R.L. Stine is used to writing spooky tales, but the mystery he’s currently working on is of a different nature.
The author of the “Goosebumps” series is slated to speak at Ohio State’s Autumn Commencement Dec. 15 at the Schottenstein Center, but he isn’t giving any hints as to what his speech will entail.
“I don’t want to give anything away,” he said in an interview with The Lantern Nov. 7. “I probably won’t be giving your standard graduation speech — I won’t be telling people to follow their dreams.”
When asked if he could give any insight to what students could expect from him come graduation day, he quickly said “not a thing,” but stressed he wants his speech to be memorable.
“I can’t remember who spoke at my graduation, not a single thing they said. My son graduated about 10 years ago from college and I can’t remember a single thing anyone said at (his) graduation,” Stine said. “You know, people don’t remember graduation speeches so I’m going to try to do something a little bit different so maybe they’ll remember what went on.”
The OSU alumnus and Bexley native is most well-known for writing the popular fiction and horror series “Goosebumps,” which some university officials said makes him a suitable candidate to speak to the this semester’s graduates.
“Bob Stine is one of the bestselling children’s writers in history,” OSU Interim President Joseph Alutto said in a released statement Oct. 31. “On behalf of this university, I am proud to have him return to address our graduates and their families. His journey from 9-year-old with a typewriter to English major at Ohio State to international author will be a fitting final chapter to inspire our graduates to pursue their dreams.”
As his journey writing “Goosebumps” began in 1992, Stine is aware many 2013 Autumn commencement graduates grew up reading his work.
“So many of the kids who are graduating were fans of my books and grew up on my books and I’m finding that, I have to say that it came as a shock to me at first, that so many of my readers have grown up,” Stine said. “Now when I do book signings, I get 7-year-olds and 10-year-olds and 20-year-olds and 25-year-olds, and that took a little getting used to, but now I’m very happy about it and it’s kind of nice to be able to scare different generations.”
But even with the more than 300 books for children and young adults Stine has written, which have sold more than 350 million copies worldwide, writing horror stories wasn’t his original plan.
During his time at OSU, Stine was editor-in-chief of “The Sundial,” the university’s student-produced humor magazine, and even after graduating, he stuck with humor for a time by creating “Bananas,” a humor magazine for teens published by Scholastic Inc.
“I never planned to be scary. I never thought about writing horror at all. I always wanted to be funny — I was ‘Jovial’ Bob Stine,” he said. “Then one day I was having lunch with a friend, she was an editor at Scholastic. And, this is kind of embarrassing because being scary wasn’t really my idea, but she said, ‘I bet you could write a good scary novel. Go home and write a book for teenagers called “Blind Date”’ — she even gave me a title. I didn’t even know what she was talking about but I was at that point in my career where you don’t say no to anything.”
It was then, Stine said, that he realized the hidden potential in this genre.
“I went home and wrote this book called ‘Blind Date,’ a horror novel for teenagers, and it was a No. 1 bestseller,” Stine explained. “Before, I’d never been close to that list, and I was like, ‘Oh wait a minute, I’ve stumbled on something kids want to read — kids want to be scared.’ And I’ve been scary ever since.”
Some OSU students are looking forward to having the author at their graduation.
“It’s pretty cool (he’s speaking),” said Erika Dahlby, a fourth-year in anthropology who is graduating Dec. 15. “I definitely read his books when I was younger so it’ll be cool to see what he has to say now that we’re all older.”
Other students, though, aren’t as thrilled.
“I’ve heard of him and that he wrote the ‘Goosebumps’ series … I wasn’t mad (when I found out Stine would be the speaker), but it’s definitely not as cool as getting someone like President (Barack) Obama,” said Whitney Kindell, a fourth-year in speech and hearing science who is also set to graduate at the ceremony. “I feel like he’ll be well-spoken and articulate because he’s an author, so I feel like it will still be a good speech.”
Stine still writes “Goosebumps” novels, including a series titled “Goosebumps Most Wanted,” and although it might not have been the career path he had anticipated while at OSU, he said he enjoys it.
“I love scaring young people, it’s a great job,” he said. “Someone has to do it.”