Veronica Roth: An Interview with Books-A-Million
BAM: How did you handle criticism of your stories? I find it very difficult to put so much work into something just to have someone pick it apart to be rewritten. How did you get over this common problem for authors?
I view criticism as a good thing. Sure, sometimes it’s frustrating, sometimes it hurts. But if you can take it in, it will make your work better—and at the end of the day, that’s what I want, to make better work with every story I write.
I’m not saying it feels good all the time—it doesn’t, and anyone who has ever gotten a performance review at work knows that. But I’ve found the best way to cope with that is to remember that you are separate from your work. You have value beyond your work. Every single person does. The more you believe that, the better your life will be.
BAM: Why did you end the Divergent trilogy with Tris dying?
For me it was the only way for the series to end, thematically. Each book deals with the transformative power of sacrificial love in some capacity. That journey begins with Tris’s parents and it ends with her. The Abnegation also aren’t known for their long life expectancy in dystopian Chicago—they’re too prone to selflessness. And at her core, I believe Tris is Abnegation. So this was the ending that felt honest to me.
BAM: Where do you get your inspiration for your books?
From everywhere I can! It’s important, as a writer, to be as curious as possible, so I try to cultivate that. From the past few months I’ve gotten inspiration from news articles, art exhibits, fanfiction, TV shows, conversations with friends, nonfiction books, everywhere. I let myself get into Wikipedia chains, just clicking from link to link. You never know when something important will hit you, so I try to stay open-minded and engaged.
BAM: When writing the title Divergent, at what point did you realize you wanted to make this book a series?
Probably at the same time I realized it was a book. Maybe that sounds strange—I didn’t know, when I wrote the first scene, that it would become anything in particular. I just wanted to see that scene realized. But when you’re two hundred pages in, you start thinking about what the thing you’re writing is. And specifically, how big it is. The more I thought about Divergent, the more clear it was to me that Tris’s story was three books long.
BAM: What was your favorite book to write in the divergent series?
It’s probably a tie between Divergent and Allegiant. Divergent because I basically wrote it in a crazed fever dream—most of the (very short) rough draft came together in forty days, over a winter break from school, so during that time I was just eating, sleeping, and writing. There’s nothing like that feeling of discovery, like you’ve found something that really resonates with you and you just can’t stop.
Allegiant was a little more calm. I outlined it, and I worked on it for a long time—a little less than a year for the rough draft. But I loved the process, mostly because I felt like I really knew the characters and I was getting to dig deep into their central conflicts, especially Tris and Four. It was a rewarding writing experience.
BAM: Who are some of the authors that you admire(d) greatly? What is it about them that you find to be so admirable?
When I admire an author, it typically has less to do with their work and more to do with how they conduct themselves, so I guess with that in mind, I’d have to single out Margaret Stohl. She has this fierce commitment to doing good—even at the risk of sometimes messing up!—that I want to emulate. And I’ve never met anyone with her particular kind of generosity. She’ll give anything away, if it’s something someone else needs, and she’s very free with her heart, which I think you can see when you read her work—it’s just this wild exploration of ideas and emotion. I’ve learned a lot from knowing her. I mean, good writing is wonderful. But people like that, they’re downright miraculous.
BAM: After the success of the Divergent novels, how does it feel writing a book in a whole new world?
It feels amazing. I mean, I was writing in other worlds the whole time the Divergent series was going on—in those off times when my book was with my editor and I just needed a little brain break to keep the juices flowing, so to speak. So it wasn’t like I didn’t know I could write about other worlds. But when I was building the Carve the Mark world, part of the reason I knew it was the right project to work on next was how joyful and excited I was while I was building it. Not every story a writer writes is one they want to live in—dystopian worlds are hard for that, for example—but Carve the Mark? I loved every single minute of drafting, revision, and even copyediting.
BAM: What inspired the new series you will be writing, starting with Carve the Mark?
It started small, with the story of a boy, really. I wanted to explore what it would be like to experience something traumatic and then return to your family, changed. Would they accept you? Would they pretend nothing was different? Really, that is the core of Carve the Mark. The rest of the story, the characters, the world-building, they developed gradually as I wrote draft after draft. (And there were a lot of drafts.)
BAM: You’ve come so far having your book(s) published and take off. There must have been moments when you doubted yourself. What did you do to get past them or keep moving when you felt very low and unsure of you career?
I subscribe to the Dory method, which is “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” I love writing and I always will, so the best thing I can do when I feel doubt is to remember that no failure, no bad review, no rejection, no person and nothing can take writing away from me. So I just have to keep working.
BAM: When coming up with the classes for the Divergent series did analyzing the Id, Ego, and super Ego help you to construct the basis characteristics of each class?
No, can’t say it did!
Pre-order Carve the Mark and buy Roth’s other masterpieces at www.booksamillion.com
On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a current gift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not—their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?