The movies had to turn Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy into a quadrilogy, by splitting the third book into two films. Now Roth herself has written a new collection of stories in the saga of Divergent. Her new book, Four: A Divergent Collection, is out July 8 and she’s going on a four city book tour from July 8 - July 16 in Framingham, MA, Decatur, GA, Highlands Ranch, CO and Lansing, MI.
Four includes four short stories featuring the character Four, played by Theo James in the movie. Four trained Tris (Shailene Woodley) as a member of the Dauntless faction, and will be by her side when the movie sequel Insurgent picks up. Insurgent is already filming and Allegiant: Part 1 and Part 2 are on the horizon.
I got to speak with Roth by phone about her new collection of stories, embarking on another tour, and the upcoming film adaptations of her subsequent books. Divergent will be out on DVD and Blu-ray August 5 for a refresher plus bonus features, or even earlier on digital HD July 22. For details on Roth’s four city tour, visit www.DivergentOfficial.com.
Is this tour going to be your first public appearance since the movie came out?
No, I have been to some book conferences since then. I went to the Romantic Times Convention in New Orleans and then I was at BookCon in New York. It feels like a totally different thing.
Has it changed significantly since you have movie fans now also?
I don’t know. I think it’s sort of maintaining a steady level of enthusiasm among readers, which is really great. But I don’t think it’s changed in a way that I’ve really noticed.
Are the stories in Four set during the Divergent trilogy?
The first three are prequels, so they take place before Four meets Tris. They kind of chronicle his choice of faction, and then his initiation and some of the things that he discovers about Dauntless while he’s becoming a member. He definitely knows a little bit more about the faction than Tris did as an initiate so that was pretty fun. Then the fourth one overlaps with the middle of Divergent which was also fun.
Was that kind of a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead experience, overlapping with what you already wrote?
Yeah, and you know, I was so much younger in my writer brain when I wrote Divergent, so I had to use the same dialogue. I found that sometimes that works and sometimes it really doesn’t. You’re like, “Oh no, I have to use that again?” So I did my best with it to make it sound like the Four that I now know so much better than I did when I wrote the first book. It was a little bizarre and required a lot of research and rereading but it was a nice challenge I think.
Could any of these new stories be included in the next three movies?
I don’t know. I’m not sure that they could considering Four is so young in them. I mean, he was 16, and Theo James is definitely not 16. I’m not sure how they would use them, but the information might be helpful. I’m not sure how yet because it kind of depends on how they develop those scripts and what they decide to keep and which characters they want to have and all of that.
They’re described as short stories, but when Stephen King writes a short story it’s hundreds of pages. How long are your short stories?
Mine are not as long as Stephen King, but I would call them novella length but maybe not even quite. They’re like a weird in between length. I think it’s called a novelette technically. They’re meaty but they’re still short.
Did you automatically have four new ideas, or did you whittle it down from more than four?
I’m trying to think of exactly how that worked. I think it was like, “Come up with four ideas.” And I was like, “Okay, I can do it.” And I just kind of took the story that I knew and I split it up into parts. So his initiation is something that I discovered as I was writing his perspective in Allegiant and I had some ideas for that. I knew I wanted to try to overlap with Divergent just because it felt like a really good way to close out the series, you kind of return full circle to when these two somewhat remarkable people meet and what’s that like from the other side. It came naturally I would say, but they did ask for four. I feel like four is a good number for me. It’s my lucky number which is probably why that’s his nickname. It feels complete.
Are you glad you didn’t name him Twelve?
Yeah, I am. Not sure how that would’ve gone.
So one story overlaps with Divergent, but do any cross paths with Insurgent or Allegiant?
No, they definitely finish before the final confrontation in Divergent. So it doesn’t even go into the whole weird zombie simulation stuff.
Did you ever come up with more titles that fit the paradigm of Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant?
You know, not really simply because I looked it up once and there’s only 60 words in the English language that rhyme perfectly with both words. It was hard enough for us to find Allegiant. I was spent after that. I know there were a lot of fan suggestions like Convergent or Emergent. I feel sort of ridiculous having all these rhyming words in my minds.
Well, I’m Franchise Fred because I love sequels and continuing series, so I love that the titles have symmetry like that.
Yeah, I think it’s great because when you hear one, you automatically hear the other ones echoing in your minds. It helps to keep them straight and bind them together. I think it’s generally a good practice but when you’re choosing words like Divergent, you’re kind of digging yourself into a very strange hole.
But you said 60, so to me that means there are 57 more sequels you can do.
But they’re the weirdest words, like Astringent. They’re highly technical, very strange works.
I would support you pursuing those stories is what I’m saying.
Oh, well thank you. That’s good to hear.
Splitting the last book into two movies has become standard by now. Did you expect all along they would do that for Allegiant?
I heard rumblings that they might and all along I was kinda like, “Well, it’s up to you guys,” but we’ll see how they do it. There’s some natural breaking point so I’m excited to see exactly where they stop and exactly what they do. There’s a little bit of a slow period in the middle of Allegiant so I’m interested to see what kind of movie magic solutions they come up with for that but I’m sure they’re up to the task.
How long do you think it’ll be before they start splitting earlier entries into two movies as well?
I don’t know if that will ever happen, simply because the series has to prove itself as a movie before they can start investing that much time, energy and money into the splitting thing. I’m not sure if it’ll happen. I feel like it’s possible it could happen with the second installment in a series but that would require so much forethought and planning. They’re already releasing these movies so close together it just seems, man, daunting.
Yeah, I don’t think it’ll ever be the first movie, but I imagine readers always lament losing things to the adaptation. I could see them start splitting them even earlier. I mean, look, The Hobbit is three movies now.
Although with The Hobbit, now you have people complaining that it’s too long. It’s too many splits. So I feel like no matter what, you’ve got some unhappy people involved.
I remember you said the Ferris Wheel scene in Divergent was the one you were amazed to see happen live before you on set. What are the scenes in Insurgent and Allegiant that you can’t wait to see realized?
Well, there’s a lot of weird playing with your mind stuff in Insurgent, where Tris is in a simulation but she doesn’t figure it out right away. Just these emotionally fraught but not real situations that express her inner turmoil. I love the simulations. I think that’s one of the most fun parts of seeing the books adapted into movies, so again, super excited for those and interested to see how they handle them.
By now, have you met Robert Schwentke?
I have, yes. I was just on set last week.
What were your conversations with him?
Well, any time you visit the set, the director is just in a different world, but he set up a seat for me next to him. They were shooting in a truck because it needed to be moving. He set up a seat next to me and we got to chat a little bit. We’re both German, so it was great.
How different was that from working with Neil Burger on preproduction?
It’s a little different. Every director has a different personality and a different means of approaching. I think Robert has a really set plan and he knows what he wants. He’s still, obviously, open to feedback and very receptive but it’s just a little different vibe. I think it helps that he’s already seen the first movie adapted, so he knows what to do with the world. Neil was building an entire world so I think it’s just a totally different experience but everything still feels friendly and open and that’s a good thing.
Did you get a look at the screenplay for Insurgent?
I did, yeah. It’s always still in flux until they shoot it because they make these little adjustments along the way. Yeah, I got to read it and give my feedback.
Was it comparable to the adaptation of Divergent?
I think there’s a different set of challenges with Insurgent. It’s a little bit more of a complicated book. It goes to a lot of different places but it’s a lot of things that aren’t as visual. There’s a lot of Tris’s internal struggles and a lot of her quest, nebulous information that is hard to explain. In a book it’s a little bit easier to understand but in the movie I think it needs to be pared down and simplified in order to be even comprehensible to the audience. So I think the screenplay reflects that but I’m excited to see what comes of it.