Divergent fans with a crush on dystopian heartthrob Four are in luck: Veronica Roth is writing four e-short stories about his history, told from his point of view. Swoon.
HarperCollins will release the first one – centering on Four (a.k.a. Tobias) at age 16 – on September 24, just before the October 22 release of the hardcover of Allegiant, the final installment of the Divergent trilogy.
Like the other three forthcoming e-short stories, this one – called The Transfer – will be 30 pages and priced at $1.99. The others (The Initiate, The Son, and The Traitor) will come out December 17, January 21, and February 11.
“The e-shorts will address Tobias’s backstory and some of the mysterious things going on in the world before Tris chose Dauntless,” Roth said. “Together, they form a kind of Tobias-centered Divergent prequel, though there is some overlap.”
It’s been a big week for the author’s debut series . For the Summit Entertainment-Lionsgate movie Divergent, which is due in theaters March 2014, Shailene Woodley (Tris) and actor Theo James Four) have landed on the cover of this week’s Entertainment Weekly, with the cover line, “Is This the Next Hunger Games?” Also this week, Roth finished second-pass galleys for Allegiant. Katherine Tegen, v-p and publisher of the HarperCollins imprint Katherine Tegen Books, said she expects to do three more passes before the book heads to the printer: “We’re real perfectionists here!”
Looking Back, Moving Forward
The 10,000-word format for the prequels, which Tegen suggested, appealed to Roth. “The e-shorts are a way for me to delve into another character’s voice and personality and history, which is fun and exciting for me as a writer,” she said. “And I also wanted a way to kind of ease my way out of the series. The Divergent universe has been my world for a long time, and writing it has changed my life in pretty drastic ways. Now that the third book is nearly finished, the e-shorts are helping me to say good-bye.”
And Four – a fan favorite – makes that farewell easier. “In my mind, he has a distinct history and a complex psychology, so there’s always a lot to draw from when he’s on the page, and it’s an opportunity for me to break from Tris’s sparse, straightforward voice and try to introduce just a little bit more poetic language,” Roth said. “I also know, from many tweets and blog comments and in-person comments, that Divergent readers are interested in hearing more of his voice, which made him an obvious candidate! My readers have given me so much enthusiasm and honesty and wisdom. The opportunity to write something that I knew they wanted to read was really appealing to me.”
Fans of print won’t have to miss out: next February, HarperCollins will release an $8.99 paperback bind-up of the four e-novellas and Free Four (Four’s 13-page retelling of the knife-throwing scene, published digitally last year), as well as a $17.99 hardcover and a $9.99 paperback movie tie-in edition of Divergent.
However, HarperCollins will not be printing galleys for Allegiant. “I’ve been saying arrogantly, ‘We don’t need them!’ ” said Tegen. (In two years, HarperCollins has sold three million copies of Divergent and its sequel, Insurgent.)
In-house artist Joel Tipple is designing the digital story covers for the otherwise illustration-free e-short stories. He also created the covers for Michael Grant’s Gone series and for the Divergent trilogy (though Rhythm & Hughes in Los Angeles created the symbols).
And Roth is currently working on the three remaining e-stories (The Transfer is finished). How does she juggle everything? “It’s been a little tricky!” she said. “I just try to prioritize and remember that once upon a time, I was balancing school and writing, so this can’t possibly be much worse that that, right? Right?!”
The 24-year-old Northwestern graduate has visited the movie set of Divergent, where the filmmakers even made up a director’s chair for her. “Most of the time I’m just writing in my apartment,” said Roth. “But I’ve written a bit of the e-shorts in my little red notebook while on set. It’s a pretty inspiring environment! And crazy surreal, to actually hear Tris and Four and the other characters’ voices in my ears as I am writing about them. I’m very lucky!”