By Stephan Lee
Updated April 05, 2012 at 03:49 PM EDT

People may not talk about the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books like they talk about The Hunger Games or Twilight, but Jeff Kinney’s illustrated series about seventh-grader Greg Heffley is one of the most popular franchises around. Each year the newest release creates a publishing frenzy — this past November, the sixth book Cabin Fever had a 6 million-copy first-run publication, and the seventh volume, slated for Nov. 13, will no doubt have a similarly huge opening. Plus, the third Wimpy Kid movie, Dog Days, will be coming your way this August. Kinney took a moment to talk to EW about what we can expect from the highly anticipated seventh book!

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Last time we spoke, you talked about the next frontiers for Greg: love and death. How are you handling love in the new book?

JEFF KINNEY: It’s time to tackle love in the Wimpy way. This book is going to center around Valentine’s Day and the stress Greg feels in finding a date for the big dance. What I’m really interested in is how the dynamics between best friends change when you introduce a third party: a girlfriend or a boyfriend. It’s really nauseating when your best friend has a love interest. That kind of stuff really amuses me, and it’s fun to write about.

Is it sort of bittersweet to tackle a topic like love? Does it feel like Greg is growing up?

It doesn’t feel out of line for me because in the first book Greg talks about how he’s always been into girls and all the other boys haven’t really caught up, so it’s really just taking that one step further. But I don’t think my characters are aging or growing older. In fact, in the fifth book I made that decision once and for all. I used puberty as a metaphor for the fact that Greg is a cartoon character and he can’t get older. He’s really frustrated in that book that his friends are developing physically and moving on into adolescence and he’s stuck behind and he can’t figure out why, and the reason is he’s a cartoon character—he doesn’t know that he can’t grow older. So I feel like it’s always easy to pull back and reset things. I don’t feel like I’m moving on with the characters.

That’s so meta.

It’s the only smart thing you’ll ever hear me say. [Laughs]

Is Greg’s love interest someone we’ve seen already?

You know, Greg is just taking all comers. He’s an equal opportunity potential boyfriend. He just wants to make sure he gets a date, and I don’t think he’s overly concerned about who that date might be. One thing I’ve always done in the books is make it pretty clear that Greg doesn’t understand girls. In fact, that’s reflected in the way that he draws them in that they all look similar to one another. So this book is at least an exploration of understanding girls.

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