'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' author Jeff Kinney talks to Kidsday

Kidsday reporters met author and illustrator Jeff Kinney

Kidsday reporters met author and illustrator Jeff Kinney at Symphony Space in Manhattan. Our reporters are Madison Harned, Samuel Mindlin, Giuseppe Ammirati and Angelina Russo. They are from Hawkins Path Elementary School in Selden on March 18, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / Pat Mullooly

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We interviewed "The Diary of a Wimpy Kid" author and illustrator Jeff Kinney when he was in Manhattan recently.

How do you get your ideas?

I do a lot of lying around and thinking. So, this morning I was in bed trying to come up with some ideas for my next book. I just went away to Puerto Rico, which was a weird thing for me to do. I've never done anything like that before where I try to move away from my home and to try to get myself out of my home environment. It worked out really well. It's the best writing I think I've ever done.

What makes you more nervous: writing a book or appearing in one of your movies?

I was very nervous being in those movies. I'm not very good in front of the camera. I have a few times, and I always get really nervous before I go on. So I was nervous being in the movie.

Did you ever think these books would be as popular as they are?

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I never did. When I started writing these books, boy, I started about 14-15 years ago. I never thought they would be popular. I never thought they would even be published.

Do you have any advice for a child who may want to become an author?

Yeah, what I would advise kids ... is to come up with an idea and then really develop it over time. I think most kids and most grown-ups get an idea and then they kind of just put it out there. They want to see what people think right away. Instant gratification. But I think to create something good, you have to let it grow, you have to nurture it. So that's what I recommend to people. Be patient.

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Do you have a favorite "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" book?

The Red One will always be my favorite because it's the first one, but the last one is usually my favorite. So when I see that book, it makes me happy. I just got back from touring and going all over America and the world to see kids reading this book, so it really has a big place in my heart.

Do you prefer being a cartoonist or an author?

I think I prefer being a cartoonist. That's what I wanted to be -- a newspaper cartoonist. And it was really hard for me to break in -- in fact, I couldn't break in. Nobody liked my cartoon strips. So I had to put my comics into books. So that's why I became an author instead.

Are you happy with watching the movie of your book? Were you happy how it came out?

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That's a great question. It's difficult for an author to have their work turned into a movie because so much changes. I would say I liked a lot of it, but there were some I wish I could change. But I really liked what the cast did. I thought the characters were really great. In a lot of places, they were better than in my book. Like Rodrick, he's a better version of Rodrick in the movies than he is in the books. There are a lot of things I learned from making the movies, and we're hoping to make more eventually.

Are you more like Rodrick or Greg?

I think I was like Greg for a long time but maybe a little bit of Rodrick when I had a little brother.

Are your books translated in different languages?

My books are translated into 44 different languages.

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How did you come up with the idea of this series?

I wanted to write a story about my childhood, in a way -- sort of a fun-house mirror version. So I took all of the funny parts of my life and scrambled them up and scrambled up the facts and came up with this idea. You can look at my books, and if you know about my life, you can say this happened then and this happened then. So I think every kid can write a "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" book easily.

When you wrote the book "Poptropica" how did you come up with the idea?

I was mowing my lawn, and I came up with the idea of "Poptropica." It changed a lot from when I first thought of it. Now, it's been on the Internet for a long time, and now it's on mobile, you can get it on your iPad and things like that. It's been a lot of fun to see that grow over the years.

Do you have any ideas for another book or series?

Yes, I'm working on the next book now, which is going to be about a road trip. So that's going to be kind of something really different.

What do you do for fun?

Work for me is really fun. What I do in my spare time is I go to basketball games. I like to go to basketball and football games. I'm a Celtics fan. Is that bad?

Coming soon: Newsday's Family newsletter, for things to do with kids, events, more.

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