Stephen King wrote Carrie on an old typewriter while living in a trailer. He threw away the first 3 pages thinking he had written “the world’s all time loser.” His wife fished the pages out and pushed him to finish it. It turned out to be his first published novel.
Carrie was actually King’s fourth novel but the first to be published. It was written while he was living in a trailer, on a portable typewriter (on which he also wrote Misery) that belonged to his wife Tabitha. It began as a short story intended for Cavalier magazine, but King tossed the first three pages of his work in the garbage. Of King’s published short stories at the time, he recalled,
Some woman said, ‘You write all those macho things, but you can’t write about women.’ I said, ‘I’m not scared of women. I could write about them if I wanted to.’ So I got an idea for a story about this incident in a girls’ shower room, and the girl would be telekinetic. The other girls would pelt her with sanitary napkins when she got her period. The period would release the right hormones and she would rain down destruction on them… I did the shower scene, but I hated it and threw it away.
His wife fished the pages out of the garbage and encouraged him to finish the story; he followed her advice and expanded it into a novel. King said, “I persisted because I was dry and had no better ideas… my considered opinion was that I had written the world’s all-time loser.” Carrie is based on a composite of two girls Stephen King observed while attending grade school and high school.
She was a very peculiar girl who came from a very peculiar family. Her mother wasn’t a religious nut like the mother in Carrie; she was a game nut, a sweepstakes nut who subscribed to magazines for people who entered contests … the girl had one change of clothes for the entire school year, and all the other kids made fun of her. I have a very clear memory of the day she came to school with a new outfit she’d bought herself. She was a plain-looking country girl, but she’d changed the black skirt and white blouse – which was all anybody had ever seen her in – for a bright-colored checkered blouse with puffed sleeves and a skirt that was fashionable at the time. And everybody made worse fun of her because nobody wanted to see her change the mold.
King says he wondered what it would have been like to have been raised by such a mother, and based the story itself on a reversal of the Cinderella fairy tale. He also told biographer George Beahm that the girl later “married a man who was as odd as her, had kids, and eventually killed herself.”
Carrie’s telekinesis resulted from King’s earlier reading about this topic. At the time of publication, King was working as a high school English teacher at Hampden Academy and barely making ends meet. To cut down on expenses, King had the phone company remove the telephone from his house. As a result, when King received word that the book was chosen for publication, his phone was out of service. Doubleday editor William Thompson (who would eventually become King’s close friend), sent a telegram to King’s house which read: “Carrie Officially A Doubleday Book. $2,500 Advance Against Royalties. Congrats, Kid – The Future Lies Ahead, Bill.” It has been presumed that King drew inspiration from his time as a teacher. New American Library bought the paperback rights for $400,000, which, according to King’s contract with Doubleday, was split between them. King eventually quit the teaching job after receiving the publishing payment. The hardback sold a mere 13,000 copies; the paperback, released a year later, sold over 1 million copies in its first year. In King’s book, On Writing, he mentions that he wrote all of Carrie in only about two weeks.
King recalls, “Carrie was written after Rosemary’s Baby, but before The Exorcist, which really opened up the field. I didn’t expect much of Carrie. I thought, ‘Who’d want to read a book about a poor little girl with menstrual problems?’ I couldn’t believe I was writing it.”