was actually King's fourth novel but the first to be published. It was written while he was living in a trailer in Hermon, Maine, on a portable typewriter that belonged to his wife, Tabitha. It started as a short story originally intended for Cavalier magazine, but King tossed the first three pages of his work-in-progress in the garbage. Of King's published short stories at the time, he recalls "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, Tabitha King, fished the pages out of the garbage and encouraged him to finish the story. He followed his wife's advice and expanded it into a novel. King says "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."
The character of Carietta (Carrie) White was based on a combination of two girls in King's past; one of them went to school with him, the other was a student of his. The young girl King went to school with lived down the street from him when he lived in Durham, Maine. King recalls, in an interview with Charles L. Grant for Twilight Zone Magazine (Apr 1981), "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 every 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 told biographer George Beahm that she later "married a man who was as odd as her, had kids and eventually killed herself."
According to the audio commentary for the 1976 Brian DePalma film version of Carrie, Carrie is based on a composite of two girls who were bullied and abused at school, one of whom had a religious fanatic for a mother. King says he wondered what it would have been like to have been reared by such a mother. He based the story itself on a reversal of the Cinderella fairy tale.
Carrie's telekinetic powers resulted from King's earlier reading about this topic. King also did a short stint as a high school English teacher at Hampden Academy, a job he eventually quit after receiving the payment for the paperback publishing sale of Carrie. It is presumed that he drew inspiration from his time as a teacher while he was writing the book.
At the time of publication, King was working as a teacher at Hampden Academy and barely making ends meet ($6,400 annually). 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." New American Library bought the paperback rights for $400,000, which according to King's contract with Doubleday, was split with them.
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."
The book is dedicated to his wife, Tabitha: "This is for Tabby, who got me into it - and then bailed me out of it."
Carrie was published April 5, 1974 with an initial print run of 30,000 copies for a cover price of $5.95 USD.
The hardback sold a mere 13,000 copies, while the paperback, released a year later, sold over 1 million copies in its first year. Brian DePalma's film adaptation was released ten weeks after King's second book, Salem's Lot
, was published.
Prior to Carrie, King's novel Getting it On, later retitled Rage and released under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman, had been rejected by Doubleday. He had also written The Long Walk and The Running Man, both later published under the Bachman pen name.
In a talk at the University of Maine at Orono, King said of Carrie, "I'm not saying that Carrie is shit and I'm not repudiating it. She made me a star, but it was a young book by a young writer. In retrospect it reminds me of a cookie baked by a first-grader- tasty enough, but kind of lumpy and burned on the bottom."