Question: Given all the jobs that you have--game designer, fatherhood, Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie work, etc.,--do you have a certain time that you set aside to write?
Kinney: I still treat writing like a hobby, working mostly at night and sometimes on weekends. But when a deadline looms my hobby time gets extended into the wee hours of the night. It's not uncommon for me to work until 4:00 a.m., and I'm usually back at work by 9:00 a.m.
Q: Did you get to choose which character you would play in the Wimpy Kid films (Mr. Hills)? What do you enjoy most about working on the movies?
Kinney: I never any real desire to appear in the Wimpy Kid films, but one day my wife encouraged me to be an extra in one of the crowd scenes. So I walked onto the set, ready to ask the assistant director to put me somewhere in the back. It happened that right at that moment the director was looking for someone to play the role of Mr. Hills, Holly Hills's father. What I didn't realize was that I'd be front and center in the church scene, and in the new movie, I'm even more prominent. I'm incredibly self-conscious so appearing on-camera was a real stretch for me.
Q: In 2009 Time magazine named you as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World--what’s the first thing you did after you found out?
Kinney: I thought it was a practical joke, so I tried to track down the source of the joke. I eventually reached a voicemail of a reporter who said they worked for Time, and at that point I thought it was just a well-planned practical joke. It took me a while to realize it was for real. It was a big honor, but I don't take it very seriously. I'm the fourth most influential person in my own house.
Q: Would you ever consider making Wimpy Kid into a newspaper comic strip or creating another one? Do you have any favorite comic strips that you currently read?
Kinney: I've considered it. I set out to become a newspaper cartoonist but failed to break in. But I like the freedom books give me, so it would be tough to cram my ideas into three or four panels.
Q: What is (or could be) you motto in life?
Kinney: I was inspired to write by a Benjamin Franklin quote: "Well done is better than well said." But I always encourage kids to "create something great," because the tools to create something original and find an audience are available to them like never before.
Q: What was your favorite year in school, and why?
Kinney: Fifth grade was my favorite year. I had a great teacher, Mrs. Norton, who encouraged me to be funny and challenged me to be a better artist and joke-teller than I was. I liked it that she didn't coddle me.
Q: Kids now ask for a book that is “like Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” and with this series you’ve created a whole new subset of books for young readers--how does it feel to be the person behind such massive book enjoyment, reaching reluctant readers, and spawning any number of titles that aspire to be “the next Wimpy Kid?”
Kinney: I'm happy that kids are reading. I think graphical books reach kids who might otherwise see books as work. Books should be fun!