Exclusive Q&A: Veronica Roth Talks Carve the Mark, the Divergent Epilogue (!) and Fate

Carve the Mark by Veronica RothDid you know that Veronica Roth has a new book coming out soon? Carve the Mark, out January 17, is set amidst a galaxy and tells the story of two teens stuck as players in a planetary war. It’s atmospheric and dramatic but also, also, oh, we’ll let Veronica herself tell you:

“There’s a Divergent epilogue, “We Can Be Mended,” which my publisher will send out as a gift to anyone who preorders Carve the Mark or buys it on the first day it comes out [ed. 1/17/17] (or in advance for the tour). It’s just a short exploration of what Tobias is up to five years after the events of Allegiant. We’re working on getting it in as many countries as possible, too. And that was definitely fun to write—I really wrote it for myself, not knowing if it would ever be suitable for public consumption, so I hope it gives readers the same emotional closure it gave me!”

Ahhh, we know, right? We had more questions for Veronica that she was kind enough to answer. Read on!

After writing the Divergent trilogy, was it hard to decide what to write next?

Thanks! I’m excited about it! And it wasn’t too difficult to decide, no. I showed my agent a few ideas after Allegiant, and with Carve the Mark there was this strong gut instinct from both of us. It felt big and fun and rich in a way my other ideas hadn’t.

It’s been a few years since Allegiant’s release, what have you been up to — did you take any amazing trips or sleep a lot or … ? 

Well, there was still a lot of work to do after Allegiant came out, namely with Four, the short-story collection, and the movies. And I hadn’t toured internationally at all at that point, so that was also on the docket. I’m not terribly good at resting. I love my job and I love writing, so I feel weird when I’m not doing it. I did slow down a little, though.

What have been the best books you’ve read as you’ve been writing Carve the Mark?

I don’t read a lot while I’m drafting, but I did read some great nonfiction—Stiff by Mary Roach, The Tale of Dueling Neurosurgeons by Sam Kean, and Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick among them—and graphic novels—Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples and Nimona by Noelle Stevenson were definite highlights.

The fates you bestow upon your characters are so succinct yet revelatory. Do you believe in fate?

I honestly have no idea if I believe in fate or not! Maybe I believe in it the way it is in this story—the oracles see “fates” like they’re peeking at the ending of a book, but the character’s choices still take them there. It’s not about destiny so much as being at a particular position on a continuum. I definitely believe in some weird combination of free will and higher purpose, but I’m too small to understand how that works, and I’m okay with that.

Your protagonist Cyra lives with chronic pain. What type of research did you do to make her condition believable?

Oh, I’m so glad you asked about this! There are a few women in my life who live with chronic pain, whose experience of that pain was frequently underestimated or dismissed by the people around them (including doctors), so just by listening to them I had a good understanding of how that felt and how urgent that part of Cyra’s story was to tell. But I also read a lot of articles, listened to some podcasts about pain and the brain, and searched through firsthand accounts, specifically from women, as this is a more common experience for women (look up the study “The Girl Who Cried Pain: A Bias Against Women in the Treatment of Pain” and go from there!).

Cyra’s pain may be fantastical, but chronic pain is real, persistent, and poorly understood. The more I learned about it the more frustrated I became. But it felt good to channel some of that frustration into Cyra’s character. Cyra’s pain is underestimated, poorly treated, and used to diminish her by men—her mother is the only one who fights for her health, for quite some time. And that’s no accident. The more you talk about pain with other women, the more you realize a lot of us have had some experience with it that’s not normal, whether it’s passing out from menstrual cramps in high school or being told your abdominal pain is due to “stress” when it’s really endometriosis. And now I’m getting worked up again!

Carve the Mark is part one of a duology — why two books instead of three — was it a conscious choice or just how the story appeared?

I realized at the end of the first story that while I had resolved many of Carve the Mark’s more personal conflicts, I had created a big, tense situation in the world around them that begged to be explored, so I started planning a series. I actually mapped it out as three books and as two, and in the trilogy version there wasn’t a real arc for the middle book, so I decided against it. In a trilogy you need three distinct story arcs under one big umbrella arc, and this series just doesn’t have that. The second book has been extensively plotted through a twenty-six page outline! But I’m still writing it.

The worldbuilding in CtM is very well done and very detailed. Especially considering you’ve set these books off-planet, was it a very different process from creating your Divergent universe?

Thank you! I love hearing that, because building a more detailed world was a definite goal of mind at the outset. It was both easier and harder for me to build this world than the one in Divergent—on the harder side, I had no touchstones like I did in writing a dystopia, no remnants of our current world and its rules to fall back on. But on the easier side, I had total freedom to make my own rules, to think outside of the box in every way. (Like: does this society have to be partriarchal? No! So how do they determine leadership? Is it gender neutral? Inherited by blood? Or something else? You can see how easy it was to let my mind get lost in questions!) And I definitely layered in more and more details with each round of revision. I’ve discovered I’m not naturally a detail-oriented person in my writing—I have to force myself to slow down and describe and really see the scene I’m working on. It was a great exercise for me.

What music did you listen to while writing? Anything in particular?

I made playlists for both characters, which isn’t something I always do. Akos’s featured more folk-y, pared down music, and more male voices—alt-J was a huge feature. Cyra’s was all angsty pop ballads, basically everything by Sia and Halsey, with some MS MR and Tove Lo thrown in. Having the separate playlists helped me get into each character’s head when I was writing their sections.

CtM utilizes dual POVs as you did at times with Tris and Four. Was this experience different for you?

Definitely. I learned a lot from trying dual POVs with Tris and Four, namely that just because I hear the voices differently doesn’t mean that’s coming across on the page! Akos was particularly tricky, as I tried to write his sections in first person for the rough draft, and I just wasn’t connecting with him for some reason. In revisions I tried third person for him, and everything came together. I think it’s because he’s wary by nature, and he holds everyone and everything at a distance—you can see that in his currentgift, even—so it was more natural to have another layer of separation between myself and him.

Carve the Mark will be available in stores and online January 17, 2017. Order it by the 17th to get that Divergent epilogue! You can grab your copy here: Amazon | BN.com | iTunes | Kobo | GooglePlay. Digital copies start at $13.99. And for more YA news you can use, visit our Everything Young Adult page!

Tags: , , , ,