Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is back, this time to investigate a historic barn that burned to the ground in the middle of the night. At first, there appears to be no foul play, and then Kate finds the body of an eighteen-year-old Amish man who was burned alive. Did someone kill him? And who?
That is the setup for A Gathering of Secrets, the tenth novel in Linda Castillo’s New York Times bestselling series, which hits bookstores tomorrow, July 10th.
Just ahead of pub day, Castillo went on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked her about everything from her writing process and how much of Kate is really her to what authors she enjoys reading in her free time. The very talented author was very gracious with her answers and even teased two new projects she’s working on. See the full Q&A below, then make sure to order a copy of A Gathering of Secrets, available wherever books are sold.
TRBS: Kate Burkholder is back and better than ever! How did you come up with the plot idea for A Gathering of Secrets, and what kind of research did you have to do before actually sitting down to write?
Castillo: “That’s a difficult question to answer without giving away too much but I’ll take a shot. One of the elements of writing crime fiction that I always strive to find is the unexpected in terms of motive and in terms of the suspect list. That’s about all I can say without including a spoiler. As far as research . . . since the Kate Burkholder series is set among the Ohio Amish, I’ve found the best research always comes from talking to people. I travel to Ohio’s Amish country every year and spend as much time as I can talking to the people who live there—the Amish included. I love hearing about their daily lives, their perspectives, listening to their stories.”
TRBS: What is your writing process like, and what advice do you have for new or aspiring authors?
Castillo: “I’m a morning person, so I like to think I do my best and most creative writing first thing in the morning (post coffee!) It took me eleven years to sell my first book and they were tough years. Most of that time I also had a pretty demanding full-time job. I was obsessive about writing and always found a way to carve out time. There’s nothing even remotely easy about writing. Getting the story on paper, getting it right, creating the world and characters in your head must be a labor of love. You do it because you are driven. My best advice is to love the process, love your story, love your characters. That passion will drive you during the tough times. It will see you through the rejections and when the writing isn’t going well. I know it sounds like a cliché, but keep going. And whatever you do don’t give up.”
TRBS: Now ten books in, readers have a pretty good idea of who Kate Burkholder is. . . but how much of her is actually you, and how are you two different?
Castillo: “I love Kate. I enjoyed creating her, getting to know her. But she still surprises me on occasion and I love when that happens. Is there a little bit of me in Kate Burkholder? Maybe. But I can tell you this: She’s a hell of a lot braver than I could ever be. It takes courage to be in law enforcement—even in a small town. Think about it. It’s three in the morning and you’ve drawn the graveyard shift. You see a vehicle weaving on a back road, veering left of center. You have no idea who’s in the vehicle. Have they been drinking? Are they simply distracted? Do they need help? Or are they up to no good? One of the things Kate and I have in common is that she’s a flawed character. [smile]”
TRBS: What’s the last really great book that you read, and who are some of your favorite authors?
Castillo: “Where to start? I love crime fiction, and there are so many great books and authors out there. I’m a huge fan of John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport series. I loved Becky Masterman’s Rage Against the Dying. It’s the first book in the Brigid Quinn series and features an over fifty kick-ass heroine and it’s fabulous. Tami Hoag. Lisa Gardner. Lisa Unger. Paul Doiron’s Mike Bowditch series. William Forstchen’s One Second After is an apocalyptic thriller and it’s deliciously scary. All are really wonderful, entertaining reads.”
TRBS: Lastly, what’s next for you?
Castillo: “I’m currently working on the next Kate Burkholder book and I’m a little past the midway point. It’s a dynamite premise that revolves around a missing Amish child. I’m also working on a standalone thriller I’m extremely excited about. More to come on that front.”
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.