BEA 2014: Veronica Roth Talks 'Four: A Divergent Collection' and Why She Writes for Teens
A swath of preteens came out in full-force on Saturday as Veronica Roth, author of Divergent and its sequels, arrived at BookExpo America 2014's BookCon to discuss her latest installment in the series, a volume of stories called Four: A Divergent Collection. The author, there to lead both an event on the upcoming book (out July 8) as well as participate in a panel on dystopian science fiction, talked to fans alongside fellow YA writer Alex London about what to expect from the story collection told through the narrative of Tobias, the Dauntless leader also known as Four.
"It's kind of a retelling of parts of Divergent from his point of view," Roth said, adding that the stories — of which, fittingly, there are four — will be "about his journey towards Dauntless and about his becoming a member."
Although Roth memorably switched between Tris and Four's perspectives in Allegiant, the author said that writing solely as Four in the new collection was "actually much easier."
"With these, I was able to be in his head consistently over time," she said.
Unlike Tris, who "always has a secret," from the reader, Roth said that Four "doesn't withhold anything from you."
"It's interesting to be in head of someone who's so vulnerable," she added.
Writing from Four's perspective allowed Roth to "take away the mystery" of his character that was seen from Tris' point-of-view.
"He becomes a human being instead of man candy," she joked.
Roth also revealed that Tobias was her original choice for narrator of the Divergent trilogy, but it just "didn't work."
"His story lacked all urgency," she said, adding that his narrative — a lonely kid with terrible parents, who discovers his strength and chases after danger — was that of "all superheroes ever ... it's a good story, but it's just been told a lot."
One element of the series that never changed, however, was the ending. Roth revealed that although the finales of each installment were written as they came, she knew what the ending to the entire series would be from the very beginning.
"It's nice for an author to be able to fill in the empty space," she said. "I enjoyed it."
Much to fans' (very vocal) encouragement, London asked Roth why she seems to hurt or even kill so many of the characters in her series most loved by readers.
"It seems so cruel to people on the outside," she said. She compared the process to a parent allowing kid to get hurt in order to teach them a lesson.
"People don't become strong people by sitting around, not leaving the house, and being afraid of the world," Roth said.
Later, a fan Q&A had Roth explaining her writing start ("my high school teacher was like, 'Um, you have nothing on your college resume'"), going on a "tiny rant" about the term guilty pleasure ("Just like things! Don't feel bad about them"), and why she writes for teens.
"What you're feeling is strong, and real, and deserves to be noticed," she said.
The most hard-hitting question London asked Roth during the event, however, was the very serious inquiry, "What kind of cookies would Tris and Four be?"
After much contemplation, Roth came up with an answer for Tris, saying that she would be "a chocolate cookie with dark chocolate pieces in it." Four's cookie, however, came much quicker.
"Four would be a Rice Krispie treat," Roth said confidently. "Because he'd be like, 'Screw the rules.'"