Veronica Roth first wrote "Divergent" at the age of 21. In 2013 alone, the trilogy sold 6.7 million copies, according to Publisher's Weekly, and the first three films in the four-part Divergent movies made more than $700 million worldwide, according to the-numbers.com. The fourth film is slated to be released as a TV movie in June.
"I feel incredibly fortunate to have established myself at such an early age with the Divergent books," Roth, who is now 28, said in an interview with the Deseret News. "I can write full time, make that into a life and have a family and support them."
Her family at the moment consists of her husband, Nelson Fitch, and a dog, and as that family grows, Roth knows she will be able to continue writing and traveling the world meeting her readers.
"It's been a wonderful journey altogether," she said. "I feel incredibly lucky for it."
This month, Roth has released her first book since the Divergent trilogy that brought her success — "Carve the Mark" (Katherine Tegen Books, $22.99, 480 pages).
"Carve the Mark" follows the story of Akos, who is kidnapped with his brother and brought to serve his people's enemies — the Shotet, ruled by a brutal tyrant, Ryzek. In this world, everyone develops a currentgift but only some receive fates, a destiny that society's oracles say happens in every version of the future they can see. Akos is fated, so is Ryzek, and so is Ryzek's sister, Cyra.
Cyra's currentgift leaves her in constant, agonizing pain and brings that same pain to anyone she touches. This isolates her from everyone and causes her brother to use her as a weapon. But Akos' currentgift allows him to stop anyone else's currentgift at a touch, so Ryzek gives Akos to Cyra to help her receive some relief from her pain.
Akos' fate is to die in the service of Ryzek and Cyra's family, and the closer he gets to Cyra, the more he feels himself spiraling toward that destiny. But are the oracles' predictions perfect, or could someone defy them? Is Cyra meant to live the rest of her life suffering from her currentgift, or can she turn her curse into a blessing and a strength?
This young adult story mixes science fiction with fantasy, combining spaceships and futuristic technology with ancient, fictional worlds and "X-Men"-like powers in a story that accomplishes the rare feat of exceeding the mark that Roth's debut novels set.
Roth said the idea for "Carve the Mark" first came to her when she was about 12. She said she kept returning to the concept of a boy being taken from his family and undergoing a trauma, only to have to reintegrate after it was over without being able to fully explain what he experienced.
With the focus mostly on Akos to start with, Cyra actually was only a background character in the original draft, Roth said. She said her reservation with making Cyra more dominant was the fact that she was always in pain, and Roth didn't want to exhaust the reader by showing the story through Cyra's agonized perspective.
"As I went on, she became more and more interesting to me," Roth said. "Then I just thought the story wasn't working and I needed her perspective."
To help with the pressure of writing a new story after so much success, Roth didn't tell her publisher anything about "Carve the Mark" until she had completed and revised her first draft. Before that, she said, she just "shut it out."
"That's a skill as an author you kind of have to develop," she said. "You just can't think about what comes next or how people are going to react to things because it just makes the work impossible to do."
As to whether her writing has improved since the Divergent series, Roth didn't feel qualified to say, but there were some things she focused on doing better this time around.
"I'm more patient. I slow down. I describe things a little more," she said.
In particular, she wanted to focus more on creating a nuanced antagonist. In the Divergent series, the main character, Tris, lived in a very separate space from her antagonist, Jeanine, and that often made Jeanine's motivations unclear. In "Carve the Mark," Roth made Cyra's brother, Ryzek, the antagonist so the reader could get to know him and see different sides of him.
Now, Roth is excited to go on tour and interact with some of her fans again. She has been to Utah a few times before to visit her sister who played volleyball at Utah State University, but she plans to make the most out of every stop on her tour and do at least one thing to explore the area.
"It can be tempting to go airport, hotel, bookstore, airport, hotel, bookstore," Roth said. "But there's so many amazing places I'm going to. So, when I'm in Salt Lake, I'm going to try and experience a little bit of Salt Lake."
If you go
What: Veronica Roth book signing
When: Tuesday, Jan. 24, 7 p.m.
Where: Granger High School, 3580 S. 3600 West, West Valley City
Note: This is a ticketed event. Two general admission tickets come with the purchase of "Carve the Mark" from The King's English Bookshop.