Veronica Roth describes herself as totally “pumped” that BookCon this year is taking place here in the Windy City: not only does she get to sleep in her own bed after spending so much time on the road plugging the Divergent series books and then the movie adaptations, but many of her friends and fans will “get to see the city I love so much.” And BookCon attendees can count themselves doubly fortunate: they are first to know that the first book in the new duology, Carve the Mark, is scheduled for publication on January 17, 2017.

Carve the Mark moves from futuristic Chicago to a galaxy “far, far away, like in Star Wars,” Roth says, and, like Stars Wars, is set during a time of extreme political unrest. It’s a story that Roth has been thinking about writing since she was a teenager, when she was “writing just for fun” instead of for big bucks. What would happen, she recalls thinking, if “someone is taken from their home—kidnapped—because of a prophecy?” And if they return to their family a different person because of what they’ve gone through?

While Roth wouldn’t give too much away, she did say that it’s a story about friendship “against all odds, and that a love story is part of that.” But she’s been a little more forthcoming with her fans; she posted on her blog that it’s about a boy named Akos, who, along with his brother, is kidnapped and taken to an enemy nation. When its ruler threatens his brother’s life, Akos teams up with the ruler’s sister, Cyra, to save him. “But Cyra’s trust—and her kindness!—are difficult to earn,” Roth writes in her blog. “And the intense friendship Akos and Cyra form puts them in more danger than they could ever have imagined.”

When asked if Akos is the main character, Roth says that Cyra isn’t Akos’s “sidekick,” the story is about both of them, and that Cyra is as badass as Tris was in the Divergent series. She also points out that the story takes place in another galaxy, so gender roles might not even be the same as in our world. “I like to takes risks,” she says, explaining, “There’s a lot of exploration of language and how it impedes understanding” when people of different cultures interact with one another.

Roth is part of a panel, “What Is Light Without Darkness? Balancing Good & Evil in YA Lit” in the Special Events Hall, room W375E, 11 a.m.–noon. She will sign copies of the Divergent series in the Autographing Area, 12:15–2:15 p.m.

This article appeared in the May 14, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.