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E.M. Roy Interview

Leo Bates’s small Maine town starts to fall apart when the girl she loves goes missing.

And Leo, well, she’s the prime suspect. Forced to face pain both past and present, Leo

must survive the conspiracies–and the woods–as she searches for her missing love. Let

the Woods Keep Our Bodies is an exciting debut novel from E. M. Roy.

Read the full interview below.

Titles always interest me. Let the Woods Keep Our Bodies is a title that goes

hard in the best way. Was that something you came up with early on or did it take

trial and error to find the right title?

Thank you! I started writing this story while I was in college around fall of 2018, and it didn’t have a title for the longest time. I was an English major at Boston University so I was reading tons of classics for my degree, and for a while I just referred to the book with a quote from Milton’s Paradise Lost that stuck in my head: “Darkness Visible.” Folks who read LTWKOB will find out how that working title came to be! But it ultimately didn’t capture the full aesthetic or theme of the story I was building. It wasn’t until the final rounds of editing that I seriously played around with other titles, and Let the Woods Keep Our Bodies came to mind after weeks of experimenting with names. It establishes a sense of acceptance, I think. Accepting who (and what) you are, knowing that we will all die, decay, and feed the worms someday. Being at peace with that.

The novel is on the shorter side, under 200 pages, and I absolutely love that. I

think we’re seeing a shift where the popularity of horror novellas is making space

for shorter horror novels. What do you make of that?

I’m so energized by it. Don’t get me wrong, I love a thick book. But shorter novels and novellas, especially in horror, are paving the way for some of the strangest, most experimental, transgressive stories to reach their readers. It’s in the same way that indie publishing allows works like these to get out into the world. I think we’re seeing a shift in reading habits as well, and the amplification of diverse voices in fiction is definitely contributing. Readers of genre fiction want the weird shit! It’s a distinctly exciting time to be writing horror, in my opinion, and I’m so grateful to be able to contribute a small piece to the genre.

Let the Woods Keep Our Bodies is pitched as My Best Friend’s Exorcism

meets Twin Peaks. Is that the vibe you set out to build from the beginning or did it

evolve as the story progressed?

That comparison isn’t something I consciously aimed for when I started writing the book. But I am nothing if not an amalgamation of all the media I love. And Twin Peaks is an all-time favorite! Strange, surreal, semi-inscrutable. That small town gothicism is a delicious vibe, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find any work of mine that doesn’t have some degree of Lynchian influence. Then, in the early processes of writing and editing LTWKOB, I read my first Grady Hendrix novel, My Best Friend’s Exorcism. It was such a fun read that I wish I’d gotten to sooner. The young adult voice enabled a deeper, character-driven plot that I simply devoured. I was previously concerned about sounding “too young,” somehow, in LTWKOB (I was 19 when I started writing the book, and the main characters are 18). As if my age for some reason devalued the work. This was an internalized insecurity of mine for a while. But My Best Friend’s Exorcism showed me that younger main characters could lead a visceral horror novel and be taken seriously, while having fun at the same time!

You are based out of Maine. Did that inspire you to set the novel there? I’m

from New Jersey and can’t resist setting stories here whenever possible.

Absolutely! Plus, I’m a huge Stephen King fan, and I think his work influenced Let the Woods Keep Our Bodies in the Maine-ness of it all. It was only natural that this story be set there. The actual town that LTWKOB is set in, Eston, is fictional. However, there are a few elements of Eston that I drew from my own hometown, Gray; namely, the cemetery being right off of the turnpike as soon as you enter the town.

The woods are such an iconic horror setting. Do you have a favorite horror

book or film set in the forest and did that inform the way you shaped the woods in

your own work?

The Blair Witch Project (1999) comes to mind. I love the slow burn of insurmountable dread that those woods provided. Starts out as an innocent excursion, harmless, a little spooky fun in the way that urban legends are. And then the devolving into visceral fear and paranoia. Now that I’m thinking about it, the trajectory of that movie actually did influence LTWKOB a lot! I’m fascinated by urban legends, and a trope in fiction that I’m obsessed with is people investigating the paranormal or unexplainable for fun and finding much more than they bargained for.

You are passionate about exploring social justice and rooting your work in the

queer perspective. How does it feel to be publishing a debut novel that rings so

true to those passions?

Motivating! And a little nerve-wracking. As is the case with many writers, I have a lot of trouble articulating things I’m passionate about in spoken words. So reading and writing have always been my way of coping with the world around me, and fully processing social justice issues. It’s not always a conscious thing. Of course I’m going to write from a queer perspective; being queer is an inextricable part of my being. That doesn’t mean everything I do and make is political, but it does mean I’m aware of the effects my work could have on my community. If I could help even one LGBTQ+ person feel less alone, I’ve done my job. I’m not sure if this fully answers your question, but I hope you see what I mean!

What’s it been like working with Ghoulish Books?

It has been absolutely lovely. Max and Lori are great people to collaborate with, and have been throughout the entire process! I feel incredibly, stupidly lucky to have my debut be with Ghoulish. I’m unsure if LTWKOB would have ever been finished, let alone reached the right readers if not for them. Max answered all my questions as a newbie to this world (there were a lot of them), and I’m forever indebted to them for helping me kickstart my career as a published author. LTWKOB genuinely couldn’t have found a better home.

That cover looks absolutely incredible! Who designed it and how did you feel

when you first saw it?

Isn’t it so cool?! Ryan Caskey (@thespookyking on Instagram) designed it, and he simply nailed it. I really wanted the cover to depict my main character Leo somehow, and loved the style of comic book art and illustration. So Max Booth III found Ryan on Instagram, and his work had the exact feeling I wanted the cover to evoke. I was able to provide my own ideas for the design, which I am super grateful for, and then I just trusted Ryan to do his thing and turn those vague ideas into something interesting. Literally the first work-in-progress draft he sent us, I was like, this is it. Easily. Even teared up a little bit! I’m beyond thankful for his work and proud to have it represent this story.

Do you have any other work coming out this year you’d like to tell people


It’s definitely not coming out this year, but I am currently wrapping up some edits on a new horror novella! It’s like the A24 film Green Room mixed with the vibe of Iain Reid’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Quite a different story than Let the Woods Keep Our Bodies, which is really exciting to me, as I always want to write new and different things. I’m hoping to find a home for it soon—so I’m sure I’ll be yelling about it on social media once I do!

What’s your favorite recent read? Any genre or category. It doesn’t have to be


I recently finished reading another Ghoulish Books publication, The Only Safe Place Left Is the Dark by Warren Wagner. It’s about an HIV-positive gay man trying to stay alive during the zombie apocalypse. I fucking loved it. I think Warren originally envisioned that story as a screenplay, which I can totally see, so I hope he gets to make it into a film someday! Another recent read is by another Maine indie horror author, Samantha Eaton’s The Insatiable Hunger of Trees. It’s a fun story that my fellow lovers of cryptids and weird creatures will love!

Thank you so much for talking to Frightful!

Let the Woods Keep Our Bodies hits shelves on October 10, 2023.

Ellie (E. M.) Roy is a writer and lover of all things weird, horrific, and dark, especially when those things have a social justice bend and are rooted in a queer perspective. After obtaining a B.A. in English from Boston University, their work has appeared in a handful of small publications. She currently resides near Portland, Maine with her parents, sibling, and dog, Boo. Let the Woods Keep Our Bodies is their debut novel.

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