The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

Author Interview - Ransom Riggs

I recently had the pleasure of reading and reviewing the fantastic Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children - a book that single handedly ended a scarily extended reading slump with its originality and eerie storytelling. I am sure that many who have read it have wondered at its genesis and, even more intriguingly, the history of the fascinating photographs that pepper the pages and I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to ask author Ransom Riggs a few questions:

Miss Peregrine’s is one of the most original titles I’ve read in a long time, not to mention the most beautiful. Can you tell us more about where your original idea came from?

Thank you very much! As a general rule, I have no idea where my ideas come from – but this is a notable exception. It came from my bizarre collection of antique snapshots, many of which are of peculiar-looking children. The photos came from swap meets and antique shops, so I had no idea who the people in them were – which meant I could make up their stories, and their names, myself!

Florida and a small island of the coast of Wales seem like an odd juxtaposition for a novel – what inspired you to place most of your action on a windswept rock in the middle of the sea?

I’ve always been fascinated with remote islands – they seem like a kind of laboratory environment for drama. You can create your own world, your own cast of characters, beset them with problems and challenges, and watch what happens. The further away from civilization and cell phone service it is, the more creative the characters have to be to solve their problems! (By the way, I think cell phone have kind of ruined movies. There’s nothing more boring than watching someone talk on the phone! And anytime anything dangerous happens, the first thing a real person would do is use their phone to call for help. Which is why you see so many scenes in movies where people’s cell phones run out of batteries!)

The photographs used throughout the book are fascinating. Can you tell us where you came across them and what you know about their history?

I think I accidentally answered this one a few questions ago! I don’t know anything about where they came from, really. Many of the best ones were lent to me by other photo collectors who hsve become friends of mine – but they don’t know where who the people in them are, either! But I kind of like it that way; if I knew, then they wouldn’t be mysteries, and then I wouldn’t have been inspired to make up stories about them.

The images and story run so beautifully together that it’s hard to extricate them from each other. What came first, the story or the pictures – or was it a combination of both?

It was a combination of both. There were a handful of pictures I had at the very beginning of the writing process that I knew I wanted to work in, but I was finding new photos while I was writing, too. Sometimes I’d find an amazing photo and change the story a bit to work it in, and sometimes I’d know I wanted the story to go in a particular direction and would go looking for a picture to fit a story point or a character. It was a weird, organic process.

The fantastical elements of the story mirror actual historical events fairly closely – what inspired you to set Miss Peregrine’s against the background of the war, and even more so, the holocaust?

My wife’s grandparents were holocaust survivors – her grandfather was named Abraham – and their incredible story was part of my inspiration. Also, I was always fascinated by the way these intense, often horrifying holocaust stories filter down through the generations; how do you tell a five-year-old about the horrors that their grandparents experienced? Or even a ten-year-old? So I tried to explore that a little bit, too.

Finally, the story sees our heroes seemingly at the start of an even greater adventure – will there be a sequel or are their futures to be left up to readers’ imaginations? To my mind, either would work well but I am sure that there are inquiring minds who wish to know.

I can’t really talk about it yet, but suffice to say I’m working on … something. In any case, I’m thrilled that so many readers are clamouring for more!

Many thanks to Ransom for answering my questions so brilliantly.  For those of you yet to read the book, have a look at the great trailer below.  Tempted? You should be... If you're a UK blogger then don't miss out on the opportunity to catch this title on it's UK Book Tour - sign up in the next week and it could be winging it's way to you, something you should most definitely look forward to.

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children is available now.  Many thanks to the publisher for sending me this title to review and for facilitating this interview.

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