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"Wimpy Kid" author Jeff Kinney on surprise success

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(CBS) His books have topped bestseller lists over the last several years, and "Diary Of A Wimpy Kid" author Jeff Kinney is as surprised by the success as anyone else. With over 40 million copies of his "Wimpy Kid" book series sold around the world, Kinney says that failure led him to create this literary franchise that's captivated millions of readers.

"Failure inspired me to create the first book. I really wanted to be a newspaper artist but couldn't break in," Kinney explained in a recent interview for CBSNews.com, "And I really wanted to get my scene in and I tried my hand at becoming an author. And it worked out." Perhaps it's a good thing that first gig didn't work out, given the state of the American newspaper industry today.

Kinney began to create a series of fictional journal entries from the point of view of a middle-school student named Greg, who must face challenges familiar to anyone who has lived through such a tumultuous age. The books, along with their humorous illustrations, caught on big with younger and older readers alike, many of whom were able to identify with Greg's plights, ranging from hardships at the hands of siblings and bullies to general embarrassment caused by parents.

Kinney's second book in the series, "Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules," has, like it's predecessor, been adapted as a feature-length film, with actor Zachary Gordon back in the main role of Greg, along with the return of the rest of the cast (including Steve Zahn and Rachel Harris as Greg's devoted yet slightly clueless parents). And this time, the author even got a chance at a surprise cameo as the father of Greg's love interest, Holly Hills (Peyton R. List, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice").

"You know, it was a lot of fun to be in front of the camera. I wouldn't want to do it every day. But, I was in the church scene. We had to sing the same hymn for about 12 hours. I had to spend about 12 hours in church. It was definitely eye-opening about what extras have to do," Kinney revealed, "I don't think I could do it, day in and day out."

And the major successes in the literary and cinematic worlds haven't phased Kinney too much, he admitted, "I don't get out into the world very much. So I don't really get a scope of the success of the films or the books. But, it's really exciting to think that these books might be turning kids into life-long readers."

And should readers expect more installments of Kinney's series on the horizon? "I'm definitely planning more books. I don't feel like I've told all the stories that could be told about these characters. So, I'm excited to keep writing." The saga of a "Wimpy Kid" continues.

"Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules" opens in theaters nationwide on Friday.

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