Allison's Book Bag

Fitting A Story to Photos

Posted on: February 12, 2015

A. I swear to god it’s my real name. Ask my mom. I’d scan my driver’s license as proof except the photo of me is super embarrassing.

–Ransom Riggs, About Ransom Riggs

A former journalist, photographer, and documentary film editor, Ransom Riggs’ award-winning short films have screened at more than 70 film festivals worldwide. He is also a contributing writer and blogger for Mental Floss. He’s also the author of the New York Times bestseller Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a book that I’ll review tomorrow. Save the date: February 13!


Riggs grew up on a farm on the Eastern shore of Maryland and also in a little house by a beach in Florida. The bulk of info about his personal background comes from his own About Me and Frequently Asked Questions. Aside from the fact Riggs swam every day, his background resembles that of many creative types. Riggs wrote stories, took photographs, and made movies. The stories he wrote on an old typewriter that jammed and in longhand on legal pads. The photographs he took with a camera he got for Christmas. And the movies, he shot on a half-broken video camera, starring himself and friends, using local bedrooms and backyards for sets.

RansomRiggsAfter high school, Riggs attended Kenyon College in rural Ohio, where he studied literature and got a degree in English. After that, he went to film school in California, where he learned to make bigger and better movies than those of his childhood days. He graduated with a thesis film under his arm but, after spending a few years writing scripts and taking meetings, he still wasn’t getting noticed.

All the while, he was also writing for Mental Floss, both as a daily blogger but also has a contributor to their magazine and the books that they published through Harper Collins. In a shiny example of how networking helps, this led to an opportunity to some work for a small publisher. Quirk Books asked if he’d be interested in writing a book for them about Sherlock Holmes. This same company published Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, born out of his love for vintage photography and bizarre stories. Riggs has never looked back.

He now lives in Los Angeles with his wife. She apparently is a writer too, with the Shatter Me books being part of her credits. The couple type, travel, and drink tea together.


Riggs started collecting vintage photos at antique stores, flea markets, and swap meets all over southern California. Photos from his collection illustrate his best-selling 2011 young adult book Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. The bulk of info about his writing background comes from Here and Now.

After collecting old photos for a time, it occurred to Riggs that the strange-looking people in the photos he loved most might find their way into a book. He showed them to a Jason Rekulak at Quirk Books, who suggested he write a novel and weave the pictures through the story. Excited by the idea, Riggs went off to create the story of Miss Peregrine and her peculiar wards.

Riggs credits the photos with sparking ideas he never would have had otherwise. “I’m always going back to the photos and looking for inspiration as I write, so the photos will kind of change the direction of a scene. But then I’ll want to do something in a scene and I won’t have a photo to fit it, so I’ll go out and look for a photo to fit the scene. I’ll find something that’s almost right but a little different from what I’d imagined, and then I’ll change the scene I’d written to fit the photo, so there’s a lot of push and pull.” Riggs also knew that he wanted to create characters who could do fantastic things, but who weren’t exactly super heroes, rather characters who exist on “a spectrum from super-ability to disability”.

Although he felt the second book already had a momentum of its own, he still continued to collect photos. If you want to find old cool photos like those in the Peculiar books, Riggs recommends checking out the same sources as he did of vintage stores and flea markets He also notes that all kinds of wonderful things will pop up from internet searches.

Riggs himself has plans for a third book. Past that, he doesn’t know but does like the peculiar universe he has created and his cast of characters.

For fans, there’s already a movie in the works of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Tim Burton will direct it. Although Riggs has only been minimally consulted, he does think the movie will be fantastic.

3 Responses to "Fitting A Story to Photos"

Very interesting post on a very interesting (and multi-talented) author! Thank you!

I’m excited about the movie! This is just the type of story that will benefit from someone like Tim Burton as director.

Then again, Tim Burton’s touch is magical and can make just about anything amazing… Light upon light!

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