Saturday 14 December 2013

Author Veronica Roth Speaks Out About the Shock Twist in ALLEGIANT, Movie Casting & More

Sugarscape chats with DIVERGENT author Veronica Roth about the final book in the trilogy, ALLEGIANT, how the fan have reacted to the shock twist-and the reasons behind it, and how the plot came about. There are tons of SPOILERS so we've put the interview after the cut:

Hey Veronica. So how does it feel for Allegiant to be out there finally?

It’s kind of a relief but it’s a little scary you know at the same time, it’s been a little controversial I’ve found!

The ending definitely wasn’t what a lot of fans were expecting – how have you found the reaction?

I mean, I think there was always going to be a mixed reaction no matter what the ending was so I was expecting that, but I guess I wasn’t anticipating the intensity with which some people would react. I’ve found that in person at events it’s entirely positive and then on the internet there’s been quite a lot of negative, so it’s kind of balancing out for me.

From a personal point of view, because we are so attached to Tris and Four and what they have together it was a massive emotional wrench, but at the same time you can totally see why it happened...

It seemed a little like people were processing it like a death, just because their first reaction is anger and then there’s like depression and then acceptance or something, like the proper grieving process of getting through it.

When you first sat down and started writing Divergent, did you always have that kind of end point in mind or was it something that came later?

Well, I wrote Divergent totally blind without any planning so I didn’t plan it from the very first page that it would even be a trilogy because I didn’t know what the book would be. But after I wrote the first draft of Divergent and when the book sold I do remember talking to my editor about how I wanted the rest of them to go because the publisher said, 'You know, do you have other books planned?” I said, 'This is how I’m thinking of ending it,” and she said 'Don’t tell anyone about that!'

That was her reaction. So it was definitely a part of the plan although I wasn’t sure if I would stick to it because I try not to stick so closely to my outlines that I have sacrifice the story. But then I was inching closer and closer to the end I was like this is the right option, this is the only option.

We totally got it, but MAN it must have been so hard for you to do that to characters you obviously adore. 

Oh yeah, it was really hard for me too. I kept being like, well how can I save her? You know, like how can I fix it? And every time I tried it was like oh this is such a lie, this is just maybe not giving my readers enough credit or giving my characters enough credit.

In terms of YA, it’s quite untraditional to end things in that kind of way. Quite often things end happily and things come together as it were. Did you feel like it was important to do that, to break away from that or that was just the way it had to be?

No, I mean, I definitely wasn’t trying to make some kind of point or to be different or anything like that, I just had set up each book with the same structure, which is why it ends with a near sacrifice by Tris trying to make her way back to Abnegations and then each time it doesn’t work because she doesn’t quite get it. But then in the third book when she finally got it and I felt she was mature and that her whole struggle was kind of at an end, like her internal struggle, I was just like the only way to make this work for her or to do justice to how hard she’s fought is to have this happen.

Well exactly, because being who she is, she would never let Caleb sacrifice himself – no matter what he’s done in the past. Especially after Will and how she felt after that.

Exactly, it’s so wrong! The scenes leading up to it I was like ‘Is she going to do it?’ I was like ‘No she can’t! There’s no way.’ Like, that’s not at all in line with her character to let that happen.

In terms of the series, the whole idea of genetically pure vs. genetically damaged and the perfection of human nature is a really interesting theme. Was that something that you consciously set out to explore?

I just fell on it really. I was writing the Outside World and it just kind of appeared out of nowhere. What I really found appealing was throughout the whole series I was trying to figure out what Divergence really is, just like everybody else. By the time I got to the 3rd book I didn’t really like that I had elevated Tris as being like this special one so I was like, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if Divergence really isn’t anything?’ Like, if it was just what people believe it is and people put this importance into this thing that doesn’t really exist, because I think people would do that.

I liked that Tris is very insistent that everyone is equal because it felt right to me that she would come to that conclusion immediately when she finds Tobias is not Divergent material - whatever that means anymore - that she was just like, ‘Well no, it doesn’t mean that anything has changed.’

So which character was your favourite to write?

Tris is my favourite! I can’t help it but I really started to love Caleb and Evelyn in the last book a lot. They just brought the pages to life every time they walked in and I was excited to see what they would do so I grew to love them. I also loved Tobias but I struggled a lot with making his voice distinct, I kind of write in a certain way and I tried to push myself but it was very hard, it was a big challenge for me.

Evelyn is such a great character. We really liked that her reaction to life in Abnegation and how she was treated by Marcus was almost to turn into him a little bit. Sort of going towards sort of the tyrannical side of things.

Well, it’s like when you react to something with the opposite, it’s still controlling you. So you’re still organising their entire world in relation to that thing. I think that’s Marcus for her.

If you were going to take one character from the series and write about them again in kind of a different story, who would you like to write about?

Oh I don’t know, I mean I kind of am doing that I guess with the Four stories, which has been really fun, like very fun. So I don’t know, I guess I would go with a parent or something because I find that generation very interesting. But I don’t know if I’m gonna do anything else.

If you were in a faction, which faction would you be in? 

None of them sound appealing anymore, but Abnegation is probably the one I would choose although I feel like I’d probably flunk out eventually, maybe after a year or two.

End up factionless? 

Yes, that’s right. I mean they have kind of a crappy existence, but at least they get to do whatever they want and be who ever they want, so there’s something cool about them.


So we NEED to talk about the movie - Jeanine is obviously absolutely terrifying, how are you feeling about Kate Winslet playing her?

Oh she’s so good! Because it would be easy to do the Disney villain thing with Jeanine, because it's kind of how she comes across in the first book and at least and in some ways in the second. But Kate Winslet is like super smart and very subtle about it, so she was just like kind of you almost like her but she’s sinister like undertone of sinister – she’s perfect!

And what about Theo James being cast as Four? Is he what you imagined?

He’s so good. The first time I was introduced to him as the idea of Thor was when I saw the screen test, so it was great, it was like 'This is who we’re thinking of - watch, like see how he does,' and he had such good chemistry with Shailene and he did it just right. It was like this really tough dude with this like little soft underbelly, just a little hint of the sensitivity so I was happy with it yeah.

What seems really exciting about the casting is that Shailene and Theo are not people who are massive, massive household names. Did you think that was quite important for the story, to star people who were perhaps not already hugely well-known? 

Yeah, there's definitely something nice about that. I mean, I think Shailene’s well on her way and probably Theo too, but it was nice to discover them fresh. I mean obviously I’d seen Shailene in the Descendants but I’d only seen Theo as Kemal Pamuk in Downtown Abbey, which was one episode, and he was wearing a wig so its hard to know anything! But it was nice to see them for the first time as these characters as well.

Insurgent has already got the green light, which is awesome. Are there any scenes from Insurgent or Allegiant that you’re really excited that you’d really like to see on screen? 

Man I haven’t thought about it yet. I am interested to see Shailene fighting herself because that happens, you know, at the end of Insurgent, so I always thought that would really be really weird and trippy to watch. I try to keep weird trippy things in the books, but yes, the idea of the fear landscapes will be fun to see. More train stuff and Amity too, I forgot about that - that would be fun.

In terms of your writing, any hints about what you’re working on next? 

Still writing for young adults, although I don’t know what because right now I’m finishing off the short stories and then I’m going to take a little break, that’s my plan!

Well you definitely deserve it!

Take a nap, you know.

Do you think maybe you’ll stick with Dystopia or do you think you’d just want to do something completely different? 

I don’t know I think you’ve only got like one dystopia in you, you know as a writer so I think this was it for me dystopia wise and I’m ready to try something different.

Yeah especially with such an epic world, we'd imagine it would be quite difficult to do that again. 

Right and inevitably there would be a lot of similarities because I’m still the same person so I come up with the same kinds of ideas you know. I think every writer struggles with that so I wouldn’t wanna stick so closely to that genre because I’d be afraid.

And for fans, how do you think they’re gonna react to the Divergent movie? 

I don’t know, I haven’t seen it yet, from what I’ve seen, I think they’ll love it but I have to see it put together to before I can really say.

How did you feel giving up this world you’ve created in your mind to other people kind of creatively? 

It’s kind of hard, you know, as with anything that you hand over something that you worked so hard on to be like 'Here, interpret this, good luck!' It’s a little difficult but you know I trusted the people I sold the rights, they were very passionate about the book so from the very beginning I had a lot of faith in them and then the more I talked to people working on it, the more faith I had so now I’m just excited and only a tiny bit nervous to see how it turns out.

It’s quite nice to see how other people interpret it I guess as well. 

Yeah it’s kind of fun, its like rediscovering this thing that I was kind of finished with a couple of years ago so it’ll be really interesting at the very least to see how other people see this book.

Well we CANNOT WAIT. Do you have any tips for budding writings, people that want to get into writing? 

Man I used to be really liberally with my handing out of tips and tricks but in the past few years I’ve kind of abandoned that because what I’ve realize is that if I rely on little tricks I forget that what I really need to be doing is just writing so that’s kind of my advice now, just write a lot, write all the time, write when you don’t really feel like it and maybe eventually find people you trust and care about to show what to do cause that’ll be the best way to improve.

How did actually happen for you, because obviously you wrote Divergent when you were so young, but how did it actually go from you writing it to it getting published? 

Well I had tried with a previous manuscript, a very bad manuscript, to get an agent because I knew that I wanted to be traditionally published and the way to do that was to get a literary agent so I just googled and that’s how I found that out. So when I finished Divergent, I thought well I’ll try again until I really cant anymore, I guess that was my plan, I didn’t think it would work but it did, so I sent a summary of the project to literary agents and then one woman was interested and she read the manuscript and then she offered to represent me. Then we revised and then she submitted it to publishers so that’s kind of how it happened. The standard route

Thanks Veronica!

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