‘Carrie’: How Well Do You Know Stephen King’s Breakthrough?

by Thomas Tuna

And to think it almost didn’t happen…

Carrie is popularly known as Stephen King’s first novel (but was it?) and the springboard to arguably the finest career any horror writer could ever imagine. So, how much do you really know about the 1974 story about Carrie White, the bullied high school girl who discovers–to the chagrin of Chamberlain, Maine–that she has telekinetic powers?

Well, to start with, Carrie was not King’s first novel–it was his first published novel. He wrote three novels before Carrie, and the bestseller actually started out as a short story King had intended for the men’s magazine Cavalier.

And, King (back in the day when writers churned out their work with pen and paper instead of booting up a laptop) actually tossed the first few pages of Carrie into the trash. Fortunately, his wife Tabitha retrieved his early jottings and encouraged her hubby to continue with the story.

Of course, Carrie also was the first of King’s novels to be adapted to the big screen–by director Brian De Palma–but the future horror master was such a newbie at the time that his name appeared on the film’s trailer as “Steven King”.

And don’t think the novel set the publishing world on fire at the outset. The hardback version sold just 13,000 copies–it wasn’t until the paperback took off and sold more than one million copies in its first year that King could breathe easy and start to think this might not be a bad job.

On another interesting note, King really needed Carrie to be a hit. While he was writing the novel, he had to disconnect his phone in order to save a few bucks. Doubleday had to send King a telegram to inform him of the sale. Read this: “Carrie officially a Doubleday book. $2,500 advance against royalties. Congrats, kid. The future lies ahead.”

Truer words were never written.


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