If you don't already know who Ransom Riggs is, you will come September 30th, when the adaptation of his best-selling young adult fantasy, "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," hits theaters. The dark fantasy stars Asa Butterfield as 16-year-old Jake Portman, who visits a mysterious island where there's a home for kids with extraordinary gifts; Eva Green as the titular Miss Peregrine, headmistress of the home; and Samuel L. Jackson as the story's main antagonist.
In addition to the killer cast, the much-anticipated film adaptation boasts none other than Tim Burton (pictured, left), already a master of atmospheric, quirky, fan-obsessed tales, as the director. So what does the 37-year-old author think about Burton's take on his story? Riggs, who is married to fellow best-selling young adult author, Tahereh Mafi, feels like he won the page-to-screen lottery, and he hopes the trilogy's fans will go along for the ride.
Tell us about how your book made the transition from page to screen. What was the process like for you?
Ransom Riggs: It took about five years, which from my perspective was mostly waiting (and writing "Hollow City" and "Library of Souls") -- on new screenplay drafts, on Tim to go direct "Big Eyes," which happened about two years into the development of the "Miss Peregrine" movie (and I'm so glad he did; that movie is an absolute gem). But it was nerve-wracking, because I know how often films in development fall apart or fizzle out. Then there was the actual production of the film, when actors were being cast and sets built and then cameras started rolling -- and that was such a relief, such a thrill. I could write a whole book just about the surreal experience of standing on the sidelines, watching Tim Burton direct scenes I'd dreamed up alone in my little one-bedroom apartment in Hollywood ... but it's almost indescribable.
How involved were you with the filmmaking process? Were there any dealbreakers about what had to be kept in the movie?
I put in my two cents during the script development phase, but that was about it. Tim's a visionary, and someone I have a huge amount of respect for, and I just trusted him implicitly. What was most important to me was that the heart and spirit of the book be preserved, and I'm convinced that he did that better than anyone else could have.
I know you probably didn't write with specific actors in mind, but does the cast match what you think the characters look like?
Well, there are some casting decisions that changed the way characters looked entirely, so in some cases, it didn't match -- but in terms of translating the book to cinema, I think those changes work quite well. Some characters, like Jacob, look just as I'd imagined them. A lot of people who read the book thought Miss Peregrine was supposed to be older, and though I'd described her as having a limp and moving a bit like an older person, she's actually rather young-looking; Eva is spot on. An absolutely brilliant choice.
Does it feel like winning the lottery when a director the caliber of Tim Burton signs on to tell your story?
Do you have anything you want to say to your fan-base/readers to prepare them for an adaptation of a book they love?
Keep an open mind -- and prepare for adventure!
Any examples of the changes we can expect?
I'd rather people just watched the film and judged for themselves!
What aspect of the book (quote, character, scene) was the most surreal to see portrayed on screen?
The scenes where Jacob is meeting Miss Peregrine and the peculiar children for the first time, and exploring their big, ramshackle house -- they're almost exactly as I had imagined them while writing, and seeing those on screen always makes me feel like I'm dreaming.
According to Gayle Forman, John Green once told her that authors should think of movies as 90-minute trailers for their books (and not get caught up in the "but that's not how it was in the book" chatter). What do you think?
The way people talk about book adaptations is so strange -- like you can just feed a book you like into a Hollywood Machine and, provided you don't change anything, you'll get a movie you like, too. But it's not that simple. You can adapt a good novel in a way that's very faithful to the book and still end up with a bad movie. To make a great movie, the director has to internalize the book, connect with it, make it their own -- develop a vision for it -- and sometimes that means that things about the book will change along the way. At the end of the day, I'd rather have a great-but-different movie made of my book than a mediocre-but-slavishly-faithful one.
Will your fans get to see you make a cameo -- like Veronica Roth and Stephenie Meyer-- or are you going the J.K. Rowling route and staying out of it completely?
You won't see my face in there, but if you pay close attention you'll see Tim, in what I'm pretty sure is his first cameo.
What books do you as a reader, fan, (and husband) hope will get made into movies and why?
I'd really love to see Tahereh's new book, "Furthermore," on film -- it's bursting with color and beauty, and it's a great adventure story.