During the reading club of Geen slechte daad (Dutch translation of No bad deed) (Karakter Uitgevers) the participants had a few questions for Heather Chavez. We had a few questions ourselves, so we sent them to Heather and she was more than happy to answer them. Questions came from: Karin van Gemst, Annette Overvoorde, Jan Nagels, Dini van Heumen-Hoekman, Jamy Smeets en Juanita Buseyne.
Who is Heather Chavez? Please, introduce yourself!
I was born and raised in California and currently live with my family, two cats and a Chihuahua in Santa Rosa. I have an English degree from UC Berkeley, and have worked as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. I’ve also done some blogging, including collaborating on a mystery serial on a newspaper’s website. I currently work in public affairs for a health care organization.
When or how did you first start to consider writing a book?
When I was 11 years old, I read my first book by Dean Koontz and realized immediately that that was what I wanted to do: write books that kept readers turning pages. When I was a teenager, I wrote two creepy novellas, before writing three “practice” books as an adult. Then, finally, came No Bad Deed.
Where do you find inspiration? Is everything purely fictional, or did you hear/read about certain things?
It’s a little of both, but the inspiration for this book came from an incident my daughter and I witnessed. One afternoon, I was picking up my daughter from afterschool care when suddenly these two boys, probably around 14, attacked a third boy right in front of us. The fight ended in seconds, the three of them scattering before I could decide what to do. I remember thinking: Do I call 911? Get out of the car? If I get out of the car, how do I keep my daughter safe? Would I have behaved differently if my daughter hadn’t been in the car? That incident inspired my book.
Do you use a specific writing structure? Do you start at the beginning and just write, or do you plot everything in advance? Do you structure your main character from A to Z, or does the character develop in a certain direction as you write?
I start with an outline, though it evolves as I write. But even if it changes along the way, I have to know how it ends before I start writing. As far as the characters, I think a lot about them before beginning, but I really discover them after my first draft. A lot of the revisions I do in subsequent drafts have to do with how the characters react. As I re-read each draft, I often find myself thinking, “This character would never do that.” Then I have to adapt the story to fit the characters.
Do you have plans for your next novel and, if so, will this be a thriller too?
I’m currently writing a second thriller now. It, too, will feature a strong but flawed female protagonist.
Do you have any favorite authors?
So many! They include Lisa Gardner, Karin Slaughter, Harlan Coben, Dean Koontz, and Linwood Barclay, but there really are too many to list.
What kind of research did you do for this book? Did your experience as a reporter help?
Did you shadow a vet for a day, in order to explore your main character?
My experience as a reporter helped in that it taught me to ask questions, exposed me to a lot of interesting stories and people, and taught me to write under deadline. But I think being an editor helped even more, because it taught me the importance of cutting and rewriting in order to make the story better. As far as shadowing a vet, I didn’t, though I did ask a veterinary student to read a scene in the book and asked her a few questions. I also befriended a retired police lieutenant. Getting outside perspective from experts is so helpful.
Do you have any rituals/superstitions? This doesn’t have to apply (only) to writing, of course!
The closest thing would probably be that whenever I write, I have to chew gum. If I write too long, my jaw actually aches.
Your book has been translated in Dutch, among other languages. Have you ever been to the Netherlands?
Yes, but only for a few hours unfortunately. Last year, I transferred planes in Amsterdam on my first ever overseas trip. We actually had been planning a return trip to Europe with a possible stop in the Netherlands this summer.
Why do we have to read your book?
Cassie Larkin is smart, but she can also be physical, and I hope readers can relate to an ordinary person forced to go to the extremes to save her family. No Bad Deed also has twists, action, creepy bugs, and a clumsy Labrador. Something for all thriller fans. My goal has always been to keep readers turning pages. If even one person loses a little sleep, I’ll be happy with that.
Finally, we’d like to ask about your favorite food(s). What is it, and will you share the recipe with us?
I love tacos—when someone else makes them. My husband actually does most of the cooking. One thing I do make that my family seems to like is macaroni and cheese. I sauté some onion in a couple of tablespoons butter, then add salt, pepper, a couple cups of milk and flour to thicken. Once it’s thickened, I add about 2 cups of cheese (I prefer Gruyere or white cheddar). Mix it with pasta. Top with a little more cheese and some buttered breadcrumbs. Then bake until lightly browned. Like I said, I’m definitely not a gourmet, but it’s my comfort food.