MONICA, Calif. — Ransom Riggs and Tahereh Mafi spend
their days in Santa Monica, sitting side by side at a
shared desk in identical chairs in their backyard
office, wearing headphones, working at their laptops.
Across a cool green expanse sits their Spanish-style
house, hidden behind a vine-covered wall.
really loved books about secret worlds, like ‘The
Secret Garden’ and the ‘Bridge to Terabithia,’"
says Riggs, whose young adult novel "Miss Peregrine’s
Home for Peculiar Children" was a bestseller in
2011. "Stories that were grounded in our world, but
there was a way to get to another world. I tried to
recall that when I wrote ‘Miss Peregrine.’ I like
finding the portal."
"Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar
Children," Riggs created a story about children
with extraordinary if not always useful powers
(floating, summoning bees), building it around vintage
photographs he’d collected.
sequel, "Hollow City" (Quirk, $29.95), came
out Tuesday; three weeks later, Mafi — the couple
married in a small ceremony in September — publishes
her latest, "Ignite Me" (Harper, $17.99). The
book concludes her "Shatter Me" trilogy, also
bestselling, also for young adults. Theirs is a
series is a dystopian teen romance, centered on a
character who has been imprisoned for her powers and may
be losing her mind. It begins with chaotic text that
includes strikethroughs and repetitions, then evens out
as she finds herself.
wondered whether or not what I was trying to do
resonated with anyone. Did they get it? Did they
understand that she’s a girl who lost her voice, lost
her identity?" Mafi explains. In December, she got
an answer. For the Guadalajara International Book Fair,
more than 10,000 teens read her book and submitted
letters to share with her during a live event.
had written their letters in a similar vein as the
book," she explains. "And they talked about
feeling that same kind of isolation, going through that
same kind of difficulty, in a way that was just so
powerful for me that I couldn’t control my own
emotions. I was like, wow." On stage, she started
was so nice to know that someone really got it,"
she says. "I think in life you just need one person
to understand you. Like, you know, when you get
married." She looks over to Riggs.
Riggs, 34, and Mafi, 26, are on their way to becoming
the kind of couple that casually finishes each other’s
sentences. Before we start to talk, they warn me they
can get too cute — but, in fact, they’re enchanting.
working on a new book, and she finally read something
aloud to me," Riggs says, before turning to her
directly. "To hear you read it out loud, I’m
like, ‘Oh, that’s what you meant.’ Perfect. Even
better. You should probably do your own audio books. You
have many alternate careers you could be very successful
at. Fashion designer. Blogger queen."
clearly very biased," Mafi adds.
model," Riggs continues. "See, this is what we
were talking about before. Gross-out cuteness."
Mafi says, has changed the way she writes. "He
likes to take walks, make himself a cute little coffee,
check the mail and play with the cat," she says.
"While he’s writing! I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s
continues: "Before Ransom came along, I wrote in
very obsessive bursts. I’d sort of lock myself up and
write until the book was finished. I would eat bits of
cold bread and sip my cold tea while I was working. Just
the most depressing picture you could possibly
Riggs interjects, "so you make me sad. I’m like,
‘I made you dinner.’ You look up at me with big
eyes, like ‘Someone’s speaking?’" He
brightens. "I’m like, ‘Come to the light.’"
reference, to the movie "Poltergeist," comes
from Riggs’ long devotion to film. He got a graduate
degree at USC’s film school, then wrote screenplays
without making much headway.
novels is so much more fun than writing
screenplays," he says. "I love pictures, I
love movies. Authoring a screenplay feels unrewarding,
like I only did half the work and then quit. Instead I
wrote a book that had photos in it."
City" also has images in it. An adventure set in
wartime England, it features photographs Riggs found
while visiting collectors across the country. "I
brought my flatbed scanner with me and would sit in
their living room and be like zz-zzz-zz," he says.
"Miss Peregrine" and the "Shatter
Me" series have both been optioned. The former is
closer to filming, with Tim Burton slated to direct,
casting coming soon and a release planned for 2015.
still, I’ll believe it when I walk into that theater
with my bucket of popcorn and the credits start
rolling," Riggs says. "I’m emotionally
arming myself for disappointment — because it’s
his job to expect the worst and my job to be extremely
excited," Mafi observes.Her energy is a force.
After receiving her undergraduate degree at Soka
University in Orange County, Calif., she wanted a rest
before graduate school. For her, that meant taking a
was instantly bored," she admits. "I can’t
take time off." Instead, she wrote five manuscripts
in a year — and then "Shatter Me" found its
way to an enthusiastic agent, and eventually to Harper
Teen. Fans of the book are avid and outspoken. But Riggs
is her first reader.
don’t think it would have worked out if we didn’t
like each other’s writing," she says.
don’t think so either," Riggs agrees.
would have been really hard," says Mafi.
exhausting —" Riggs begins, and Mafi speaks up,
"— to lie all the time," they finish,