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Interview with Jeff Kinney, author and illustrator of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series

Jeff Kinney
January 2013

Following his great success, one of Jeff Kinney's personal indulgences was purchasing the home next door to his Plainville, MA residence. The space has become his office and studio, A Diary of a Wimpy Kid headquarters, if you will.

I interviewed Mr. Kinney one morning just after his lawn to lawn commute.

So, what is your process? Do you sketch and then write or is it the other way around?

"I work on the jokes first for about four months. I stop at about 350 jokes as that is the usual number to make a good book. The manuscript is next and takes about three weeks. The illustrations are the next step and can take upwards of 350 hours. The Third Wheel illustration process was compressed into the time period of a month. So I ate many meals on my lap while drawing."

Was there a particular book from your "kidhood" that inspires your writing?

"No specific book set me on my path, but comics were very influential. I regularly read newspaper comic strips such as Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side. I enjoyed my father's comic books from the fifties, too, like Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge. He passed his comics down to me, and now I have had the privilege of sharing them with my sons."

What would you say to teachers or parents who feel as though your books do not constitute legitimate reading?

"I would not call my work "high literature" but it definitely has a valid place on library shelves. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series has turned many kids on to reading, and I am very proud of my approach to humor as it relates to kids. The books are their own kind of thing. They don't pretend to be something they're not. My characters are believable and kids can really relate to them, particularly the social situations."

Do you have any bits of wisdom for aspiring young authors and illustrators?

"Take your time developing an idea. It took me eight years to get my work published. I often feel like kids think their first effort is their only effort. It is important to nurture and improve ideas over time. It takes a tiny germ of an idea and a great deal of time and effort to make it into a fully realized product."

What's an example of the funny questions kids ask you at your book signings?

"Well, a kid in the UK asked me why I still keep my job now that I've already sold millions of books. I love my job, why wouldn't I keep doing it?"

Did you purposely choose to visit independent book sellers on this book tour?

"We realized as we have created bigger events for our books, we weren't going to the stores that made The Wimpy Kid books a success in the first place. I'd like to thank the fans in the Midwest. We were very warmly received and are so happy we did the tour there. I signed over 17,000 books on the domestic leg of our tour!"

Click here to win an Autographed copy of he Diary of a Wimpy Kid!

Tags: Enrichment, In This Issue

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