'Sitter' Not For Kids

Children's author R.L. Stine, famous for his Goosebumps series, is now branching out to write novels for the young twenty-something generation.

"My audience grew up," Stine tells The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith. "I didn't even realize it. All of a sudden, I had 18-year-olds coming to my book signings, 22-year-olds, 24-year-olds. They came up to me and they said, 'We loved you when we were kids, why don't you write something for us?' So it wasn't even my idea."

His first endeavor, "The Sitter," is a mystery. Stine describes his main character, Ellie Sacks, as a little bit lost. She goes to the Hamptons, New York's beach resort community, and takes a temporary job as a nanny. She is expecting to have a great summer, but it turns out quite differently.

Stine explains, "For one thing, a little boy that she's taking care of stops talking and no one can figure out why. Something has scared him. Then the old nanny comes by and says, 'Ellie, get out of here, the beach house is haunted.' That's how it starts."

Stine says writing scary books for kids is quite different from writing scary books for the older crowd. He explains, "When you write for kids, it has to be fantasy. You don't want anything real. I don't want to terrify kids. I don't want the real world to creep into the book. The real world is scary enough for kids these days. But when you write for adults, it has to be very real. Adults don't want that. They have to believe in what's going on."

To get his characters right, Stine says he enlisted the help of his son, who is in his 20s. "He just graduated from college. I said, 'Matt, would you read the manuscript and go through it and help me out with it.' He went through, he circled things. He said, 'Dad, it doesn't take three people to carry a beer keg'. He was the expert. He knew these things, very helpful."

Read an excerpt from Chapter 1.

Two Months Earlier, New York City

What are you drinking?" I shouted.

My friend Teresa stared back at me. We had moved to the bar in the corner of the club, but it wasn't much quieter over here.

"What are you drinking?"

She squinted at me. "Huh?"

"What . . . are . . . you . . . drinking?" I screamed over the music.

"Oh." Teresa held up her glass. The ice cubes jangled in a dark liquid, darker and thicker than Coke. "It's Red Bull and Jägermeister. Here. Try it, El."

She shoved the glass into my hand. I took a sip, swallowed, and felt my face shrivel up. "It's disgusting. That's the worst thing I ever tasted."

She smiled. "I know." She took back the glass and raised it, toasting me.
The place was called Beach Club, even though it was nowhere near a beach. We were on Second Avenue on the East Side of Manhattan. It was our favorite club, our subterranean hideaway where we escaped nearly every weekend.

My name is Ellie Saks, and I'm twenty-four years old. Why do I need a subterranean hideaway? Don't ask.

A long metal stairway, dark and kind of creaky, like a subway entrance, led down to the club. And when we got to the bottom, our heels clicking on the rickety metal steps, we found ourselves in this amazing place, all silver and chrome and lights and mirrors.

Rows of silver tables and booths stretched along both walls, with the dance floor between them. Couples jammed the wide dance floor. Red and white lights pulsed in time to the throbbing dance music.

An enormous ceiling mirror reflected the dancers and the lights. Following Teresa to the curving chrome bar in the back, I had stared up at the upside-down dancers and thought it might be fun to be up there with them, graceful and oblivious, safe from the chaos below.

The bar was full, but two tall, long-haired girls in embroidered red halter tops and short shorts stood up just as we arrived, and we grabbed their high-backed stools. I ordered my usual glass of chardonnay. Then I made the mistake of tasting Teresa's drink.

I kept swallowing, trying to get rid of the taste. "It tastes like . . . bubble gum and Robitussin."

Teresa tilted the glass to her mouth and took a long drink. "Hey, you got it. Cough medicine. Yeah." She laughed.

She has a high, hoarse laugh, sort of like a little boy's. She doesn't look like a little boy, though. She's tall and a little plump, with sexy big green eyes, and piles of long, coppery curls streaked with blond, hair that she's always playing with, tossing from side to side.

"Everyone's drinking it. Know who introduced me to it? Ellie, remember Paulo? The guy in the mail room?"

I set my glass of chardonnay down on the bar. "You went out with Paulo?"
Teresa nodded, grinning.

"Does he speak English?" I asked.

"I'm not sure. The bar he took me to was as noisy as this one. I couldn't really hear a word he said. Then we went back to his place. On Avenue A, I think. But he didn't talk much."

I shook my head. "Teresa, why did you go out with him?"

She coiled and uncoiled a thick lock of hair. "I wanted to see the rest of his tattoos."

We both laughed.

I turned the stem of the wineglass between my fingers. "And? Go on. Tell. Did you see them?"

She nodded. "Yes. But it didn't work out. When I read one that he had down there—you know, down there —I had to leave."

"Excuse me? What did it say?"

"M-O-M."

I shouldn't have taken a drink. White wine went spewing out my nose. I was sputtering and choking and laughing, all at the same time.

The guy next to me turned around. "Are you okay?"

My eyes had teared up, but I could still see that this guy was drop-dead gorgeous. Sort of a young Brad Pitt, with a curl of streaky brown hair falling casually over his forehead and a stubble of beard over his boyish cheeks....

Excerpted from The Sitter by R.L. Stine Copyright© 2003 by R.L. Stine. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

About The Author

R.L. Stine began writing stories, joke books, and comics at the age of nine, and he's been writing ever since. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio. He graduated from Ohio State University, and immediately moved to New York City to become a writer. He has written over 200 thrillers and horror novels for children and teenagers.

His book series Goosebumps is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling book series in history. His books have been translated into 28 languages. In all, his scary books have sold over 300 million copies in this country alone.

His book series The Nightmare Room was also developed into a live-action anthology television series which aired on Kids' WB! and released as best-selling videos and DVDs. In 2001, Stine produced When Good Ghouls Go Bad, a very successful direct-to-TV film for Fox Family Channel. The video release was so successful that Fox plans to release it every year at Halloween.

Stine was the honored guest of Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush in 2001, launching Florida's statewide "Celebration of Reading" campaign, and also recently received the first Champion of Reading Award from the Free Public Library of Philadelphia. Stine has established a writing program in the middle schools of his hometown of Columbus.

R.L. Stine's Haunted Lighthouse is his most recent project. He wrote the story adapted for this 4-D spooky but family-friendly adventure movie which was launched at Busch Gardens and SeaWorld Parks in March 2003.

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