If you aren’t already reading Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder series, start. Soon.
A proven lock to put out a great thriller each year, Castillo has fast become one of my favorite writers working today, and her protagionist, Cheif of Police Kate Burkholder, is just as fantastic as she is.
In her latest book, Outsider, Castillo takes readers on a wild ride that follows Kate as she investigates an old friend who’s on the run and hiding out in a small Amish town. That friend, Gina Colorosa, is a name that eagle-eyed readers might remember from earlier in the series—but more on that below. What I loved about this book is that it’s the most thriller-ish book Castillo has written yet. Whereas her novels normally tend to hover between mysteries and procedurals, Outsider starts fast and never lets up for a second.
Just before Outsider was released earlier this month, Castillo was kind enough to go back on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked her everything from how she’s filling her time social-distancing to what’s next for Kate in 2021. Read the full Q&A below, them make sure to pick up The Outsider, now available wherever books are sold.
TRBS: I LOVED this book. A big fan of your work, I always look forward to the latest Kate Burkholder book, and this one did not disappoint. How did you come up with the story idea for Outsider?
Castillo: First of all, thank you for being so supportive over the years and for giving me the opportunity to talk about the book. I’m so pleased you enjoyed Outsider.
Readers have asked me how my formerly Amish protagonist, Kate Burkholder, went from wayward Amish girl to chief of police. That’s quite a leap, to say the least. I’ve always known Kate had an interesting story to tell. In the course of writing the book, I learned some things about Kate I didn’t know before. Gina Colorosa was actually mentioned in the very first book of the series, Sworn to Silence. She was the girl who “taught Kate how not to be Amish” after Kate left the fold when she was eighteen years old. They were best friends, and it was Gina who sparked Kate’s interest in law enforcement. I wanted to tell their story.
I also love the idea of an ‘outsider’ having to deal with the Amish lifestyle, customs, and culture—especially when that person is as rough-around-the-edges as Gina. With Outsider, the reader gets an intimate look into the lives of an Amish family and how they are affected by the outside world and the danger Gina brings into their home. I also touch on the issue of police corruption, how far people are willing to go to hide their secrets—and all the while there’s a blizzard bearing down on Painters Mill.
TRBS: What research, if any, did you have to do before actually sitting down to write?
Castillo: Outsider is more thriller than police procedural. Most of my research was Amish based and related to the daily routines—chores, worship, belief systems—how Amish children are raised, and how the Amish feel about non-Amish people. I also did quite a bit of research into the inner workings of a big city police department. I’m a bit of a crime buff, and I did quite a bit of reading about police corruption and the kinds of things that happen because of it, and of course the repercussions.
TRBS: What is your writing process like? Do you start with an outline, have a target word count you try to hit each day? And how has your process changed over the years?
Castillo: I’m a morning person. I go to my laptop or computer first thing in the morning (post-coffee.) I usually edit a few pages from what I’ve written the day before, then I jump into the writing process. I usually spend about six or so hours at the computer. Beyond that, my creative brain is mush. If I can produce four or five pages in a day, I’m satisfied (with the progress not necessarily with the quality.) If I can write eight or ten pages, I’m a happy camper. I love those days when the writing flows, but most often getting those words on paper are sort of like pulling teeth without anesthesia. I’ve known writers who love every word they write. I’m not one of those writers. For me, my first draft is usually pretty ugly. I don’t let anyone read it. I write two or three drafts over a period of seven or eight months before sending it to my editor. (who is wonderful!) His fresh eye and spot-on instincts always make the book better.
TRBS: How have you spent your time self-isolating this year, and what’s the last really great book that you read?
Castillo: I just re-read William Fortstchen’s One Second After. If you are a fan of the post-apocalyptic thriller (and you like your books on the scary side) this one is pure dynamite.
TRBS: Lastly, what’s next for you, and when can readers expect to see Kate again?
Castillo: I’m about two-thirds of the way into the next Kate Burkholder novel. It’s still in that “ugly” stage at this moment (ahem), but I love the story. It’s a murder mystery that hits close to home for Kate. The title is Fallen and it will be released next summer.
Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.