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'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' author Jeff Kinney talks with LI kids

Artist and author Jeff Kinney meets with Kidsday

Artist and author Jeff Kinney meets with Kidsday reporters at the Barnes and Noble store in Carle Place. Reporters are, from left, Zachary Lukas, John Costanza and Andrew Kluse, all of Eastport Elementary School. Photo Credit: Newsday/Pat Mullooly

We met author Jeff Kinney when he was visiting the Barnes and Noble Book Store in Carle Place. We love his book series “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” and like his latest, "Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson's Journal."

Why did you want to make a diary for Rowley?

I realized after watching the movies and watching the musical that Rowley is really the hero of these stories. He’s really the one that you want to win. It’s not always Greg, even though Greg is the main character. I went to try writing from a really different perspective.

What is your favorite environment to work in?

My favorite environment to work in — you’re never going to believe this. This is actually the truth. My favorite environment to work in is in my car at the cemetery. That’s where I do most of my writing. I like to go there because nobody bothers me. I just feel it’s really peaceful.

Why did you change the style of writing and pictures for the new book?

I wanted to really get into the head of this other character. And to do that I needed to write it in a different style with a different font and even try to do my illustrations a little bit differently. I think if you look at these drawings they sort of still look like my drawings, but they also don’t look exactly like Greg’s drawings. I thought about doing everything with my left hand because I thought that would really make it look different.

Are you going to make a 14th book?

Yes, I am. I’m working on that now. It’s going to be about Greg moving, with the idea of his family moving from his town, which I think would be kind of exciting and scary at the same time.

Were you happy that they made a movie about your books?

Yes, I was happy that they made a movie. In fact, they ended up making four. It’s really exciting when the movie studios call you and say that they think your ideas are worth making into a movie. And it’s sort of scary, too, because my movies were made by 20th Century Fox, so at the beginning of each one of those movies you hear the trumpets and it says 20th Century Fox and it sort of makes you scared when it starts, because you get really nervous.

How long did it take you to write your new book?

I wrote it in spurts. It took me about three weeks and then another three weeks. So that’s six. And then it took me about another two or three months. Once you add that all up, that’s what it took.

Do you have things in your books that take place in real life or your friends' lives, and if they don’t, would you like to do them in real life?

I think most of the material in the books comes from life as a kid, and my life as a grown-up. And sometimes it’s my imagination. But what I like about the Rowley book is that it’s just about these small moments between him and his best friend. It’s like they’re playing video games. They’re doing sleepovers. You know, really basic things that kids do together. Nobody really writes about that stuff. Usually when it’s a kid’s book, there’s a big adventure. They leave the house, they leave the boring environment. They never really just do ordinary stuff. And sometimes that’s where the funniest stuff happens.

Were you thinking your book series would get so popular over time?

No. I never did. You know, in fact, here we are in Carle Place, and this was the first time that I realized the books were really popular. I came here and there must have been 2,000 people, at least. And there was a huge mob, and we weren’t ready for it. It was a crazy, crazy night.

What do you do first  illustrate or write the story?

I come up with the jokes so I come up with all the humor first. And when I come up with a joke, I do have a picture in my mind. And then I write the manuscript — those are just the words. And then finally I put that drawing that I have in my mind down to digital paper.

What did you study in college?

I studied computer science and then criminal justice. And my college degree is in criminal justice.

Growing up what was your favorite author?

Judy Blume. She wrote books like “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” and “Freckle Juice.” Books like those. I really like her. They were realistic fiction.

Do you ever like being recognized in public? Or do you ever wish that you had more privacy?

That’s a great question. I almost never get recognized in public. It’s maybe once or twice a year. And I do like it. It’s fun to have a little bit of a taste of that.

Do you ever look back at your old books and you want to change them?

Yes. Probably in the second book, I think maybe I’d change it. I didn’t love the way that Greg was in that book. Hopefully I’d tweak that one a little bit. But for the most part I’m pretty happy with the books. I do the best that I can in the time that I have.

Do your kids inspire your series? If so, what parts have they inspired?

They don’t inspire much of my series, which is a real pity because that’s the reason I had kids. They’re both athletes, so their lives are more about basketball and other things.

George Marino's sixth-grade class, Eastport Elementary School

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