Ellie Keel introduces her debut novel, The Four

At its heart, The Four is about three things: friendship, hope, and survival. If that sounds dramatic, it is! I wrote most of the novel in a period when thousands of people were dying of a disease nobody understood; a period when it felt like nobody in authority knew what they were doing. It was a difficult, painful, intensely uncertain time; a time when the power of love and friendship became more apparent to me than ever.

“I started writing a story in which I hoped that love would win.”

Ellie Keel

In response – or as a way of coping – I started writing a story in which I hoped that love would win.

I set the novel in an idyllic, fictional valley in North Devon: the site of a prestigious and similarly fictional boarding school called High Realms. I sent four ‘ordinary’ seventeen-year-olds to this school to rip the hypothetical out of a question that’s been asked since time immemorial: how far would we go for the people we love? (Spoiler: for Rose, Marta, Lloyd, and Sami, it’s pretty far.)

The Four invites you on a journey with these vulnerable, courageous, frustrating, frustrated teenagers, and asks you to judge them. And also not to judge them. It demands to know whether you would have acted differently. The novel is a love letter to the kind of books I relish: campus novels, crime novels, thrillers. Police procedurals, coming-of-age stories, detective novels. Books in which lots of things happen, very quickly! To this mash-up I added a splash of queerness and romance.

As a theatre producer and as a writer, I am interested in conflict; in volatility; in the sweaty seams and muddy ditches of human relationships. I’m not interested in simple people. I’m not interested in the binary of good and bad, the straight and narrow, or the obvious answer. So, The Four is my toast to moral ambiguity. My high-five with complexity. My truce with doing bad things for good reasons, and my handshake with the follies of youth. It is my first book, in which I try to come to terms with a lot. I hope you enjoy it.

Ellie

Find out more about *the* dark academia novel of 2024:

OUT 11 Apr 2024

9780008580353

TPB , HB

Four scholarship students’ dreams come true when accepted into an exclusive boarding school, but they will soon be bound by a dark secret that could save one of them… or destroy them all…

We were always The Four. From our very first day at High Realms.

The four scholarship pupils. Outsiders in a world of power and privilege.

It would have made our lives a lot easier if Marta had simply pushed Genevieve out of our bedroom window that day. Certainly, it would have been tragic. She would have died instantly.

But Marta didn’t push her then, or – if you choose to believe me – at any other time. If she had, all of what we went through would not have happened.

I’ve told this story as clearly as I could – as rationally as I’ve been able, in the circumstances, to achieve. I don’t regret what we did. And I would do it all again.

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