Originally from Ohio where her Amish thrillers are set, Linda Castillo knew from an early age that she wanted to be a writer–and penned her first novel at the age of thirteen. She’s published thirty books for three New York publishing houses and won numerous industry awards, including a nomination by the International Thriller Writers for Best Hardcover, the Golden Heart, the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence, and a nomination for the prestigious Rita.
Her debut thriller, Sworn to Silence, garnered starred reviews from Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, and Booklist–and spent four weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. The following books in the series also hit the NYT and USA Today lists and became international bestsellers. Sworn to Silence was recently adapted into a two-hour original movie re-titled “An Amish Murder” and starring Neve Campbell as Kate Burkholder.
In her spare time, Linda enjoys trail riding, and dabbles in barrel racing. She resides in Texas with her husband, two rescued Blue Heelers, and two Appaloosa horses. She’s currently at work on her next novel, a thriller set in Amish Country and featuring Chief of Police Kate Burkholder.
I’m delighted to welcome Linda Castillo
today to share a few thoughts with us.
cncbooks: Your themes are anything but fluffy—did you set out to do thrillers or did Kate take you in that direction?
Linda: The idea of writing a big thriller has always appealed to me. I also love a dark story with a lot of intensity. In the course of writing the first book in the Kate Burkholder series, Sworn to Silence, I fell in love with Kate and she pretty much took over the page from there. She’s a strong protagonist and I know she can handle whatever situation I throw her into.
cncbooks: Is there one author (mystery or otherwise) who has really influenced your writing career?
Linda: There isn’t just a single author who influenced me, but multiple authors. Wonderful writers whose books inspired me or maybe I attended one of their speaking engagements and they touched me in some way. Authors like John Sandford (who just happens to be the best police procedural author around), Sandra Brown, Tami Hoag, Gillian Flynn, Greg Iles, Nora Roberts, Lisa Scottoline, CJ Box—too many to name here. I love them all.
cncbooks: What part of your crime research has been the most interesting?
Linda: Researching the Amish culture has been fascinating and enlightening and personally satisfying. With regard to the crime research, I love the police procedural aspect. I’m a graduate of two citizen police academies where I had the opportunity to meet many wonderful officers and learn about what they do. I did ride-alongs in a large metropolitan city with both male and female officers. One of the more interesting exercises I participated in was the shoot/no shoot scenarios. I was given a police issue revolver (with a plugged muzzle.) A police officer and I ran through the halls of the training facility, bursting through doors. I had no idea what kind of “crime scenario” I would encounter on the other side of the door. All scenarios were police officers engaged in some type of make-believe crime situations. I had a split second to decide if the situation called for deadly force. For a novice, I did well—until I shot a cop. I entered the room. I saw a man on top of a woman. He clearly had something in his hand. I fired my weapon. The thing he was holding was his badge. The citizen police academies were a thrill and incredibly educational, and it really gave me a new perspective on the dangerous and difficult work police officers face every day.
cncbooks: What has been the toughest criticism you’ve been given as an author? What has been the best compliment?
Linda: The toughest criticism I’ve received was a letter from an Amish man from Wisconsin. He read Breaking Silence and was so offended he burned the book (literally.) Of course I know a writer can’t please everyone (and probably shouldn’t even try!) But since he was Amish, that letter was particularly tough.
On that same note, one of the best compliments I’ve received came from an Amish man from Holmes County Ohio. He enjoyed Sworn to Silence and I had the pleasure of meeting him and his family during book tour. It was a wonderful experience.
cncbooks: What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like the least?
Linda: I love writing. I love creating characters and stories. But I have to say the thing I love most is hearing from a reader who loved the book. That’s epic! The thing I don’t care for: The hours spent behind the computer. I love being outside; I love being active. Most often when I’m working on a book, those two things just don’t happen.
cncbooks: Are you a plotter or a pantser, i.e., do you outline your books ahead of time or are you an “organic” writer?
Linda: I’m a plotter. When I first began writing, I wrote a couple of books by the seat of my pants. I enjoy that writing process. It was fun and addictive because I needed to know what would happen next. But when I began writing thrillers, I found that the mystery involved was too complex and I needed to map it out beforehand.
cncbooks: If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently in your writing career?
Linda: I would have quit my corporate job sooner.
cncbooks: What do you read for pleasure when you’re writing?
Linda: I’m always reading a book (or three!) I love reading a big thriller or twisty mystery, but I also read across genres. A couple of books I recently enjoyed immensely: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and William Forstchen’s One Second After. Both are big, powerful books and highly recommended!
cncbooks: What is your favorite scene in AFTER THE STORM and why?
Linda: One of my favorite scenes happens early in the book. If you’ve followed the series, you know Kate is for the most part estranged from her family. There’s a scene in which Kate and Tomasetti have been invited to her Amish brother’s home for a summer picnic. The dynamics between Kate and her Amish siblings has fascinated me from the start and it was interesting to watch this play out, especially with Tomasetti there.
cncbooks: How much of you is in your character, Kate?
Linda: While Kate Burkholder is, of course, fictional, I believe that even with regard to fictional characters, there’s a thread of reality. Kate is mostly a compilation of the many strong women I’ve known in my lifetime. Women I admire and respect. To that, I added weaknesses and imperfections from myself as well as others. That combination makes Kate much more interesting and courageous than I could ever hope to be!
Linda: John Tomasetti is a powerful, multifaceted character. He’s fundamentally good, but there’s an element of ambiguity about him, and I’m absolutely fascinated by that. Though we know more about him now than we did with the early books in the series, there are still things we don’t know and I plan to reveal in future books.
cncbooks: What’s next for you?
Linda: I just completed the eighth book in the Kate Burkholder series. AMONG THE WICKED will be released next summer. I’m incredibly excited about this book which will feature Kate in a different locale and place her in an unexpected, usual—and dangerous—case.
I’m also working on a new standalone project that’s been calling to me for quite some time. It’s set in West Virginia and features a female private detective who’s about to return to her mining town roots—and embark on a high-stakes case that hits close to home and threatens to reveal a plethora of family secrets.
Thank you so much for being here today
and sharing a little bit of yourself 😉
Series fans as well as first-time readers will be enthralled by this
compelling and atmospheric mystery set in the heart of Amish country.