On June 2, 2009, author Rachel Renee Russell released her debut middle grade book Dork Diaries. Never fear, being a dork is cool these days and Nikki Maxwell, the dorky protagonist, embraces her dork status.
To welcome Nikki and Rachel to The Brown Bookshelf family, I sat down with the two of them recently to talk about the book, Nikki’s life as a dork, Rachel’s journey to publication, and what’s next for the both of them.
Nikki, what makes you a dork?
NM: It all started when that snob, MacKenzie, called me a dork because I was always writing in my diary. She said, “OMG! Only a dork writes in a diary!” And, I was like, “If I flush, will you go away!” But, after a while, that word started to take on a different meaning for me. Now, dork means independent, different and unconventional, which are all good things. I call myself, dorkalicious :-)!
Dork Diaries is coming to the big screen. Who are your ideal choices to play you, Mackenzie, and Brandon?
NM: I would love to be cast as myself in the movie. I was the understudy for Little Red Riding Hood back in second grade, so I know I can do it. And, of course, I think Brandon should play himself too, especially since I have this huge crush on him. I would NOT want MacKenzie anywhere near the movie set. She is such a diva! I think that snobby girl from High School Musical, Sharpay, should be cast as MacKenzie. I believe the actress’ name is Ashley Tisdale.
Who’s your celebrity crush?
NM: I have two: Nick Jonas, from the Jonas Brothers and Corbin Bleu, from High School Musical. I even drew sketches of both of them in my diary.
The remote control is in your hand, what’s on the TV screen?
NM: I LOVE that brand new TV show GLEE! It’s High School Musical on steroids!
I believe a lot of kids will be able to relate to various things that happen to you. Do you ever plan to go from a written diary to an online blog? Maybe have an advice column for fellow dorks?
NM: Actually, I already have a blog at www.dorkdiariesblog.com. The advice column is a good idea. I think I’m going to consider adding one since being in middle school can sometimes be really traumatic.
Nickelodeon or Disney?
NM: I’m a Disney kind of girl. Actually, I’m really hoping Disney will buy the film rights to my diary. Then, I can use the money to get that iPhone I’ve been wanting. And, maybe buy some more art supplies and a new wardrobe from the Mall. Oh! And, since I don’t have a drivers license yet, I would need to buy a private jet like Oprah’s.
Rachel, what’s next for Nikki Maxwell?
RRR: I’m currently working on Book 2 which will be released in the Spring of 2010.
What inspired you to create Dork Diaries?
RRR: I wanted to write and illustrate a really funny book for Tween girls. And, I wanted it to have a unique voice, be slightly quirky and contain a lot of pop culture. I mainly wanted to make people laugh.
I loved the artwork in Dork Diaries. What led you to create a graphic novel? Who did the artwork for Dork Diaries?
RRR: Actually, the book format is not a true graphic novel. It’s usually referred to as a “hybrid” or “illustrated novel.” I am the illustrator of the book. However, toward the end, I started running a bit behind schedule so I took on two assistant artists to help get it finished by the deadline, which is not that unusual when you’re both writing and illustrating a huge project.
Every author has their own story about what led them to pick up a pen to write that first story and how their book was born. What is your story?
RRR: I started writing and illustrating homemade books for my family members back in grade school. I also did several for my two daughters when they were younger. So, it’s been something I’ve always loved doing. In recent years, I’ve written a young adult book, a middle grade graphic novel and Dork Diaries. So, although this is actually my third book, it’s the first one to get published.
Your main character, Nikki, is not an African-American. Why did you choose to do this?
RRR: The character, Nikki, came to me as she is written. At first I was hesitant, but I remembered reading an article about Shonda Rhimes, the creator, writer and executive director of the hit television show, Grey’s Anatomy. She was my inspiration for attempting to write a main character very different from myself. The other two major characters in Dork Diaries are Zoey, who is African-American and Chloe, who is Hispanic. So, my book has quite a bit of diversity. The three girls are best friends and are considered the biggest dorks in their school. They get into all sorts of hilarious mischief.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid took the MG/YA audience by storm with its debut in 2007. I’ve seen a lot of buzz about your book as well as the expected comparison and contrast to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. How does that make you feel? Is there more pressure for Dork Diaries to stand out from Diary of a Wimpy Kid’s shadow?
RRR: Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a funny and well-written series. So, I’m really flattered by any comparison. Dork Diaries, however, is very different. It’s from a female perspective and deals with issues Tween girls face on a daily basis. My main character is a bit older and has an edgier voice. And, my artwork has a slight manga influence. However, I would be totally elated if Dork Diaries does even half as well as Diary of a Wimpy Kid!
Rachel and Nikki have been busy blog hopping this week and it doesn’t end today. Check out some of their other tour stops.
Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into a drawing to win a copy of Dork Diaries along with a very cool purse that contains items mentioned in the book.