R.L. Stine's new adult novel Red Rain (Touchstone) starts with bloody rain pouring from the sky. Lea Sutter, a travel blogger, has found herself on a creepy island off the South Carolina, wading through the gory wreckage of a hurricane. When two blonde, blue-eyed young twins stumble out of the disaster, Lea is determined to save them.
She is the one who will need saving. Though she charitably brings the boys back to her family on Long Island, there is something deeply dark and disturbing about their wholesomeness. Lea's child psychologist husband and teenage kids naively welcome these two survivors into their home—with terrifying results. Diabolically dark and terrifically twisted, Stine takes on adult perspectives with ease.
We spoke with Stine about his own scariest vacation, natural disasters, making the switch from Goosebumps, and evil twins.
ROYAL YOUNG: Why can vacations be so scary?
R.L. STINE: I will tell you, Royal, the scariest thing that ever happened to my wife and me was on a vacation that we took to a refurbished inn in Connecticut. It was actually a resort: swimming pools, tennis courts, restaurants. We drove up and were actually going to spend a week there. There were no other cars in the parking lot. We registered, went to our room, went out to the pool, and there was no one else at the resort. We were the only ones. It was Friday night, and we went into the dining room, all the staff were watching us. There was no one else in there.
YOUNG: That is so creepy.
STINE: It was. Then late at night, we're in bed and somebody starts really rattling the doorknob to our room in this empty resort and all I can hear is them saying, "My room, my room." We left the next morning.
YOUNG: That's insane. Did you ever find out why no one else was there?
STINE: No, we never mentioned the place again. We just drove away. That was a scary vacation.
YOUNG: Do you think in general, vacations have that effect—because you feel a sense of displacement, you're out of your comfort zone?
STINE: Well, maybe. We could go on a beach vacation, where that doesn't really apply.
YOUNG: Until there's a horrible natural disaster.
STINE: [laughs] Well, unlike Lea in the book, you usually look at the weather forecast before. She forgot.
YOUNG: Have you ever witnessed a natural disaster?
STINE: I've been in hurricanes. We have a house in Sag Harbor, so we had Hurricane Bob and watched the trees turn sideways.
YOUNG: Your namesake.
STINE: Yes, and Hurricane Gloria, too. So I've been in a couple, though nothing like in Red Rain. I have one more—we were in London and wanted to come back but there was that volcano, a few summers ago, remember that?
YOUNG: Yes, the volcanic ash, right?
STINE: Yeah, and Europe just stopped. There was no flying. That's a pretty good disaster. There we were in London and couldn't get home. And we had no idea how long we'd be there. On television they said last time this happened, the volcano erupted for two years. We wondered if we had to get citizenship.
YOUNG: [laughs] I'm sure the government would have granted you some kind of asylum.
STINE: [laughs] We were just stuck there for four days. It wasn't so bad. But when you go on vacation, you don't really check the volcano schedule.
YOUNG: I don't think there's a place where you can, actually.
STINE: No, no.
YOUNG: Natural disasters seem so much larger than us. Despite all our modern conveniences, they really do trap you.
STINE: You have no control. That's what's scary about it. You're helpless. That feeling of helplessness is really scary.
YOUNG: And that's a fear that is universal. Everyone is scared of being out of control.
STINE: I agree. You know there actually was a red rain?
YOUNG: Where was it?
STINE: It was in a village in India. It was never explained. It sounds terrifying, the rain drops really were blood red. They said, oh, it was minerals in the sky, but no one ever proved what it was.
YOUNG: I would be pretty petrified if I was caught in bloody rain.
STINE: I hope so!
YOUNG: It would be pretty strange if you were nonplussed by it. Like, you just did a Fred Astaire dance through it.
STINE: [laughs] I know.
YOUNG: In your book, there are terrifying vacations, natural disasters, and then there's this evil children thing.
STINE: Oh yeah, that's where the book started. I thought people would find it really ironic if I wrote about evil kids.
YOUNG: Because of Goosebumps?
STINE: Yeah, all I do is write about good kids who are facing challenges, brave kids. So I thought people would find it funny if I turned it around. And then I got really interested in twins. People find twins scary and they always have, all through time.
YOUNG: Why do you think that is?
STINE: Well, I have a few theories. I did a lot of research on twins. And it goes back to early days, when they thought twins controlled the weather. In some places, they would separate them at birth, because they were such bad luck. I was being interviewed by a woman who said, "I'm scared of twins, and I am a twin!" I have a friend who is a psychologist in London and her theory is that we all have a twin, we all have an evil side that we keep inside. So when we see actual twins, it alerts all our danger signs.
YOUNG: Certainly, we all have parts of ourselves we push down.
STINE: Things we'd like to say that we don't. Things we'd like to do that we never would. We all hold that inside.
YOUNG: I think as scary as a twin might be, it's also something we all yearn for. A constant companion, who is a mirror image of ourselves, you're never really alone.
STINE: Of course, the two boys in my book really depend on each other. One is really the evil one and the other one has the power. I named them after my nephews. They were shocked.
YOUNG: It seems evil children are always inflicted on families who have this intense need to help.
STINE: And who are also really naïve. Just oblivious parents. There were three movies I watched that helped me along with the idea for this book, Village of the Damned, Island of the Damned and Children of the Damned. All three have really evil kids and really naïve adults. I also watched Children of the Corn, the Stephen King one, which has really evil kids and cornfields! Very, very scary.
YOUNG: Are the kids blonde in Children of the Corn?
STINE: No, but they are in Children of the Damned, and they have some kind of weird eye power.
YOUNG: Also in The Bad Seed, the girl is platinum blonde. Your evil twins are, too. For some reason all these evil kids have really blonde hair.
STINE: [laughs] It's true.
YOUNG: Did writing this book make you feel like you want to go on another vacation?
STINE: Oh, I'm always ready for another vacation.
RED RAIN IS OUT NOW.