Yesterday I was privileged enough to be able to attend the LA Times Festival of Books where hundreds of authors took a part of the festivities. We were very lucky that Veronica Roth was too going to be a part of this event and I was able to attend all of her events at the festival! Here is the Q&A from the YA panel yesterday that Veronica was a part of. This is roughly what I was able to catch from the Q&A and they are only Veronica’s answers (one author’s answers was hard enough to keep track of, sorry!):
Question: In the beginning of Divergent there’s a scene where Tris takes a leap into an unknown abyss and it was so exciting and scary to read because it was a dangerous place. How is it like to invent these characters and put them in these scary situations?
Answer: They do get into a bit of trouble in my books, but I think when I started my plan was not to get too attached and of course that doesn’t work obviously. Because by the second book I was pretty attached as I think it’s natural for an author to love their characters and want good things for them. But on the other hand if you don’t take any risks and there isn’t any conflict and if there isn’t any danger then the dystopian world you’ve created isn’t very dystopian. So that’s why a lot of people die… spoiler alert.
Question: So how do you let people die, is that like an emotional decision?
Answer: N-no…? I know that sounds terrible for me to say but I think when I realize that when a character needs to die, I kind of accept it as a part of their story and I know that at least gives them a powerful moment on the page. Or it should be powerful or else it’s not worth writing. In that sense I’m kind of happy about it because I know they’ve sort of like completed their arc.
Question: Does anyone want to talk about the places they set out for the novels?
Answer: I didn’t really set out for Chicago, I think I wrote the first drafts a little more general urban landscape with lots of trains and then I felt like there’s something wrong just because it was already in Chicago I think and I just didn’t decide to name it that and I had to when I was revising the first book just like rework it to incorporate more and more of Chicago. Which kind of makes you into a tourist, I’ve lived in Chicago almost my entire life and I had to go on like architectural boat tours and like look at google maps and I felt like ‘This is terrible, I should know where these places are!” but that’s not always how it works. So it allowed me to kinda fall in love with the place in a new way.
Question: You’ve all done ebook shorts which is interesting. Can you talk about the decisions to do these?
Answer: I wrote a short, told from the love interest, I guess “love interest”, Four’s perspective. I chose Four because I knew that he was someone that people wanted to read more from his perspective or just to hear his voice. It was kind of interesting to hear his voice and what it sounded like because it was a lot different than I thought it would be. But what I discovered is that it’s actually really difficult to write one scene from another character’s perspective because I kept rereading the original scene over and over and over and over again trying to make sure that every detail ligned up and then it fit in the overall narrative properly, like there was no continuity problem. It was only 13 pages but it took me a really long time. It’s very difficult to make things consistent. Especially like a year after you wrote the first one.
Question: In all your books, there are so many references to fairy tales and classics and myths. How many of those classics are in your mind as you write? Do you stumble upon them as you write? How do you integrate them?
Answer: I think it’s interesting that you bring up the sci fi fantasy kind of it makes things easier. Because sci fi and fantasy are naturally like exaggerations of ideas you kinda come up with, you know washing dishes, taking naps, taking shower. And so I guess for me what I can see happening is I guess for every coming of age novel there’s going to be a character who actively rejects the parental system, whatever it is. And I mean, Divergent is just like a huge exaggeration of that. It’s like, not only am I leaving my parents but I’m leaving everything that they told me to believe and the person that they told me to be and i’m joining these new people and trying to fit in with them. And I think that kind of natural tendency towards exaggeration is something that appeals to me about reading and writing sci-fi and fantasy in particular.
Question: We are kind of having a golden literary age for fantasy and the supernatural and I was wondering what you guys think of that and if you agree with that.
Answer: I do think there’s kind of been a greater cultural acceptance of being fans of these things like with Game of Thrones is like the best example there is. I mean this is like dragons like fantasy kingdoms like this is nerdy okay? Like let’s be real. But um but somehow if you watch it now–if you don’t watch it it’s like, you have to start, now. And it’s not just game of thrones, it’s like Harry Potter, it’s Twilight, it’s… The Hunger Games. This is like becoming a part of like the greater cultural consciousness and it’s no longer like just for nerds… which makes me… a little bit sad (laughs) but it’s okay.
Question: You have to create an incredibly detailed world, and I wondered, how do you keep it straight? Do you have like a file in your computer that you have to open up like “oh yeah” to remind yourself of things or how do you do it?
Answer: I should have a file. I don’t… Sometimes it gets me into trouble. Anyone else? I don’t know how you guys write more than one thing at a time. It’s just this is my world (makes hand motions around her Divergent book) I live in this place only. Can’t… Can’t leave, not until it’s done so, yeah.
Question: Are you going to take a break, after your series? Or are you going to…? Because this is “where you live” or are have you already moved somewhere else?
Answer: No I haven’t moved. Still there. Sorry guys. Umm I think it’ll be fun to kinda play around for a while. Yeah. I don’t know what else can I say… we’ll see! I’m not done yet.
Question: Do you have any tips for when you get stuck in your writing? For everybody out there.
Answer: I mean, I like what you said about the critical voice overwhelming the creative voice (to Lauren Oliver) because when I have writer’s block that’s always why. And I think it’s important to create–actively create– a safe space for yourself, in your mind which sounds a little weird. But like you were talking about earlier, creating like a new document to mess up. It’s like there’s no reason why it would be useful, but somehow it is. Like you can make mistakes in the actual document but somehow you feel like it’s easier if it’s separate then you can delete it all by itself. So that’s like one way you can do that. For me I often sit down and just like “Ok it’s gonna be as bad as possible, baaad and loud and awful, just terrible.” Like, that’s the goal for today and I think that helps a lot so.
Question: How much of the story did you have planned when you began? How much did you know, when you started, and how much did you end up filling in as you wrote?
Answer: I think there’s sort of like two categories. Pantser means right by the seat of your pants and Plotter is someone who plans. I think most people are kind of in between these two categories, but I did this huge total 360 where I just started out “pantsing” it up and then realized, this does not work for me at all and I started planning everything so, the first book is very much like (barfing noise) everything! Here, have fun! And then the third one is like, I planned this one from the beginning so (laughs).
Question: Did you have the concept and numbers of the factions before you started writing?
Answer: I’ll answer that second one first. I did actually decide on the number and concept behind each faction before hand but Dauntless was the first one because I don’t know, the idea for the Dauntless comes from a type of treatment for anxiety and fobia which is called exposure therapy where one is repeatedly exposed to the thing they’re afraid of until they’re like a healthy amount afraid of it, or just not afraid of it at all. So that’s kinda where it came from and the rest of the world was kinda built around it and yeah that part was kinda well established since it was kinda the foundation of the world but a lot of the other stuff kind of like seeped in like the factionless became like thing after I read the first draft, actually. So yeah.
Question: So I was curious as to you chose names to your characters? Did they have symbolism?
Answer: Behindthename.com! […] I can’t name characters after people, it’s just, it’s creepy. To me, I will like write the word and then… Like I’ve been trying to find names for characters. I recently decided “Oh he could be named Trevor!” and actually my brother in law, sitting right there, is Trevor and I was like “I can’t do it! It’s too weird!” and then you know, I gotta meet less people, I guess.
Then the moderator said something along the lines of “Thank you all for being here” and “this was truly a fantasy panel” (get it, fantasy/fantastic?) and we ran to the signing.
It was really inspiring to see how long the line was for Veronica’s signing. When leaving the panel I, of course, got lost so by the time I got there the line was the size of the football field. I did however get to snap some pictures of Veronica before getting in line, check them out:
Veronica was very sweet and was very nice to everyone. She even signed a book for me that will belong to one of you eventually for a giveaway. Summit Entertainment also had a booth of their own (Booth 735) and they were pressing Divergent and Ender’s Game T-Shirts for all who wanted. I went back and got a second T-shirt for a giveaway, and I told them my name was Beatrice. I also put on a semi-disguise so they wouldn’t recognize me (in case they didn’t want to give 2 T-shirts to one person). Candor would not approve. The giveaway for the T-shirt will start once we reach 1,000 followers on twitter (which is very soon!) so if you want one, make sure to follow us @iamdivergentcom. Here’s some pictures of the shirts:
And one last thing I noticed! Did the Divergent logo change? Here is a poster for ‘Divergent’ they had at the Summit Entertainment booth:
And here is the one from the book/Summit Entertainment website next to the one found on the poster:
It’s like they cut it and repositioned it rather than do a color change. Or like @Smart_Cara on Twitter said, it’s like they “DIVided” it. Can you spot the difference? What do you think? For more pictures make sure to follow us on Twitter & Instagram @iamdivergentcom. More info on the giveaways coming very soon!
Hopefully Veronica will be back at next year’s LA Times Festival of Books and we can all have this fun together! Hope you enjoyed this.