With more than 150 million copies in print and three feature films, the fictional illustrated diary of middle school misfit Greg Heffley is one of the most popular franchises in publishing. BookPage spoke with Kinney about Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School, in which Greg suffers the injustice of life without electronics.
Ten Wimpy Kid books is quite a milestone! Did you ever think you’d make it to 10? Any plans for celebrating?
I’m very excited to get to 10! When I started off, I imagined one big fat book. Then my publisher asked me to break it into a series of three books. At the time, that seemed like a huge number to me. Ten would have been inconceivable. Now I’m thinking about 20. I’m celebrating by going on a global book tour. It’s daunting, but it should be fun.
Greg must do the impossible in the new book: survive with NO electronics. Is this even possible?!
For a modern kid (and this modern dad), it seems impossible. In fact, I just got an Apple Watch, so I’m part cyborg now. We’ve gotten a little carried away, I think.
The Wimpy Kid books avoid a heavy moral hand, but Greg’s hilarious adventures often impart a lesson. How do you find that balance?
I go back and forth on this. I don’t set out to teach a lesson in my books, but sometimes I do. In the latest book, Greg is at his Greggiest. There’s a moral lesson, but it’s subverted.
For each of the Wimpy Kid books, you write all the jokes first, and then the text. What joke kicked off Old School?
That’s right. The first joke I wrote for this book was one I ended up not using. Greg’s parents put Greg’s old baby supplies out by the curb for recycling pickup . . . including a Diaper Genie that has “Gregory” written on it.
What can you tell us about your tour for Old School?
I’m going around the world, hitting as many countries as I can in about six weeks. I did a pre-publication trip to Brazil. Next up is Japan, China and Australia.
What has been most surprising about Greg’s universal appeal?
I’ve been very surprised by the global appeal of Wimpy Kid. I always thought Greg was too American for an international audience. But it seems that Greg’s problems are universal.
You recently opened a bookstore in Plainville, Massachusetts, called An Unlikely Story. What do you love about being a bookstore owner?
I love every bit of it. I get a thrill every time I see a car in the parking lot. I think, “Wow, if we hadn’t built this building, those people wouldn’t be here.” It’s great to think there might be people whose lives are changed because they came across a book in our store that changed their outlook.