Excerpt: Chapter 1 pgs 34-37
I picked up the flashlight and stepped toward the trees. My grandfather was out there somewhere, I was sure of it.
But where? I was no tracker, and neither was Ricky. And yet something seemed to guide me anyway—a quickening
in the chest; a whisper in the viscous air—and suddenly I couldn’t wait another second. I tromped into the
underbrush like a bloodhound scenting an invisible trail.
It’s hard to run in a Florida woods, where every square foot not occupied by trees is bristling with thigh-high
palmetto spears and nets of entangling skunk vine, but I did my best, calling my grandfather’s name and sweeping
my flashlight everywhere. I caught a white glint out of the corner of my eye and made a beeline for it, but upon
closer inspection it turned out to be just a bleached and deflated soccer ball I’d lost years before.
I was about to give up and go back for Ricky when I spied a narrow corridor of freshly stomped palmettos not far
away. I stepped into it and shone my light around; the leaves were splattered with something dark. My throat went
dry. Steeling myself, I began to follow the trail. The farther I went, the more my stomach knotted, as though my
body knew what lay ahead and was trying to warn me. And then the trail of the flattened brush widened out, and I
. . .
“I thought I could protect you,” he said. “I should’ve told you a long time ago . . . ” I could see the life going out of
“Told me what?” I said, choking back tears.
“There’s no time,” he whispered. Then he raised his head off the ground, trembling with the effort, and breathed into
my ear: “Find the bird. In the loop. On the other side of the old man’s grave. September third, 1940.” I nodded, but
he could see that I didn’t understand. With his last bit of strength, he added, “Emerson—the letter. Tell them what
With that he sank back, spent and fading. I told him I loved him. And then he seemed to disappear into himself, his
gaze drifting past me to the sky, bristling now with stars.
. . .
There was no moon and no movement in the underbrush but our own, and yet somehow I knew just when to raise
my flashlight and just where to aim it, and for an instant in that narrow cut of light I saw a face that seemed to have
been transplanted directly from the nightmares of my childhood. It stared back with eyes that swam in dark liquid,
furrowed trenches of carbon-black flesh loose on its hunched frame, its mouth hinged open grotesquely so that a
mass of long eel-like tongues could wriggle out. I shouted something and then it twisted and was gone, shaking the
brush and drawing Ricky’s attention. He raised his .22 and fired,pap-pap- pap-pap, saying, “What was that? What the
hell was that?” But he hadn’t seen it and I couldn’t speak to tell him, frozen in place as I was, my dying flashlight
flickering over the blank woods. And then I must’ve blacked out because he was saying Jacob, Jake, hey Ed
areyouokayorwhat, and that’s the last thing I remember.
H1 – Welcome to today’s show! Thank you all for joining us! I’m sure you’re all excited to see
our special guest today! Well here he is! Ransom Riggs!
H2- Thank you so much for coming on our show today!
RR- Thank you for having me!
H3- Now let’s start at the beginning. What was your childhood like?
RR- Well I grew up on the eastern shore of Maryland on a farm as well as a small house by the
beach in Englewood, Florida. After I started writing, when I was a little older, I got a camera for
Christmas and developed a passion for photography, and then older still, I found a half broken
video camera and began to make my own movies that starred my friends and I, using our
bedrooms and backyards for sets. Ever since, I’ve held a passion for writing stories, taking
pictures, and making movies and have endeavored to do all three.
H1- You sure have experience in lots of areas. How old were you when you began writing?
RR- I was around 7 or 8 and I began on an old typewriter that jammed and longhand on legal
H2- Most writers are readers in the beginning, so which writers did you admire? And what
influence did they have on you?
RR- I started out with C.S. Lewis’ “Narnia” and in Junior High I found Stephen King. At first all of
my writing was about young boys finding portals to other worlds. An obvious imitation of Lewis.
During my Stephen King phase, I wrote short stories and novellas about serial killers, ghosts,
monsters, all in a wry, seen-it- all voice that was my 13-year- old self’s best impression of King. In
general I just really enjoyed stories that were grounded in our world, but there was a way to get
to another world. I like finding the portal. Which shows in ‘Miss Peregrine’.
H3- How did you escape their influence and find you own voice?
RR- Well I gave up writing for years, as my love for Stephen King made me want to make films,
and I picked up a video camera. It wasn’t until a creative writing course in college that I started
writing again. I realized then that I couldn’t imitate someone if I wanted to write a good book.
After spending time in film school, I finally went back to fiction, to write my novel, and I was
more at ease with myself and I found I wasn’t pushing so hard to sound like someone else. The
key was time.
H1- Well we’re all glad you did come back to writing. What did you do while in college, and then
RR- I went to Kenyon College in rural Ohio, where I studies literature and got a degree in
English. I then studies film at the University of Southern California in LA. Here I learned how to
make my films bigger, better, and shiny looking. I graduated with a thesis film and went out to
conquer the film festival circuit and then Hollywood. Things didn’t go as planned and I spent the
next few years writing scripts, taking meetings and not getting very far. I was a daily blogger for
mentalfloss.com for 5 years, wrote for their magazine, and contributed to a few books they
published through Harpercollins, as well as writing for a couple other publications.
H2- So how did this lead to the career you have in writing today?
RR- A small publisher knew my editors at metalfloss. That was Quirk Books and they asked me if
I wanted to write a book on Sherlock Holmes for them. I jumped at the opportunity and this
became the “Sherlock Holmes Handbook”. Afterwards came “Miss Peregrine’s Home for
Peculiar Children” born from my collection of vintage photographs.
H3- That’s a very unique inspiration for a story. How did you get interested in collecting photos?
RR- When I was 11 or 12 years old my grandma would take me to second hand shops and I
would find old boxes of snapshots. One picture in particular reminded me of a girl I had a crush
on in summer camp so I bought it and put it by my bed. Years later I took it out of its frame and
on the back it said she had died at 15 of leukemia. I thought, oh, wow, I’ve been living with a
ghost. I realized I can find these amazing little lost pieces of art and be my own curator and
rescue them from the garbage. And they’re a quarter each. Since then I’ve been drawn to odd
and disturbing photos that suggest a lost back story.
H1- The photos within the book are quite interesting. How did you choose which ones to
RR- I let the photos tell me what the story would be. I try to be careful to choose photos that
will add a layer of detail and meaning that can’t be expressed in words. They do something that
words can’t do.
H2- A very interesting process. However, something words can explain are genres. What genre
would this book be?
RR- This series of books would be considered as young adult literature as well as dark fantasy.
H3- I’m going to switch gears slightly now to reading. When you are writing, do you change
what you read so you aren’t unintentionally influenced?
RR- No! I’m always writing so if I did that I’d never read what I wanted to! Now I know how to
be inspired by an author’s style without imitating it.
H1- As we are running out of time, what advice would you like to give any young writers we
have watching today?
RR- I think if you don’t have a strong sense of yourself as a writer, there’s a danger that too
many workshops and classes and other people’s voices in your head could warp your style,
make it something other than what it naturally would be. You have to be convinced that you’re
a very good writer, no matter what other people say. Because other people will have all sorts of
opinions. If you have a lack of confidence, you are unlikely to succeed.
H2- Well that’s all the time we have for today! Thank you again for coming in and to everyone
Some common themes include family, death and obscurity, time, greed, past vs present,
courage and identity.
The family dynamic is shown in Miss Peregrine’s home as well as through the main character
and his grandfather.
Death, or cheating it, is shown through not only his grandfather dying and by one of the
peculiar’s skills of being able to bring inanimate objects to life but by the wights and hollows,
which are monsters that attack peculiars, search for immorality.
Time through the loops that the characters go through and live in. Ymbrynes are bird humans
that control the time loops and giving that much power to a person can be dangerous as its
something we usually can’t change.
Greed through the peculiars wanting things from the future and the wights and hollows
wanting immortality, neither of which they can have.
Past vs present deals with the time loops and a peculiar struggling to differentiate between her
feelings for the main character’s grandfather from the past and for him now.
Courage through all the characters doing everything they can to save themselves and their
And finally identity through the main character deciding where he wants to stay and the
peculiars learning where and how they fit in.
Now we’ll give you 5 minutes to try and analyze this yourself and then we’ll share what we
Does anyone have anything they found that they want to share?
*Share analyzing (others’ and self)*
Now we’ll give you about 10 minutes to emulate from this.