The folks over at Lionsgate were gracious enough to invite TheFandom.net, along with other fansites, such as Divergent Fans, That’s Normal, Fangirlish, Hypable, Page to Premiere, Young Adult Hollywood, and I Am Divergent, to their offices in L.A. to participate in a roundtable interview with author Veronica Roth. We got to ask Veronica about anything and everything to do with Divergent, and as you might guess, most of the questions involved were either about the Divergent movie, or the third book in the trilogy, titled Allegiant, like if she had a problem with the ages of the actors playing her young characters (no), or if the end of book three will really be the end (yes), and what scenes she’s excited to see in the movie (the answer of which you’ll have to read about below).
On the books
Was Allegiant always the title, or did you go through a few different ideas?
Veronica Roth (VR): I did not go through a few different ideas. It was always going to be the title.
Were you laughing when these ideas (book titles) kept coming up?
VR: I wasn’t laughing, because in the very early stages, I certainly thought of those words. I remember looking up a list of the 36 words in the English language that rhymed with Divergent. I really don’t know what to do here, because Assurgent was never going to be the word. I wasn’t laughing, but I was laughing when they put Detergent. I was like, yes! It’s permeated the public conscience!
What kind of tidbits can you share from Allegiant?
VR: What can I share? Is there anything I can share? I can’t say very much. I think the things that you expect to learn more about, you do. (acting coy, then laughs) But you will find out who this Edith Prior person is and how they’re (her and Tris) are related.
So, questions will be answered (regarding the third book)?
VR: Yes! I try very hard to answer all the questions I thought that readers are likely to have, because those are the questions that I set up and those are the ones that I had when I started writing.
What does the word “allegiant” mean to you?
VR: To me, it means one who is loyal or faithful to a particular cause or person.
The second book really opened up a whole new world. It could go so many different directions, and I was thinking that it seems like it could be really difficult to close it all off in one more book. Would you ever continue after the third, or is that the end?
VR: I definitely mapped it out to be three books, and I think the ending is definitely an end.
Will you ever write from Four’s point-of-view again, or any of the other characters’ point-of-view?
VR: I wouldn’t rule it out as far as sort of like side material, like Free Four. What I discovered when I wrote Free Four was that it’s intensely difficult to re-write a scene from another character’s perspective because you have to keep composing the original scene to make sure that it lines up. Then you have to keep the whole frame of the story in mind. It was so hard that I thought I don’t know if I could ever do this as a full-length “thing.” It was fun, but it was definitely a challenge. (open to it, yes) Open (to the idea), but I chose Tris’ narrative for a reason.
After we read Insurgent, it really turned the whole story on its head. Can we expect that level of shock in Allegiant? Or will it just become like answering questions?
VR: I can’t really like anticipate how you’re going to react to it. I think certainly some things will be shocking and some things will be like, “Ahhh!”
When you sat down to write Divergent, did you have people in mind when you were writing the characters?
VR: Not really. I’m not one of those people who make fancasts mostly because I don’t really know actors that well. Also, I think the images I have of characters and of the settings of the book is slightly more vague, sort of like squinting at something from afar, and I think that has helped me be more open-minded about watching the filming happen. It’s been more magical than disappointing, because it’s like seeing someone flesh-out the details of this thing that I imagined.
On your blog, you said that what you want to write about has changed. If you could “dreamwrite” whatever you want, what’s your dreamwriting, then?
VR: I think when I said that, I was writing the same world, the same kind of story. But I think [Allegiant] is different in some of the things it tackles. I mean Divergent and Insurgent are like heavy action, kind of pretty violent books. And the third book has action, but a lot of my interest has kind of moved toward the societal struggles that are happening, and the wrestling that Tris is doing inside her head. That was more of what I was referring to. I love action, and I’m an action girl, but I think it’s a little more balanced now.
If you were going to place yourself in the Divergent story, which character do you think you would see yourself as?
What a question! I don’t know. Probably one of the side people (laughs). Like Susan.
So, are you Divergent? What faction do you see yourself a part in?
Well, that’s an interesting question. I used to think that I would choose Dauntless. I think that’s just a desire like a lot of people have. “Oh yes, I want to be a badass!” I’m not! I think I would actually choose Abnegation. I’m a Hufflepuff [so it makes sense].
On being an author
Why do you think the dystopian future drama is so compelling right now?
I’ve thought about that a lot. I think it’s interesting because it sort of pulls you in both directions. You’re interested in the forward thrust of the story and the history of the world and how it sort of became that way. So, I think anything that will pull your mind that way will be really interesting. Also, it would just create some really dynamic backdrop for the very human struggles and stories.
What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
I like revision a lot. My rough drafts are just insane. Like, word vomit mess. Gross. Awful. Terrible. And so, what I really love is kind of getting really good notes, which I’ve gotten, and totally ripping it apart and putting it back together to find the story that I originally wanted to tell. I especially like late-stage revisions where you’re fixing little things and you start to see what it’s going to look like at the finish. It’s really amazing.
This is going to open it up to such a new audience for people who haven’t read the books. What does it feel like to have the last book coming out and closing the story not too far from when all these new people are starting it?
It’s a little weird, because a lot of people are asking me about Divergent, and I’m like, “Oh man, that was so long ago!” Sometimes I don’t remember the details, but it’s incredible, obviously, to see so many people gravitating towards the books. I kind of convinced myself that after the first burst of readership that I got, that that would be it, but it seems to be continuing its roll, and that’s amazing. I’m glad I finished the third book before a lot of this move stuff started, so I could still imagine the characters the way I had without that changing.
On the movie
In 4 words? Let me think, okay, so… handsome, and intense, and sensitive, and, I don’t know, badass. Is that good?
What was your first reaction after you read the script?
I never read a script before. I was really impressed by how closely it stuck to the general plotline of the book. I haven’t read the updated script, so I don’t know how it’s transformed. I’ve been told it’s transformed in a really positive way, so I’m going to read it, I think, soon. And from what I saw on set, it’s developing quite nicely so it was surprisingly positive, because I was expecting to feel very, like, personally insulted. But I didn’t feel that way at all.
What’s the mood been like on set so far? And how much time have you spent on the set?
I’ve only been on set one day. But from what I can see it’s really interesting to see how the actual actor relationships reflect the character relationships. So, like, all the young initiates have a great camaraderie with each other, and they seem really excited. And then I met all the behind-the-scene people. The guys who built the sets and ones who were making the costumes and all that and everyone seems really positive and really pumped up and excited to really figure out the details of this crazy world.
How did feel seeing the characters that were once in your brain kind of come to life in these actors, some of them being Oscar nominated? Did it feel surreal or is it exactly how you pictured it?
I think I would feel a little disappointed if it was exactly how I pictured it, because there’s then no reinterpration, no new discovery. And what I was most concerned about when they were casting was finding actors who could capture the internal world of the character as opposed to exactly matching the description that I wrote. And in that sense, I think it’s been really amazing because when I was watching them act, I was like, yes! This is it! This is the person, you did such a good job! So even with people I was on the fence with, I was really swayed, at least by the end of the day. They’ve done a good job. I’ve been overwhelmingly positive online just because I feel overwhelmingly positive. If I wasn’t feeling that way, I would probably just be quiet (laughs).
Is there a certain scene that you’re excited to see come to life?
So many of them! I’m excited to see some of the more intense moments, you know, the deaths. That sounds really morbid but I think those, especially like Tris’ mom, that’s like such a formative experience for Tris and I’m interested to see how it’s realized and see if I could cry even though I’ve read it hundreds of times! (laughs) And wrote it.
I actually had a fairly long conversation with Miles Teller about Peter, which was really interesting. I think because Peter is a little confusing as a character and definitely one of the stranger characters, so I explained some things to him. I think he was interested in figuring that out. I talked to Theo a little bit about Four and Shailene a little bit about Tris. I’m sure more of those conversations will happen.
You mentioned some set visits. How involved are you going to be or are you involved in the filming process?
I haven’t been involved in terms of making decisions, because I like to write books. And I would be doing that, and I’m happy to just kind of just watch it all happen, knowing that my work was done a couple of years ago. It’s been awesome. But they’ve kept me really informed of everything. They’ve been super welcoming, and they made me a chair like the director’s chair, that says the name. They’re definitely happy to have me there.
It’s definitely like a dream come true to have a movie like Kate Winslet in it. Was it that moment for you when you have that moment, like “Oh my God, this is super legit!”
(laughs) When they told me they were talking to her, I was like, “Pfft! Yeah, that’s gonna happen!” But I don’t believe anything until it’s actually official. And then when it was official I had a little panic attack! “Oh my God! It’s really happening!” So, the official strategy is defensive pessimism, always. But lately, I’ve allowed myself to get a little more excited.
News from Twitter is stating that Uriah’s not going to be in the movie and fans are going crazy. Are you worried about that at all?
It’s obviously super disappointing when your fan favorite doesn’t make it in the first movie, but I will say that I’m kind of comforted that they just slapdash cast someone, and I’m happy that they’re going to take their time casting for one for the second and the third who’s really able to do justice to the role.
On the set, were you able to see first-hand the chemistry Four and Tris in real life? I mean, is it really happening?
(resounding) Yes! Actually, when I saw the screen test, I pulled away and I went like this – (she makes a motion of excited approval). It was really good! There’s a reason they cast [Theo James].
It was the knife throwing scene. Not really a great opportunity to see the romantic tension, but it was a great day to be there. Because I’ve written that scene, you know, 2 perspectives!
Can you talk about Neil’s vision for the film versus yours, and what matches there and what doesn’t?
I was worried that the overall visual sense of the movie would be a little too “futuristic sexy” – you know, like really sleek and shiny, and that’s not really the world of Divergent. Everything’s kind of falling apart, and I think he definitely did that, which I was really happy about. The visuals I’ve seen have been have been in that vein, and that’s been really exciting. He has a really detail-oriented mind, and everything down to the little details that I saw had been so well thought out, and have been in keeping with the philosophy of the world. He and I talked for hours. He was asking so many questions, about things I’ve never thought of. Like, “how does commerce work in this particular faction?” I was like, “I don’t know! Where were you when I was writing this?!” So, those conversations were really reassuring because he was just so interested in every little thing, and I think that definitely comes across.
Do you know if Theo’s read Free Four?
I didn’t ask him. I know he’s read the book. When I talked to him, he was just starting the second one. I’m sure someone has passed it on to him. I mean, how do you pass that up?
Lots of fans comment on the age of the actors that have been cast. Do you have any comment on that?
I think that headshots look a lot older than the actual people. When I was meeting them in real life, I was thinking this is not a problem, seeing them all together. They definitely look younger than you think. I was more concerned about the age gap. Because Shailene is- I think she’s 6 years younger than Theo. It doesn’t really look that way, because I think when you cast an actual 16-year-old and an actual 18-year-old, they look the same age, especially when the 18-year-old is a boy, because they don’t age, and that would actually look kind of creepy. I’m really happy with the maturity of the actors. I think that was crucial to making this movie work, and by casting older actors, they’ve definitely gotten some of that maturity, which is amazing. I think the gap looks great in real life.
Which actor do you think was cast the best to your vision of the character?
I think Theo is the closest to how I imagined Four. And then I think Maggie Q as Tori is really spot-on. I’ve seen her on Nikita as a badass; I mean, she’s already Dauntless, it’s all good.
What do you think makes Shailene Woodley great for Tris?
Shailene brings reality to Tris. Tris is a kind of impetuous 16-year-old. She’s a harsh personality with some vulnerability, and I think all of the shades of what Tris is is what Shailene’s able to do. In very small moments, she’s pretty subtle, so that’s been great. Even though she’s not a tiny blonde girl, she just is this character. I mean, she seems like a real person who’s having those troubles. I know she’s a great actress, I saw her in The Descendents, but I didn’t think anyone was going to be able to do it because Tris is so dear to me, even though I want to punch her sometimes.
After being on the set, do you think you’ll be more involved in the next movie?
I don’t really know. I guess it depends on what I’m writing, and how things develop from here. I mean we’re just kind of starting, so I don’t even know really what this world is like yet.
Divergent has such a strong fan base. Do you have something that you were a super fangirl about?
I mean, Harry Potter! I have a wand! I’m going to Comic-Con this year, and I was really thinking of making myself a robe, so yeah, I’m a big fan of that.