Monday, December 3, 2012

Jeff Kinney Interview - for Real This Time

Something about life has been making it difficult for me to blog lately. Too much to do, too distracted. Anyway, I know I left you hanging with the Jeff Kinney interview last week...therefore, I present, The Continuation.

Okay, where was I? Oh yeah, hanging out in a hotel lobby, hoping to recognize one of Jeff Kinney's peeps so as not to disappoint my kids, who already told everyone they know that we were going to Jeff Kinney's hotel to interview him. How was I going to recognize one of Jeff's peeps when the only thing I knew was the first name of one of them? Well, thankfully it all worked out beautifully. Before long, someone came down for breakfast wearing a Wimpy Kid t-shirt. Danielle and I hustled over and introduced ourselves, and whatta you know? It was Jason, the very person we were supposed to be meeting up with. And? He had NO IDEA WE WERE COMING. Gulp. But. He was incredibly gracious and took the situation in stride. It was obviously a busy morning, and there was a lot going on, but Jason did not skip a beat. He invited us to sit with him while we waited for Jeff to come down, and assured us that they would definitely make time for us to talk with Jeff. The schedule was tight, so we quickly devised a plan. I would have a few minutes with Jeff at the hotel, before he left for his book signing. Danielle would ride on the tour bus to the book store, with all of our children, and have her chance to talk to Jeff during the ride. Yes, I let my kids ride on a tour bus full of people I had never met until that morning, without me. I don't let them drink caffeinated pop, but hang out with perfect strangers? Why not! It was such a fun opportunity, there was no way I was going to let a little stranger danger get in the way.

Since I had never formally interviewed anyone, I thought it would be best to turn to the real experts. I contacted Connor's fourth grade teacher and Bethany's sixth grade Language Arts teacher, and invited them to get input from their students. The result was a few dozen questions that Jeff Kinney's fans had for him, which Bethany and Connor went through and condensed the night before the interview (there were a lot of duplicates).

When Jeff finally came down to the lobby, I knew he was tired and had a really long day ahead of him. Nonetheless, he was as smiley and friendly as I could have hoped for, and happily posed for pictures and indulged the inquiring minds of Bethany and Connor and their peers (and me). And, I should add, pretended not to notice my non-existent interview skills.

Jeff has two little boys, ages 7 and 10, and doesn't get to see them very often while partaking of this hectic book tour. They use to tour with him, but this time around the schedule just doesn't allow, and with very little wiggle room for fun and relaxation, it wouldn't be enjoyable for the kids. On the plus side, Jeff does get to travel all over the place meeting his adoring fans. And that's something. But it's not being with his kids, which I can't imagine, and I give him a lot of credit for being so friendly to bloggers AND fans when probably all he wants to do is hop a plane to home and be with his family.


Some of the questions I posed to Jeff, and his answers (paraphrased, in italics):

Do you plan on writing more Wimpy Kid books? If so, how many, and when will the next one be out?

Yes, probably three more, with the next one likely coming out November 2013.

Do you have a favorite Wimpy Kid book?

Yes, the latest in the series, The Third Wheel, is his favorite.

Do you ever see yourself writing anything other than Wimpy Kid books?

Yes, that will probably happen sometimes in the not too distant future.

(Side note: see how agreeable Jeff is?)

Do you write daily or have a regular writing routine?

No! Jeff said he goes through periods of intense brainstorming, thinking, and writing that last several months. He said he'd be heading into one soon, and that he expected it to last until about March. When he's not touring and thinking about what to write about, Jeff's day job is game developer for Poptropica (Connor's favorite website).

What inspired you to become a writer?

Originally, Jeff aspired to be a newspaper cartoonist. That didn't pan out as he'd hoped, so he came up with the idea to put his cartoons into books. Jeff spent years developing his ideas for the Wimpy Kid series before the first book was published.

What is your favorite author or book, from your childhood and now.

As a kid, Jeff enjoyed books such as Freckle Juice and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, both by Judy Blume. When he was a little older, a favorite was Tolkien's The Hobbit.  Nowadays, Jeff is loving the Game of Thrones series, by George R. R. Martin. 

(Side note: must read this Game of Thrones I keep hearing of.)

What's your favorite food? (Hey! Kids want to know this stuff!)

Jeff went with fried chicken as his favorite food of the moment.

How tall are you? (Like I said, kids want to know...)

Well, my notes are cryptic, and Bethany, who was supposed to be recording the interview, only got about 45 seconds of it. I wrote down 6'11", but I'm fairly certain I meant 6'1". I mean, I would have realized had I been interviewing a giant, right? Hmm. We'll go with 6'1".

I mentioned at one point to Jeff that he seems to have quite a rapport with the 12-year old mind set. Hopefully he didn't find that offensive, because I truly meant it as a sincere compliment. The older I become, the more difficult it becomes to "get it", from my kids' perspective. Staying in touch with your younger self...that's a good thing. Especially for a parent and a children's author.


When the bus arrived, everybody else filed on board and I drove to the book store to meet them. Bethany and Connor got to chat with Jeff a little, and Bethany was happy she was able to ask Jeff the one question that she was simply dying to know the answer to. For the record, Jeff Kinney's favorite princess is Ariel. You heard it here. Connor wanted to know what the next book will be about, which Jeff neatly side stepped by feeding Connor a juicy tidbit (the cover will be lime green) without actually answering the question. I'm going to assume that's because he doesn't know yet. Then he tried distracting Connor by bragging about how good he is at talking with his mouth full, which Connor had to admit was true considering that Jeff was eating his breakfast throughout the bus ride, while talking to everyone.* However, as if that would make Connor forget his question? But Connor didn't mind. I mean, he got to ride on a bus with his favorite author. Everything else was just gravy.


At the book store, I snapped a few more pictures and Jeff signed a stack of books for us before we headed back to the real world. I can't stress enough how nice and accommodating Jeff and his people (especially Jason) were. I am so appreciative for this wonderful opportunity, and because of their kindness, the day turned out to be memorable in the very best way. Huge thanks to everyone who helped make this day happen for us, and to Danielle for her willingness to take a couple extra kids on the bus with her.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Tour Bus

Soon, I'm not even bothering with pretending to know when, I will have my review of The Third Wheel up.

*Keep in mind, I wasn't on the bus. This is what I gleaned from my kids. Maybe Jeff wasn't trying to distract Connor, maybe he wasn't bragging, maybe he wasn't even talking with his mouth full.

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