In his new young adult novel, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” Ransom Riggs brews a cauldron of time-tested creep factors. The story takes place on an all but abandoned island off the coast of Wales, where 16-year-old Jacob arrives after losing his grandfather in an accident. Thankfully, there’s a creaky old shuttered orphanage to keep him busy.
The tale is accompanied by vintage photographs that inspired the orphanage’s otherworldly inhabitants. “I was sort of an amateur collector of antique snapshots, and I started to get this little stash of peculiar photos of kids from a long time ago. At some point I had to say, ‘Who are these kids?’” Riggs explains.
As much as we’re freaked out by glassy-eyed children in Victorian clothing, we caught up with the author to find out more.
Wait — “Ransom Riggs.” It just looks too good on the cover. Is that your real name?
It was a liability as a child, but yes, it’s my given name.
What kind of photo inspired a character?
There just has to be something I didn’t expect, something creepy in a certain way. If I’m looking for something very specific, I’ll never find it. But sometimes I’ll just be flipping through a pile and think “Oh! That girl has a snake around her neck.”
How did you like writing for a younger audience?
I didn’t think much about it — it was kind of in the back of my mind that this was for young adults. When I was that age, I could smell from a mile away if they were writing down to me. That’s the thing about kids. That, and if they’re enthusiastic about it, they’re really enthusiastic about it. They’re going, “Where is the second one?” And I’m going, “I’m working on it! I’m working on it!”