Author Ransom Riggs‘ debut novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is coming to the big screen Friday, September 30th. The whimsical and stunning film tells the story of Jake, who after following some clues his grandfather left for him, finds a magical place known as Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children. However, Jake soon discovers that his newfound world and friends might be in grave danger. Recently, we got the opportunity to sit down and chat with Ransom Riggs about seeing his story come alive in the film and what inspired him to write the story in the first place.
Let’s talk about where this story came from. What inspired you to write Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children? Was it something that you had always been thinking about, or was it something that just came to you one day?
Ransom Riggs: Sort of both, I was that kid feeling a little strange growing up in a sunny town on the beach in Florida and dreaming of a door to another world. It also took me awhile to find my tribe of people who I felt like I belonged with. And, I loved weird fiction and Stephen King and The Chronicles of Narnia and all of that stuff. So, my portal to another world was fiction. I had been writing since I was pretty small, and I’ve always been telling these stories about doors and finding other worlds within our own, so when I found these old photographs and it occurred to me that they could be a story, they became another way into this story. They became sort of a trail of breadcrumbs or a mystery that could lead a character to another place. That’s kind of where it came from.
I love the historical aspects of the narrative, especially the fact that it’s grounded in World War II. What made you decide to implement that element?
RR: It was a number of things actually. I’ve always been really interested in history, and I knew I wanted to send [Jake] to Britain. My photographs were from the turn of the century so they put me right in that realm. Also, because so much of the story is fantastical, crazy and over the top, I also really wanted to have one foot in reality and one foot to ground it with a documentary impulse. Especially in the second book, and later on in the series there is a lot more of, “This was happening on this day, and this is what was happening at the time.” I just like that balance of the real and the fantastical because as a reader and consumer of stories and fantasy, I always want to feel like I can find that world. If I just open the right door it’s here, it’s that wardrobe in your uncle’s house.
As a filmmaker yourself, how did it feel to turn your story over to Tim Burton?
RR: It was easy because he is Tim Burton, and I love Tim Burton. Creatively, he had it, he didn’t need a lot of input from me. Whenever he would ask me about something I would just say, “It’s amazing!”
What was it like to see all of your words come to life on the big screen?
RR: It was totally surreal ,and it was everything that I could have asked for and more. You don’t have to involve the author in that sort of thing, but Tim was very welcoming and very supportive for me to just come on it and be a part of everything.
RR: That was definitely Tim’s realm in terms of the casting, it’s so important for the story. Fifty-percent of the director’s job honestly is casting the movie well. So, I had some input in the scripting phase, but after that, it was sort of in Tim’s court and he ran with it.
What surprised you the most about the film?
RR: Um..how awesome it was. (Laughing) I mean, I was ready for it to be good because it’s Tim and I saw so many of the elements coming together, but really seeing the final cut and being able to take myself out of the equation as an author and knowing I was a part of this in some way was amazing. I was able to lose myself in the cinematic experience and the story was a surprise to me. I think that has something to do with the power of the movie.
What message do you want people to take with them after seeing this film?
RR: It’s funny because when you’re writing, at least when I’m writing, I don’t think about themes and I try not to sermonize with any particular message. But, if you are a conscious human being who has opinions about the world, then you will unconsciously put your own perspective into the book. So later you can sort of mine it and go, “What was I talking about? There are some themes here, what are they?” Certainly, tolerance, otherness, inclusion and the fact that everyone has a family out there somewhere even if they’re not your blood. Your tribe is out there, you just have to find them.
Thank you so much, Ransom!
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children premieres in theaters, Friday, September 30.