What were the challenges of getting back into Tris’s head after everything that happened to her in ? Did you find that you had to approach her differently?
Veronica Roth (VR): The biggest challenge was learning how to do justice to her immense grief and guilt. Everyone reacts to loss differently. In the early drafts of Insurgent, I felt like Tris wasn’t grieving at all, and in the middle drafts, she was too isolated—I finally found ways to show those difficult, painful emotions in ways that made sense for her, like her inability to hold a gun, or her nightmares, or the triggers that set off painful memories. She’s also not quite the same person I knew in . She’s been forced to grow up and to expand her idea of what’s important—not factions, but love, and sacrifice.
How did the five factions evolve – and continue to evolve – in the writing process?VR: Well, I got to know the “other” factions (Erudite, Candor, and Amity) better in the second book. I discovered not only what makes them each appealing but also what makes them each corrupt, in their own ways. And I think Tris’s understanding of bravery and selflessness, the virtues of Dauntless and Abnegation, continues to change over time. The biggest revelation she has in book two is about the nature of selflessness and sacrifice.
Which character surprised you the most as you wrote them?VR: In the first book: Al. I had no idea what he was going to do until he did it. And in the second book: Jeanine. She surprised me because I had been thinking of her as a total villain, but the more I delved into her motivations the more I realized how much I sympathized with her, and understood her, even if I didn’t agree with her decisions. (Obviously.)
The violence in your books is very raw. Do you ever find it difficult to write such raw content?VR: Not really, no. I always have an internal conversation that goes something like this: “Do I really want to go there? Do I to go there for this to feel real and serious and urgent?” Usually I decide that I do; sometimes I decide that I don’t, and I back off. But I have no trouble going into a dark place when I write, probably because I’m not really a dark person.