Small Oregon towns inspire Courtney Gould’s ghost-hunter novel

Courtney Gould’s award-winning first novel involves ghost hunters, queer romance and a tiny town called Snakebite.

Her young adult thriller, “The Dead and the Dark,” was partially inspired by an unlikely place: the Oregon Employment Department.

Several years ago, Gould, 28, was helping Oregonians in rural areas through her job at the state agency. And then she saw the documentary “Wild Wild Country,” about a cult moving onto property in rural Oregon in the 1980s.

That was enough to inspire her to take a road trip to Eastern Oregon.

She’d grown up in Salem and had relatives in Silverton, but was fascinated by very small, remote towns like Fossil and Vale.

“People obviously feel very loyal to each other, and there’s a really strong sense of community,” Gould said, “But also, they’re very wary of people coming in from outside.”

“The Dead and the Dark” explores that insider-outsider tension.

Gould, a lesbian, was also curious about what it would have been like to grow up queer in a very small town.

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