A picture is worth a thousand words, but it takes more than a Shaun Hutchinsonpicture to tell the whole story of a person.

A couple of years ago, I had this crazy idea to write a story about a young man (Kirby Matheson) who brought a gun to school and shot his classmates. I didn’t want to tell the story of the shooting itself, but rather the story of the shooter as told by the people who knew him. When a tragedy occurs, people inevitably look for someone or something to blame. Parents of victims and those left behind search for motive and meaning in every dark corner of the shooter’s life. Did he have easy access to guns? Was he molested? Was he desensitized to violence by those countless hours spent killing digital people on his Xbox? Was he mentally ill? A Satanist? Was he the victim of bullies or peer pressure or drugs?

Most people are satisfied with a mere thousand words. The media takes a single facet of the shooter’s life and uses that to paint a picture of him as a monster, a deviant, the kind of boy who was always going to come to a violent end—and we accept that picture as a representation of the whole person because the neatness of it allows us to sleep at night. But I wanted to tell a story that was more than that. And to do so, I needed help.

I wrote out a list of authors I could only dream of working with. Authors who works I loved and whom I respected immensely. I was certain they would laugh at my crazy idea. I wasn’t proposing an anthology, but a single story written by seventeen different authors. We would be working in a shared world with shared characters and shared histories. Each story would stand alone but would also be connected to all the others in both major and minor ways. I was overwhelmed by the enthusiastic responses I received (and, frankly, pretty terrified), and I count myself insanely lucky to have had the opportunity to write with the very best voices in young adult literature. We worked together online, trading inspiration, feeding off each other’s ideas, and hammering out the details of the school layout and what kind of car Kirby Matheson drove.

Working alone, each of the authors in Violent Ends is amazing, but working together, I think we’ve achieved something far greater than I could have hoped for. I am awed by their talent and immensely proud of this book. It would not exist without them.

A thousand words could never fully explain why a young man would choose to pick up a gun and kill his classmates. Neither could ten thousand or even a hundred thousand. And Violent Ends doesn’t try to do so. But through these stories, it is my hope that readers will gain a better understanding of Kirby Matheson—and all the boys who could potentially be him.