Q&A: Jeff Kinney

The Wimpy Kid author talks to TFK about Cabin Fever, the sixth book in the hit series

Nov 21, 2011 | By TFK Kid Reporter Elise Jonas-Delson
GRETCHEN ERTL—AP

Everyone’s favorite middle school wimp, Greg Heffley, is at it again. This time, he’s in even bigger trouble than ever! In Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever, the sixth book in the hit series, Greg finds himself in deep water after one of his plans to get rich quick goes wrong. But before he can face the music, a surprise blizzard hits, trapping the Heffleys inside their home. Greg doesn’t know what’s worse: punishment for his crime or being stuck indoors with his family for the holidays.

TFK Kid Reporter Elise Jonas-Delson had the opportunity to chat with Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney. Keep reading to see what inspired Cabin Fever and what Kinney is still learning about his character after six books.

TFK:

Can you tell me a little bit about how you became a writer and a cartoonist?

 Cabin Fever is the sixth book in the best-selling Wimpy Kid series.
 
Cabin Fever is the sixth book in the best-selling Wimpy Kid series.

JEFF KINNEY:

I used to want to be a newspaper cartoonist. I worked for about three years trying to get somebody to accept my work, but I couldn't do it. I finally realized that I drew like a kid, so maybe I should write a book from a kid's perspective.

TFK:

What inspired you to write Cabin Fever?

KINNEY:

Well, we had a very terrible winter where I live in Massachusetts this year, and I got the idea for Cabin Fever when our electricity went off. I thought that it would be interesting to have a story about a family being trapped inside during a terrible storm, and it turns out we've had two more storms like that. One was Hurricane Irene and one was a crazy snowstorm we just had a few weeks ago where we lost power for five days each.

TFK:

Did you discover anything about yourself or your characters while writing Cabin Fever?

KINNEY:

That's a good question. I would say what I discovered was that it's really tricky for Greg Heffley to do the right thing. You know, when I started writing this book, I decided I wanted Greg to act really good, but in this book, he acts more mischievous than ever. So, I think that that character just wants to be a little bit mischievous.

TFK:

Is there a message for kids in Cabin Fever or in any of your other Diary of a Wimpy Kid books?

KINNEY:

I think the message is that a kid is not a grown-up, and that [part of being] a kid is learning how to do the right thing. Greg Heffley is not perfect. He's a work in progress. I'd say that's the message.

TFK:

Do your children sometimes help you out with the jokes or ideas?

KINNEY:

My kids don't help me out specifically, but I would say that being a parent of two boys really does help me come up with new ideas for my books. I get to see childhood through their eyes.

TFK:

Why do you think that your books appeal to so many kids and adults as well?

KINNEY:

I think that people like stuff that's funny, and I try to fill my books with as much humor as possible. I actually wrote them for adults to begin with, and they got turned into a kids' series, so maybe that's why adults like them.

TFK:

Will Cabin Fever be made into a movie?

KINNEY:

I hope that it gets made into an animated movie. I'd really like to see it turn into an animated television special.

TFK:

Have you started working on another book yet?

KINNEY:

I have just barely started working on another book. I've got about three jokes, and every time I write a new book I have to write about 350 jokes.

TFK:

In 2009, TIME magazine named you one of the most influential people of the year. What impact, if any, do you hope your books have on kids' lives?

KINNEY:

Great question. I hope that my books send kids the message that reading can be fun and that reading shouldn't be work. I hope my books turn kids into lifelong readers.