Who would have thought a wimpy kid would become a bookshop sensation? DAVID WHETSTONE sent Jeff Kinney some questions ahead of his visit to the North East
YOU can’t venture into a bookshop without seeing Wimpy Kid books with their distinctive part novel/part comic strip format.
When you consider that more than 75m of them have been published in more than 44 countries, that doesn’t seem so surprising.
Like JK Rowling, the American Jeff Kinney struck a chord with the kids of the world – and struck gold!
Born in 1971 in Maryland, Kinney started writing comic strips at university.
He wanted to be a cartoonist but found work as a web designer for Pearson Education and has since worked on the popular virtual world of Pop Tropica and the educational website Funbrain.com.
Jeff spent six years writing the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which he published in instalments on www.Funbrain.com.
A publisher spotted its potential and put it out in book form. In 2009, he was voted one of TIME magazine’s top 100 most influential people. Jeff lives with his family in Massachusetts.
He took time to answer some wimpy questions...
1 How do you define wimpy?
I define wimpy as powerless. I think lots of kids in Greg’s age group know that they don’t have much control over the course of their lives.
2 Were you a wimpy kid? If not, did you know any?
I was an average kid with really wimpy moments. Like Greg, I used to hide out from my swim team coach in the locker room. It got cold in those stalls.
3 Do you know any people who became famous and/or successful despite being wimpy?
Plenty! Matthew Broderick, Chris Rock, Michael Cera, to name a few.
4 I believe you have two sons. Would you worry if they were wimpy and, if so, how would you correct this character trait?
I wouldn’t mind if they were wimpy, but they’re engaged in sports and scouting, so I don’t see it happening with them.
5 Were you a keen reader as a kid and, if so, what books did you enjoy?
Yes, I liked to read as a kid. My favourites were science fiction/fantasy books. My all-time favourite is The Hobbit.
6 I’m not sure how old your sons are but do they read and play computer games – or do they just play computer games?
My kids read and play video games. We try to limit screen time, sometimes not so successfully.
7 A name is so important for a fictional character. How did you come up with Greg Heffley and have you had any response from real-life Heffleys?
I wanted a name similar to my own. Heffley looks like Kinney. No response from real-life Heffleys!
8 Were you surprised by the success of the Wimpy Kid?
Yes! I never thought the books would be published!
9 What next for the Wimpy Kid and will he ever grow up?
No, Greg Heffley is a cartoon character, so he’s stuck at the same age forever!
10 You’re a games designer. Do you foresee a time when games replace books completely?
I don’t think so. I think the best stories are told in book form.
Jeff Kinney will appear at Newcastle City Hall on December 1 at 1pm. Tickets (£6) from 0191 277 8030 or www.newcastlecityhall.org His new book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel (Puffin, £12.99; CD, £6.99), came out this week. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is available on Blue-Ray Triple Play and DVD from November 26 (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment).