Hi, I'm Ransom, and I like to tell stories. Sometimes I tell them with words, sometimes with pictures, often with both. I grew up on a farm on the Eastern shore of Maryland and also in a little house by the beach in Englewood, Florida where I got very tan and swam every day until I became half fish. I started writing stories when I was young, on an old typewriter that jammed and longhand on legal pads. When I was a little older I got a camera for Christmas and became obsessed with photography, and when I was a little older still my friends and I came into possession of a half-broken video camera and began to make our own movies, starring ourselves, using our bedrooms and backyards for sets. I have loved writing stories and taking photographs and making movies ever since, and have endeavored to do all three.
Profiles and interviews
After high school I went to Kenyon College, a very pretty and quite old by American standards college in rural Ohio, where I studied literature and got a degree in English. Then I fulfilled a long-held dream and went to film school at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. I'd been making films since the backyard-masterpiece days of my childhood, but at USC I learned how to make them bigger and better and shiny-looking. I graduated with what I thought was a pretty slick thesis film under my arm and went out into the world to conquer the film festival circuit and then Hollywood -- or at least that was the plan, though it didn't quite work out that way. I spent a few years writing scripts and taking meetings and getting not very far, trying any way I could to get noticed. All the while I was writing: for five years I had a gig as a daily blogger for mentalfloss.com, and I also wrote for their magazine, contributed to a few books they published through Harpercollins, and wrote for a couple of other publications here and there, as well.
All of which turned into an opportunity to do some work for a small publisher who knew my editors at mentalfloss. That was Quirk Books, who asked me if I was interested in writing a book about Sherlock Holmes for them. I jumped at the opportunity. That was The Sherlock Holmes Handbook. Next came Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, born out of my love for vintage photography and bizarro stories, and I never looked back. I still love movies and I still make short films (here are some recent ones) and one day I will make a feature -- when the time and the material are right. These days, though, I'm loving being a novelist, a photo collector, and an occasional short filmmaker. I live in Los Angeles with my wife, the lovely and talented Tahereh Mafi -- who is also a writer, and if you haven't read her lovely and exciting Shatter Me books you're missing out -- and we type and travel and drink tea together and it's really quite wonderful.
Q. Is “Ransom” your real name, or some kind of fancy pseudonym? It’s okay, you can tell me. I can keep a secret.
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.
Q. What inspired you to write Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children?
I usually find the “what inspired you” question tough to answer, because my brain is a dark and twisting alley and who knows what goes on in there, but in this case I have a very specific answer: old snapshots. Back in 2009 I started collecting old snapshots that I found at swap meets and flea markets, and after awhile it occurred to me that the strange-looking people in the photos I loved most might find their way into a book. So I showed them to a book editor I had worked with (on the Sherlock Holmes Handbook) and he suggested I write a novel and weave the pictures through the story. As I had never written a novel before, I thought he was a little nuts, taking a chance like that on me, but I was excited by the idea and went off to cook up the story of Miss Peregrine and her peculiarly-abled wards — and to collect lots more peculiar photographs, many of which ended up in the book and its sequel, Hollow City.
Q. When’s the third book coming out?
Q. Why does it take you so damned long to write these books?
I’m a coal miner by day, so that takes up most of my time.
Q. Is Tim Burton really making a movie of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children?
Q. How excited are you?
SUPER FREAKING excited. He’s been one of my favorite directors since forever, and I still pinch myself sometimes to make sure it’s real.
Q. How much input do you have in the movie-making process?
Not much. But I have consulted a bit on the script, and I can tell you it’s fantastic.
Q. Can I be in it?
I hope so! But I have no control over that sort of thing at all, so no need to send me your headshot or anything like that.
Q. When were you born?
Why? Who sent you?? *ducks under table*
Q. I have to know for a school project.
Oh. Really? That doesn’t seem like a very enlightening thing to know about a person. Let’s just say that I’m old enough to qualify for the presidency of the United States but I don’t quite consider myself middle-aged just yet.
Q. How many Miss Peregrine books will there be?
I don’t have any plans for books past three, but you never know. I quite like the peculiar universe I’ve created and my little cast of characters. Stay tuned!
Q. Where can I find cool old photos like the ones in your books?
Vintage stores, flea markets — and the Internet. Do a search for “vintage snapshots” on Ebay or Etsy and all kinds of wonderful things will pop up.
Q. Are you as weird as I think you probably are?
Probably not? I’m pretty normal, actually. In fact, I think how normal I am is the weirdest thing about me.