Anti-Heroines, Genre Fiction, and Veronica Roth's Ever-Evolving Career
Veronica Roth’s Poster Girl explores a question that science fiction often ignores: What happens when the dystopia ends? Sonya is the former face of the Delegation, an oppressive regime. Now a political prisoner, she’s tasked with finding a missing girl to earn her freedom.
Roth burst onto the literary scene with Divergent, a blockbuster young adult dystopian novel that was made into a movie starring Shailene Woodly. Since then, she’s written a string of bestselling sci-fi and fantasy novels for teen and adult readers. Roth joined Likewise and author Megan Giddings for a discussion of Poster Girl, which came out last week.
Megan Giddings: Can you talk about how you develop your books? Where do you get started?
Veronica Roth: For Poster Girl, it really started with Sonya. I’ve wanted to, in my work for older audiences, explore what happens after the stories that we hear. My last book, The Chosen Ones, was a post-“save the world” narrative. Poster Girl is post-dystopian, but it didn’t work without Sonya. She’s complicit in this; she’s on the wrong side of the revolution, and to write about a character like that felt very strange to me. I usually write about heroes. It was an interesting challenge.
MG: You make it explicit that Sonya’s wrong throughout the book. But she’s funny; she’s interesting; she doesn’t back down from difficult situations; she’s a thrilling person to be around. How did you balance this?
VR: I have never as a reader cared about likability. I care if a character’s decisions feel internally justified, if I feel like I understand the context for what they’re doing, but I don’t care whether I agree with them or not. It was hard to write about Sonya because she’s been brainwashed, basically, so what’s difficult is to find a way to show the cracks in what she thinks. You’re in her head and sometimes when you’re in a character’s head you feel like everything they see and everything they perceive is correct, but you have to find ways to step outside of her and show that she’s limited in her perspective.
MG: Why do you write in genre?
VR: You can explore things through exaggeration in genre fiction. There’s a layer of separation that allows people to approach whatever it is that you’re saying or asking questions about with more freedom and honesty because they’re removed from it. When I was reading The Women Could Fly, there’s a lot of horrific things that people say and believe in that book—about witches, about women, about marriage—but I wasn’t stressed out by it because it’s an alternate reality. The magic allows a sense of wonder and excitement about where things could go without the deep and creeping dread of confronting real misogyny.
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