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Public Affairs Rep Lands Big Book Deal

Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Public Affairs Representative Heather Chavez is keeping her day job and finishing the first of 2 books.

On the surface, Heather Chavez leads a relatively normal life in Santa Rosa.

The upbeat Kaiser Permanente public affairs representative and mother of 2 goes to work in an office building next to the freeway. She shops at Safeway, makes dinner with her husband.

But in the splinters of time between work and family, Chavez imagines dark things: A late-night assault on a country road. A husband disappears. Children are threatened.

Chavez has written that darkness into a full-length novel, earning her a “mid-6 figure,” 2-book deal with publisher William Morrow. And that’s not counting publication deals she landed in the Netherlands, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Croatia, and Britain.

Writing About Strong Women

No Bad Deed, the first of the books by Chavez, who also is a former newspaper journalist, is undergoing final edits and will be on sale in February. It took her about 2 years to write, including long stretches when she didn’t have the time. The second book is a thriller too, but Chavez is not ready to divulge the story line, except that like the first book, it has “a strong female protagonist.”

“I think journalism gave me a dark perspective into human nature,” said Chavez, who got her start as a reporter at the Lake County Bee in Lakeport, California, and who later spent 26 years in a variety of editorial jobs at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. “You do see things. And so you look at the world a little differently.”

Chavez, who celebrates her 3-year anniversary in May with Kaiser Permanente in the Marin and Sonoma areas, said the transition from journalist to public relations representative was easy for her because she continues to write about the community for which she cares so much.

“Kaiser Permanente is such an integral part of life here, just like the newspaper is,” Chavez said. “They’re both cornerstones of this community.”

No Bad Deed is about a mother of 2 living in Santa Rosa who is on her way home one night when she comes across a couple fighting on the side of the road. She calls 911, tries to intervene, and gets involved more than she planned.

Wielding the Editing Ax

In addition to using a degree in English from UC Berkeley, Chavez said spending years working at newspapers taught her how to edit, which means learning to throw a lot of well-intentioned prose in the trash.

“I cut two-thirds of this book because the story wasn’t quite working for me, but I was able to do it because I was able to look at the big picture,” Chavez said.

Chavez said she likes to write about strong women, including those who sacrifice time with family to pay the bills.

“My main character in the book struggles with that work-life balance,” Chavez said. “I think of all the moms out there who bust their butts every day to care for their families. It’s amazing to me what a woman can accomplish.”

One of the highest rewards of publishing her first book, aside from the money, was a text she received from her teenage daughter just after she learned her book would be published.

“She responded that I was living proof that creativity can pay off, and that I was her role model,” Chavez said. “It really made me feel good and proud to be raising an independent woman like the ones I write about.”