INTERVIEW WITH LINDA CASTILLO

Shame (Kate Burkholder Book 11)

Minotaur Books

July 16th, 2019

Shamed by Linda Castillo brings to life the Amish community in this suspenseful murder mystery. The author explores the secrets and lies within this group, but also shows how the community is very open-minded to those with handicaps.

The story opens with a brutal murder of an Amish grandmother. Her granddaughter, a special needs little girl, has been kidnapped with the younger sister a witness to everything. Police Chief Kate Burkholder is called in to investigate.  She has insights into this tight-knit closed community because she is a former Amish, having left the community as a teenager.

Readers experience the emotions with the characters as Kate is in a race against time to find the killer.  She must battle an old Amish order that believes family is everything and tradition is upheld with an iron fist. As the killer is claiming more victims, Castillo skillfully adds to the tension by having at the beginning of each chapter the number of hours the child is missing. Everyone knows that the chances of recovering her alive diminish rapidly with the passing of time. There are serious secrets at work and Kate has to discover the truth in order to save the girl and find the killer.

Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the story?

Linda Castillo: I’ve always been a crime buff.  Some crimes, while terrible, are also fascinating in a dark and sometimes uncomfortable way.  I always want to know who did it.  I want to know how they did it.  I especially want to know why.  The motivation aspect is always key and, many times, the most puzzling, at least early on.  With regard to the idea for Shamed, I wanted to know:  What happens when a member or members of a religious community such as the Amish make a mistake?  What happens if they do something wrong?  What if they do something really bad?  Break the law?  What happens to them in terms of the community?  How do they feel about themselves and what they did on the inside?  Their innermost feelings?  Those are fascinating questions that I wanted to explore.

EC: Would the Amish go into a police car?

LC:  Most Amish would have no problem riding in a police car. The “Ordnung” (the unwritten rules of the church district) may have rules against owning or driving a vehicle or even having a vehicle parked on your property. Yet, many Amish, when they have to make a trip that’s too far do use a horse and buggy, and will hire someone to drive them.  A funny side note:  I’ve heard of these drivers referred to as “Yoder Toters.”

EC: There is an emphasis on special need children in this book? 

LC: This is a two-fold answer.  Because of marriage patters in many Amish communities, there’s a slightly smaller gene pool.  Because of that, there is a slightly higher occurrence of certain developmental problems in some children, including Cohen syndrome.  The Amish feel these special needs children are gifts from God.  I have so much respect for the Amish perspective in so many ways.  As a writer, I wanted to explore that element.  Secondly, the idea of a missing child is so harrowing.  Of course, all children are vulnerable.  But there’s almost something even more vulnerable about a special needs child.  As a writer, I wanted to explore that and see where it took me.

EC:  Please explain this quote: “Most Amish couples are exceptional parents and think special needs children are a gift from G-d.”

LC: The point I wanted to make with that scene, about the family, and the Amish in general, is that they don’t see a special needs child as a burden.  The special needs child is treated just like any other child, whenever possible. 

EC: Did you want to achieve a dramatic effect by going hour for hour with each chapter?

LC: The missing child is a huge element of the book.  I can only imagine how agonizing it is for parents and loved ones of that child.  Law enforcement, too.  Stranger kidnappings are rare and dangerous.  The statistics are horrifying.  The longer the child is missing, the more likely a negative outcome.  As a writer, I wanted to explore that dark journey through the eyes not only of Kate Burkholder and her cohorts, but the parents and Amish community as well.  I wanted the reader to feel every tick of the clock with the same anxiousness and terror as Kate and the parents.

EC: Were you a tomboy like Kate?

LC: I was very much a tomboy growing up.  Now that you’ve asked the question, I realize that’s the one thing I have in common with Kate!  My family had horses, cattle, pigs, and other livestock.  I learned to swim in a pond, and a nearby creek that had some deep pools. I loved the woods and nearby creek, and of course there was no other more interesting place to

explore than the 100 year old bank barn.

EC: Is the theme distrust?

LC: Distrust is one of the themes.  Another thematic element I found myself returning to again and again as I wrote the book is “shame.”  Most of us know that the Amish are a Christian based religious culture.  They embrace tradition and social order and a set of rules known as “Ordnung” as set forth by their leaders.  They embrace marriage and children.  Most believe in separation from the rest of the world.  As Anabaptists, they believe in adult baptism.  Yes, the Amish are a religious society.  They are good neighbors, and they are good friends.  All of that said, they are human, too, and as we all know, human beings have frailties and weaknesses.  Those are some of the core elements that drew me to the “shamed” theme of this novel. 

EC: Next book?

LC: Oh, I love this question!  I’m currently at work on the 12th book in the Kate Burkholder series and hope to finish in the next month or so. One of the things I try to do as a writer, is keep the series fresh.  It’s not always an easy task, but Kate usually steps up to the plate! The twelfth book is titled Outsider and deals with the emergence of someone from Kate’s past.  This is the first book in which we get a closer look at the years before Kate returned to Painters Mill.  It’s an absolutely fascinating story and it’s been a thrill to write.  I can’t wait to share it next summer.

THANK YOU!!