R.L. Stine - Bob to His Friends - Is Just a Writer, One of the Dozens of Authors, in Fact, Who'll Be at Much Ado about Books on Saturday. and Yet, He's Been Known to Terrify His Fans. Why Is This Man So Scary?

Article excerpt

Byline: BRANDY HILBOLDT ALLPORT

Reporters, reviewers and editors often describe R.L. Stine as "The Stephen King of children's literature."

Stine is among the dozens of authors who will inspire aspiring writers and entertain avid readers Saturday during Much Ado About Books, Jacksonville's annual free literary extravaganza.

"Writing is easy," Stine during a recent telephone interview from his apartment in New York, "It doesn't require special shoes or anything . . . you don't even have to go outside."

His presentation is at 9 a.m. Saturday in Room 102 of the Prime Osborn Convention Center, 1000 W. Water St. Admission is free. Stine's topic is Thrilled to Insomnia: Books That Keep You Reading All Night.

For the record, R.L. stands for Robert Lawrence. Those who know him best call him Bob. Bob - that's a pretty unassuming name for a guy who sends shivers down spines with titles such as Piano Lessons Can Be Murder, Night of the Living Dummy, The Haunted Mask, Monster Blood and Revenge of the Yard Gnomes. The books are part of Goosebumps, Stine's series that showcases fantastic sensibilities about everything creepy and quirky and have sold more than 350 million copies in 32 languages.

Stine the spine tingler ruled the adolescent scream scene throughout the 1990s, and after 87 thrillers, Stine stopped creating Goosebumps. But he never stopped writing scary series (Dangerous Girls, The Nightmare Room and Mostly Ghostly.)

As of April Fools' Day of this year (how's that for timing?), Stine is back in the Goosebumps business. New titles fall under the Goosebumps HorrorLand umbrella and incorporate many of the characters that were popular in the 1990s. A new generation of readers - and nostalgic fans who are filling out college applications these days - can encounter Slappy the evil ventriloquist dummy or Billy Deep, aka The Undersea Mutant.

Each HorrorLand installment (there are 12 planned for the series right now) has two parts. In the first section, which can stand alone, a couple of tweens find themselves in the midst of misadventure.

In Part 2 of each book, characters from Part 1 respond to an invitation from Di Kwickley of the guest relations department at a theme park called HorrorLand, "the scariest place on Earth." The theme park sections of each book are serialized so readers will have to wait until Stine publishes Book 12 in the series to put together the entire HorrorLand puzzle. Between editions, fans can check www.enterhorrorland.com and www.escapehorrorland.com to uncover additional pieces of the story.

"Years have passed since the original Goosebumps stories were released," Stine said. "The world has changed . . . that's why there is a strong Internet tie-in. Even though there is a sci-fi element in each of the books, the characters have to seem real, so readers can identify with them."

MUCH ADO ABOUT BOOKS

Want to check out the goings on at Much Ado? This schedule will help you plan. Morning sessions are at the Prime Osborn Convention Center, 1000 Water St. Afternoon sessions are at the Main Library, 303 N. Laura St. Panel members and topics are subject to change. There is no admission charge.

SESSION 1

9 to 9:45 a.m.

Thrilled to Insomnia

R.L. Stine (Goosebumps series) and Steve Berry (The Venetian Betrayal)

Historic Fiction: War Stories

Nick Taylor (The Disagreement) and William Dietrich (The Rosetta Key)

Self-help

Simon Bailey (Release Your Brilliance)

Southern Fried Fiction

Deborah Johnson (The Air Between Us) and Michael Lee West (Mermaids in the Basement)

Memoir and Biography

Charles N. …