'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' author Jeff Kinney on new book 'Cabin Fever' and the series' future
UPDATE: Read our review of Cabin Fever.
Cabin Fever, the highly anticipated sixth installment of the Diary of the Wimpy Kid series, will get a monster first-run release of six million copies on Nov. 15, the largest of any book in the series. Series creator and author Jeff Kinney spoke to EW about the new book and Greg Heffley’s future — apparently love and death are on the horizon.
Tell me a bit more about the concept behind the sixth book.
On the surface, Cabin Fever is about the Heffley being family being snowed in for the holidays and the claustrophobia that creates, but it works as a theme as well. The idea behind the book is that as you’re growing up you’re forging your identity, and that identity becomes hard to escape later on. I find that no matter what I do in my professional life, if I go back home, the people I grew up with and the people in my family and the people who know me bring me back to my true self. Part of the book is about the claustrophobia of your identity — it’s hard to forge a new one.
Being shown who you really are is never a painless experience.
Because it’s not your idealized version of yourself.
It seems like the bulk of the action in this book is confined to a small space. Was it a different challenge than writing the previous books, given the constraints of the setting?
Yeah, I think I’ve really realized that the Wimpy Kid universe is ever-expanding. In fact, in the last book I really increased the cast of characters by quite a bit. I thought that it would be a nice challenge to contract the story, to make it small again. Whereas the last book was about the extended Heffley clan, this book is about the small community around Greg and especially his family. Entertainment properties tend to take on a particular path — by season eight of Blossom, it’s going to be “Blossom Goes to Paris,” and so I’m really trying to avoid following the beats that typically lead to the demise of a property.
I’m kind of reminded of those “bottle episodes” about two-thirds of the way into a sitcom’s season when the core ensemble gets trapped together.
When you find me doing a clips episode of Wimpy Kid where on every page they’re recalling something that happened in a past book, then I’m really in trouble. “Remember in the first book? The cheese stuff? Boy!” [Laughs] “It seems like yesterday …”
Do you have plans to expand the universe again in future books?
Yeah, I do. There are two big things I haven’t done, love and death. I’m always looking for new ground to break. Something that’s really surprised me, actually, is that I thought that I’d be tapped out creatively by now, but I’m actually really enthusiastic about continuing to write for these characters because it is a universe, and if you’ve created a big world for yourself, you have a really big palate and that’s how I feel right now. I used to feel like I would want to start something new but similar, but I’m not so sure … It’s not clear to me whether I’m a one-property creator or a multiple-property creator. Only time will really tell.
Do you write Wimpy Kid year-round?
Well, I always have my phone with me so if I think of an idea I’ll tap it in. I don’t write in a conventional sense. The best way that I can write is to live my life and I have a really normal life. If I just focus on having a normal life and doing things in the community with my family, then the ideas come to me, but if I lock myself in my room and throw a blanket over my head, it’s really hard to squeeze out a joke.
Are there any plans to release Wimpy kid as e-books?
That’s something that we’re right in the middle of deciding right now. I think that in the past, I’ve been concerned about the technology. Graphic books haven’t translated as well onto e-readers. I didn’t want to create a bad reading experience, but I think the technology is changing now, and we’re taking e-books very seriously.
So 6 million copies first run — does that boggle your mind?
I think it sort of snuck up on me — I didn’t realize how big that number had gotten. It’s exciting, it really is. But I think that “boggled” is the proper way to say it. I think I’ve lost my perspective — the only thing I really understand is that one day I’ll be desperately be trying to get back into this position and won’t be able to.
Diary Of A Wimpy Kid