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How Did Stephen King Reconsider Writing the Novel Carrie?

Despite its initially low sales, Stephen King’s first published novel, Carrie, is still one of King’s most well-known works. Having sold only 13,000 copies upon its release, it became massive news when Signet publishing bought Carrie‘s paperback rights for $400,000. Soon, Carrie reached 1,000,000 sold copies and earned an iconic film adaptation. 

After writing three pages worth of Carrie, Stephen King threw his work in the trash bin with disappointment. When his wife arrived home, she retrieved the papers from the garbage and encouraged King to finish the story. 

Who is the Inspiration Behind Carrie?

Dubbed as the King of Horror, Stephen King remains one of the most esteemed American authors, releasing countless bestselling novels. Released in April 1974, Carrie, one of his most renowned works and his first published novel, was a significant factor in his rise to fame. Despite its success, there was one moment in time when Carrie was more likely to end up in a dumpster than a bookstore. 

During the early 1970s, Stephen King and his family were financially struggling. Both Stephen King and his wife, Tabitha, emerged as children of lower-class families. During this time, King and Tabitha lived in a double-wide trailer. 

With two kids and insufficient money, the married couple had to work multiple jobs to fend for themselves. One of the jobs King took up was being a school janitor. The idea of Carrie came to King while he was cleaning the girls’ locker room, imagining the thought process of a girl who assumed she was dying at the sight of her first period. He visualized all the other girls having no initiative to help the girl, laughing at her instead.

Soon, King acquired a job as an English teacher. As a teacher, King witnessed many students in his daily life, and of those students included a timid student who became a constant victim of school bullies. The modest student wore the same clothes every day, her outfits worn out with holes and dirt. In Stephen King’s book, On Writing, the author revealed that the bullied student’s home life was the inspiration for Carrie White’s life. (Source: Cheat Sheet

The Beginning of Carrie

During his high school teaching job, King preferred to write stories instead of grading the students’ work. After writing three pages worth of Carrie, he felt disappointed and immediately threw the papers away. When Tabitha arrived home and saw King’s work in the trash, she doubtlessly retrieved it and gave it back to her husband, telling him to finish the book.

I couldn’t see wasting two weeks, maybe even a month, creating a novella I didn’t like and wouldn’t be able to sell. So I threw it away. The next night, when I came home from school, Tabby had the pages. She’d spied them while emptying my wastebasket, had shaken the cigarette ashes off the crumpled balls of paper, smoothed them out, and sat down to read them. She wanted me to go on with it, she said. She wanted to know the rest of the story. I told her I didn’t know jack-sh*t about high school girls. She said she’d help me with that part.

Stephen King

Tabitha’s encouragement fostered success, and Stephen King eventually finished his debut novel. And although Carrie initially only sold 13,000 copies, King rejoiced when Signet publishing picked up Carrie‘s paperback rights for $400,000, of which King acquired half the amount. 

With his royalty check amounting to $200,000, King quit his teaching profession. A year later, Carrie had already sold a million copies, garnering more popularity with its 1976 film adaptation.  (Source: Groovy History

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