I’m excited and honored to be a part of this anthology — cooked up by my friend/partner in crime Dan Wells and Brandon Sanders — which will give you exclusive glimpses of deleted scenes/first drafts/other previously unpublished work by some of your favorite writers in YA and scifi. Let me tell you a little more about it …
Fellow YA writer (and Harper book tour partner) Dan Wells is the one who invited me to be a part of this anthology, ALTERED PERCEPTIONS. His brother — fellow YA writer Robison Wells — has been diagnosed with severe panic disorder, depression, OCD and several other mental illness that have severely affected his life. Most significantly for the anthology, Rob’s illnesses have put him in a lot of debt. (But he writes books, you say. They make money! Hello to the lucrative profession of writing, guys.) Dan and his friends wanted to do something to help out, and the idea for this anthology was born.
The idea is bigger than that, though. We still tend to shy away from talking about mental illness, even though it is far more common than we generally admit. So in the anthology, you won’t only be reading the lost writing of everyone involved; you will also hear all of us talk about the impact mental illness has had on our lives.
And it was Brandon Sanderson who came up with idea of an anthology that is kind of a bonus DVD – full of deleted scenes, alternate versions, original stories about your favorite characters, and so on.
Here’s the list of who’s taking part in ALTERED PERCEPTIONS, and what you’ll get to read:
All of the authors will be adding personal essays and comments that explain our connections to mental illness and how it has shaped our lives. You’ll also get to read personal essays and comments from each of the authors, explaining their own connection to mental illness and the many ways it’s changed their lives.
This anthology went up on IndieGoGo on Monday, April 21 (which you already know if you follow me on Twitter.) You can buy it there in hardcover or ebook, along with a ton of extra perks like manuscript critiques, writing retreats, or dinners with your favorite authors. If you donate enough, Rob’s brother Dan will even kill you gruesomely … in one of his books, that is.
Anyway, I’m proud to be taking part in this anthology, honored Dan invited me to be a part, and excited to read all the exclusive goodies. Hope you are too! Head to IndieGoGo and check us out. Many of the participating authors will be interviewing each other while the IndieGoGo campaign is underway – and I’m kicking that off with my interview with Robison Wells himself.
Talking with Robison Wells
1) So, from BLACKOUT and DEAD ZONE alone, I know that you — like me, and like our fellow anthology author Seanan McGuire — are fascinated by plagues and pandemics. It’s pretty morbid, but it’s the kind of thing I always want to read more about. How did you get interested in this? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve found yourself looking up or googling while researching how they work? Are there any books (fiction or non) you’d recommend to someone who wants to join us in our somewhat creepy hobby?
What I’m primarily interested in is not the problem itself, but the people’s reaction to the pandemic. I started working on my political science degree four months after 9/11, so I watched and analyzed front and center as we made plans for war, and witnessed hate crimes, and studied leadership styles (and errors and guesswork).
I had a knot of friends who would get together between classes and ask each other “if you were a terrorist, how would you do it?” We’d come up with bombing scenarios and shooting scenarios; we’d work out getaway plans and try to profile safe houses. To this day, I still think some of our plans would be perfect. I know that’s morbid.
As for books I’d recommend, Terrorism and Counterterrorism, by Russell Howard and Bruce Hoffman is great. It’s a textbook, but I’ve consulted that thing a hundred times while writing.
2) Tell me how you came up with the virus for the BLACKOUT series — what dramatic purposes did you want it to fulfill?
The virus serves two purposes: first, it separates the kids from adults (it’s a virus that affects brain development, and if it strikes when your brain is fully developed it won’t cause any superpowers to appear). Second, it shows how desperate the government is in that they round up all kids everywhere and send them to internment camps—think Japanese Americans in World War 2. I wanted to recreate that atmosphere of fear, to make it explainable how far people are willing to go when they’re truly afraid.
3) Now let’s talk about VARIANT. I wrote about a vampire boarding school called Evernight Academy, and it was not a place any sane person, or at least living person, would want to attend. But it sounds like even Evernight Academy was more fun than the Maxfield Academy in your VARIANT series. What’s the appeal of the evil school with a secret?
I think all kids and teens are kind of fascinated with boarding schools, first, because they’re so rare in real life, and second—and way more importantly—you’re free from your parents. So we already have that wonderment built in. And then you cross it with other things that kids/teens are equally fascinated with—or afraid of—like vampires in your book, or gangs and *SPOILER ALERT* androids in mine.
4) Your fans love your plot twists. How do you design these? What’s the trick to a great twist?
My favorite trick was one I used in VARIANT. *SPOILERS AHEAD* I basically set up a false dichotomy: that’s a logical fallacy that says that something has to be A or B; there are no other answers. (You see false dichotomies all the time in politics.) So I set up two explanations for the school: the school was either testing the kids, or the school was training the kids. And in the book, the teens argue about this all the time, but no one ever offers a third answer. So the reader will (generally) pick a side and be invested in the answer. And then we pull out the rug from underneath them and say the answer was something totally different that no one had mentioned before, ever.
5) Now tell me about what you’re sharing for the anthology. What book does this come from? How does it differ from what was published? Or, if it’s not an earlier version but instead something cut or set aside, tell me how it came about, and how it wound up not being published before now.
I’m actually writing something entirely new, because my fans have been pestering me about it for a long time: I’m writing an epilogue to FEEDBACK. The book ends abruptly, without a lot of time for denouement or resolution. I personally love to leave readers hanging (I was raised on late nights of The Twilight Zone, and I loved the “This is so creepy and we’ll never get an explanation” kind of endings. But I do have one epilogue story I want to tell. So, my fans will hopefully be happy. I will be.
That’s it for my chat with Rob – but you have plenty of time to get your copy of ALTERED PERCEPTIONS. Check us out at IndieGoGo!