“We’re working really hard to keep Nikki the girl next door,” Rachel Renée Russell insists, while describing the middle schooler’s latest dorky adventure in Dork Diaries 7: Tales from a Not-So-Glam TV Star. In the newest Dork story, due out in June, Nikki and her band are followed by a reality television show crew for a month as the group records its hit song, which sports a metallic gold cover. “We didn’t want her to become Taylor Swift,” Russell adds. “It’s not Chicago or L.A.: it’s a local television show, and her nemesis, Mackenzie Hollister, does everything she can, as usual, to undermine Nikki Maxwell.”
Whenever Russell says “we” while discussing the brains behind the Dork Diaries series of illustrated novels for middle-grade readers she’s been writing for the past five years, she’s not referring to the royal “we,” but rather, to her partners-in-creativity, her two daughters. Erin, 28, writes, and Nikki, 26, illustrates. The Dork Diaries have become “funnier and wittier” and “the characters are drawn a lot better and are dressed a lot better” since her two daughters began officially assisting her, Russell says.
Russell claims that her “trials and tribulations” in middle school, as well as those of her two daughters, inspired her to write the Dork Diaries as an adult. She also insists that she is “still a dork.” Well, if that’s true, she certainly has everybody fooled; not only has the Dork Diaries series sold 15 million copies and placed on the New York Times bestseller List for 236 weeks since Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life was published in 2009, but Lionsgate Films recently optioned the series for a movie deal, the original, monochromatic lineup: James Patterson, Daniel Handler/Lemony Snicket, Jeff Kinney, and Rick Riordan.
Russell will, no doubt, dazzle fans with her brand of dorkiness on the “Blockbuster Reads” panel, 2 p.m.–3 p.m., in the Special Events Hall.