Last month saw the publication of The Misadventures of Max Crumbly: Locker Hero, a brand new series from the creator of the wildly popular “Dork Diaries” series. SLJ recently caught up with Russell to chat about her inspirations, her daughter’s influence on the books, and what she was like as a middle schooler.
What kind of reader were you in middle school? What was your relationship like with the school library?
As a child, I LOVED books and was a voracious reader! One of my favorite childhood memories is excitedly reading over the order forms for the Scholastic Book Club and circling the books that I was dying to read, which was usually most of them. The amazing thing was that I’d give the order form to my dad and he’d actually write a check for ALL of the books I circled. In middle school, I’d often skip lunch and then hang out in the library either reading or finding new books to read. I also completed most of my homework assignments at home so that I could spend my “study hall” period in the library.
You’ve said that you’ll keep writing about Nikki (the protagonist of the “Dork Diaries”) as long as you can. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor wrote about her character Alice for 30 years, and eventually published an epilogue volume taking Alice from her college graduation to her retirement. How attached are you to Nikki? Can readers expect more stories about her?
YES! Nikki Maxwell has a lot more dorky adventures ahead of her. “Dork Diaries” book 11 will be released in October 2016 and I hope to write many more.
Where did Max Crumbly come from? How long have you been working on his story?
My nephew, Preston James. Not long ago, when Preston and his family visited me, Preston—oh my gosh—was bursting with energy and NEVER stopped moving! He’s very interested in superheroes and comic books, and is very rambunctious. He has big green plastic Hulk fists, and he loved punching the walls of my house and sliding down banisters. When I saw him in his superhero cape, looking over the edge of my deck with interest, I screamed, “Preston, NO!”. He’s not in middle school yet—he’s only seven years old—but Preston was definitely my inspiration for Max. In fact, I dedicated the first novel to him.
What’s your favorite part of creating—the writing or the illustration?
Actually, my favorite part of creating is the RE-writing! Usually, I’ll come up with the theme of a book and major plot elements. I’ll assign Erin, my daughter and co-author, some chapters to write. She has created some very funny, over-the-top adult characters, including a pot-bellied karate instructor who eats burgers during class and a diva-ish, famous ice skater who comes to town to host a charity skating event. Once we have a first draft of a chapter finished, Nikki, my other daughter and series artist, creates the art. Once her illustrations come in, the chapter is apt to completely change, since the art becomes the motivating force. Erin and I begin rewriting and editing, which I really love. I have a wonderful time rewriting!
A lot of the middle school literature that wins awards and receives high acclaim deals with sad and serious subjects. Your books are purposely lighthearted and full of humor. How do you see the balance for young readers?
I think this depends on the individual reader. Some children enjoy reading more serious material, while others enjoy light and humorous fare. Then there are readers who enjoy both. I would recommend that each person reads what brings them the most satisfaction and joy, which will hopefully include books that will serve as both a mirror and a window.
The one question that my students had for you: Is there a chance that “The Dork Diaries” might be made into a movie or television show?
I love that question! We signed a deal for a movie with Lionsgate studios, but everything in Hollywood is always changing so rapidly, I never seem to really have a concrete answer to this question myself. But I am very hopeful we’ll see “Dork Diaries” on a big screen very soon!
This article was featured in our free Be Tween enewsletter.
Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to you every month.