Veronica Roth has experienced the kind of success that most writers only dream about. At 25, she is the best selling author of the Divergent trilogy, the first of which is being made into a movie this year. The first two books in her dystopian YA trilogy have been a great commercial success, making her one of the best selling authors in the world (link).
Roth graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Creative Writing in 2010. The rights to the Divergent were sold before she completed her final semester. She was raised by her mother, painter Barabra Roth. Though Veronica was raised by her mother without religion, she became a devout Christian after attending a bible study in high school. She has spoken about having anxiety issues, saying that dealing with her mental health has greatly influenced the ideas that are present in her writing. For example, the premise for the Divergent trilogy was inspired by a psychology class and Roth’s interest in personality tests. In 2011 she married photographer Nelson Fitch. They currently live in Chicago.
Free Four (e-book short released in 2012)
“Hearken” (2013), short story in the Shards and Ashes anthology.
The trilogy’s concept, a dsytopian world where everyone is split into one of five groups based on personality traits, has been widely praised. The trilogy’s protagonist, Tris, has also been praised for her obvious shortcomings. A strong female character, Tris is flawed: she is selfish, vindictive, and sometimes manipulative, while still managing to be a likeable. Offering an explanation for the book’s wild success, Evan Daughtery praised Roth’s premise: “Veronica nailed a very primal, relatable idea: You turn 16 and you choose what you think is going to be some narrow version of how the rest of your life is going to look” (link). The trilogy is considered an easy and yet incredibly engrossing read; it is has been compared to potato chips.
Roth’s writing includes many hallmarks of recent popular YA lit: a female protagonist, gratuitous action and fight scenes, and a passionate yet chaste romance. In the third book, a love triangle is hinted at. While the romance is intense, the characters in Roth’s books have limited sexual experiences. When pressed, Roth says this was a conscious choice. It was important, she says, for her to not alienate her younger readers: “I didn’t want to have smut on the page. I don’t want to titillate” (link).
The third book in the trilogy has not had the same commercial success as the first two installments. Some critics felt that the ending to the series was “disappointing,” (link) while others contend that the ending was “pleasingly brave and poignant” (link). Roth’s fan base had a much stronger and more negative reaction to the third book: many readers felt betrayed by the ending. Less passionate criticism contended that the book simply fell flat after its long-awaited and highly publicized arrival.
List of awards
Goodreads Favourite Book of 2011
Goodreads Best Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy (2012)
Motivation & Practices
While in university, she worked hard and maintained good grades, but said that she always made sure to prioritize writing. Roth found that constantly juggling her life was difficult, and “didn’t always turn out well” (link). She also found that balancing work, school, and “being a person” (link) was a matter of using time effectively. Now that writing is her full time job, rather than a hobby, she has said that she is making an concerted effort to find new ways to occupy her time (link).
“I crammed DIVERGENT into the spaces between my classes. I woke up early to work on it, and I stayed up late. I worked on it rather than doing homework or studying for tests. I wrote DIVERGENT concurrently with my senior thesis. And I wrote it isolated from my academic community.”
When studying Creative Writing at Northwestern, Roth wrote Divergent in her spare time. She struggled with feeling ashamed of liking and writing YA lit, worrying that what she was working on was not intellectual enough. Roth has urged others to let go of feeling ashamed of reading and/or writing YA literature (link).
Roth maintains that she thrives with routine (link), and that taking time away from writing does not come easily for her, though she considered it an important part of the creative process. In 2010, she posted a reflection on her blog saying that spending some time “unwriting” (link) was just as important as consistently writing.
Since 2009, Roth has kept a well-maintained blog. She has posted extensively on her writing process, even providing screenshots of her revision process (link). She relies on checklists and colour coding to stay organized and likes to arrange (and complete tasks) in order of difficulty, beginning with the most difficult. Roth also uses lists to help outline her characters, keeping track of their goals and motivations to make sure that the characters are consistent and believable.
Divergent is due out in 2014. Rights to the film were purchased by Summit Entertainment, the same production company behind the Twilight movies. Roth was adamant that she did not want to be a part of the movie process, saying that as a writer, she had no desire to make movies. She was very happy with the casting and sets. Shaliene Woodly has been cast as Tris, the female protagonist. Interestingly, Woodly also stars in the film adaptation of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. These intersections are a poignant reminder of how YA literature is marketed: book stores tend to stock and publicize a few popular authors, rather than a variety of different authors. Theo James and Kate Winslet also star in the film adaptation. Here is the movie trailer:
Veronica Roth answers fan’s questions live stream (medicated by New York Magazine)
Veronica Roth’s personal blog, which she has maintained since 2009. Her posts are thoughtful and often confessional. She has posted extensively on the writing process. Interestingly, she has not updated her blog’s interface or transformed it into a fancy website, a touch that I personally find endearing and demonstrative of Roth’s uneasy relationship with fame.
Veronica Roth is the third most followed author on goodreads. Her profile can be accessed here: goodreads profile.
With a young fan base and an upcoming movie, tumblr is buzzing with news about Roth’s books. A search reveals the extent of her fans’ engagement: tumblr.