Buzzfeed was able to sit down with Veronica Roth and discuss her Divergent trilogy.
1. Veronica Roth chose the location for Abnegation headquarters before any of the other factions.
How did you decide where each of the faction headquarters would be?
Veronica Roth: I think I chose Abnegation first, on the north side of Chicago, mostly because there’s more neighborhood-y areas there. And then Dauntless is not supposed to be a real place. I don’t know any buildings that are set up in quite that manner or any underground areas or any underground rivers, so it’s kind of an impossible, fantastical place that’s further south. And then one of my favorite buildings is the Merchandise Mart, so that’s why Candor is in there. And Erudite, the kind of row of buildings across the street from the Art Institute, just seemed very Erudite to me. And then Amity had to be out somewhere, also in a place that does not exist.
2. Readers will find out (in Allegiant) how Tobias’ fear landscape has changed since he publicly beat his father in the second book.
In Insurgent, after Tobias whips his father with a belt, he returns to Dauntless headquarters and goes through his fear landscape. He says it changes, “but not in the same way.” Is the change addressed in Allegiant?
VR: Yes. I had to show it one more time, how it had changed.
3. We may never know what provoked Peter to stab Edward in the eye with a butter knife.
Also in Insurgent, Edward’s eye injury is discussed and Tobias claims he heard a rumor that Peter was provoked, but he doesn’t elaborate. Do you specify what happens in Allegiant?
VR: No, I think it’s a little more ominous that way. I thought about it, but I just didn’t want to. I wanted to withhold that particular tidbit.
Yeah, it seems like he’s secretly evil, but he didn’t appear that bad during Dauntless initiation.
VR: No, that’s kind of why I like it, because the people you think are nice are not always nice, and Edward’s the primary example of that. And Peter’s so upfront about his evilness, it was cool to have someone with a more hidden agenda. I don’t think [Edward’s] evil, I just think he’s a little more morally flexible than Tris thinks when she first meets him.
4. Amanda Ritter (aka Edith Prior) was in Abnegation.
What faction was Amanda Ritter in?
So Natalie [Prior] was originally Dauntless, and Andrew [Prior] was originally Erudite, but I don’t know how long they’ve been there. Is that discussed in the next book?
VR: It is discussed, this whole issue actually, I think in the first five pages [ofAllegiant]. You’ll be able to know some things once you read it!
5. Roth considered writing parts of Allegiant from Caleb’s and Natalie’s point of view.
At the 2013 National Book Festival, you stated that you almost wrote the book from Caleb’s and someone else’s perspective. Can you tell us who that person was?
VR: I tried out Caleb, I tried out Tobias (obviously that one worked), and I tried out journal entries retrospective from Natalie’s point of view to intersperse with the forward narrative. That couldn’t sustain over the entire book, and it didn’t address the story from the angles that I wanted to address it from, so I had to get rid of that one too.
Was it weird writing from Tobias’ point of view or did you love switching voices?
VR: I thought it was fun because Tris’ voice is very stereotypically masculine, very straightforward, very direct, kind of repetitive. Tobias’ is a little more poetic, a little more descriptive, and he generally shares more. Tris is always withholding, but Tobias shares everything, so it was interesting to see those dynamics and how they turned over my expectations of those people. It was fun, but it was hard.
6. Uriah isn’t in the first movie because his role is too minor, but he will be a big addition to Insurgent.
Do you have an ideal candidate for Uriah in the next movie?
VR: I don’t. I just want someone who’s a very good actor. They considered a lot of talented young men for that role and it didn’t work out. I hope they maybe go back to the pool now that the timing has changed to see if they’re available, because some of them were really great.
Are you sad that he’s not in the first movie?
VR: Yeah, I’m sad. I kind of understand, now that I’ve seen so much of the movie get shot, why he wasn’t in it. They want the role to be big and solid in the second one, and he was only going to be in a couple scenes in the first one. It’s like, you want to hire an actor who can handle the role in the second one, and he’s not going to be the same one who can handle the role in the first one. It just wasn’t working and it was a bummer, but they’ll make it work.
7. Roth is looking forward to the fear landscapes the most in the Divergent movie.
What scene are you looking forward to the most in the movie?
VR: I’m looking forward to the fear landscapes. They’re going to be weird and hopefully creepy! I’m excited to see them.
Were you on set for any of those scenes?
VR: Yes, I was on set the day Shailene was in the tank and it was being filled with water. It was really intense and cool. I also saw the giant green screen room with the chair for the aptitude test. It was cool.
Are you more excited for the aptitude test or the final test [during Dauntless initiation]?
VR: I think the final test, because the fear aspect of it is what really interests me. There’s kind of a small horror element to it, and it will be fun to see.
8. Roth shares fears with both Tris and Tobias.
When you came up with the fear landscapes, were any of the fears your own?
VR: Yes, I have a fear of swarming animals, so the birds were really freaky for me. I hate animals in large quantities — mostly bugs I have a problem with. Also heights, I don’t like heights at all.
9. Veronica Roth always had the ending in mind forAllegiant.
Did you always have the ending in mind for the third book?
VR: Yes. Since the first book — I remember telling my editor, and she said, “Well, you better keep that quiet.” Yeah, I did a lot of work to set it up the way that it is and I’m really happy with it.
10. Divergent is set very far in the future, but there’s no exact date.
Do you know what year Divergent is set in?
VR: No! (laughs) The reason it’s not in there is because I am terrible at estimating time and how long it takes for certain things to happen and for changes to happen, so I just kept it deliberately ambiguous. When I tried to figure it out, I just stressed myself out, so I think it’s just really far in the future.
11. Natalie Prior is loosely based off Veronica Roth’s mom.
Did you base Tobias off of anyone?
Any other characters?
VR: The only one that’s close to someone I know is Tris’ mother is a lot like mine, because my mother was always self-sacrificial and very kind and helpful to us. But when I got older, I realized she was also a badass, and I think that experience motivated a lot of the aspects of Tris’ mother that we see, so she’s a little like my mom. I don’t know if my mom would agree, but at least as far as I saw her in a particular moment in time, that’s how Natalie is.
12. Caleb betrayed his family earlier than expected.
When did Caleb decide to betray his family? Is there a moment Jeanine convinced him to side with her?
VR: Some questions I don’t like to answer because I want it to be fun for people to form their own opinions, but with him, I think it’s a lot earlier than you think!
13. Sadly, there are no “Detergent” jokes in Allegiant.
Are there any Detergent jokes in the third book?
VR: No, but I tried! I was thinking of doing something with laundry but it just didn’t happen.
14. Roth wishes she didn’t kill some of her characters.
Are there any scenes you would change?
VR: Well, I would make the Erudite more nuanced. Since Tris is the one observing them for us, she is very judgmental and it’s been set up to be by her dad, so it’s understandable that they wouldn’t come off that well. But a good writer can show things that the narrator doesn’t see to the reader, so that’s hard, and I wasn’t that good at it when I wrote Divergent, so I would love to go back and fix that if I could. I would also show a little more of Jeanine’s backstory and motivations to make her more nuanced also.
And I’m not going to say who, but there are some characters I wish I didn’t kill. I just think the story maybe could’ve been stronger or gone in a really interesting direction if some of them had survived.
Is this in book one, two, or three?
VR: None in book three — I was really careful about what I did in book three. Not that I wasn’t careful when I wrote the first two books; I just didn’t know as much, I guess.
15. Any person who tried to enter Jeanine’s lab would’ve been forced to fight themselves in some type of logical puzzle.
When Tris attempts to get into Jeanine’s lab, she is forced to fight herself in a simulation. Does the simulation change based on fears of a person, by faction, or something else?
VR: It’s intended to be a logical puzzle, not a fear simulation. So Tris fights herself not because that’s who she would not want to fight, but because everyone would have to struggle against themselves in one way or another, depending on their disposition. For Tris it’s a logical puzzle based on a physical challenge. You know, “How do I beat an opponent who knows exactly what I’m going to do, can do the same things I do, is a total match for my strength and speed and is no better or worse than I am.” She discovers the difference between them is their goals, and she uses that to defeat herself. I think an Erudite character would have more of a mind puzzle and it might change depending on who is in there, but they’ll always be fighting themselves.
16. Marcus Eaton was almost killed off in Insurgent.
Did you have any alternate endings?
VR: In Insurgent, I tried to kill Marcus four different ways but he just wouldn’t die!
Can you say the ways in which he was going to die?
VR: He was going to be executed for reasons that no longer apply, but he was going to be framed for some kind of crime and executed — but it didn’t work.
17. Jeanine’s motivations come from deep anxiety and a lack of understanding people’s independence.
Can you tell us anything else about the Divergent world?
VR: Jeanine’s motivations come from deep anxiety and a total lack of understanding that other people are independent and exist outside of her and are not for her use. That combination motivates her to do what she does. I wish that were in there a little more.
Some things about the history of the world outside the fence are definitely not included for time and pace and all that, but I can’t reveal those, because they would be spoilers. There are some journal entries written from Natalie’s perspective out there, so those will probably appear somewhere and you learn a lot more about Abnegation.
18. There will be four short stories about Tobias.
Are there any more short stories coming out?
VR: I have four short stories about Four. They’ll all come out in paperback bind in February. So the first three are kind of prequel for Tobias about his life before he met Tris, and then the fourth one has a significant amount of overlap with Divergent.
19. There are powerful and beautiful moments at the end of Allegiant.
How do you think people are going to react to Allegiant?
VR: Oh, I don’t know. I think it will be like any book, a mixture of things, but hopefully people find it at least satisfying even if not everything that they wanted happens. But I think there’s some powerful and beautiful moments at the end, so my hope is that people will appreciate those.