Veronica Roth's Interview About Four
Why Veronica Roth's New Book Is About Four and What She Missed in Divergent
Veronica Roth is the author of the Divergent series, the first adaptation of which came out this past March, and the next film, Insurgent, is currently in production. Just because the final book, Allegiant, already came out, it out doesn't mean Roth is done with Divergent — in fact, on July 8, another book in the family will be released. Titled Four: A Divergent Collection, this special tome is a collection of short stories all from the perspective of the character Four, aka Tobias Eaton, who is main character Tris's love interest. I chatted with Roth about why she wanted to tell Four's side of things, along with what she knows about the movie version of Insurgent, and how she feels about The Fault in Our Stars, since two Divergent actors star in it.
POPSUGAR: Divergent was originally written from Four's point of view, right?
Veronica Roth: Yeah, it was the super rough draft. I've been calling it the "proto-draft." It happened before the rough draft, which sounds crazy. It was just was a couple of pages from his perspective, and it just didn't work in the same way that Tris's voice worked because she's kind of surprising as the narrator of that particular story. But as I wrote the series, he became more complicated and his story started to feel urgent also. So, it's great that they let me keep writing about him!
PS: In that proto-draft, was Tris a character at that point?
VR: No, she was not there. So we basically we used the same beginning, actually, with a haircut, and Tobias had a brother named Caleb. There was just this weird tension with him and his father. So I think that's where that comes from. It wasn't terribly expansive, it was just a little grain of an idea at that point.
PS: Do you think it was easier in some ways to write it from a woman's perspective?
VR: You know, you'd think so. But I'm not sure it really was. I think that she is so different from me, that it was a little more of a stretch, and I actually feel a little more camaraderie with Tobias when I write. So I think the fun of it was that she was such a challenge to me, and to all my expectations, and to all my stereotypes of tiny blond women.
PS: I guess it's evident that you're undaunted by writing from a male's perspective because we're talking about Four now. So why did you pick these certain scenes from Four's life?
VR: Well, I think when I sat down to do it, I originally just wanted to write a prequel. I knew I wanted to write about his decision to join Dauntless, which I've been interested in since Divergent when he reveals that it was pretty much to get away from his father. I thought that that was a very interesting choice for him to make, kind of a big "screw you" to Marcus. I thought it would be cool to write about. I had the three stories where he transitions to Dauntless pretty squared away in my mind. But the big surprise was the fourth [story] because I thought, "Oh my gosh, can I overlap with Divergent? I think I can!" That was kind of a joyful surprise, but that story was the hardest and the easiest to write. I think it's also the longest one. I want to get as much of their relationship first starting as possible.
PS: Of course Allegiant also has stuff from Four's perspective. Did you feel that you got a good response from readers about getting his different point of view?
VR: I think so. To be fair, I kept myself very far away from everyone's reactions to the third book because I was having an emotional time with it too. I'm not really sure exactly how people reacted. But I did try to make his voice as distinct as possible, which was hard when you're used to writing in one voice for three years. But I had a good time writing from his brain. I think he withholds so much less, like he just tells you exactly what's going on. With Tris she always got something happening that you don't know about, so it was refreshing to write from him.
PS: Were there scenes that any fans asked you to rewrite from Four's perspective from the Divergent canon?
VR: Yeah, I think pre-Four, you know that little piece of material that came out between Divergent and Insurgent, it was the knife-throwing scene from his perspective. When that came out, I got a lot of requests after that for the fear landscape scene and for the kissing scene. And the Ferris wheel scene. It was the big, significant moments that people wanted to see more of, and so some of those are in the stories, but some of them are not.
PS: Because he's a different character, not just because he's a guy, were there certain scenes that you had a little more trouble with writing than you thought you would?
VR: Yeah, I mean for one thing, physically intimate scenes are difficult for me anyway because I write a list of actions, like "Then this hand goes here, and then this person looks there." And it's not very romantic. It was even harder switching perspectives because I was like, "What would this unique human being observe about this situation?" And I was like, "Ah, damn it, I'm not even good at this to begin with!" So I did my best [laughing].
PS: Did you consult with any other writers or other men in your life to give you a little more insight when you had a tough time?
VR: Not really. I just of thought of him as his own unique person instead of thinking of him as a "dude." Because he's not really; he's a little more sensitive than [Tris] is. So they kind of defy your gender expectations anyway. So for him I just thought about the person he is. I did share with other people to gauge how he was coming across and whether it seemed like Four, but that was kind of it.
PS: Is there another character that you'd like to tell the Divergent story from?
VR: Not as of yet. Four was the only one that felt like, "Oh god, I need to do this." And now, it seems like a great way to close out the series. Everything comes full circle, and it's nice. So right now I'm looking forward to seeing what else I can do. But I've never slammed the door on future Divergent things because I don't know what the future holds. Right now I'm looking forward to trying something else. It should be fun.
PS: What other kinds of books or franchises do you think you want to write next?
VR: I don't know! That's a scary question. Especially while all the movie stuff is still happening. So it kind of feels like it's maybe not time to move on while they're still shooting Insurgent. I love writing for teens, so I think that's where I'm going to stay, at least for the time being. I would really miss them if they weren't my readers anymore. But other than that, I don't know what could come next. I have a couple ideas — we'll just have to see which one works the best.
PS: As you mentioned, they're shooting Insurgent and they're going to make Allegiant into two different movies, so you know you're going to be in the Divergent world for a few more years to come. How does that make you feel?
VR: I think it's definitely just exciting. And it's kind of wonderful because my work is kind of done. I get to watch them play around in the world that I created. I kind of get to relax a little bit from the creative part of it and work on whatever I want while nobody's watching for a while. So maybe by the time the last movie comes out I'll probably be like, "OK. It's time to get going on something else." But right now it's just superfun and exciting, and that's it.
PS: Back to Insurgent, have you been to the set yet?
VR: I have! I was just there last week.
PS: Can you tell us anything about what you've seen on the set?
VR: I'm trying to think about what I can actually say. They were doing some of the Amity stuff while I was there, so I saw, you know, the Amity stuff! Sorry, I'm being super vague.
PS: Did you see the Amity tree?
VR: Yes, there was a tree! A very large tree. It was great. All of the sets were incredible. I think I pointed at one — I'm going to be vague and not tell you what it is — and I was like, "How did you guys find that, that's amazing!" And they were like, "Oh, we built that." I'm easily duped apparently.
PS: Do you know if you're going to have a cameo in it?
VR: I don't know yet. I was hoping to maybe demote myself to just a regular extra because the cameo thing required me to do the minimal amount of acting I can do and it was very stressful. I'm not good at it. If I could just be in the background without any focus being drawn to me at all, that would be really great. It was really fun.
PS: Were you happy when you saw the finished product of your cameo in the Divergent movie?
VR: Yeah, I think was a huge relief because I was like, "Good! I didn't mess up the whole take." And it kind of flew by, so I was also happy about that.
PS: Well, speaking of the Divergent movie, Neil Burger had to cut out some scenes and some characters. Were you bummed about anything that was cut?
VR: Yeah, I was a little sad that we didn't get any Uriah, because he's one of my favorites. I am superhappy that they cast him for Insurgent — I think it's good they're going to take care with him. In the first movie it became very clear to me while I was watching that we only had a very limited amount of time to even focus on the friends that were directly around Tris, so it makes sense that they wouldn't want to introduce someone for like five seconds. I get it now, but at the time I was like, "No Uriah? That's sad."
PS: Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort are shooting Insurgent right now, but are coming off this huge success with The Fault in our Stars. Have you seen the movie?
VR: I did! I saw it a couple days before it came out because there was a publishing screening.
PS: What did you think?
VR: I loved it! It was so good. You know, when Shailene first appeared on screen there was not a single second that I thought, "That's Tris." I was like, "That's Hazel!" I just think it's funny because everyone was so upset about this, and when they're on screen as Gus and Hazel they do such a good job transporting to this totally new story. Of course, Laura Dern made me cry multiple times. She's amazing. It was great.
PS: So you were like everyone else and sobbed your whole eyes out?
VR: Oh god, yeah. I had The Fault in our Stars tissues, and I think I used almost all of them. If that's any indication.