It was standing room only when author Jeff Kinney returned to his Plainville bookstore on Veterans Day to meet fans, sign books, and celebrate the release of the 11th book in his best-selling series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down.
The event, held at Kinney's An Unlikely Story bookstore, was the hottest ticket around. All 300 free tickets were snapped up in 30 seconds online on a first-come, first-served basis. Bookstore officials say the ticket waiting list grew to a staggering 5,000 requests.
Kinney returned to his hometown on a short break from his worldwide book tour, which has already taken him to England, Germany, and Israel. He'll soon be off again, heading to India, Korea, the Philippines, and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which this year will feature a new and improved giant Wimpy Kid balloon.
"It's cool for me to be back home for a short while," he said. "It's really special to see you guys."
In the new hotly anticipated new book, released last week, Wimpy Kid Greg Heffley is back with another series of adventures, this time set around Halloween, including a humorous homage to R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series, a creepy Halloween decoration that's freaking out the Heffley family, Greg's scary movie-making adventures, and more.
"In a way, with this book I'm kind of starting over," he told the crowd. "In a way it's like Book 1 again. They say every story has been told a million different times. I tried to tell the first story again, but in a totally different way.
"In the very first Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, Greg says, 'One day I'll be rich and famous.' And in this book, on the first page he speculates, 'You know what? Maybe I already am. Maybe my life is being filmed for a TV show and my life is being broadcast all over the world.' That's a joke about Greg's life: He thinks it's a private diary, but kids are reading it all over the world," he continued.
Greg is, indeed, correct as since the 2007 release of the first book there are now 180 million copies of his life in print, in more than 52 languages and 61 editions worldwide. The series' books have claimed a spot on The New York Times bestseller list for more than 497 weeks.
"I've always loved collecting funny stories. I love to hear about funny things, experience funny things in my life and write them down," he noted. "That's what gave me the idea for Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I wanted to take my whole childhood, put it through the fiction blender, and spit it back out. For me, it all started with a sketchpad. It was 77 pages long and I wanted to fill it up with everything that happened to me as a kid."
Over the hour-long presentation, Kinney showed the audience how he draws Greg; talked about early influences (Donald Duck/Scrooge McDuck cartoonist Carl Barks, cartoon strips Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side) and how he writes; took questions; and cracked everyone up sharing stories from his youth that were the inspiration for scenes throughout the series. The event drew parents, grandparents, and boys and girls spanning pre-readers to teens.
"People will say, 'Where do you come up with your ideas?' I have a normal life, for the most part, and funny things happen. Usually they're embarrassing or sad, but over time they become really funny as you look back," he noted. "So I encourage any kid out there: Just keep a journal, just write a little bit here and there. You can write 10 Diary of a Wimpy Kid-style books easily."
Kinney also shared the news that the fourth Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie, based on the ninth book, The Long Haul, has nearly finished shooting in Atlanta and is due in theatres next May. He shared a sneak peak at the film, which can also be seen here.