In a recent conversation moderated by Entertainment Weekly, Veronica Roth chatted with fellow author Leigh Bardugo (Shadow & Bone) about YA Lit, writing, and the importance of sexy, “competent” boys and badass heroines!
Although they face extraordinary circumstances, Alina and Tris remain relatable as teenage girls — how much of their character makeups are based on your own experiences growing up?
L: Alina is very much an outsider and I certainly felt that way growing up. She really grapples with her desire to belong and find a place in the world, and she makes some bad choices because of it. And… now that I think about it, I was raised by my grandparents in this sort of strange neighborhood where there were pretty much no other kids. Their house was up on a hill and I was left to my own devices a lot of the time. I wonder if some of that sense of isolation crept into the description of Keramzin (the orphanage where Mal and Alina grow up).
V: That sense of isolation is a huge part of why Alina is relatable, I think — how many teenagers, and heck, even adults, feel alone in this world? I certainly did, at that age.
Tris’s experience is very much the opposite of mine. I grew up in a very free environment in which I was always encouraged to follow my natural inclinations, and I grew into a very careful, somewhat neurotic adult, for whatever reason. Tris grew up in a controlled, restrictive environment and ultimately sought freedom above all else. I think that Tris’s arc expresses some of my internal longing to escape my anxious brain. The inside of my head is a little like an Abnegation house sometimes. I don’t think Tris has much to do with my experiences growing up, though she’s certainly informed by some of the things that have formed me as a person.
Both Alina and Tris are strong, brave characters. They’re characters that girls admire. What other heroines found in literature have you admired?
L: I’m so tempted to be like, “Bertha Rochester because she burns it all down!” Most of the female characters I admire come from science fiction and fantasy, maybe because there’s more permission to shake up gender roles in genre. Alanna is a favorite, definitely Hermione. And I really adore Brienne of Tarth. She’s sometimes presented as naive or almost dogmatic in her worldview, but I love her conviction.
V: Hermione! Yes! She is a wonderful character, and I love that JK Rowling made a nerdy book-loving girl into a Gryffindor. It’s funny you should mention Bertha Rochester, Leigh, because one of my other favorites is Jane Eyre. She has some pretty strong convictions, too, and is willing to leave the man she loves in order to stand by them, which I think is amazing. More recently I’ve loved some complicated, “unlikable” characters in particular — Sam from Before I Fall, Ruby from Imaginary Girls.
To read the full interview, go to Entertainment Weekly!