By Joshua Dawsey
Before writing six bestselling books, Jeff Kinney, author of “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, worked for PopTropica.com and lived in Plainville, Mass.
Six years and seven books later, he lives in the same house, still works for the same website – full-time, no less – and manages to coach his sons in basketball and serve as a Boy Scout cub master.
“I figure the other shoe is going to drop eventually here,” he said. “I see it as being on par with a professional athlete’s career. I’m just trying to prepare for when it ends.”
Kinney, whose book centers around the travails of Greg Heffley, a mischievous adolescent, was in New York Friday to promote the release of his third movie on DVD. He talked with Speakeasy about his work.
On life as a bestselling author: “We still have the same cars as before, we chose to stay in Plainfield in our same house. We purchased the house next door, which is a smaller house than the one we live in, so I could do my business and work there. The other change is that we bought a property in downtown Plainville, an old market that we’re going to replace with a new building with retail and office space. The building is really dilapidated and stood at the center of town for 17 years and falling apart – everyone in town wants it gone.”
His epiphany of realizing how famous his books were: “I went to a very small corner of Australia, and all the kids there were familiar with my book. Another time I was traveling with Zachary Gordon, who plays Greg in the book, and we were sitting in a plane, and a girl sat down next to us reading the latest book.”
On what parents think of Greg, who is often grumpy and misbehaved: “I don’t think parents see him as a role model, and I get the occasional parent who says they’re uncomfortable with Greg’s actions. I think the humor in the books lies in Greg’s flaws – in his imperfections – if he was a character who always did the right thing, it wouldn’t be a very funny book. Most kids understand Greg is not a role model.”
On how he gets into writing for children: “I’ve always had a kid’s sensibility and a kid’s heart. For about four years, I tried to remember what it was like to be a kid. I collected stories and thoughts from my childhood – put them in one place. I tried to recreate the universe, the things that happened to me and things from my imagination. There’s nothing really special or spectacular, just really everyday stories.”
On his writing routine: “I’ll sit down for an hour or two a day and read parenting magazines. I believe than an author needs a lot of input. It’s hard to come up something from your imagination, so I spend a lot of time with parenting magazines. Then, I try to write without input that usually involves me, laying over the couch, throwing a blanket over my head and trying to tune out any distraction. But it usually results in me falling asleep, either within minutes or hours, and that ideas don’t come at all sometimes.”
On his involvement in the movie adaptations: “For an author, I was very involved – from the script conception through pre-production, I had a voice in casting, and then I was there for about half of each shoot. Then I worked in a lost of post-production and marketing. I was involved as any author hoped to be, and the whole process to me was very foreign, fundamentally different. The experience was really edifying – life-changing in many ways – and it scary and exciting and fun and it was a lot of work all at the same time.”