Hostile Questions: Ransom Riggs
Posted by: Daniel Kraus
Hey! You! Ransom Riggs! What, you think you can just explode upon the scene with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and dangle the film rights before Tim Burton and then cruise around the country all successful and whatnot? Sure, you’ve been on the bestseller charts for 45 weeks. But guess how long it’ll take Hostile Questions to bring you down: 45 seconds. Your entourage is gonna need to pay me a ransom if they want back their whimpering, defeated author. Ain’t that peculiar?
Just who do you think you are?
I ask myself that question every day. If the answer keeps changing, does that mean I’m schizo? Well, today I’m a guy who’s best known for writing a book called Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I grew up in Florida, and now I live in LA. I went to school a bunch, but not for book-writing. The book-writing thing was kind of a happy accident, to tell you the truth. Not that you deserve the truth, you big jerk.
Where do you get off?
In the privacy of my own home, and I’ll say no more about it! Except that my home is in Santa Monica, California, a pleasant seaside enclave where Los Angeles meets the sand, and mostly rich people meet mostly other rich people at Whole Foods and the too-expensive gym steam rooms and our many fine vegan restaurants, and try not to be overly smug about it. No really, I love living here, but I can’t imagine another city where JFK’s nephew could win a local election on a “don’t let the city tell me how high I can grow my hedges” platform. True story.
What’s the big idea?
Well, there’s really just the one. Unless you mean the other one, but people rarely do. I wrote a nonfiction book a few years ago called The Sherlock Holmes Handbook. That was a for-hire gig that came my way while I was in film school. After that came Miss Peregrine, which grew out of my weird hobby of collecting old found photos I find at swap meets and flea markets and the like, and thinking they were really interesting and could be story prompts, and having my editor at Quirk Books agree. So I created this sort of contemporary/ fantasy YA novel around them, which came out last June and has, to my continuing amazement and, frankly, bafflement, been on the bestseller list ever since. It just hit #1, actually after 45 weeks on the list. I guess people like it!
What is your problem, man?
Well, the Miss Peregrine books (there will be another, and possibly another after that) are all about problems, since I illustrate the stories with found photos. I have to go out and find the photos, and dream up ways to work the ones I really love into the story (or find photos that fit my story ideas), and try to mesh images and story together. So that’s a challenge. Another is my own perfectionism. I’m finding I have this habit of writing 70 or 80,000 words of a book and then throwing it away and starting over. So I write every book twice. It’s weird, and kind of painful, but so far it’s worked for me.
Haven’t you done enough?
You know what, I probably have. But I get bored easily, and I actually kind of enjoy writing, so things happen. For instance: I have a for-lack-of-a-better-word coffee table book coming out this fall called Talking Pictures, which is made up entirely of found photographs with writing on them (it’s a bit tough to describe, but this video I made will give you a better idea). I’m also planning a novel called Arcanum, about teens in a small town who discover a hidden cache of magical objects.