February 14, 2020
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Jeff Kinney

The author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid talks about his famous series, his 11th book, and how it all began.

Jeff Kinney
Jeff Kinney

Why Wimpy, and not any other adjective?

It became associated with how wimpy kids feel—powerless when it comes to making rules and decisions.

Are you Greg Heffley?

Yes, an exaggerated version. I was an average kid like him, weird in many ways, trying to lead a normal American life.

You’re on your 11th book, how tough is it to stay in the pre-teen mindset?

It is quite easy. At 11, a kid’s mind is very narcissistic and it is fun to dive into it.

Greg, you said, is anti-Harry Potter, he’s a normal kid.

Harry Potter is a hero. Greg is none of that. He is a normal, almost invisible kid.

You never intended it to be a children’s book?

No, I wrote it for adults. When my publisher sugges­ted this might do better as a children’s book, I was shoc­ked, but came around quickly.

Why the diary format?

A diary is a good way into the mind of a kid. It gave me fre­edom with the narrative too.

With all the merchandising, will the Wimpy Kid illustration overtake the story?

I don’t think so. I have consciously made sure that the character is not exploited.

We hear you wanted to be a newspaper cartoonist.

Yes, and I tried for three years, but with no luck.

You say that kids with autism or dyslexia have really taken to your books. Do you plan to explore the writing-illustration in other stories?

I am not an expert with kids of special needs, but I think what works are the friendly illustrations. I plan to write more of the same series.

Chirag Gupta comes up quite early; does it represent American classrooms?

They are very diverse, and yes, I have many Indian fri­ends. Chirag is one of my favourite characters.

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