Will Greg Heffley Ever Grow Up? “Wimpy Kid” Author Jeff Kinney Considers His Most Famous Character’s Future

Photo via WimpyKid.com

Last week, crowds gathered at Ensworth School to help Parnassus Books welcome Jeff Kinney, bestselling author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, who spoke about his work, his characters, and his latest book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck. We learned that readers young and old love to recount the story of Kinney’s early career, when — after his dream of becoming a newspaper cartoonist fizzled — he turned his fate around, taking the drawings critics had called “too childlike” and putting them into a new (and perfect) context: the diary of a fictional middle schooler. That character, the “wimpy” but plucky Greg Heffley, has become a hero to millions of kids over the past seven years.

It’s easy to see how young audiences relate to Greg, what with observations like these:

“Lately, Mom’s been giving me tips on how to make new friends at school. I think her heart is in the right place, but the advice she gives me would NEVER work with kids my age. For example, Mom said that if I’m just really nice to everyone I meet, then word will spread and I’ll become the most popular kid at school in no time.”


(“Ouch,” said moms everywhere.)

What’s next for Greg Heffley? Kinney chatted with Musing’s Mary Laura Philpott about that. Here’s their conversation:

As usual, your latest book, Hard Luck, had everyone in my household in stitches, especially my 10-year-old, who loved Greg’s description of playground cliques:

“The girls hang out in groups, too. There’s one that jumps rope near the side of the school and another that does hopscotch fifty feet away. I’ve heard the two groups get along, but I have no idea what that’s all about. I’ll tell you the group I WISH I could join, that’s the girls who hang out near the cafeteria door and gossip about everyone who walks by.”

Jeff, which group would you have been hanging out with at recess when you were a kid?

JK: I think I would’ve liked to hang out with the girls as well.

But that spot was taken by a kid named Derek who sported a giant belt buckle. That belt buckle features in Hard Luck.

Parents could learn something from reading your books as a reality check on how our best intentions come across to our kids. How much of your own parenting behavior gets passed along to the characters of Greg’s parents?

JK: A lot of the ideas from Mrs. Heffley, Greg’s mom, come from my wife, Julie. Just the other night, my son said, “I’m bored, what can I do?” My wife said, “Well, you can practice math problems!” Once, on my son’s birthday invitations, my wife wrote, “Will has too many toys… why not consider buying him a book?” My son ended up with a small library on his birthday… not what he was hoping for. I think that as parents we have our own agenda, and our kids have theirs, and the two don’t always intersect.

In Hard Luck, Greg’s social life – such as it is – takes a hit, when his best friend Rowley discovers girls. As usual, Greg’s first consideration is how it affects himself: “Rowley had to go and get himself a girlfriend, and now I guess I’M the one who has to suffer.” Will Greg ever get a girlfriend?

JK: I don’t think so. I can’t see a way that would work without the series ending.

Speaking of Greg’s future — do you have a vision of Greg Heffley as an adult? How do you think he turns out, and do you ever plan to write about that?

JK: I think that Greg will be an unhappy adult. Luckily, he’ll never get there, because he’s going to be stuck in middle school forever.

On that note… Have you read any of the fan-fiction online that plays out Greg’s later years?

JK: I haven’t read much, if any, fan fiction online. I’ll have to go looking. I like the idea of kids having fun controlling Greg’s destiny.

Your books have been called “graphic novels,” “comic strips,” and “novels”  – which term do you prefer?

JK: I’m not sure I have a preference. I think the DNA of the books is in comics, but I’m not sure there’s a word or phrase that works for what my books are.

NPR called you a “rock star in the middle school literary scene.” Now that you’ve reached such stratospheric success, do you get a lot of, “How can I be you?” questions from aspiring writers and illustrators?

JK: I don’t get to interact with aspiring writers much… there hasn’t really been a forum for it. But I would suggest that someone works on a project for a good long time… I’m looking for my next ten-year project now!

My kids are big fans of the Poptropica website, which you created. Are you still very involved in online game design?

JK: Yes, that’s my day job! I’m in charge of creating the islands.

Now that you’ve completed the 8th installment in Greg’s story, do you feel there’s still more to tell from Greg’s point of view, or have you begun imagining another set of characters?

JK: It gets more difficult to write the more a series matures. But at the same time, my stories are about ordinary, everyday events, and there’s so much to draw from.

OK, last question. A fun one: Wackiest interaction you’ve ever had with a fan while on a book tour?

I believe I was interviewed by a puppet.

That’s…wow. I’ll bring a puppet next time. Thanks for your time!

This interview was not conducted by a puppet.

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