Millions-selling 'Wimpy Kid' author coming to Winnipeg for lone Canadian tour stop

When author Jeff Kinney started writing his hit children’s book Diary of a Wimpy Kid, he initially had a different reader in mind. It was a smart-thinking publisher who helped him find his audience.

Jeff Kinney speaking at convention centre to promote release of new book in series

Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney is in Winnipeg to promote the 13th book in his series, The Meltdown. (Roshini Nair/CBC)

When author Jeff Kinney started writing his hit children's book Diary of a Wimpy Kid, he initially had a different reader in mind. It was a smart-thinking publisher who helped him find his audience.

"It's strange and I feel very lucky, especially because I actually wrote these books for adults," he said.

Kinney set out to write a single book about a year in the life of his character, Greg Heffley, but his publisher came up with the idea of turning the book into a series for kids.

"I was really trying to write something that was nostalgic, a book, one big fat book that covered one year in the life of a kid, or one school year in the life of a kid, that grown-ups would read and say, 'Oh yeah, that was what it was like to be a kid,' he said.

"And so I feel very lucky to be in this position, because I was aiming for the wrong target."

The author is coming to Winnipeg next Thursday to promote the release of the 13th book in the series, The Meltdown. The event at the RBC Convention Centre will feature a presentation by Kinney, followed by questions from the audience and a book signing.

The event in Winnipeg is Kinney's only Canadian stop on his promotional tour. On his past visits to Canada, Kinney says he has mainly stuck to cities like Vancouver and Toronto, but in recent years he's decided to cover new territory.

"Last year we went to Montreal, this year we're going to Winnipeg, and it will be all new to me and to us, and I can't wait. There seems to be a buzz and there's kind of a growing excitement, which is really exciting for me," he said.

The experience of meeting his fans at events is both overwhelming and exciting, Kinney said.

"Every so often I'll get a moment at the desk, if I'm signing a book for a kid, I get a sense that for that kid, these books were really important, maybe even life changing. And those are the moments I really try to remember."

Those moments have gotten Kinney through some difficult times when writing his books.

"I'm trying to write these books on deadline, I'll remember that kid and say, 'If I was only writing for that one, that might be worth it.'"

The Wimpy Kid series has sold millions of copies around the world and was turned into a movie in 2010. Kinney says he thinks it's the main character's flaws that draw kids — and parents — into the books. Children's authors, he says, tend to write heroic characters who always do the right thing.

"I think that kids, when they read about Greg Heffley, they can see themselves in him, but they see that Greg takes it a step further," Kinney said. "Of course, if I wrote a book about a goody-two-shoes it wouldn't be a very funny book. So I'm always trying to find that balance between making Greg funny but not awful."

The event on Thursday starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 for two people and include a copy of the new book and can be purchased at any McNally Robinson Booksellers location in person, over the phone, or online.

With files from Nadia Kidwai