Veronica Roth shot to literary stardom with her best-selling Divergent series. Then, she went from YA fame to being a household name when the big-screen adaptation of the series’ first installment – starring Shailene Woodley, Kate Winslet, Ansel Elgort and Miles Teller – hit theaters last year.
Up next? Woodley and Co. return in the sequel Insurgent, due in theaters March 20. And Roth’s next YA series, touted as a Star Wars-esque sci-fi storyline, was just given the green light, with the first of two books expected from HarperCollins in 2017.
PEOPLE caught up with the 26-year-old Chicago-based author:
Insurgent is about to hit theaters. Have you seen it yet? What’s it like seeing your words come alive in front of you?
Yes, I have. I really liked it. It’ so surreal; it’s like walking into your brain but a little bit different … It’s really exciting, and I am always interested to see how the actors interpret the characters and [seeing] all the visuals finally coming together, because when I see them shot, they’re on green screen a lot of the time, like the simulations.
How involved are you in the filmmaking?
I have a good relationship with the producers and the studio and the director, and I’m always there to be a consultant and to give feedback. I feel like I’ve chosen to work with people who really respect the source material and want to be faithful to it, even if they want to change some things to make the movie work as a movie. And so I’m as involved as I want to be, really, but my priority is to continue to write. So I try to focus on that.
Yes, you’re working on a new series – what can you tell us at this point?
It’s pretty under wraps. So it’s set in space, a little bit in the vein of Star Wars, and it’s about a young man who pairs up with someone who’s supposed to be his enemy so they can both achieve very different objectives – one being revenge and the other redemption. It’ll be two books and shooting for the first one to come out in 2017, which seems like a long way off … but writing books takes a while! [Laughs.]
The Divergent adaptations are doing well. Any plans for the next series to hit the screen yet?
Oh, man. I’m like, “Let’s make sure the story is coherent before we start thinking about that!” No, not yet. [I’m] just trying to make sure the story is as strong and well-written as possible. And if I am lucky enough to start thinking about other stuff, I will.
We’ve talked to you about your struggle with anxiety in the past. With the books and now the films and all the press, you’re much more recognizable now – does that add to the stress?
For a while, there was a lot of change very quickly, and that was kind of what made my anxiety worse. But in the past year, I can really feel that I’ve kind of settled into the way things are, and I know what to expect, and a lot of that fear has gone away. I’ve been working really hard on it, and I feel more comfortable and more confident now than I have in a long time. It’s just been really great to have all these wonderful and exciting things happen and to try to enjoy them instead of being afraid of them, and it’s starting to work, so I feel good about that.