We interviewed "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" author Jeff Kinney when he was in Manhattan recently.
What inspired you to write?
I always wanted to be a newspaper cartoonist and I couldn't break in because my cartoons weren't good enough. So my drawings weren't good enough. So I decided to start writing as a seventh-grade kid and that's where I was real comfortable.
Was middle school this rough for you as a kid?
It was. It might have been even rougher than it is for Greg. I was scared in middle school. Are you in middle school now? Is there a lot of bullying? Kids could be mean to each other. It stinks. I think that these days the teachers are on the lookout for [it] a little bit more. Bullying was kind of underground when I went to school and now everybody is of aware it, I think. That's good.
What was your reaction when Time magazine named you as one of its most influential people in the world?
You know I thought that was a practical joke. I actually thought that it was somebody playing a trick on me. And so I tried to figure out who had called me and I ended up getting the Time magazine voice mail and then I just thought it was somebody who planned a really elaborate joke.
We know you already have six books including "Cabin Fever". Do you think you'll write more in the series or even a new series?
I'll write at least another Wimpy Kid book. I would love to come up with a new series. If I could think of one, I would write it because I need to be challenged and I need a whole new setting for these characters.
Did you get to pick the actors for the Diary movie?
I did. I got to look at all the audition tapes and then bring in who I liked and so I got to have a lot of input on that and I really like the kids who got picked as Greg and Rowley.
Do Greg and Rowley's personalities radiate through your childhood?
I would say I was a little bit like Greg. Rowley is kind of a combination of people I know. But then eventually they kind of became their own characters, and I don't really think that it was people that inspired them.
Does it ever get difficult to come up with original ideas for your next book?
It does. It's always difficult for me to come up with new ideas. In fact, it takes about 350 ideas to come up with a new book and I'm up to two right now for the next one. So I got a long way to go.
Tell us about your latest book, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid Cabin Fever."
"Diary of a Wimpy Kid Cabin Fever" is about Greg getting stuck inside with his family during the holidays. There's a bad snowstorm and then Greg is stuck with Manny, Mom and Rowley. Dad is off in a hotel room, but Greg is stuck inside with the rest of his family.
Now that there are actual people playing the roles that you created, do you think of them when you write?
I don't actually. I don't really think about them at all when I'm writing, but actually I think of them a lot in my regular life. Two of them are going to be here tonight. So are you guys going to hang out a little bit? You'll get to meet Greg and Rowley. That will be cool.
Why do you think kids relate so well with the Wimpy Kid book series?
I think that kids like my books because they can recognize even though Greg is kind of a crummy person, they could see a little tiny bit of themselves in him. You could kind of relate a little bit. And I think that children's books are full of characters who act heroically or act like little adults. So I think it's fun to have a character who's really an authentic kid.
Why did you choose to write the Diary series?
I chose to write it because I knew I wanted my work to be seen, I knew I needed to be a cartoonist, but I didn't know how. So that was in 1998, I remember I was in my apartment in January of 1998 and I just got this idea and I knew that it was my one good idea. So I worked on it for a really long time. 8 or 9 years. It was finally done.
Who do you think would be a better role model, Rowley, Greg or Manny?
Definitely Rowley. Rowley is my favorite character. I think that's because he's innocent, he's not the smartest kid, but that's OK. But he is really innocent and he likes being a kid. And I think that when I was a kid I was in a big rush to grow up. And I think a lot of kids feel that way. And he always wanted to do what's in the next stage category. But Rowley likes being a kid and I like that about him.
Did you ever think your cartoons would be this big?
I didn't. You know it's funny and I don't get a sense of how big they are. I know there's a lot of copies out there, but I live in a small town in Massachusetts and my life is really normal. Unless I'm doing something like this I don't see life any differently then anybody else does. So I write the books, they go out in the world and then sometimes I go on book tours and things like that.
If you could continue your cartooning which you started in college would you?
I don't think so. I think that was from another time when my tastes were a little bit more juvenile. There's a lot of gross out humor and stuff like that. I do that a little bit these days, but as much.
Did you think that "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" would become popular as it is with the movie series?
I really didn't. I never thought that my books would even get published. I'm six or eight books in depending on how you count them, and three movies. It's just crazy. It's strange to be here in New York talking to you guys about this. It's just been very crazy.