R.L. Stine on Just Beyond and Making Horror Work For a Younger Audiences - VRGyani News and Media

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Sunday, October 17, 2021

R.L. Stine on Just Beyond and Making Horror Work For a Younger Audiences

Created by Seth Grahame-Smith and inspired by the graphic novel from prolific author R.L. Stine (Goosebumps, Fear Street), the Disney+ eight episode supernatural anthology series Just Beyond explores a world with witches, aliens, ghosts, parallel universes, brainwashing, and scary monsters. As each story follows a new cast of characters on their own journey of self-discovery, the stories are rooted in the anxieties and struggles of teenagers who really are just searching for their voice and their place in the world.

During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, which you can both watch and read, Stine (who’s also a co-executive producer on the project) talked about how proud he is about kids who learned to appreciate reading because of his books, how lucky he’s been that the adaptations of his work have all been good, the fun of doing an anthology series, his shock over the success of the Fear Street movies, the trick to making horror work for a younger audience, and which of his work might be getting developed next.

Collider: Do you consider it a personal triumph, just how many children you’ve freaked out, over the years? Is that a badge of honor that you wear proudly?

R.L. STINE: If I was being facetious, I would agree with you. Yes, certainly, my job is to scare kids. But if I was to give you a serious answer, I’d say I’m more proud of the kids who learned to read on my books and the kids who didn’t like to read, and then discovered my books and did like to read. That’s the whole point of the thing, but I do like scaring them.

You’re definitely quite a prolific writer and it’s fair to say that there are a lot of people who have read your books. Did you always want your books and stories to be turned into TV shows and films? Was that something that you had thought about at all, or was that something you weren’t necessarily concerned with when you were writing them?

STINE: It was something I was not necessarily thinking about, when I was sitting there writing Fear Street and Goosebumps. I’m an author in New York. I’m not out in L.A. I like being in my room, writing books and not collaborating. I don’t think you really think about it. And then, people come to you. It took 23 years for them to make the Goosebumps movie. If I had been worried about it for that whole time, that would have been terrible. So, when people come to you and they say, “We’d like to make a movie of your work,” you say, “Oh, great.” And then, you say, “Oh, great.” I always have those two reactions because, for one thing, you don’t know if it’s gonna be any good. It could be horrible. I’ve been so lucky that all the adaptations for my stuff has been really good. The Goosebumps movies were good. I think this Just Beyond series is wonderful. I’m just lucky that way.

RELATED: ‘Just Beyond’ Trailer Presents a New Disney+ Anthology Series From the Mind of R.L. Stine

Obviously, each one feels like it would be a very different experience, but what has the experience been like, for you to see the different projects come together? Are you good with watching them and seeing them as separate entities from your own work?

STINE: Yeah, I am. I think it’s fun to see if somebody takes your story and goes off in their direction with it. It’s fun to see what they do with your story. I really enjoy that part. Some authors probably hate it, but I enjoy it. Of course, it’s always great when people come to you and say, “Your book was much better.” I love that too.

How did this series come about? Did it surprise you that somebody wanted to take this on, especially with the anthology nature of it?

STINE: Yeah, I was surprised. I had never written any graphic novels. I ran into an editor from Boom Studios at Comic-Con in San Diego, the last one you could go to, a couple of years ago. We started talking about how I had never done graphic novels and he said, “We should try something.” We came up with the name Just Beyond, just beyond reality and just beyond the normal world, and he signed me up. I wrote four of them, and the fourth one comes out next month (in November). It’s called Monstrosity. That’s how the graphic novels got started. And then, they went to Seth Grahame-Smith and said, “Take a look at this graphic novel. Is this something you would like to adapt to television?”

What do you like about the approach that he took with these stories, in translating them?

STINE: I like the variety of it. I’m a big The Twilight Zone fan. Rod Serling is a big hero of mine. I love those shows, and this has that Twilight Zone feel to it. I like that there’s a supernatural one, there’s a fantasy one, there’s an alternate universe one. I like that a lot. You get all of those things that they did on The Twilight Zone.

There’s also such a great cast throughout the series. There’s a lot of new faces and a lot of young actors. What’s it like for you to see how all of these actors took this material on?

STINE: There were so good there. All of these young actors were terrific. They didn’t have much time to work. I think they had two weeks to film each episode, and it was during the pandemic, which makes it even tougher, and the performances are just terrific.

What’s it like for you to see your characters visualized, in that way? Do you picture any one in particular when you’re writing characters? Is it ever strange to see a character you wrote brought to life for real?

STINE: I’m used to it now, so it’s isn’t strange. When I write, I try to picture kids that are the age of who I’m writing for. So, if I’m writing a teen book or a YA book, like Fear Street, I have teen faces in my mind. I try to picture them as teenagers. And then, when I’m writing for younger kids, I picture younger kids. But that’s about as far as I go. I’m not that visual of a person.

Are there tricks to making fantasy and horror work as family entertainment? When you do material like this, do you have a gauge for how far you can go when it comes to the scares?

STINE: I have a gage. For the Fear Street books, I have one solid rule that I always stick to for the seven to 12 age group and that is, they have to know that the story couldn’t happen. They have to know it’s a fantasy and that it couldn’t really happen in real life. When you establish that, then you can go pretty far with the scares.

RELATED: How ‘Fear Street’ Delivered the Complicated Queer Relationship Horror Fans Deserve

The Fear Street movies did really well and people really loved them. What was it like to see the success of that and the reaction to that? How has it been to hear people talking about what they thought of those movies?

STINE: The whole thing was a shock to me. I’ve never done anything R-rated before, in my life. Even my life isn’t R-rated. To have these three R-rated films that are so violent – we sure killed off a lot of teenagers – it was a surprise to me that they wanted to do it in that way. I’m so glad that they did them so well. Leigh Janiak is just an amazing director. She did a masterful job with them. I was amazed by that. All three films were number one on Netflix. That’s unbelievable. I’m having a great year. I’m really lucky.

You’ve said that your stories are a combination of humor and fear. Why has that always been a good combination for you? Why do you like to add humor to that mix?

STINE: The secret is that I never plan to be scared. That wasn’t my goal. I always was funny. I did a humor magazine for teenagers for 10 years, called Bananas, and I wrote about a hundred joke books. I was always funny. So, when I got switched over, which is a long story, and started being a scary guy, I had to bring the humor with me because that’s my main interest, really.

You’ve also said that the scary stuff doesn’t scare you. When did you realize that? Was it reading scary books, or was it watching scary movies and not having the same reaction that other people have?

STINE: It was people coming to me and saying, “After I read your book, I had to leave all the lights on and locked all of the doors.” I thought, “Gee, I’ve never had that feeling from anything.” I’ve never had it. It’s just something missing in me.

What were the stories that most inspired you, as a kid? What do you think had the biggest influence on your writing?

STINE: There are a lot of things. When I was a kid, there were these scary comic books, these horror comics called Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror. They were very, very influential on me. They were gory, gruesome horror stories with brilliant arcs, and they all had a funny twist ending. Every story had a funny twist at the end. That’s what I try to do.

Do you have other adaptations that are currently in development or in the works now? Do you know what the next thing based on your work could be?

STINE: I don’t know if I can talk about them. I did these four YA books, called The Babysitter, and I think they’re being developed, but I’m probably not allowed to talk about it. And I think there’s another Goosebumps TV in the works, but I haven’t heard much about that.

Where do you go for inspiration now? Are there things that you turn to, if you’re between writing something and you want to get inspiration from somewhere?

STINE: When am I between? I’m never between. That’s the problem. I read all the time. I’m a very big reader. I read every day. I read mostly thrillers and mysteries. I like old British mysteries. I’ve been reading Perry Mason mysteries from the ‘40s. Erle Stanley Gardner is great. I just have to use my own brain for inspiration, to keep going.

You’ve previously said that you started writing when you were nine years old. How does it feel to still be doing it, all these years later, and to see how relevant your work still is?

STINE: Yeah, what’s wrong with me? Why do I still like it? Most people know when to quit. I’ve never done anything else. I’ve never had a real job. I just love it. Now, especially, during these hard times for the past couple years, when I sit down in the morning to write, it was a bit of normal life for me. My lifestyle hasn’t changed. I have a couple hours of writing, every day. It’s the best part of my day.

Just Beyond is available to stream at Disney+.



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