An introduction by Ally Condie, two deleted scenes from Lauren Oliver’s Pandemonium, a science-fiction story by Shannon Hale, deleted scenes from Brandon Mull’s Beyonders 2, and five completely rewritten chapters from Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings are just some of the selections found in Altered Perceptions. Some 30 YA writers who donated their contributions to the anthology, which was compiled in support of fellow author Robison Wells, who has fallen on hard financial times as a result of severe mental illness that caused the loss of his job.
Due out in September from Dragonsteel Entertainment, an imprint started by Sanderson, Altered Perceptions is one component of a broader fundraising campaign to help Wells pay outstanding student loans, back taxes, and other debts. Conducted via online funding engine Indigogo, the campaign ran from April 19 to May 24, and raised $120,512, or 110% percent of its goal.
Brandon Sanderson, a longtime friend of Wells, spearheaded the initiative. He and Wells’s brother, author Dan Wells (the Partials Sequence), solicited an eclectic selection of “perks,” donated by authors, that fans could purchase on the Indigogo site. These include breakfast with Robison Wells, Brodi Ashton, and Sara Zarr; dinner and a game night with Shannon Hale and Brandon Mull; a manuscript critique by agent Sara Crowe; Balzer + Bray editor Jordan Brown’s “full edit” of a piece of writing; and dinner and a viewing, with James Dashner, of the forthcoming movie version of The Maze Runner.
Sanderson recalled that Robison Wells, who belonged to the same writing group at the start of their literary careers, confided to him in April that he was crippled by debt due to his illness. “He said he didn’t know what to do, and I began thinking that I’d love to come up with some way we could use the YA community to help out, and to spread awareness of the effects of mental illness,” he said. “I suggested the idea of compiling an anthology”
Wells, whose books include Variant, Feedback, Blackout, and the forthcoming Dead Zone, admitted he was initially wary of the book project. “One of the things with my mental illness is that I have no confidence in anything working, and I think of all the ways that things can go wrong,” he explained. “But Brandon insisted that this would work, as did my brother, Dan, who became very involved with the project, and several of my author friends. So I said, ‘Okay, let’s go with it.’ ”
Wells approached authors he knew personally to ask if they’d be interested in contributing to Altered Perceptions, and was gratified at the overwhelmingly positive response. “They all came together in a way that I had not expected, and of course they all knew that they weren’t getting anything financially from the book,” he said. “As people learned about the project, we heard from many authors who wanted to join in, but unfortunately we had to say ‘no’ when we reached close to 30 contributors.”
An unexpected bonus for Wells was the other authors’ willingness to share not only their fiction, but also descriptions of how mental illness has affected their lives. “I was amazed at what people wrote,” he said. “We asked each author for about three paragraphs on the subject and we often received two or three pages, about how either they have been afflicted by mental illness or how friends and family members have. It was more than I could hope for – not that I hoped anyone had mental illness, but it was kind of inspirational to me that some of these big-name authors have been dealing with the same problems that I have.”
Wells, whose contribution to Altered Perceptions is an epilogue to Feedback and his Variant duology, also created a pen-and-ink sketch for the cover, which will be finalized and colored by Erin Fitzsimmons. And he provided the anthology’s title, which has deep personal resonance. “From my point of view, as someone who has been sick for going on four years now, ‘altered perceptions’ means that I have a different way of looking at the world, and it affects everything I do,” he said. “But it doesn’t change who I am and it doesn’t change my end goals. It just changes the route I take to get there.”
Sanderson explained that Altered Perceptions will have a small print run, and will be sold primarily at book conventions, but noted, “If bookstores contacted us for copies, we would make that happen.” Describing the anthology as “more of an event than a product,” he expressed gratitude at his fellow YA authors’ enthusiasm for donating their writing and their time to make the book and the “perks” happen. “This is an incredibly friendly, tight-knit community that is happy to come together at a time like this, to let Rob know he’s not alone. That is the most important thing.”
Altered Perceptions by various authors. Dragonsteel Entertainment (firstname.lastname@example.org), $25 Sept ISBN 978-1-938570-05-6