Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An Interview with Rochelle Staab

M&M: Rochelle, tell us about your latest book Who Do, Voodoo?

I’d love to! Who Do, Voodoo? features no-nonsense Liz Cooper, a Los Angeles psychologist with a cynical view of the occult. When Liz's friend Robin finds an unusual tarot card tacked to her front door, Liz writes it off as a prank. Robin refuses to ignore the omen—the same card predicted her husband’s death two years earlier. As more cards and darker threats appear, Liz realizes someone dangerous is upping the ante and she turns to old friend and occult expert Nick Garfield for help. Nick introduces Liz into the voodoo community where their search for the origin of the tarot deck leads to the discovery of a murder veiled in a voodoo curse. Robin becomes a suspect, and Liz has to set aside her doubts about the supernatural to unravel otherworldly secrets and clear her friend—or risk being outwitted by a cunning killer.

M&M: What type of writing schedule do you have and how long does it take you to write your books?

Who Do, Voodoo? took about two years to write. I completed Bruja Brouhaha, the second in the series, in less than a year, and I envy writers who have the creative muscle to write faster. Now that I have publishing deadlines, I write anywhere from one to six hours daily depending on how a scene is flowing. The first draft takes longer, but I can’t get to the fun part—the edits—until the story is finished.

M&M: How many books have you written?

Who Do, Voodoo? is the first novel I wrote. Bruja Brouhaha is my second, and I’m in the thick of writing the third novel in the series. When I began writing WDV, I didn’t anticipate the way Liz, Robin, and Nick would move in and take over my life, but they did! They’ve become my constant companions.

M&M: What writing advice do you have for the novice mystery writer?

It sounds simple but this is vital—keep writing. Find your voice and use it to write the best novel you can. Entertain yourself, learn the rules so you can break the ones that don’t work for you, and write without a timetable. Find a critique partner who “gets” you. Your first goal should be to finish your novel, then rewrite, and rewrite again. Learn your craft.

M&M: Give us some advice on book publishing and promoting your books?

Publishers know their audience, so it’s important to research the industry to find a good match for the style and genre you write in. Publisher’s Marketplace is a great tool for seeing who is buying what. Once your novel has been sold and is ready for market, the work begins. Authors actually have two jobs—writer and self-marketer. Visibility is key. Months before release get yourself out there—be active on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and the online groups; and, if you can, attend genre-relevant conferences to meet your peers. Familiarity and word of mouth are your friends.

M&M:Do you have a favorite book signing story to tell us?

Oh, it has to be my signing at Mystery One Bookstore in Milwaukee, my hometown. The shop was jammed with my family and oldest friends, people I’ve known all my life. My friend Randy sat next to me in high school English Lit class; Bob worked with me at my first job in the advertising business. The evening was truly old home week. And to top it off, Mystery One is located in a classic east side building that once housed an old beatnik after hours club my friends and I snuck into when we were teens! It was a very special night.

M&M: Since you've become an author; what is the most humorous thing that has happened to you?

It’s a little embarrassing, but it’s funny. I needed a cold reader for the first draft of my second novel and one of the men I used to work with begged me to let him read it. Okay, I thought, he’s not really a writer or a mystery fan but he liked Who Do, Voodoo? Why not? I gave him a rough copy and waited two weeks for a response. Nothing. I waited another week. Nothing. I finally called him, “So, how did you like the story?” His answer will go down as one of the classic reviews of all time: “Didn’t finish it yet, but wow! I LOVE the paper you printed it on!” (I smack myself on the forehead.)

M&M: Okay now for some fun questions. What is your favorite meal, movie, book and color?

My favorite, favorite winter meal is a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. In summer I can live on watermelon. Without a doubt, my two favorite movies are The Philadelphia Story and Bull Durham, both fill my requirements for a satisfying film: good sets, good clothes, one good kiss. Favorite book is a little more challenging. For humor, The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse; for great noir mystery, The Continental Op by Dashiell Hammett. I’m a serial reader. When I find an author I like, I’ll read everything he/she wrote before I move onto the next author. And my favorite color is red. You’ll see me in red lipstick every day.

M&M: What would your characters say about you if we asked them how you came up with their names?

I love how you phrased the question because as I developed the characters, they definitely had a say in how they were named. Nick was easy and accepted his name without comment. He was named in homage to Hammett’s Nick Charles in The Thin Man, and his last name, Garfield, is the street I grew up on. I began writing Liz as Lizzie, but within the first few pages she objected. Lizzie wasn’t serious enough for a PhD, so she shortened her name on her own. Only her father and ex-husband get away with calling her Lizzie. Honestly? I don’t remember where Cooper came from. Liz truly named herself. The gal is very sure of who she is.

M&M: What is your idea of a favorite vacation?

If you had asked me three years ago, I would have answered “a trip to Egypt or Mexico to view the pyramids.” I adore exploring the past, but lately my expeditions are for novel research. Now I’m thinking a week on a Hawaiian beach under an umbrella with a bag full of mystery novels, a dish of macadamia nuts, and a cup of lemonade sounds like heaven.

M&M: is there something you would like to tell you your readers?

Yes, yes—thank you for embracing Liz, Nick, Robin, Dave, Viv, and the rest of the gang. I had so much fun writing them and I’m thrilled my readers fell into the story and went along for the ride! It feels like I’m introducing my favorite people to new friends. 

M&M: Leave us with your future writing plans.

Bruja Brouhaha, the second novel in the Mind For Murder Mystery series will be out in August 2012, and I’m writing the third novel now. There are so many interesting and complex shades of the occult to keep Liz and Nick busy for a long time. Murder with a supernatural twist fascinates me.

Thank you so much for inviting me here to chat with you and your readers. Mystery lovers rock!

Rochelle thank you for doing the interview. I will let you know when we have it posted on http://mayhemandmagic2.blogspot.com

Rochelle Staab, a former award-winning radio programmer and music industry marketing executive, blended her fascination with the supernatural and her love for mystery in WHO DO, VOODOO? the first novel in her Mind for Murder Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime.


  1. Rochelle,I loved the "paper" review. How funny!


  2. Wonderful interview, Rochelle. The paper review was great, and oh how I would love to join you on that beach with a bag of books.

  3. Thank you, ladies. I swear I really smacked my forehead after the "paper" comment. And I think he thought he was giving me a big compliment... oy.

    Anita, I am so ready for the beach (after the pies, the presents, writing, wrapping...).

  4. Great interview and I can't wait to read Bruja Brouhaha - btw, love the title.

  5. Great interview! Loved the advice for aspiring authors and the details on Rochelle's writing process, publishing and promo.

  6. Hi Dru! Thanks, I love the title too. I used Bruja Brouhaha as my working title and the creative team at Berkley liked it so much that they KEPT it! Pretty cool.


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