When Violent Ends was still just a crazy idea—before I’d approached authors or sold it to Simon Pulse—I thought about whether we would write a story from Kirby’s point of view. It only seemed natural. We were writing a story about a school shooting. Why wouldn’t we include a story from the shooter’s point of view?
There are a few reason why I ultimately decided we wouldn’t. The first has to do with our desire to make sure Violent Ends did not glorify violence or exploit tragedy. Everyone involved—me, the writers, my agent, my editor, the graphic artists who designed the cover—was committed to handling this book thoughtfully and compassionately. And I’m eternally grateful for their support. With that in mind, it seemed wrong to give a voice to the shooter.
We live in a society that often turns monsters into celebrities. During Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s sentencing for the Boston Marathon bombing, I discovered that there were multiple Tumblr’s devoted to Tsarnaev. They loved his roguish face and moppy, curly hair. They declared their love for him. It was beyond weird, though not the first time a fandom sprung up around a violent criminal. There are people who still worship Charles Manson.
And I felt that by directly giving Kirby a voice in the book, I might end up glorifying what he’d done (even though he’s a fictional creation) or exploiting tragedy, which is exactly the thing I wanted to avoid.
But that wasn’t the only reason. One of the other important things I wanted to achieve was to not attempt to explain definitively why Kirby had shot his classmates at school. Not only did I think doing so would add to the attempt to profile potentially violent young men, but I wanted readers to form their own conclusions. If Kirby had told his story, it would have eliminated readers’ ability to think about it for themselves. His version would have become the version, and would have nullified any other version of who he was and what he’d done.
And who’s to say his account would have even been true? We all build the personas we want the world to see. I want people to see me as cheerful and confident and successful and dynamic, when the reality is that I’m often sad, insecure, boring, and a loner. But that’s not who I try to show the world. It’s not how I want them to perceive me.
By allowing others to speak about Kirby, we’re able to form a much more realistic picture of who he was. And while other peoples’ perceptions of Kirby are most certainly filtered through the lenses of their own experiences, when take as a whole, they offer a far more honest narrative about Kirby’s actual life than Kirby himself would have been capable of providing.
The thing about tragedy is that we all want an answer. We want the person responsible to provide the definitive truth behind their monstrous actions. But the reality is that we rarely get that. We’re often left to wonder. To puzzle together the pieces of that person’s life from the people who knew him in an attempt to find the truth.
So while we could have given Kirby a voice, I ultimately think we’re better off letting others speak for him.