By George Ebey
Summertime 2010. A small town hidden in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Welcome to Winslow, Washington, where all anyone expects is another ordinary summer: tourists taking the ghost town tour, locals cooling off in Ruby Creek, the carnival in Prospect Park. Nothing unusual. That’s because residents here have always done well at keeping order, keeping secrets and keeping the past buried.
First, the animals go strange. Then townsfolk begin losing their minds. And that’s when the ghosts come out to haunt.
After the mysterious plague of madness strikes, young Hazel Winslow is stunned when the people she has known all her life become sudden strangers. Her brainsick father, the sheriff, takes to the woods to hunt a creature of his wild imagining. Her boyfriend Sean Adair disappears with his own delusions and guilt. Ghosts storm her grandmother’s neglected mansion. And Hazel—terrified of falling ill and losing her mind too—watches the entire town unravel around her. Will she be able to protect those she loves from misdeeds current and past?
I recently caught up with Elizabeth who was kind enough grant me some insight into the truly terrifying world of THE WINSLOW INCIDENT.
Your story is a tale of ghosts, madness, and other strange happenings. What led you to decide to tackle this theme?
I’ve always been fascinated by strange phenomena: fish falling from the sky, lake monsters, haunted hotels. After running across true accounts of entire villages gone mad, I wondered what if it happened again—here and now? From there I set out to tell the tale of a plague of madness striking a small town in Washington. The ghosts appeared later, uninvited yet welcome. As I weaved the storied past of the town of Winslow into the active crisis, exacerbating long-standing antagonisms and exposing long-buried secrets, the ghosts came out to haunt in a way that felt equally inevitable and chilling. These are the ghosts of history, of remorse and longing, rather than ectoplasm that leaps out to shout, “Boo!”
What aspects of the Pacific Northwest make it the perfect setting for this story?
The Winslow Incident is an American gothic at heart, and the remote, rugged Pacific Northwest lends itself wonderfully to the tale’s themes of isolation, unknown creatures lurking about the dark and damp woods, and other mysterious goings on. I’ve spent much time traipsing through the forests of Washington, and in addition to staggering beauty, it’s not unusual to encounter an overgrown gravesite, a dilapidated cabin, a wild animal. When I was ten years old, I became lost in the ferns and pines for several long, claustrophobic hours. I’ll never shake the ominous sense I developed then that anything can and does happen in those woods—and one must always be on the lookout for Bigfoot and body parts.
Tell us about your main character, Hazel Winslow. What characteristics will she need in order to survive this ordeal?
Ever since her mother abandoned her, young Hazel Winslow has been guarded, convinced that like her mother, she doesn’t care about anyone or anything in her one-horse town, and that soon she will just as easily leave and never look back. It isn’t until calamity strikes and endangers everyone in Winslow that Hazel realizes how much her family, friends and neighbors really mean to her. The true test comes when Hazel must choose: save her own skin or risk everything to try and protect those she loves. She will need to stand strong against townsfolk with good intentions doing bad things—an increasingly difficult stance as the tide of hysteria pulls her into ever-greater jeopardy. Would you have defended the accused at the Salem witch trials?
Now that your debut novel is about to about to premier, what are you most looking forward to?
Connecting with readers. As my release date nears, the greatest unexpected thrill has been readers telling me how excited they are about the book. I’ve spent years creating this place full of people, each with their own unique history, living in their ghost town world of wooden boardwalks and haunted mansions and graveyards and rodeo carnivals gone awry. Now I hope that readers will enjoy their visit to Winslow.
New York Times Bestselling Author Douglas Preston calls THE WINSLOW INCIDENT, “A strikingly original idea in an area where original ideas are few and far between.”
Don’t miss your chance to see it for yourself. I know I won’t.
Elizabeth Voss spent her formative years on a remote, wooded island in the Pacific Northwest, an experience that informed her creation of Winslow. She is a member of the International Thriller Writers’ Debut Authors Program and the Horror Writers Association. She currently lives in Santa Monica with her husband, Peter Tackaberry. Together, they are at work on a second novel—a dystopian thriller. There will be ghosts.
To learn more about Elizabeth, please visit her website.