Dystopian fiction continues to be popular among teens, particularly with great reads like Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy. Divergent is a favourite among the Indigo Teen Bloggers and was voted the best summer read last year. Chandra has also written this excellent review for the second novel in the series, Insurgent. We are thrilled to have this Q&A with Roth as she discusses writing the series and what is next for Tris and Tobias. Welcome, Veronica!
Indigo Teen Blog (ITB): What were the challenges of getting back into Tris’s head after everything that happened to her in Divergent? Did you find that you had to approach her differently?
Veronica Roth (VR): The biggest challenge was learning how to do justice to her immense grief and guilt. Everyone reacts to loss differently. In the early drafts of Insurgent, I felt like Tris wasn't grieving at all, and in the middle drafts, she was too isolated—I finally found ways to show those difficult, painful emotions in ways that made sense for her, like her inability to hold a gun, or her nightmares, or the triggers that set off painful memories. She's also not quite the same person I knew in Divergent. She's been forced to grow up and to expand her idea of what's important—not factions, but love, and sacrifice.
ITB: How did the five factions evolve – and continue to evolve – in the writing process?
VR: Well, I got to know the “other” factions (Erudite, Candor, and Amity) better in the second book. I discovered not only what makes them each appealing but also what makes them each corrupt, in their own ways. And I think Tris's understanding of bravery and selflessness, the virtues of Dauntless and Abnegation, continues to change over time. The biggest revelation she has in book two is about the nature of selflessness and sacrifice.
ITB: Which character surprised you the most as you wrote them?
VR: In the first book: Al. I had no idea what he was going to do until he did it. And in the second book: Jeanine. She surprised me because I had been thinking of her as a total villain, but the more I delved into her motivations the more I realized how much I sympathized with her, and understood her, even if I didn't agree with her decisions. (Obviously.)
ITB: The violence in your books is very raw. Do you ever find it difficult to write such raw content?
VR: Not really, no. I always have an internal conversation that goes something like this: “Do I really want to go there? Do I need to go there for this to feel real and serious and urgent?” Usually I decide that I do; sometimes I decide that I don't, and I back off. But I have no trouble going into a dark place when I write, probably because I'm not really a dark person.
ITB: When looking at how Tris and Tobias’s/Four’s relationship develops in Insurgent, do you think that it is unusual for authors of YA to keep couples together but show the emotional development without throwing in a love triangle? How did you approach this new phase in their relationship?
VR: I hesitate to say whether it's unusual or not, because I haven't read widely enough to be qualified to say so. I do think that love triangles are common these days, and while they are often done very well, and I often really enjoy them, they can also be a crutch for when tension or conflict is difficult for an author to develop. I only know that because when I was struggling to find the right dynamic for Tris and Tobias, I would occasionally get exhausted and think “maybe I'll just throw someone else in there to make things interesting.” Thankfully I changed my mind, because in the end I think it was far better to explore a developing relationship than to rattle it up with a third party.
As for how I approached it, I knew that Tris and Tobias were different people and that they would likely make different decisions. Tobias will do whatever it takes to get the result he thinks is right, but Tris believes that having all the information changes the “rightness” of a result—in that way she's very Erudite, actually. They are also very private people—neither of them know how to trust people, so they end up keeping a lot from each other, naturally. I suppose what I'm saying is that to figure out their dynamic, I just let them be themselves, for better or for worse.
We thank Veronica Roth and Harper Collins Canada for this Q&A.