Today we are sitting down to interview Veronica Roth, author of NY Times best-selling novel Divergent and its sequel Insurgent which is in stores now. By “we” I am referring to me, myself and I… also known as my horcruxes.
Veronica, I’d thank you for speaking with me today but it’s not like you really had a choice. I’ll release the body-bind curse after you’ve answered some questions… maybe.
LV: Could you briefly describe the plot of Divergent for those non-Ravenclaws who were imperiused into reading this interview and might not have picked up the book yet?
VR: It’s about a girl who lives in futuristic Chicago (a land much different from Hogwarts) that is divided into five factions, each one dedicated to cultivating a particular virtue in its members (which is a lot like Hogwarts, actually): selflessness, bravery, honesty, kindness, or intelligence. She, along with all other sixteen year olds in her society, gets the opportunity to decide whether she wants to stay with her family in the faction she was raised in, or switch to another one. The book is about that choice and its consequences.
LV: JK Rowling has famously said that the idea for Harry Potter “strolled into her head fully formed” on a train ride. Was your experience for this trilogy something similar?
VR: Ha! Not at all. The idea came to me in bits and pieces– simulated realities here, fearless psychopaths there, a huge group of people dressed entirely in gray here, someone jumping off a roof there…until one day, I found a way to put them all together.
LV: There are five factions in your book which seem to mildly mirror the four Hogwarts houses. For instance, Ravenclaw/Erudite and Amity/Hufflepuff. The Abnegation would have been muggles (don’t argue, it’s true)
However, it seems that Dauntless, the courageous, is almost a mix of Gryffindor and Slytherin. Would you say that’s accurate?
VR: Oh, I don’t know– I think Slytherins are far more cunning than the Dauntless, who approach life with a complete lack of subtlety. IE: for destruction purposes, the Slytherins would choose a chisel and the Dauntless would choose a giant freaking sledgehammer. I’d say Slytherin and Ravenclaw would both be in Erudite.
LV: In your opinion, why is it that the line between good and evil seems to get hazy when bravery is concerned? Is that something that you touch upon in your books?
VR: This was a huge question in the first book, but ultimately I think the problem is not with bravery itself but with how people misinterpret bravery. Some people decide that bravery is demonstrated with violence or mercilessness or even risk-taking. And if you push bravery too far in those directions, you often end up with cowardice—Tris remarks in the middle of the book that bullying is cowardly, for example, even though it looks like a demonstration of strength. I think her ultimate conclusion is that selflessness and bravery are often the same thing, and that makes the line between good and evil a lot less hazy for her.
LV: What Hogwarts House do you think your characters would have fallen into?
VR: Tris and Christina would be Gryffindors. Caleb would be a Ravenclaw. Tobias would be a Hufflepuff. (Think about it.)
LV: I think it’s safe to say Eric would have signed up to be a Death Eater, correct?
VR: Decidedly yes.
LV: Are there any other characters you think would have wisely gotten a Dark Mark?
VR: Peter, probably, though you might have to remind him that butter knives are not nearly as effective as wands. Also Jeanine, Drew, Molly…
LV: Hm, it seems some of your characters need to rethink their priorities. Speaking of your characters, do you think Tris or Four believe in magic?
VR: No. They’re Abnegation, remember? Muggles!
LV: We already know the fears Tris would see if she came across a dementor, however, if Tris conjured a Patronus what would her happy thought be and what animal form would it take?
VR: Her happy thought would probably be ziplining off the Hancock building. And the animal form would be…a raven. Figure that one out.
LV: You frequently kill people… in your books. I like that. Is that something you ever regret as an author? Are more characters going to be avada kedavraed as the series progresses?
VR: Sometimes after I kill people I look back and think, “but they would have been so useful! DAMMIT!” But it forces me to be more creative, since I have a “no bringing characters back to life” policy. And yes, I’m a bit avada kedavra happy– something you probably understand.
LV: In a similar vein, are we going to be introduced to new main characters in the next two books? If so, who is your favorite?
VR: I think the “main” characters remain almost the same in book two, though some of them become far more prominent than they were in book one. My favorite new character is Evelyn. I can’t tell you who she is without spoiling something, but she is a complicated person.
LV: Many popular series nowadays prominently feature a love triangle. I have always disliked this, mainly because love is gross. You have maintained that there won’t be a love triangle in your books; was this a conscious choice in order to deviate from other series?
VR: While I sometimes like a good love triangle, I often feel that they’re a way to artificially create tension between the love interests that doesn’t actually exist. I thought it would be more challenging for me to explore the tension that exists in new relationships, particularly when the people involved are in a difficult life situation, rather than throwing someone else into the mix. Also, Tris isn’t an indecisive person, so I would have trouble imagining her torn between two people. She would just pick one and deal with the consequences.
LV: Is it hard to be the only one who knows what is going to happen in your books? Do you have to put a silencing charm on yourself sometimes not to spoil what is yet to come?
VR: You know, it’s not. I’ve always had a problem describing plots and storylines to people, so the whole “nope, can’t say that, it’s a spoiler” thing has been remarkably useful in social situations.
LV: One of the reasons people love the Potter series so much is that with each additional book more moments of the prior books fell into place and made sense. It seems that in Insurgent we are going to dive into the Chamber of Secrets a bit and that Divergent was setting up the background for what is to come in the next two books, is that correct?
VR: One of the only things I really outlined at the beginning was when certain world-building and story questions would be answered. For example, the question “what is a Divergent, actually?” is something I think I answer in all three books, with varying degrees of depth. I like a slowly unfolding series myself, so hopefully people can be patient as they wait for answers. They will come! Eventually!
LV: If we were gifted with Professor Trewlaney’s visions of the future (the 1% that are actually accurate) what would we know to expect in Insurgent?
VR: In Insurgent, Tris is freer to move around inside the city, rather than having to stick with her faction, so you should expect more insight into the other groups in the city (Amity, Erudite, Candor, and the factionless). Also, you should expect death, destruction, and mayhem. As usual.
LV: As you know, I am very devoted to Anagrams. Did you know your name is an anagram for hot carnivore? Anything we should know about that….?
VR: I like steak.
LV: Finally, everyone knows that you can’t lie to the Dark Lord. What are two true things that will happen in Insurgent and one lie in no particular order.
VR: Caleb shoots someone. Tris goes under truth serum. A building explodes.
Hmmm you seem to be gifted in the art of occulmency, I’m not sure which is the lie. I suppose we’ll have to read and find out…
Divergent is currently available in hardcover and soft cover. Its sequel, Insurgent will be in stores May 1st. Pick it up. This is not a request.