This Is Your New Favorite YA Power Couple

Tahereh Mafi's wedding bouquet was made from pages of a novel by her husband, Ransom Riggs. Their reception was held in 2014 at The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles and, by then, both authors had published best-selling young adult book series. The couple has been on tour for the last month promoting their latest works, Riggs' Tales of the Peculiar and Mafi's Furthermore. Tim Burton's film based on Rigg's Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children is in theaters now. We spoke to the pair of scribes, who have been dubbed by Time magazine as the "Kids' Lit Power Couple." First, Mafi talked to us about her writing process, her favorite books, and how she uses fashion as inspiration in her work.
What drew you to write young adult novels?
Tahereh Mafi: "I wanted to be a part of the world that was responsible for encouraging young people to start reading."

Why did you want to write a middle-grade novel?

"I didn't! I thought Furthermore was a young adult novel until my editor [Julie Strauss-Gabel] pointed out that it was, in fact, a middle-grade story." What were some of your favorite middle-grade novels when you were younger?
"The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, Anne of Green Gables, The Chronicles of Narnia, everything by Roald Dahl... I could go on! In the end, I realized that Futhermore was, all along, a love letter to these childhood favorites of mine." What's your writing process like?
"I tend to write in big, obsessive, focused bursts for weeks at a time." What helps you be productive in your writing?
"Tea and silence."

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
"Be brave and unrelenting in your pursuit of publication, but never let rejection and difficulty calcify the thin skin that makes you a vulnerable, compassionate writer." Can you talk about the fashion influences on your new book?
"My main character, Alice Alexis Queensmeadow, is named after the late (and great) Alexander McQueen, one of my favorite fashion designers; Alice actually wears one of his gowns in the book. The book is filled with all sorts of fashion-filled Easter eggs. The names of all the children in the Surrender are mashups of some of my favorite designers and, generally, the sartorial choices throughout were a lot of fun to make."
We talked to Riggs about watching his novel become a movie and his future aspirations as a writer. What has been the most surprising thing about seeing your book become a movie? The most exciting?
Ransom Riggs: "The coolest thing, which was both exciting and surprising, was the way everyone who worked on the movie, from the actors to the prop and set designers to Tim Burton — how they all had something unique to contribute to the world of the peculiars. It's an amazing feeling to watch so many talented people working together to build this incredibly complex and detailed universe, all based on something I dreamed up alone at my writing desk. Visiting the set and watching the film, I was just constantly thinking, How did this happen?" How did you decide to create a book around found photos?
"The photos were an important part of the way I told the story, but the story itself is one I've been trying to tell, in various ways, since I was a kid. When I was 12 or 13, I used to write 100-page stories longhand on legal pads, and they were always [about] people finding doors to hidden worlds. (More often than not, those people were kids growing up in a boring town in Florida, which is what I was doing at the time.) The photos became a new way to tell that story. They're very mysterious looking, and I wondered: What if the photos were a mystery? And that's more or less how Miss Peregrine begins, with Jacob's grandfather leaving him this mystery in the form of strange stories, strange photos, and some very strange last words." What is your favorite film adaptation of a movie? The most frustrating?
"It's always hard to choose just one, but one of my all-time favorites is The Shining. It's a fairly simple ghost story on their surface of things, about a family stuck in a haunted hotel, but King and Kubrick wrench so much out of that premise. Kubrick's images are indelible, iconic. It's the most rewatchable film. There's always something you didn't notice the last time you saw it, and there's something hypnotic about the film as a whole." Your books are YA fantasy, but are you interested in working in another genre, like YA contemporary or middle-grade science fiction?
"I never really knew how to define the genre I was working in. There is sci-fi and horror and mystery and adventure, even some YA-contemporary stuff going on in Miss Peregrine. I think it's limiting to think too much about the genre of a book you're writing; it makes you think there are things your book isn't supposed to do, and that can be an imagination killer. So in the future, I'd like to try a bit of everything — maybe all in one book!"

I'm not sure how 2015 could beat the year I married this person but I HAVE HIGH HOPES! Happy new year!!!

A photo posted by Ransom Riggs (@ransomriggs) on

More from Books & Art

R29 Original Series