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Author Veronica Roth shares her story - Bugle Newspapers: Downers Grove

Author Veronica Roth shares her story

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Posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 3:50 pm | Updated: 4:07 pm, Tue Oct 1, 2013.

If the buzz around the newest young adult “Divergent” series proves true, fans of the “Hunger Games” will have a new hero to follow, taking the role of girl heroine to a different level set in a world unlike any other.

Chicago author Veronica Roth has spent the last few years in a whirlwind, wrapped around the success of the New York Times Best-Selling “Divergent” trilogy. The first book published in 2011 is set to hit the movie screen in March 2014, and what is being called one of the most highly anticipated books of its genre, the third book, “Allegiant,” will be released Oct. 22.

Teens and adults alike are captivated by the series, with fanfare spreading just as fast, or possibly faster than the “Hunger Games,” much to Roth’s own awe. “Divergent” also has landed on the Illinois’ Reads list, which promotes reading books by Illinois authors. Voyager Media – publishers of the Bugle, Enterprise and Sentinel newspapers -- is encouraging its readers to investigate the full power of a good book.

First published in May 2011, Roth’s debut novel was an instant bestseller and one of the most heralded debut novels of 2011. It landed on multiple year-end “Best Of” lists, including Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal and National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and was selected by Goodreads users as the Goodreads Choice Award Winner for Favorite Book of 2011. “Insurgent” followed, and its fan based increased with 4 million copies sold to date. “Allegiant,” the final book in the trilogy, will have an initial print run of 2 million copies.

The “Divergent” series is based in a futuristic barren Chicago where society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful) and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day each year, all 16-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives.

Beginning Oct. 22, Roth will begin a North American tour to promote the release of “Allegiant,” with a sold out public appearance at the Tivoli Theater in Downers Grove, Oct. 26.

The Bugle had the opportunity to interview Roth, 24, who wrote the book as a college senior at Northwestern University, and discuss the success painted by a dystopian world:

Q. You’ve been interviewed by countless national magazines. Rolling Stone called the series, “The next big thing.” Elle suggests you have surpassed Suzanne Collins. How did you get here? Were you at all prepared for its huge success?

A. Not at all. That would have been pretty self-confident and arrogant. I was really surprised by how it all happened. I was focused and centered on the series, and I worked hard. I think that everything just fell into place. It was the early part of my senior year, and I was clueless about the process. I tried to get an agent and sent out a different manuscript. I’m glad, now, that no one ever wanted that manuscript, and I was inspired to write “Divergent.” When I first sent it, it didn’t work out.

Q. How do you feel about your books being taught in schools?

A. It’s completely incredible. I just hope it’s something they want to read. I remember required reading as not always something the students actually want to read!

Q. Why do you think your books resonate with so many?

A. I am trying to figure that out. It’s difficult for me to step back because I am so deep into my work. I wanted to create a character for a young woman who overcame her fears and embarked on self-actualization. I put a lot emotion in it, and I think that comes through and is what people are feeling when they read it.

Q. How do you keep young readers interested?

A. It’s important. I think the best thing a young reader can do is read another book, be it mine or not. Popular or not. If I can help more of the population get practice in reading, I am just thrilled.

Q. How did you come to develop the main character, Beatrice Prior or Tris?

A. I had been writing the book for some time, and I found I needed to put it away for awhile and gain some perspective because it didn’t feel right. I knew I wanted her to have a different voice. There was something compelling about her, about her finding her voice and having it be really clear, and it became a hard voice, and Tris was born. She just kind of appeared.

Q. Are you worried about the movie being true to the book?

A. I saw the movie rights, and I believe it to be what it should be and feel it will be authentic in spirit. But this is all larger than me. I understand there is no way for me to control what the movie will become or how people will look at it. It gives me a chance to peek into other people’s brain and their thought process, and I have been very open-minded about it. It is just really remarkable that this is happening. People tell me things like, “Yes, we’ve cast Kate Winslet,” and so on, and I am saying, “Oh, that’s great,” and I’m thinking, “Wow, this is incredible.”

Q. How do you keep young readers interested?

A. It’s important. I think the best thing a young reader can do is read another book, be it mine or not. Popular or not. If I can help more of the population get practice in reading, I am just thrilled.

Q. Do you tire of being compared to “Hunger Games?”

A. Actually, it’s pretty flattering. I think the series gives an opportunity for new things to be read. Obviously I feel like I am the type of person who has the same creative nature, and I think it is a very positive comparison.

Q. Which faction would you choose?

A. I was raised Candor, but I probably would choose Abnegation. I would fail out miserably and become factionless.

Q. How long did it take to write the triology?

A. About a year for each—the third took a little longer—I had a lot to think about. But that will definitely be the end of the series. I also have short stories out and am working on another based on Tobias. After that I am taking a little vacation, write for fun, and wait for movie to come out.

Q. As a Chicago native, was it natural to have the city as your backdrop?

A. After I looked back at what I wrote, I realized it sort of bled on the page without me realizing it. I knew the story would benefit from an urban environment. I found myself writing about elevated trains and the vast marsh and all the buildings. I realized it was already set in Chicago. It’s the only city I’ve ever really known, and I guess I will always have a deep affinity for it.

Q. You’ve achieved success at a relatively young age; do you have advice for young authors?

A. The best thing is to learn to fall in love with the writing. You can’t get caught up in agents and publishing. Enjoy it and don’t think about the business of it.

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