gnome in this book.
Jeff Jetton: So absolutely no product placement by Travelocity in this book?
R.L. Stine: This is a sequel to an older Goosebumps book, so no.
Jeff Jetton: I wanted to ask you about a recent Huffington Post article regarding the U.S. Military preparing for the coming Zombie Apocalypse. Do you think that’s smart money, prepping for the Zombie Apocalypse?
R.L. Stine: That’s not at the top of my worry list, zombies. I wouldn’t say that’s even on my list.
Jeff Jetton: Zombie Apocalypse isn’t the new terrorism?
R.L. Stine: No, not as far as I can see.
Jeff Jetton: What effect do you think it will have on the economy, the coming Zombie Apocalypse?
R.L. Stine: (laughs) I honestly can’t believe I’m having this conversation right now.
Jeff Jetton: Why? You’ve never written about zombies?
R.L. Stine: You know what, I don’t like zombies! I did a Goosebumps book called ‘Why I Quit Zombie School’. If you’re writing the type of books that I do, then Zombies, they’re difficult, because they’re very unsophisticated. Zombies can only do one thing….
Jeff Jetton: Eat brains?
R.L. Stine: They can stagger around and eat brains. That’s all they can do. And all you can do is beat them to death or shoot them. There’s not very much you can do that’s clever. You can’t disguise them, in a classroom, and no one knows he’s a zombie. You can’t do that. They’re very lacking.
Jeff Jetton: Do you think the Zombie Apocalypse will have an effect on Apple Stock?
R.L. Stine: (laughs) I’m not answering this question. I’m not qualified to answer this question about the stock market.
Jeff Jetton: Do you know the meme ‘Ermahgerd’? It’s one of the most popular memes on the internet this past year.
R.L. Stine: Yes. You’re the third person to ask me about it today.
Jeff Jetton: Will you pose for a picture with me wearing this Ermahgerd wig?
R.L. Stine: No. No, I will not. I have to say, I don’t really understand what’s funny about it. Nobody can explain to me what’s funny about it.
[Editor’s note: Yes, R.L. Stine, yes you will pose with us wearing the blonde wig]
Jeff Jetton: I don’t know, man, it’s just ‘ermahgerd’!
R.L. Stine: Well I’m on Twitter and about five people a day say ‘have you seen this?’ I just don’t get it. (proclaims loudly) I don’t GET IT.
Jeff Jetton: I guess she’s just really excited about books.
R.L. Stine: Yeah.
Jeff Jetton: Your books!
R.L. Stine: Yeah.
[Publicists steps in and yells at me that this interview is finished. Grabs Stine’s arm and begins to pull him away.]
Jeff Jetton: I think we’re getting cut off now.
R.L. Stine: I think we are.
Jeff Jetton: It was a pleasure meeting you.
R.L. Stine: You too. That was weird. But good. Weird and good. (proclaims to the crowd): This man is worried about the Zombie Apocalypse!