The eccentric, often downright creepy, inhabitants of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children return in Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Children, due January 14 from Quirk Books. In the follow-up, Ransom Riggs takes his cast – led by Jacob Portman, whose present-day search for his late grandfather’s childhood residence led him to the group home in book one – to war-torn London in 1940. There they hope to find a cure for their beloved headmistress, who’s trapped in the body of a bird and locked in a cage. As was the first book, Hollow City was inspired by vintage photos that the Los Angeles-based author discovered at antique shops and flea markets and in private collections.
Teen and adult readers clearly took a shine to the peculiar residents of Miss Peregrine’s Home, who include a girl who hovers above the ground and sisters who communicate without speaking. Having found a broad crossover audience, the 2011 novel has spent more than 90 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and has reached total sales of 1.5 million copies across Quirk’s hardcover, paperback, and e-book editions. Foreign rights to the book have been sold to 34 countries. In addition, the novel spawned Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel, adapted and illustrated by Cassandra Jean, which Hachette Book Group’s Yen Press published last month with an announced 50,000-copy first printing.
Not surprisingly, Quirk has high expectations for Hollow City. The publisher has a 500,000 first printing on order for the novel, which it will support with three different book trailers to be revealed online prior to pub date, extensive online advertising, and a 12-city author tour.
Riggs said that, though he didn’t know when he wrote Miss Peregrine’s Home that he’d have a chance to write a second book, he did leave threads dangling in the first – just in case. “Actually, I left them dangling all over the place,” he said. “And it was great to be able to pick them up and use some of the delicious tidbits I found. I’m probably misquoting Chekhov’s dramatic adage saying if there’s a gun hanging on the wall, you’d better make it fire by the third chapter. I felt like there were a lot of guns still there for me to fire.”
The author was pleased to revisit and expand his peculiar children’s world, which in Miss Peregrine’s Home is confined to a remote Welsh island. “I was impatient to explore further,” he explained. “I felt I’d set up the framework of this universe, but it was just the tip of the iceberg. Even before I began writing book two, I made story bibles and maps to figure out who all the other peculiar people of the world were and how my characters would interact with them. It was great to bring the characters out into the larger world. In book one, I took Jacob out of his comfort zone and tested his character. In Hollow City, I’m taking all the characters out of the lives they’ve been secure in for years and plunging them into the unknown. That’s how you really get to know them.”
Bringing Photos and Plot Together
Riggs added to his collection of vintage photos in preparation for writing the sequel. “I already had way too many, but then I got way too many more,” he said. “Partly because I love collecting photos, and partly because I was hungry for more images of this world. There are a lot of landscapes and really strange locations that made it into Hollow City because of photos I found.”
This time around, he explained, the photos played a somewhat different role in his creation of the book: “The photos helped shape the story, but it already had its own direction and so much momentum that the photos had to play second fiddle to the narrative more than in the first book.”
Quirk publisher Jason Rekulak gives equal credit to the visuals and text for the success of Riggs’s debut novel. “The photos are killer, and I knew when I first saw them that each one begged a story, yet they seemed like they belonged together as part of a collection,” he said. “And it certainly helps that Ransom is a really good writer and delivered an interesting story that goes in so many directions. I think readers liked what I liked, that the novel doesn’t follow a formula of any particular genre.”
Given the track record of Miss Peregrine’s Home, Rekulak said, he’s not surprised that “accounts are taking big numbers” of Hollow City, and he anticipates the novel will live up to fans’ expectations. “It’s a more ambitious book and the photos are equally strange, evocative, and cool,” he said. “The success of Ransom’s first book put a lot of pressure on him, since he felt an obligation to fans. He didn’t want to crank out a gratuitous sequel, and he probably wrote 100,000 words that didn’t even make it into the second book. He wanted to get it right.”
Riggs, who is currently writing a third installment, agrees that he took a circuitous route deciding what direction to take in Hollow City. “I had a strong idea that could have gone almost anywhere, so I explored every possible avenue before deciding on one,” he explained. “I think I wrote about three separate books in the writing of Hollow City.” Will any of that unused material find its way into the third book? “I suppose bits and pieces of it might,” he said. “It might turn out to be a bit like DVD extras.”
Riggs’s characters will also get the chance to flaunt their peculiarity on the silver screen. 20th Century Fox bought film rights to the book, and Jane Goldman, screenwriter of X-Men: First Class, came on board to pen the screenplay. Riggs said he’s had “some peeks” at the script and has offered occasional advice. “The studio has asked me questions about things like how the time-travel aspect of the novel works, and about the rules of the book’s universe,” he said. “That’s very comforting, because I know they’re paying attention to details.”
Asked if he expects to be invited onto the set after filming begins next year, the author is quick to respond: “I certainly hope so. I plan to make my presence known – and, of course, bother them a lot!”
Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Children by Ransom Riggs. Quirk Books, $17.99 Jan. ISBN 978-1-59474-612-3