July 29, 2021

Jeff Kinney: "Screens are the evil of our time" | Babelia

Jeff Kinney: "Screens are the evil of our time" | Babelia

A school in Washington at 8:30 in the morning. A jumble of more than a dozen restless children waits with a book in hand to hand it to the mother of another child who is going to interview "the great Jeff Kinney," says Quinlan, 10 years old. Since my son was born more than a decade ago, never, and I never say, I managed to make my work interesting or worthy of comment. Until the newspaper sent me to Massachusetts to interview the Great Jeff Kinney. Then I had to limit my luggage to the maximum to accommodate in my suitcase 13 books of the well-known Greg's diary (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, title in English) so as not to fail my son and his – suddenly – numerous friends.

What children between 10 and 12 years old do not know, the average age of the audience that devours the series of books that is already in its thirteenth, is that what Kinney had in mind was to write "a very, very long book, between 700 and 1,300 pages ". And for adults! Kenney imagined that the aforementioned would enjoy a lot remembering what it was like to be little more than 10 years old. At no time, the author confesses, "I imagined I was writing a book for children."

Kinney receives EL PAÍS in his bookstore in Plainville, a small town in Massachusetts with 9,000 inhabitants, halfway between the Boston airport and Providence airport, which perfectly matches his name for its simplicity. The cozy bookshop-cafeteria was also named after the success that came late to Kinney (47 years): "An unlikely story". There, the creator spends his days surrounded by a very small team of collaborators working on what will be the next book, until reaching "maybe the figure of 20," Kinney concedes.

If literature won for itself the king of the best-selling children – to date, the online version of the Greg's diary it has had more than 80 million visits since its birth in 2007, and every day it is read by more than 70,000 children-, the FBI lost an agent. With a college degree in criminology under his belt and extensive computer skills, Jeff Kinney was on the verge of becoming a federal agent. But life had other plans for him. Even though they resisted arriving. Kinney remembers the hundreds of "rejection notes" from the editors that came to his mail each time he sent a sketch of a comic. It was not until he admitted that his illustrations matched those of a 12-year-old boy when he decided to stop trying to enter the hall of fame of the cartoonists of cómic.

"I worked almost eight years in the project until I showed it, of those years, I spent four collecting stories of the fun things that had happened to me as a child", explains the author sitting in a space in his study that copies the seats of an airplane . Kenney is shy. He is extremely polite. And a 12-year-old boy is still living inside.

Passionate about the NBA and the Boston Celtics, Jeff Kinney makes a hilarious critique of the world of elders from a child's perspective. More than 150 million books sold have made Greg Heffley, his family and his two friends a global phenomenon that has already been translated into nearly 50 languages. The author is aware that his audience can see his character in him. "He has something of me", he concedes with a smile that borders on mischief.

From the third floor, where his offices are located, in what was the old shop of the town more than a century ago in a Victorian building that he himself has rehabilitated, Kinney launched this fall the last book in the series: Cold Fatal, RBA (The Meltdown, in its title in English). His team is sure that they have a best seller on their hands again. For the man who has placed the bland Plainville on the map, the secret of his success lies in mixing the text with comic cartoons. "When a child confronts a book it seems like an arduous task, when he opens one of Greg's, it does not look like a book, it's fun and he dives into it."

Kinney admits that books do not live their best moment, even though the figures smile at him. When he rehabilitated the old general store from which the 4 important streets of the town leave, it was clear that he had to turn it into a bookstore. "In a bookstore, there are room for children from two years to over 90". "I think that every town should have a bookstore as its place of reference. We have very few bookstores and many donut stores, "he says between the joke and the sad reality.

He is also aware that new technologies and the invasion of mobile phones, tablets and laptops tend to corner books. "Screens are the evil of our time," he says. As a father, Kinney admits the difficulty of getting children to read. Although it has the magic recipe: "Greg's diary" Already on sale in their bookstores.


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