The phenomenon that was Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children—a dark and quirky debut novel by Ransom Riggs about children with extraordinary powers, constructed around vintage photographs that Riggs had collected at flea markets—resonated with readers of all ages and was one of the best-selling novels of 2011.
But 2014 is turning out to exponentially better for the Los Angeles–based writer. Hollow City, the sequel to Miss Peregrine, was recently released to critical acclaim; Riggs is still basking in the afterglow of his September wedding to YA author Tahereh Mafi; and rumors are swirling about the Miss Peregrine movie, which begins production later this year, and which Tim Burton is slated to direct. I caught up with Riggs in the midst of his Hollow City book tour and asked him a few questions…
Ransom, first off, let me congratulate you on the stellar follow-up to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I can imagine writing the sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children must have been daunting—the potential for storylines is virtually limitless. What appealed to you about the story arc of Hollow City?
Well, thank you! Yes, it was a little daunting, primarily because the first book was so open-ended. Before I came around to its current story, I tried a few different things with Hollow City that didn’t quite work, mostly involving taking the children far and wide around the world, because I badly wanted to explore this world I’d created (but had only seen one tiny corner of; one loop, one gang of peculiar children). Eventually I realized that, because I was writing a time travel story, I didn’t have to send the children on a globe-trotting quest in order to explore their world, I just needed to send them to a place that had a lot of juicy history. Then the answer was obvious: London! And they already had their central problem when the first book comes to a close, which is that their protectress is stuck in bird form and could be in mortal danger. So, once I settled on London as their goal, the rest fell into place pretty quickly.
There were so many intriguing characters and peculiarities in Hollow City. The folding man; the emu-raffe; Addison MacHenry, the talking dog…but in my humble opinion, the Armageddon chickens stole the show. How did you come up with the idea of chickens that lay explosive eggs?
Chickens are so silly and harmless, I thought it would be great fun for their peculiar counterparts to be extremely dangerous—in a silly way. Also, it gave the kids a peculiar weapon that could come in handy down the line.
Has going through the process of writing Hollow City made the task of writing book three a bit easier?
I’m still finding out! But I’m much surer of where book three is heading than I was about Hollow City when I started it, so yes. The story is trending in a very specific direction now, and though there are still a hundred ways it could end, I’m fairly certain I know which is the right option. Though you never know; I’m not finished yet, and these books have consistently surprised me as I write them.
Is this an open-ended series at this point, or do you already have a conclusion in mind?
The story arc that began in Book One will close with the end of Book Three, but the world and (most of) the characters will continue on. There’s a lot more of the peculiar world to explore. I think there will be more books, but nothing’s planned yet.
Tangential question here. A significant object in your series is the three-volume collection of stories called Tales of the Peculiar, a compilation of weird stories that are much more than they seem. Have you ever thought of actually writing a book of Peculiar stories as a supplement of sorts to the novels?
I have toyed with the idea, yes! Fairy tales and folk tales are part of the DNA of all stories, and great fun to write. Also, I like the idea of fictional items from the peculiar world becoming real, blurring the line.
There’s lots of buzz surrounding the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children movie. I’ve heard Tim Burton will be directing it. What’s the latest on this project? And how excited are you?
I’m very, very, VERY excited, but I can’t say much just yet—other than that it’s going into production this year and releasing in 2015. I have to wait for Fox to make all the exciting announcements first, but trust me, I’m quietly bursting with excitement nearly all the time.
Looks like 2015 is going to be an unforgettable—and peculiar—year for you. I’m so curious about how the story will translate to the screen. Thank you for taking time out from your book tour to chat!