*quick note: don’t forget to check out my FANTASTIC Diary of a Wimpy Kid giveaway for a huge prize pack worth $55! ends April 1.
Last week I got to join in a call with 8 other bloggers and the author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series for middle readers, Jeff Kinney. Jeff had taken time out from his busy schedule to answer our questions and get excited with us about the release of the second movie based on the books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (in theaters March 25).
When I say Kinney has a “busy schedule,” I mean it; this New York Times Bestselling author still holds down the same full-time job he’s had for 11 years: website designer for Family Education Network. He has created a number of sites for the network, including the popular virtual world for kids, Poptropica.
When asked by another blogger why, despite his amazing success with the books, he still works, Kinney answered:
I really love and believe in what we do [at Family Education Network] … and I really very strongly believe in our charge, which is to bring good content to kids. So, that’s part of it. And the other part of it is that, I really want to live a normal life and have a really good foundation for my kids. The beats of our life are very plain. In fact, we live in a town called Plainville. I work every day nine to five just like anybody else. I’m grateful for whatever normalcy we can have. And so, I sort of cling to that.
In preparing to ask my questions, I actually turned to my 9yo son’s 4th grade elementary class for suggestions. One of the students wanted to know when Mr. Kinney first knew he wanted to write books. His answer was was surprising:
I stumbled into becoming an author; I guess is the best way to put it. I didn’t ever intend to become an author.
When I was in high school, I really enjoyed reading comics. Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbs, Berke Breathed’s Bloom County and Gary Larson’s The Far Side were popular then.
I had the stirrings of wanting to do that in college, and then I eventually got my work published in my college newspaper, which was a daily. So, it was a great proving ground.
What happened afterwards was I got a lot of attention from my college strip. And I went out into the world thinking I was going to have an easy time at getting syndicated. The combination of newspapers, the market shrinking and also the poor quality of my work led me to realize that I couldn’t quite make the grade.
So, that’s when I decided to start writing and drawing as a seventh grade boy because that’s where I figured my talents sort of peaked out. That’s how the idea for Greg Heffley was born. I want to get my work published, but nobody likes my work, but I’m going to figure out some sort of side door to enter.
That “side door” turned out to be New York City’s 2006 Comic Con, where Kinney brought a sample pack of his early Diary of a Wimpy Kid cartoons and writing, and met Charlie Kochman, who would later become his editor.
During the interview, I was most impressed by Kinney’s down-to-earth nature and genuinely friendly demeanor; he could be the neighbor next door who just happened to write a New York Times Bestselling book series (oh, and be named one of Times 100 Most Influential People of 2009. #184, no biggie.).
Even his sons seem to think of him more as a Regular Guy than a superstar. When asked what they think about his fame, he admitted:
They’ve got a certain amount of savvy about it, which is that they’re not overly impressed, but they like it when it serves their agenda. For example, if they get to go to the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards, then that’s a strong positive. Otherwise, they don’t seem too impressed with me in any other way.
They have fun with it, and they like my books, but they’re not totally crazy about them. So, I think it’s a good place to be.
You gotta love when the kids keep it real! Thanks for a fantastic interview, Mr Kinney.
To learn more about Jeff Kinney, visit his bio page at the official Diary of a Wimpy Kid webpage. You can also learn more about Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules on Facebook, or watch the movie trailer on YouTube.
Here are the other nine bloggers who attended the interview; I will link up to their wrap-up posts as they are published: