We caught up with Veronica Roth on Tuesday while she was in New York City for the launch of Insurgent (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins, $17.99), the second book in the planned trilogy she began with Divergent, her debut book. She confesses she'd most likely choose the fearless Dauntless faction, if she had to pick one, just like her heroine and narrator, Tris Prior. She makes a few other confessions, too, though we promise no truth serum was administered.
With Divergent, you mentioned the factions were inspired by the way teens as well as adults form cliques and categorize people. Were there developments in Insurgent that surprised you?
Definitely one of the things that has surprised me most is the way the characters continue to form new boxes. They even come up with new names for the new groups they form. You'd think they'd be less inclined to form groups [after the events of Divergent], but I think it's what we do as humans.
It's refreshing that there's no love triangle in your series.
It's not that I don't like a good love triangle. But sometimes it's a default for a tension, when relationships become slightly more boring. I challenged myself to find tensions in a new relationship with more complications. I see Tris and Tobias developing like a real couple.
In Divergent, Four tells the initiates, "Cowardice is the failure to act in the midst of fear." When they're attacked in Amity and Tris can't shoot, Tobias seems almost angry when he confronts her about it later.
Tobias thinks Tris is stronger than she is. He has unreasonable expectations for her sometimes. The book is very much about guilt and grief for her. She couldn't touch the gun until she forgave herself [for a death she caused]. She takes all these crazy risks because she loses sight of the importance of her own life.
We gain such insight into the factions in this book--Candor has its truth serum and Amity has its peace serum.
Amity's all about subterfuge. I think I say something about Candor commenting on Amity: "They'll always lie to keep the peace."
Tris recites that rhyme about how "Dauntless is the cruelest of the five" as she surveys the wreckage of the traitor Dauntless.
I didn't expect her to have such a cruel streak. But I think it's one of her greatest flaws. She is pretty selfish even when she's trying to be selfless. I think book two really brings out her unlikable side. It's difficult for readers, I think, but it was also difficult for me as a writer. Yet it was important. I've been around grieving people, and it's tough to be around people who are going through that kind of inner battle.
We see Tris and Four gaining equality with the adult faction leaders in this book. In your mind, was there a point when they begin to even out the power?
I remember a point as a teenager when adults started talking to me as a peer. Suddenly, because consequences are so dire, Tris inserted herself and she's treated as a peer by the adults because of her actions. Tris decided to take that spot, and so does Tobias. And they have to deal with the consequences of that. Right before they go into Candor headquarters, Tris thinks, "I can fade into the background and let other people fight this." She makes that choice, and it's a pivotal moment for her.
Truth takes on an even greater complexity in this book.
Tris says something about how the truth can change everything--because it does in Divergent, when she found out what the Erudite were planning, and what her mother was doing. I think she feels crazy throughout much of this book, going after the truth. It's more important than anything else that's going on.
Did the plot of Insurgent surprise you?
I knew where Insurgent would end. But the rest of the book came out of nowhere. The first draft is what I'd planned. But then I scrapped it and wrote the book. The second draft was full of surprises. The truth serum in Candor, everything at the Erudite compound. This, more than anything I've written, was totally out of left field. But I'm happy with what happened.
Is it the same process for book three? Do you know the ending?
I have no idea how it's going to end. I know how it starts and a bit of the middle. I figure if it surprises me, it will surprise other people. I keep myself in the dark until I get there. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness