Veronica Roth 2.0

First Draft, Ep. 92: Veronica Roth (Transcript)


The original post for this episode can be found here.

[Theme music plays]

Welcome to First Draft with me Sarah Enni. Today I’m talking to Veronica Roth, again! Veronica has a new book coming out, a Young Adult sci-fi called CARVE THE MARK and she agreed to catch up with me on what she’s been up to since we did our last podcast together about two years ago. If you want to listen to that previous podcast, check the show notes for this episode.

[Background rain falling]

In some ways, for Veronica, things couldn’t be more different. The DIVERGENT series came to a close after four books and several novellas, not to mention the movies, and CARVE THE MARK is a new series in a brand new genre. But in other ways things are just the same. She’s still traveling a ton and writing constantly AND she’s still one of the most thoughtful people I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing; which is good news since I’ll be tagging along with Veronica on her tour to support CARVE THE MARK starting next week (January 17, 2017). Stay tuned to the credits of this episode for more information.

So while Veronica was on one of her many jaunts to Los Angeles she kindly agreed to come sit on my couch and bring me up to speed with what’s old, new, borrowed, and blue. So cozy up with some coffee and a cat, and enjoy the conversation.

ENNI: So how are you doing?

Veronica ROTH: I’m good, yeah.

ENNI: Thanks for coming to my house.

ROTH: Got to see your purple tree!

ENNI: Purple tree, purple hair…that’s how I’m rockin’ things.

ROTH: Purple cat collar.

ENNI: Purple cat collar! My cat, Hammer, is accompanying us in this interview.

ROTH: He’s the best cat ever.

ENNI: He will be silently judging us from afar.

ROTH: Yes.

ENNI: So, okay, I’m super excited to talk about this. We are talking about this in advance of going on tour to support CARVE THE MARK which is very exciting.

ROTH: Yeah! Thanks for joining me… in advance! [Laughing]

ENNI: It’s gonna be great! And people are gonna be hearing from us a lot.

ROTH: YEAH! Better get used to it guys!

ENNI: This is our first “Kick Off” interview. We’ll talk about the tour a bit later, but we wanted to get to CARVE THE MARK and hear more about it and then go from there.  Before we get to all of the CARVE THE MARK stuff, I would like to catch up with you.  This is the first repeat interview I’ve done. Veronica has been on the podcast before.  I will put a link up to the previous interview and that’s where you can hear her talk about where she grew up and how she started writing. In this one, we’re gonna talk about moving forward and new career path things. I’d like to start with just hearing about what you’ve been up to since you finished writing ALLEGIANT. What’s been on the course since then?

ROTH: Well, I think probably the first significant work thing was that… was it after writing ALLEGIANT the first DIVERGENT movie came out? Well, I know I was writing ALLEGIANT on the set, so it wasn’t out but I think the interview was out by the time…

ENNI: Oh, yes, yes.

ROTH: So, then there were two more movies, obviously, so those things happened and that was a huge part of my work life for a while.  I also wrote FOUR the collection of DIVERGENT stories from Tobias’s perspective. That came out and I went on tour to support that,  and I was also working on CARVE THE MARK, so it’s been kind of a…wow… it’s been pretty packed these last couple of years.

ENNI: There’s a lot. I think I would love to hear, just because this is – there’s not a lot of other examples and also not a lot of transparency about this - but given the fact that for the movies you weren’t writing a screenplay you’re not responsible for what’s in the movie.

ROTH: Oh no, no.

ENNI: But it did involve a lot of work for you, so what kind of things were you doing around the movies.

ROTH: Well, when they were shooting, I gave a lot of feedback about the INSURGENT screenplay. That doesn’t mean that they took my feedback because they’re under no obligation to do that. But it meant that I spent a lot of time with it. I still have my marked-up copy of it that has little flags everywhere. I was really concerned about the relationship between Tris and Four and the emotions there and I think that, now, looking at the final product of INSURGENT, the big problem with it is that it doesn’t have the same heart as the first one. So, all this sci-fi stuff was cool looking. It was beautiful.  I LOVED Shailene’s hair like that, I don’t care what anyone says. There was a lot of good in it, but I think that kind of emotional core was not as much there.

ENNI: Would you say that was something you also struggled with in INSURGENT yourself?

ROTH: Yeah. I think it is difficult to figure out where everyone’s emotions should be when the whole world is coming apart. For me that was the big revision challenge. Trying to find a way to keep Tris’s emotions honest without weighing down the entire book. It’s hard to write about a character who’s grieving or depressed or having, like, she had PTSD, you know? She couldn’t touch weapons. I had to come up with things like really specific touch zones. She had nightmares and she had this PTSD reaction to weapons. Those two things were my way of expressing her emotional state. And I’m sure in movies it’s like juggling a thousand balls at the same time. You fixate on one thing or another and you can really only do a few things well in movies. There is a huge cast, and action, and crazy visuals, and CGI, and it’s just like, man! It’s all about priorities, I think, and for me the emotional life of the character IS the priority. You’ll notice I have plot holes, [chuckles] it happens. That’s probably because when you’re juggling a thousand balls at once, sometimes you drop one. I feel like they dropped that one a little bit cause it wasn’t their priority.

ENNI: Right, different demands on that type of…

ROTH: Yeah exactly. They had to make this big action pic. That was what was required of them at the time, and I think they did that successfully.

ENNI: It is fun to watch, it looks fun. You’re like, “Wow!”

ROTH: All the shattering glass – OH! The part where Four’s skin basically melts apart!

ENNI: Oh my god yeah.

ROTH: It’s really hard to watch.

ENNI: I had forgotten that part, holy shit.

ROTH: Oh man, but god I love Shailene in that movie though. She’s so tough and such a bad ass.

ENNI: She is a bad ass. She’s very compelling to watch. Like whoa! And I think what’s interesting in what you’re saying about the character’s emotion - I think if you’re writing for people who are going to act - it’s like when you wrote Tris in your book, everything that Tris did depended on you. And I can imagine being a screen writer and being like, “Well, I hope Shailene can get this across with my few words and she needs to like emote!”

ROTH: And boy she did! She did. Every opportunity that she had to communicate Tris’s emotional state, I think she did. I see Tris in a different way, which I think is really interesting. And that became clear when watching INSURGENT, and watching her act in it. She talked to me about it a little bit. I think for her, in this original script which is not the one that they shot with, she looks in the mirror and it says something about how she’s filled with self-loathing because she looks like her mother and it’s like guilt and all this stuff.  And she, she didn’t like that at all. And I was kind of like, well, but that’s how - she’s a teenager first of all – and you’re really hard on yourself when you’re a teenager. And she has been through a trauma. I don’t know, I kind of feel like my Tris, at least, is this darker figure and I don’t think her Tris was the same dark figure. And I think that’s because of our world views.  Shailene has a fundamentally more positive world view than I do.

ENNI: [Laughing]

ROTH: And it was really interesting to talk about because I think the temptation would be to say my version was right and her version is wrong, you know? But I really don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s just like – I create one character on the page. She creates another character on the screen. Those are both equally valid representations of that character.

ENNI: Yeah, and that’s what I think is so cool, even though I cannot imagine. It must have been stressful in a lot of ways because there is ownership of a character that literally sprang from your head. Tris is yours. But, also interesting to be like, wow, you know? Obviously, our books are meaningful to people outside of ourselves and they can take on lives that we wouldn’t have imagined for them.

ROTH: I honestly think that my experience, my positive experience, with fan fiction helped me with this.

ENNI: Yeah?

ROTH:  Yeah, because when you read fan fiction - I’ve read a lot of Harry Potter fan fiction - and when you read it, you become open to different interpretations of characters. Sometimes Harry Potter, in fan fiction, is kind of dumb but lucky. And sometimes he’s smart. And [sometimes he’s] a little more like depressed or a dark figure.  And all those things feel like they could be Harry, you know? It just depends on how well they’re executed. I think that gives me that kind of mind set toward my own work. Which is, you really can interpret it in different ways and that’s alright. It doesn’t hurt me to have people think of the characters in different ways. I don’t need to be the dictator of that little world, I guess.

ENNI: Right, right [laughing]

ROTH: I really don’t feel that way.

ENNI: You would be a benevolent dictator.

ROTH: I would wish only good for my people…but not freedom [laughing].

ENNI: [laughing] Oh my god that is so great! And the other part of it that struck me was that you, at this point, you’re done writing ALLEGIANT. You’re even done writing the FOUR stories and supporting the FOUR stories. At this point you’re moving on to the next phase but movies, and stuff like that, keep it around in a way that I can imagine might have been a little bit like… you’re whiplashed from new to old.

ROTH: YES! It was really hard to talk, to try to summarize INSURGENT, when I was done writing FOUR. I was like, “Wait. What happens in that book?” Of course I know, but I had to re-access these explanations that I hadn’t given in years. And there is a sense of fatigue.  I never want to communicate that I dislike any of the books because I really don’t. But after a while, when you’ve been talking about the same thing for a long time, you get tired of talking about it. You know? And you want to be like, “I’m a person! I have a life outside of this!”  And so I think it was important to just take a break after that, which is kind of what I did. I didn’t write for a while. I did what I had to do for the FOUR book and for movie stuff and then I kind of just like…had some rest. And it was very good.

ENNI: And it was good. What did you do during the restful time?

ROTH: Well you’d think I’d stopped writing but, well I guess I just said I did, and I did for maybe like a couple weeks, and then I was just writing other things. I tried out a couple of stories that were buzzing around in my mind to see how they felt. And I played around, and I watched a lot of TV, and read some books, and just tried to refuel kind of. And to think about what I wanted from my career, and how I wanted to continue, and how I was going to improve, and all those things.

ENNI: I want to talk about all those things! I’m curious when you’re talking about going to read new books and watch TV when you are looking to sort of fill up your well with new stuff, you’re like a different person than the person who, in college, was watching all this TV. You know? You’ve spent four years really deeply involved in this one huge part of your life and then you’re thinking about where to go from there. Were you watching movies that you didn’t expect? Were you interested in different things that you hadn’t been before? Were you actively going in an opposite direction…or?

ROTH: No, I think I didn’t feel the need to do something completely different. I think people who write a series that becomes sort of a bigger thing, where they make movies of it, they feel compelled to reverse, you know? Like J.K. Rowling wrote adult…

ENNI: It was like “Cozy Fiction”, like small town politics [The Casual Vacancy]

ROTH: Exactly and there are elements where you’re like, “Oh there are some things that are Harry Potter-esque” but like, “NO, this is a totally different kind of book!”  I did not feel that need. I think the DIVERGENT books made me realize that I wanted to lean into the things that I liked because when I wrote them, initially, it was – I had to really work to not feel embarrassed because I was writing Young Adult genre fiction – both of which are kind of disparaged by the adult literary community that I came from in college. People I went to college with are perfectly kind, but they have particular views, you know?  About this kind of writing not being as serious. And I had to fight against my own weird inner feeling like what I was doing was not okay, or not what “serious writers” do, you know?  And then by the end of the series I was like, “NO! Screw that!” I just realized that this is a job I love and brings fulfilment to me, and to other people, and I just had let go, finally, of any last vestiges of embarrassment about the genre.

ENNI: That’s awesome!

ROTH: Yeah, and so I was like, “It’s Time! It’s time for the YA sci-fi renaissance, and sci-Veronica!” So I was digging into sci-fi and YA and all the things that I already knew that I liked. It was like I was finally letting myself be the kind of writer that I wanted to be.

ENNI: Yeah, that’s awesome! So, those couple of stories you were talking about playing around with, were those also sci-fi?

ROTH: Yeah, pretty much exclusively. I sent one to my agent because I had like 50 pages and I wanted to know what she thought. And I sent her the synopsis too and she was like, “This is good, but, I think you should keep looking.”

ENNI: Interesting.

ROTH: Yeah.

ENNI: Ha! That’s very diplomatic.

ROTH: Yeah, she was just like, “I think you need to chew on it longer,” cause we talked about it for a long time after she read the sample, and she was like: “Well what’s the answer to this world building question? And what about this part of the story? And where’s this gonna go?” And it was like, “Hm, I don’t know these things yet, and they’re not just going to appear out of nowhere.” So she’s like, “You can work on this, you could take as long of a break as you want…is this the thing?” And I was like, “Well…maybe not.”

ENNI: The little stories you were talking about, were either of those the short stories? Because you published a couple of short stories as well.

ROTH: They were not, because I did not write INERTIA [Veronica’s short story in the Summer Days and Summer NIghts  anthology, edited by Stephanie Perkins] which is the short story that Fox 2000 just picked up. I didn’t write that until later. Yeah, but yeah…actually, no. I think I did write at least part of it in that time.

ENNI: Or had the idea maybe?

ROTH: Yeah, I mean, I am always writing little short story ideas on my phone.  I don’t get big novel ideas that I can write on my phone, but I get like little… like I have one on my phone right now about like a high school Facebook thing.

ENNI: Interesting. So, you’ll get in the Notepad and open it up and write some of it? Or just the idea?

ROTH: No, yeah, just the summary.  Here, let me open it and read it to you, because some day it might be a short story.

ENNI: Let’s do it!

ROTH: So, the short story idea was: “Short story in which a localized school server based “Facebook” (quote, unquote), tracks what pages you visit and how often. And the information is leaked by an unknown hacker. Crushes, cheating, jealousy, etc. are revealed. Upheaval ensues.”  So that’s the kind of note that I take. And I do take it semi-regularly. I do that really obnoxious writer thing where someone says something and I’m like, “WAIT! I have to write that down.”

ENNI: [laughing]

ROTH: Because, you know, you don’t want to forget this stuff and usually the ideas that I get for short stories are about some kind of future technology. That’s too small to base a whole story, like a big book around, but is interesting as a concept for a short story.  You know like, “What if we could learn things through literal osmosis?” “How would that change this or that?” Like that kind of, “What if there’s technology that allows us to enter a common consciousness before someone dies?” That’s what INERTIA is about.  So most of my short stories are technology based.

ENNI: That’s funny. Do your big book ideas come with similar questions? Like, “What if this happened?” or, “What about a world where this is true?”

ROTH: No! [Laughing] They never do. They only come from character traits, or journeys, or, particularly like, story kind of beginnings.

ENNI: That’s funny to me, because that makes sense that when you get an idea that is almost framed in a certain way you’re like, “Oh this is built for a small story.” And it’s answering kind of a “What If” question.  And then the big stories are like, “I want to go on this journey with this kind of character.”

ROTH: Yeah, it’s always a little more character based. The short stories – they require you to very quickly establish character - but they don’t delve as deep into character, obviously, because there’s just not as much space.

ENNI: You just can’t. Where did the idea to move forward with CARVE THE MARK, come from? Where did it come from and how did it move forward?

ROTH: So, CARVE THE MARK… the basic story idea came to me when I was very young, like eleven or twelve.

ENNI: Really?

ROTH: Yeah, it was just like, “Young man is taken from his family and finds a weird affinity with his enemies, and then has to come back after his trauma and try to reintegrate.” I don’t know what twelve-year-old Veronica was doing to have that kind of idea! That’s really weird. I feel like it must have been based on something I watched or something I read. I don’t know. But I kept trying to write this story over and over and over again.  Just for fun! I didn’t really feel the need to finish it. The longest version I had before CARVE THE MARK was like 300 pages, but it wasn’t even 50 percent done.

ENNI: Oh, my god.

ROTH: Because I really had no sense of urgency even. It was totally bloated. It was way too long.

ENNI: I mean, I think that’s hilarious!

ROTH: And the code name… all of my story ideas start off with letters in my folders. I just code them based on the title usually. This one was called “L”. I don’t even remember what the longer title was… like “L III”. [That] was the longest one. And the name for CARVE THE MARK, before it was CARVE THE MARK, was “L X”. That’s how many versions there were [laughing].

ENNI: That’s so crazy! Was it always some version of sci-fi…?

ROTH: No, it started off as swords and horses fantasy.

ENNI: Really? Whoa!

ROTH: Yes. And then I was like, “Well, but you don’t really know how to do that.” I’m not good at historical style dialogue or anything, so…

ENNI: It’s so specific, yeah.

ROTH: So, then I did more like urban fantasy and then that kind of lead me toward sci-fi.

ENNI: What’s the pull to doing this story in sci-fi? [Is it so] you can just set all of your own terms?

ROTH: Yes.  There are no rules for what time period it has to echo. A lot of fantasy feels based on particular time periods or places. It doesn’t have to, but that’s just how it felt to me. I didn’t want to be bound by any rules at all. And I think that’s partly because of writing dystopian. You have to think about our current state… “The State of the Union!” Like the state of our world and you have to extrapolate. It has to be based on real world stuff. I just didn’t want to do it anymore because I realized I wasn’t so good at that actually. And I just wanted to build it from scratch. When I started CARVE THE MARK it was actually a lot earlier than it seems like it should be. I was in Romania and I was revising INSURGENT. So, I started it again. And I wanted it to be Polish fantasy.

ENNI: Interesting.

ROTH: Because I’m Polish, my family’s Polish, I wanted to explore Polish folk tales [which] are weird and dark.  I did a lot of research on the mythology and the kind of creatures. Like “Baba Yaga” [who] lures children to her weird house in the woods on stilts. I wanted it to be Eastern European fantasy because you know there’s some of that [for instance], Leigh Bardugo does the amazing SHADOW AND BONE Series, which is Russian Czarist fantasy. But Polish culture doesn’t get a lot of attention. So, I was like, “It’s my heritage.” I was curious about exploring it, and that’s how it started. But it wasn’t working…again, because I’m not really a big fantasy writer. I love to read it. But I just, I’m like: “Well, where’s…” you know? “Where are the street lights?” “Where are the vehicles?” like, “Why can’t there be electricity?” [Laughing] I just start to get frustrated. And so, I thought it would be good to blend sci-fi and fantasy together so I could have my electricity but I could also have these natural phenomena that seem like magic, you know?  That kind of thing. I was just like, “I just want to have everything I want!” And that’s how I started building the world.

ENNI: And in order to do that I’m going to space!

ROTH: Yes.

ENNI: I like that. But you like sci-fi. To me even hearing that you thought about doing it as a fantasy is funny. I feel like sci-fi is so much more of what you do, I think.

ROTH: I think you’re right about that and I just had to realize it. I was in the midst of just not embracing my own leanings at the point when I restarted CARVE THE MARK. And then I put it aside while I was doing INSURGENT revisions, and then writing ALLEGIANT. And then I picked it up again once I had the time.

ENNI: What order was [it] when you were looking for ideas and Jo was like, “Maybe think about another one.” Were you like, “Oh, I think …”

ROTH: I think I know! Yeah. I just thought: “You’ve written ten versions of it. You clearly like it. So how about you make it work this time.” That was my exact thought process. Jo talked to me, Jo’s my agent, she talked to me about how whatever I wrote after DIVERGENT would probably be a really difficult experience for me because it’s transitioning to a new series and it will not be exactly what people will expect. So, just make sure that whatever you do, you’re really into it. That you really love it in like a really deep way that can’t be touched by the way people react to it… good or bad. Make sure it’s untouchable.

ENNI: Really good advice.

ROTH Yeah, I mean it’s good advice for everything, actually, but I think it was particularly crucial at this time. So, that’s why I chose it because I was like: “I have loved this idea since I was young. I am not going to stop loving it. So, I should work on it.” You know? And then the fun part was just creating this world you know? Like: “Where will I set it?” [Laughing] “How will it work?”

ENNI: How did you start that process? By the way this, to me, sounds terrifying! This is a lot of work.

ROTH: It was terrifying to me too, to be honest. I had never done something like that before and I was a little in doubt that I could. But that’s the exciting thing about it. I think when you’re a writer you’re like, “I need to come up against this story that I am not sure I am capable of writing.” Because that’s the only way that I’ll grow.

ENNI: So, you’re approaching it. You’re like: “Let’s make it work this time. I’m gonna make my whole new world.” Then where do you turn? Where do you start in how you want to build this world?

ROTH: I tried to think about basic points of inspiration. All [of] the character’s names, at this point, were Polish. I didn’t want them to stay Polish because I didn’t want it to be Polish sci-fi. I don’t know…I didn’t want it to be anything in particular. So, we had been living in Romania where there’s a substantial Hungarian population. When I was there I heard a lot of the Hungarian language, which is so complex that it’s almost impossible for outsiders to learn.  You can’t physically make some of the sounds that are in Hungarian if you don’t learn before you’re the age of seven because you’re mouth just won’t do it.  It’s like a G-D-Y sound so this one guy’s name was Gdyla [unsure of spelling], like a GDY [laughing] like I can’t do it! And he spent the whole time trying to teach me how to say his name and I just couldn’t do it.

ENNI: That’s so funny.

ROTH: Yeah, and so Nelson had described the language - we both are in LOVE with this language first of all, I just want that to be clear - but it is weird sounding to our ears because it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before. It’s not a Romance Language. It’s not Germanic. It’s completely separate from every language group around it. So, it sounded alien to us and when you’re thinking about sci-fi like, “That’s perfect!” So,I changed it all to Hungarian. That’s where I started. Later, I thought about how dearly the Hungarians love their language and I didn’t want to appropriate it.  I took some of the sounds I liked from Hungarian and wrote little syllables of words that were comprised of those sounds and then I started to put them together to make names.  That is how the language of CARVE THE MARK was built. It’s just these sounds that were not common in English. They use a lot of “K” sounds and long “O” sounds, a lot of like, “AH” like a big vowel kind of [sound]. It was so much fun to create the language. I was like a kid playing The Sims.

ENNI: That’s, yes! Oh, my god. By the way, we talked about The Sims in our last interview too [laughing]!

ROTH: Of course we talked about The Sims! They’re a huge part of my life.

ENNI: Amazing!

ROTH: I know. I still play The Sims!

ENNI: That is how J.R.R. Tolkien started all of his [books]. He was a brilliant, brilliant, linguist and he built all of his worlds around languages. He was like, “I want to create a language and then I want to think about who would speak this way.” Because he understood how language reflected real life. So it sounds like that was….

ROTH: Well it was part of it. It really is more tied to my feeling about my experience there.


ROTH: I use the language as a jumping off point. But what I was really interested in was how priorities affect technology. In Romania, they don’t have a whole lot to work with a lot of the time. Their GDP is still pretty low. They’re recovering from this really traumatic period of communistic dictatorship and this revolution. When my aunt and uncle-in-law first moved there, they had to wait in line for two hours to get milk. It was still - and this was not, you know, this was like fifteen years ago - so it’s not like forever ago. And so they become incredibly resourceful. They do what they can with what they have. And sometimes it, as an American, it strikes you as weird until you think about it. They have these big water heaters that are like on the wall. Ours was on the wall in our kitchen. It fed water, hot water, to our tub and our sink, but it also gave heat to the apartment. It was a pretty efficient system. It’s just this tiny heater, you know? Just a couple of feet tall and…

ENNI: It’s doing a lot of jobs.

ROTH: Yeah, and they’ve figured out a way to make these things do better and better. We don’t have them here. We’re like, “Why don’t you have vents?” you know? That kind of thing!

ENNI: Why have one system when seven could do?

ROTH: Yeah, exactly. I kind of loved that. I was like well they’re not going to rebuild their beautiful, beautiful buildings! They’re going to make a system that can be retrofitted to those buildings. And if water heaters are a thing that they already have, then they’re going to use them to heat their homes. This is perfectly sensible. And they also have these decorative window coverings [that] I loved so, so much. Wrought iron, secure bars, on windows basically. But they are beautiful. They’ve made them [in] these elegant curved patterns. These geometric patterns. My husband took pictures of all of them while we were there and then assembled them into an album because we both loved them so much. But really they’re there for security. They’re there to make sure no one can break into your apartment because there was a lot of crime for a while. You know, where we were, was perfectly safe. But there’s this sense that that’s the best way to protect yourself. Not like, having an alarm system. No one has an alarm system. They have bars on their windows which, p.s., pretty effective!  [Laughing]

I was just fascinated by how my American brain wanted there to be an alarm system, and heat vents and then my brain that was trying to be open minded and experience Romania as it was, like, “NO! This makes perfect sense!” Like, “This is exactly how a resourceful person deals with what’s in front of them.” And so when building this world, I wanted to think about that like, “What kinds of priorities do these people have?” Then their priorities become the thing that unites them. Instead of their appearances, their origins, their races, their - any of that. It’s all about what they most value. And there’s a line in CARVE THE MARK that talks about what each culture worships, because worship is being a way of communicating priority. The Shotat worship the current, the Thuvhesits worship the ice flowers, [the] Othyr worships wealth, [and] Ogra worships mystery. It’s a way of telling myself that that’s how you will build these cultures. And then, in consequence of that, is that I wanted them all to be pluralistic. They have a mixed origin. You can find a person of any appearance – like light skin, dark skin, curly hair, straight hair, blue eyes, brown eyes - you can find those people in every culture in the entire galaxy. They’re all mixed. And part of that is because I just didn’t want that to be the unifying element. I didn’t want it to be about racism, or sexism, or religious discrimination. I wanted it to be discrimination based on priorities.  Because that seemed really interesting to me as a way of world building, and also a way to avoid appropriating particular cultures because that is something I really, really do not want to do.

ENNI: This is a very interesting thing that I have been thinking about a lot lately because I have been thinking about what it means to be American. I don’t know that I ever particularly reflected on myself as being really crazy proud to be American, that kind of doesn’t sound great, but that’s true.

ROTH: Well not everyone has the same level of patriotism. I don’t think that means you don’t like living here.

ENNI: Right. Yeah, and I guess I – but then of course I was a little bit [pauses] I was… I’m not even gonna let myself say a “little bit”, I was pretty devastated by the election. But my immediate response was not, “Where else will have me?” I found myself realizing the reason I was upset is because the Free Press means everything to me, and our democracy, and the fact that we have these ideals means so much to me. I was like, “Oh! I did not have any concept before this about how much my structure of faith and belief and my sense of virtue and what is right – aligns with America.” Whether it’s the chicken or the egg, it doesn’t really matter. This is where I want to be because I believe these things. It was a pretty great thing to come out of this awful experience.

ROTH: Yeah, a good realization to have. I’m with you. Freedom of the Press is one of the most important things that we have here. And for that to be threatened in any way makes me terrified.

ENNI: So scary.

ROTH: Yeah, cause it’s a check against the government.  We in America are allowed to be suspicious of government.  That is one of the most amazing things about living here. I am like super cynical and I can go on the internet and say like, “Screw the government!” Like, “Where are my taxes going?” [Growls] “Shake my fist at the sky” and that is part of being an American. And I LOVE that! That’s frickin’ crazy especially because when you spend time in a former communist country, they do not experience that. They do now -I mean they can say things now - but for a really long time they couldn’t say that even privately in their own homes because they were terrified of everything. It is the great and distinct privilege that we enjoy here that we can speak out against our own government and part of that happens through the press and that needs to be intact. I don’t care what we need to do, we need the press.

ENNI: There’s been a lot of conversation with average citizens, and also with members of the press, about what their role is. [About] how they need to cover this new administration. And to me, one of the great things is, I heard a lot of reports talking about like, “Oh I guess it’s time for…” I think what I’ve heard expressed is people being like, “Oh it’s time to wake up.”  We were lulled into a sense of belief in how things worked as far as covering the President. It’s like, “Oh right!” The presses job is not to be liked or to necessarily be granted access, it’s to fight and be cynical and to assume the worst, and be a check and balance. I think there was a degree to which it became like, “We report on what happens.” And now it’s like, “No you find out what really happens.” And I think this is a little bit of a reawakening for what the role of the press truly is. And it is to be disliked.

ROTH: And hey, shout out to Teen Vogue for being one of the best press coverages of the election.

ENNI Oh my god, yes!

ROTH: I saw a tweet the other day that was like, “And all the YA writers were not surprised.” And it’s like, “Yeah, because teens are awesome!” The end.

ENNI: And it’s the purest way to be like, “Hey you’re new here, what do you think?”

ROTH: Yeah exactly.

ENNI: They don’t come with decades of experience. They’re like, “Hang on, this doesn’t smell right.” And it’s like, “Maybe you are on to something.”

[Both laughing]

ENNI: That’s so interesting that you’re going to structure these different – like there’s validity to prioritizing all of those things, but then that trickles down to every level. People choosing where to live based on how they want to live their life, and what they want to put their most emphasis on.

ROTH: Yeah what they’ve been taught to value.

ENNI: Or what they want to value themselves because it sounds like this could be like – it’s like sorting. In this way, it’s like going to Hogwarts and going into a house. People can move between the planets, right? If they were like…

ROTH: Well, I don’t know that it actually works that way.


ROTH: This is like how these cultures are arranged but that doesn’t mean that where you’re born has no importance. And so that’s kind of the – that’s sort of the tension. It’s like, “Do I belong with these people?” Like, “To what extent do I belong with the people that I was born to?” And that’s like Akos’s big struggle. He finds out pretty early in the book, so I don’t feel like it’s a huge spoiler, that he has an indicator of belonging to the Shotet who are the enemies of his people. And it just rattles his entire existence. And that’s like what the whole series is dealing with for him. It’s to what extent he accepts this, or rejects it. To what extent do you choose where you belong, or is it chosen for you?

ENNI: The other thing that really strikes me of what you’re saying is how – and I really, really don’t want you to think, like this is in no way a dig, but it’s like Akos’s struggle sounds familiar to me. These are really similar themes to what you were dealing with in DIVERGENT.

ROTH: Oh yeah, no, that’s not a dig! I mean, I’m obsessed with the same problems over and over again. Because it’s all about like, “How do I fit in with my family once I have realized these things about myself that set me apart from them?”

ENNI: Right, that are pretty fundamentally different.

ROTH: Yeah. I think I’ll probably write about that for the rest of my life - if I had to guess [laughing].

ENNI: I had a conversation with another writer recently that I found really illuminating because she said that she writes about…she finds herself writing about the same things over and over but that kind of upsets her. She was hopeful that in the future, in her career, she could talk more universally. She was just at tension with that thought.  And that was the first time I had ever heard that.

ROTH: Interesting, that’s the opposite of how I feel about it.

ENNI: It’s also the opposite of how I feel about it. It’s a completely great way to feel and she wants to…

ROTH: No that’s legit.

ENNI: …have a more universal, humanistic world view of her writing. But I was like, “On no, I want to dig into the nooks and crannies of my brain forever!”

ROTH: I feel like universality comes from specificity. That sounds so like, up my own ass…um, but what I mean [laughing]…

ENNI: Oh no, that’s like an adage that’s out there.

ROTH: Yeah, you tell a specific story because you, as a human being, are inherently relatable. Like people can relate to you and to the things you feel. That doesn’t mean that they understand you or the things you feel, or that they can own those things themselves, but what it does mean is that I don’t - I feel we should all be able to empathize with each other, I guess.

ENNI: Yeah. I had an interesting experience with that with the podcast and what I talk about in the podcasts as far as my personal life.  I had a couple of people kind of question whether I should talk about that. I was like: “I don’t feel like there’s any reason to be ashamed of things that I’ve gone through or pain that I carry with me. I think that’s why people will respond to it in any real way.” You don’t have to have gone through my experiences but I’m telling you, “Hey, I’m a person and these are like the dings.” I feel like in general, as human beings, we are more compelled to relate to and listen to and engage with people who are honest about what’s not great about themselves.

ROTH: Yeah, I mean, we’re dented [laughing].

ENNI: Full of dents…I’m keyed! My Prius is keyed.

ROTH: I’m keyed!

[Both laughing]

ROTH: I have a flat tire [laughing].

ENNI: [Laughing]I agree. I’m not upset about finding different ways to tell the same story.

ROTH: And just because it seems exactly the same to you, that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of other things going on, you know? It’s just like a core thing that’s similar. It’s not like you’re repeating the same book literally.

ENNI: Yeah, CARVE THE MARK could not be more different from DIVERGENT. It is its own book.

ROTH: There is an extended training montage, sort of…

[Both laughing]

ROTH: Which is apparently a thing I do, but that’s okay.

ENNI: Well listen, that’s pretty great! So, what else about CARVE THE MARK [is different]? The fact that it’s this whole new world, [which] I do want to get to, I mean, you got to put spaceships and stuff in this one.


ENNI: How was that?

ROTH: It was fine. I didn’t research how spaceships actually work because I was like, “I’m in a different galaxy!”  It doesn’t run on the same energy that ours does. It’s not similar in ways that I felt were really important to have accurate spaceships. It’s not like in ILLUMINAE by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman [listen to Aimie’s full First Draft interview here] which is an amazing book that everyone should read. They did a lot of research with the jet propulsion laboratories and, whatever, to figure out what was possible in space. And you can tell when you read it, it’s just such great sci-fi in that way. I would say mine is more fantasy than that.

ENNI: Yeah, like softer sci-fi? Like it falls in between somewhere?

ROTH: I’m pretty comfortable with that, I don’t mind it. The spaceships were like this great adventure kind of vehicle for me, and a way to explore even some of the more fantasy aspects of the universe because of the ‘current’ stuff.

ENNI: Yeah, and I would actually love to hear you talk about the current. Where the idea for that came from and how does it function in their world?

ROTH: The current in CARVE THE MARK is an actual, factual, force that runs through all living things and gives them special abilities. The metaphor used is it’s like liquid metal flows through a mold and takes different shapes depending on the mold. People are the mold. The current is the liquid metal, and it takes a different shape in each person. That’s the concept. And what I wanted was for this to be a thing that exists that could be entirely secular, like scientifically studied. You can be an atheist and acknowledge the current because it’s real. It’s there. You can [also] base an entire religion around it. I just really liked that it created possibility for different interpretations, and also, I love people with powers. It’s one of my favorite tropes that exists. I especially love when those powers, like in X-Men, communicate something about the person, because it helps you with character building and it feels really relevant. And then it’s like, “Can these things change over time as the person changes?” Do people change that much? Like all those questions really fascinate me.

And then the other thing was, what I really wanted to do, was to make things more difficult.

[Both laugh]

ROTH: Which is - to make sure that every gift had a corresponding curse. So, your current gift it’s… people are like, “What would be your current gift?” And I’m like, “I don’t want to think about it” Because it’s both good and bad!

ENNI: Right, right, right! I liked how in the book there is also a play with the current and then the prophecies. In my mind, those interrelate a lot. I want to make sure that I’m reading it right.

ROTH: The whole seeing the future thing is a current gift that three people per planet have at any given time.

ENNI: And the prophecies, of course, come with like, “You know what’s going to happen.” And then also [lowering voice] “You know what’s going to happen.”

ROTH: Or, you don’t know. You think you know, but you don’t.

ENNI: Right. Which I feel is one way in which the book really is different from – obviously, there’s a lot about it that is different from DIVERGENT - but this to me was really an interesting thing to talk about. Fate, and faith, and how what you believe in [is] more than what you can feel and touch. [It] really is playing with these character’s decisions. I don’t know…is this making sense?

ROTH: Yes, yeah. I mean the fates…I wanted to experiment with dread. Because people think the only tension [is] coming from a twist or some kind of surprise, like an ending feeling surprising. And I was like: “What if wasn’t?” “What if you spent the whole time dreading this thing?” But, the fates are written in a language - which there are countless different languages in this galaxy - and so, which language is it written in? And, are there translation errors? [Laughing] That is something that I find really fascinating.

ENNI: Oh, my gosh, yes.

ROTH: So, I can’t really talk about that now.

ENNI: Okay!


ENNI: [laughing] That is something that I could talk about and read about forever, so I’m really excited that you were delving into that. The other thing about CARVE THE MARK is that it is two points of view; both in first person, yes?

ROTH: No, one is first person and one is third person.

ENNI: Okay. That is what I was checking [on] earlier. You’ve done two points of view before. What made you decide to go about it this way?

ROTH: Oh, I really didn’t want to, because I did it before with limited success. To me, ALLEGIANT has two very distinct voices. To most other people, it does not. It has just one voice [laughing].  So, that’s cool, I’m glad to know that. I really didn’t want to do it again, because I was like, “I don’t know if I’m the kind of writer who does that very well.”

ENNI: Well it’s…

ROTH: It’s insanely difficult!

ENNI: Yeah! That’s asking a lot.

ROTH: It’s like asking YOU to talk like a different person.

ENNI: Yes.

ROTH: For a year [laughing].

ENNI: And I think what’s funny about it is that we harp at [it]. Young Adult emphasizes voice, so much.

ROTH: Yes, especially first person.

ENNI: Especially first person. I think that there is a reality of that [for] each writer. It’s like discovering your own voice is like one true voice within you. A character will change that, but also…not.  So it’s like, once you find a voice that’s working and that people love, then you try something like this that is really ambitious and you realize, “I do have a voice!”

ROTH: Yeah, it’s just this one really. So Cyra’s voice is easy, I mean she’s kind of formally educated. She is wealthy, she’s smart, she’s curious, she’s all these things. Her voice is similar to mine. We have a similar education level and background. I grew up privileged and so did she, in certain ways.  She also grew up with a lot of other crap happening, but you know, we can get into that some other time! For her, and for me, we have similar voices I guess. For Akos, he grows up as the richest kid in the crappiest town in Thuvhe. It’s like a farmer community. It’s considered low class by the other people in his country and so I tried to make his diction more casual. He has kind of a poetic rhythm to the way he talks and thinks some times. At least I attempted it. I have no idea if it worked. Honestly! I can’t tell. To me they sound completely different, but of course, I’m not the final word on how things turn out, so….

ENNI: Yeah, but I also think it’s funny to talk about it this way because it’s not like you are submitting this for a test. The fact that ALLEGIANT didn’t succeed in that, I don’t think is a conclusion we can draw. It’s about who read it.

ROTH: Well, yeah, I know. But…yeah, you’re right. You’re right. I’m very hard on my own work! It’s fine.

ENNI: Yeah and that’s okay and actually that’s going to dive into one of my questions later as well. But first person and third that was an attempt to just make sure that it was…?

ROTH: Well it helped. I think making his voice in third helped but it wasn’t actually the motivation. I wrote it in first, Akos’s first person, and my editor was like: “This isn’t working, and I don’t understand why. Think about that.” [Laughing] And it wasn’t. She’s right. There was some weird disconnect between me and Akos. Like anyone who read it in Akos – he was so hard. I have no idea what that problem was, except that it’s weird, his current gift is that he repels all other current gifts. Nothing works on him unless you weaken him to the point where his current gift starts to falter, which is a thing that happens in the world. Anyway, so he’s basically like, it comes from his wariness. He’s constantly described as a guarded and wary person by Cyra and so I think of it as a physical manifestation of his wariness. Like he protects himself with this armor. He keeps everything out. The third person voice does that too. It kind of pushes you out of his head just a little bit, like you can’t get inside, because he doesn’t want you to.  And once I did third person, suddenly that part of his character became a lot clearer to me, and to my editor, and I think to the people who have read it around me. But you don’t get to access parts of Akos because he won’t let you [laughing].

ENNI: That is so…I really like that.

ROTH: Yeah, I kind of loved it.

ENNI: It’s really cool. And it’s also making me remember what you said just a bit ago about Tris and about the difficulty of writing a first person from someone who is sort of consumed with anxious thoughts. I was thinking about [how] writing a character that has PTSD, or that has depression, it’s like writing a depressed character very true to a depressed frame of mind would be difficult to read. And then it doesn’t have a lot of plot, it has repetitive thinking, like all these things, so it’s like…

ROTH: You know what? It’s difficult to experience! So it makes sense that it would be difficult to read, especially if it was done really well. You’d be like, “Oh my god I feel like I’m in a depressed brain.”

ENNI: Yes.

ROTH: This is terrible. Man, someone should really do that…oh wait…they do!

[Both laughing]

ROTH: We have friends who do that!

ENNI: We have friends who write wonderful books about depression. You don’t want that to be a hindrance of talking about - I don’t know. To me, it’s interesting to think about. [If] Akos’s mental state isn’t the best for the narrative of what you’re going [for] – like his arc. Seeing his arc is more important than…  Also, Cyra feels so present. She really is like an immediate character.

ROTH: Well I didn’t think that she would work.  So I didn’t put her in the rough draft.

ENNI: [Laughing] Really?

ROTH: Her voice, yeah, because she’s in constant pain. I was just like, “How can I write constant pain?” You know when you’re in pain? It takes over everything that you think. And with her, she does constantly think about it, but I tried to keep it balanced. One of her characters’ strengths is that she’s able to ignore it because she’s gotten used to it over time. I think that’s a part of her that I admire actually, her ability to think in the midst of pain. But to me, I don’t know, it was important to include her. She made the book work.

ENNI: Well yeah, I love her so. I’m happy she’s there.  It’s super great to be able to talk to you again, because we can also catch up on some of the things we talked about last time.

ROTH: Yup!

ENNI: You gave some awesome writing advice and you had a few little things that I thought were interesting in our last interview, so I wanted to follow up and see if the intervening two years have made you feel differently about any of this.

ROTH: Alright, let’s do it!

ENNI: So last time – oh yeah, this is a good one, last time we spoke you said that if you ever wrote another series you would outline it – you would plan it.

ROTH YES! I DID THAT! I did that this time!

ENNI: [laughing] how did that go?

ROTH: Uh, it was hard, yeah. CARVE THE MARK II is a 25-page outline, so…just saying.  I did a lot more world building thinking. A lot more of that. And really, I have to give huge credit to my agent because when I was writing, she was helping me to think about what kinds of things I need to consider. Like she sent me links to blog posts of like, I think Kristin Cashore who did GRACELING? She’s got a great blog post about the kinds of world building questions you really need to answer if you’re going to create an entirely new world. Like units of measurement [laughing] you know, stuff like that. I definitely looked at a bunch of those. I wrote a lot of stuff down. None of it is organized, it’s all crazy, but I did, I outlined it…um-hm.

ROTH: Good Job past Veronica! Yeah!

ENNI: It was funny to hear you say that because I was like, “I’m pretty sure that one holds up.”

ROTH: Yup!

ENNI: And then when you started CARVE THE MARK you didn’t know… you kind of thought, maybe it was going to be a stand-alone, right, but?

ROTH: Ugh, I wanted so badly for it to be a stand-alone, but yeah. No, it didn’t work.

ENNI: The idea is too big! Half of that one draft was 300 pages

ROTH: Well I feel like there was a way that it could have just…Cyra and Akos’s immediate struggle could have been resolved in the book if I had ended it slightly differently. But what happened was, I reached the end and I was like, “Oh man, the galaxy struggle is like…not over.” So you can’t! You can’t just back out of this story right now, you need at least another one.

ENNI: Right, but you did get it down to two books, so…

ROTH: Yeah! [Whoops]

ENNI: Maybe you’re moving in that direction?

ROTH: Just paring it down guys!

ENNI: And you also said in the last interview, when you’re talking about how you write, you said, ‘I try to free myself from process as much as possible’ and I was really curious about that because it’s been two more years of writing and getting through something.

ROTH: It has only become truer over time. I mean, one of the most common questions that writers are asked in interviews, from my experience is: “What’s your process like?” “What’s your routine like?” “What’s your day-to-day look like?” I think this happens because a lot of writers are really routine focused.  Get up at the same time. Write for the same amount of hours, you know, that kind of thing. And people find that really helpful for productivity. I can’t do it! I just can’t. I don’t – like I can’t do any routines. I don’t do that very well.

ENNI: That’s interesting.

ROTH: Yeah. So, the more I’ve embraced that, the better off I’ve been. And I have always said, “My process is desperation” and that is so true. I’m just like, “Whatever it takes to get this out - is what I will do!” I don’t care if I’m doing weird worksheets, or if I’m just forcing myself to write a thousand words a day. I try different things throughout. If they stop working, or if they don’t work at all, then I abandon them and try something else. Cause I’m just desperate to get done.

ENNI: What did writing CARVE THE MARK look like?

ROTH: Man, writing CARVE THE MARK was just joy, really. It’s different from any other book I’ve written in that I just loved it the whole time. When I came up against problems, I was excited about them. I was like, “Ooh, this is great! Okay, well I’ll figure out a solution.” Because usually the solutions that I was able to figure out, made the story better. Not just to solve the problem [but] better and big in other ways too. And so, with the Hungarian language appropriation issue. I realized that I didn’t want to do that and I was like, “Oh my god! I get to build a new language!” And then in revisions, language became a huge part of the story. Like who speaks what language. Ryzek limits the speaking of other languages, which then limits possibilities for his people, which sucks. And so it became this huge theme. And there’s kind of [a] romantic moment where one character hears another character speak their native language for the first time and it’s really sweet. It created all this beautiful stuff and it’s really just to avoid being offensive, you know? And I think that’s awesome!

ENNI: Yeah, that’s the best possible outcome of it. And it’s also funny to me to think [that] in a way, you wrote CARVE THE MARK wrong so many times.

ROTH: Oh yeah! Oh, my god!

ENNI: That once you found it right, it sounds like it just kind of like flowed.

ROTH: Yeah definitely.

ENNI: The last time we talked a lot about the importance of critique.

ROTH: Yup.

ENNI: And I’m curious about how you continue to move forward. Mostly we talked about how critique makes you better. And it’s not always easy to be a professional writer and to continue to find avenues for that, especially when like you’re in a position where you can’t just show your writing to just anybody. So how do you feel you are continuing to incorporate critique and work to get better?

ROTH: Well I still think critique is hugely important. I am still working on just being emotionally stable while receiving it. It’s hard for anyone to take critique but when you have a mental illness it can be really challenging, depending on what provokes your depression or anxiety. For me, my anxiety is often provoked by not being universally liked, which is impossible [laughs] so…

ENNI: But real! That’s a real feeling.

ROTH: But it’s completely illogical, but it’s also real. And a lot of anxious people feel that way. If they make a mistake, it means their worthless or that people are going to find out their secret, which is that they’re worthless. That sounds pretty intense, but it’s a hundred percent how it feels. That’s what provokes my anxiety. So you can see why critique would be stressful for me. But, on the other hand, I do know that it makes me better and that humbly receiving critique is the only option available to me. I have to. And so the way I relate to it is, before the book is written, or when I’m writing the book and working on it and revising, I make sure to choose my critique partners carefully. I choose people who I think will be really honest with me and who will be sure to tell me if something is deeply problematic, even if it’s a huge story thing. And I listen carefully to those things and I do not react angrily to critique, I mean, I might for a second and then…

ENNI: You’re allowed to say what you want in your own brain.

ROTH: Yeah. I’m at home with my dog. I can say whatever I want. But then I be sure to appreciate that the person gave me their time and their effort [laughing] this is a long book, so, you know? It’s no small task. Anyway, while that’s happening that’s how I feel about it. And then when it’s written, you receive more critique. And that’s the part that gets really emotionally difficult, because you can’t change anything, and you find out new things about yourself. But a lot of authors are tempted to respond to [critique], even if it’s in a perfectly gentle and non-judgmental way. I think it’s more important to just sit back and listen. And sometimes that makes it seem like you’re not paying attention. And just saying like, “I’m listening” is so cheesy on the internet. I feel like the second the author’s voice gets mixed up in the conversation,that conversation changes, and not in a good way.

ENNI: And I have one last question. We did advice last time [and] you had great advice. But I’m curious if in the last two years, is there a new thing that you would say? Like do you have any recent revelations about writing that you feel like you can share?

ROTH: About writing? I don’t know. I mean, I’m pretty much harping on the same stuff with writing.

ENNI: What about life?

ROTH: What about life?

ENNI: How should we live?

ROTH: [Chuckling] “Life Advice from Veronica!” No, I just like, man, I believe so much more in kindness now than I used to. I’m not saying be nice. I don’t think people should have to be nice. You should be able to say the things that you feel in whatever tone you please. But just trying to be supportive of other people’s work, I think that’s become a huge part of my life that feels important. I’ve also done a lot more school visits to like Title I schools, especially in the last couple years. I think it’s important for authors [to],  “FELLOW AUTHORS! Do School Visits!”  Make sure some of them are juvenile detention centers and Title I schools because those people do not get writers, and they do not have good libraries, and they need it just as much as kids at other schools do so, “Do It…DO IT!” If you can – some people can’t, you know, cause cost prohibiting, but…

ENNI: Well yeah, within reason, and capabilities.

ROTH: But yeah, reading and supporting other authors has become a huge part…

ENNI: And being kind is different from being nice. I think being kind is also what I have learned to value almost to the exclusion of…it’s like that’s the most important thing.

ROTH: I know. Man, I just try and think about how even the people who are really angry at me on the internet, which is a thing that happens, you really don’t know what they’re going through. And you don’t know what kind of sensitivities they have and what kind of things that provoke strong emotional responses in them, and I have those things too and they don’t always make sense to people. It’s just like man, I try not to respond. I do have anger. And I think sometimes that anger is justified. But I also try to keep in mind that everyone is really just carrying around a pack of rocks.

[Both laughing]

ROTH: And I’m not here to put more rocks in people’s packs [laughing]

ENN: [Laughing] I like that. I like that. Don’t throw rocks.

ROTH: If I can’t take one away I can at least just leave them with the same amount that they came in with.

ENNI: I think that’s extremely good advice. That just keeps being more and more true the more I think about it.


ENNI: Don’t add rocks

Roth: This is your goal for life.

ENNI: I love that. I love that. Well dude this is so good. Thank you for checking back in and letting us do a brand-new interview.

ROTH: Yeah, thanks for talking to me again.

ENNI: And everyone can hear from us on the road when we start the tour in January.

[Closing music plays]

Thank you so much to Veronica. Follow her @veronicaroth and follow the show @firstdraftpod and me @sarahenni. As I mentioned earlier I will be accompanying Veronica on her ten-city tour in support of CARVE THE MARK which starts in New York City on January 17th (2017). Check out or for details. We will try to release a new mini-sode every day we’re on tour to entertain ourselves and hopefully you too, with answers to more questions and thoughts from the road and also some drop-ins from authors we meet along the way. If you have some questions in advance, feel free to tweet them @firstdraftpod.

Thank you to everyone who bought a First Draft 2017 Calendar. I’ve had to rush out and make more to keep up with it, but if you bought one, be sure it is on its way to you soon. If you want to see what the calendar looks like, check out FirstDraftPod on Instagram or Facebook and if you want to see the calendars or sign up for the newsletter or check out links to everything Veronica and I talked about in this episode, and get show notes from every other episode, please go directly to

TRANSCRIPTS! I am sitting on a back-log of transcripts that I have to edit and post to the site. I am going to get to that as quickly as I possibly can. It’s super important to me that listening impaired or audio adverse fans have the chance to hear what all the smarty-pants writers on this podcast have to say.

Thanks to everyone who requested transcripts and I will update on Twitter when they are available. I will also post a link to the transcripts on this handy new Google Doc that I created. It serves as a searchable archive of all the previous shows. It has links of when the shows were released, links to the actual audio and it will have the links to the transcripts whenever they are available.

That is one of about a hundred different ways you can look back at previous episodes and all of those ways can be found at

Thank you so much to Hashbrown for the theme song and to Collin Keith and Maurene Goo for the logos. Thanks to super intern Sarah DeMont who has been taking a short break to write a book that I cannot wait to read. And, as ever, thank you, owner of a mysterious and powerful current gift, for listening.

[music fades]