Veronica Roth developed the first ideas for her new book when she was just 11 — years before she wrote “Divergent” on her winter break as a senior at Northwestern University.
“I’ve written many versions of it,” says Roth, now 29. “That was a time in my life when I loved to read and when books were really important to me.”
In “The Fates Divide” (HarperCollins, $21.99), released April 10, Roth draws us into futuristic world, written for young readers reminiscent of her younger self. It’s made up of nine planets, an oppressive government and an invisible current that gives everyone unique powers.
The book rounds off the “Carve the Mark” series, which tells the stories of Cyra and Akos, two characters from enemy cultures who live on the same planet.
Roth was inspired by a certain blockbuster movie franchise.
“All these human things are in ‘Star Wars,’ but you also get aliens and death stars and lightsabers and stormtroopers — the balance of fun exploration and creativity and all of that, with the grounded human and political themes,” Roth says. “I love [it] and wanted to write in the same genre.”
In the series’ first book, “Carve the Mark,” Cyra’s family, the tyrannical rulers of the violence-loving Shotet people, kidnaps Akos of the peace-loving Thuvhesits. He is forced to serve them, seemingly foreshadowing a fate predetermined by an oracle at his birth: He will die in service to Cyra’s family. Still, he and Cyra fall in love.
In “The Fates Divide,” the schism between the two cultures escalates into war. Unlike in “Carve the Mark,” in which readers hear only the perspectives of Akos and Cyra, “The Fates Divide” offers two more points of view: those of Akos’ brother and sister, Eijeh and Cisi. Cyra and Akos have to make choices about who to fight for, and these choices mark their fates.
The arcs of the female characters, specifically Cyra and Cisi, especially flourish as they learn to harness their powers, according to Roth. She says the characters counter the idea that young women tend to be “silly and unfit to lead” because of their volatility.
“The women are young and emotional and hopefully complex,” she says. ‘They are still ultimately capable of making decisions and some powerful ones and smart ones.”
Though she veered away from creating a futuristic vision of Chicago like she did in “Divergent,” Roth says “little pieces” of the city still seeped into “The Fates Divide.”
“When I was writing, it was cold the majority of the time,” Roth says. “That’s why Akos’ country is a thing at all.
“The stained glass at Northwestern in the large chapel made me come up for a vision for the temple of Hessa, Akos’ mother’s workplace.”
Of all of the elements in Roth’s new universe, the authoritarian government might most closely resemble events grounded in human history. She says she gathered “research about fascist governments and dictators and how they use propaganda and limitations of language to control people” to paint the portrait of Cyra’s father, a dictator who reappears in “The Fates Divide.”
Current events also influenced Roth, who says she has been drawn to write “about leaders and whether they’re capable or not.”
When she isn’t writing, Roth, who lives near Uptown, says she and her husband like to eat in the city. They search for hole-in-the wall restaurants and lately have been on the hunt for a Polish place.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had a good pierogi,” she says.
There haven’t been any developments with a possible “Ascendant” TV series, based on the last book in the “Divergent” trilogy, Roth says.
Though the “Divergent” saga ended, “The Fates Divide” keeps Roth firmly planted in young-adult fiction, about which she has some strong feelings.
“I don’t believe in sending messages in books to the youth because I think that’s creepy,” she says, laughing. “But I think to provoke thought is a good goal.”