I’m so excited to have Rochelle Staab on the blog today! Rochelle is the author of the brand new (out today!!) mystery, Who Do, Voodoo?, and was kind enough to undergo my interrogation,er, interview, and talks about how she went from music exec to writer, voodoo, and who some of her fave writers are . I’m also offering a copy of Who Do, Voodoo? to one lucky winner so check out the giveaway deets at the bottom of the post.
Please welcome Rochelle to the blog!
Rochelle, even though you dreamed of becoming a novelist from a young age, you spent many years in the music industry, including Vice President of Advertising at Warner Bros. Records! How did the UCLA Writers’ Program convince you to finally take the plunge into serious writing?
I talked about writing a novel for so many years that one day I decided I had to take action or give up the dream. I heard about the UCLA Writers’ Program, signed up, and knew I was home the day I took my first writing class on campus. I couldn’t stop smiling. The nurturing, creative atmosphere along with the supportive instructors and fellow students sold me. I knew so little about the process that I just took direction and developed my craft one class at a time, from Intro To all the way through Novel IV. The experience felt like a series of first steps until I had almost an entire novel written. My time in the program and the friends I made there are priceless.
Your first novel, Who Do, Voodoo?, is out Nov. 1st. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Love to! Liz Cooper, a pragmatic Los Angeles psychologist who discounts the supernatural as a mental crutch, is unfazed the night her friend Robin finds an unusual tarot card on her front door. Liz writes the card off as a nasty prank. But Robin refuses to ignore the omen—her late husband drew the same card, the three of swords, in a reading the night before he was killed in a car accident.
When more cards and darker threats appear on Robin’s door, Liz realizes someone very dangerous is upping the ante. She contacts her brother’s former college roommate—occult expert Nick Garfield—who takes Liz into the voodoo community to locate the origin of the tarot deck. But in light of Liz and Nick’s hunt for the harasser, Robin becomes a murder suspect. Determined to clear her friend, Liz steps straight into the path of a voodoo curse and a cunning killer.
What’s one of your most unusual writing quirks?
Quirks? Ah, I see you know a lot of writers. I admit I get so lost in the story that I wake up thinking every day is the day of the scene I’m writing. I can be in a Sunday frame of mind every day for a week if that’s where my characters are. Or celebrating Friday with them on Monday. My calendar is loaded with appointment alerts to snap me back to reality.
What are some of your biggest literary influences/faves?
Like so many female authors I’ve met, my love affair with mystery started with Nancy Drew. I devoured the works of Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and P.G. Wodehouse. I spent an entire summer reading Dashiell Hammett and another summer reading Raymond Chandler, both geniuses at displaying setting as character. I read all of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series in order; Peters influenced my desire to write a series. Lately I’ve been reading Michael Connelly and Harlen Coben. And in between, I like to read new mysteries by authors I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know like Cleo Coyle, Avery Aames, Liz Lipperman, Kari Lee Townsend, and Hank Phillippi Ryan.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
Three books for three different purposes: For pleasure, Barbara Michaels’ Ammie, Come Home. For research, Mike Blake’s Baseball Rituals, Superstitions, and Oddities. And for inspiration I’m rereading Anne Lamott’s wonderful writing book, Bird By Bird.
In your bio, you mention a tour of the New Orleans French Quarter inspired the voodoo elements of your novel. Can you tell us a bit more about your visit?
An amazing day! I hired a voodoo priestess for a private tour of the French Quarter. As we strolled, my guide gave an architectural and cultural history of New Orleans, street by street, including the French, Spanish, and Creole influence on New Orleans’ voodoo. Deep inside the Quarter, she escorted me beyond the commercial front counters of voodoo shops into mysterious back rooms, voodoo sanctuaries, and outdoor ritual sites. She closed the tour at Marie Laveau’s mausoleum in St. Louis Cemetery #1, said to be the most haunted tomb in the world. I watched her spit whiskey on the tomb to honor Laveau and we both left a trinket behind to please the ghost. Just before we exited the cemetery, the priestess had me toss nine pennies over my shoulder to keep restless spirits occupied—else they commandeer our souls and follow us out. The sanctuary in WHO DO, VOODOO? combines elements from those sanctuaries we visited that day.
If you could pack your bags and travel anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go, and why?
Put me on a jet to visit the pyramids of Egypt or Teotihuacan, Mexico; or the Parthenon in Greece. I have an Indiana Jones thing going on—an awe of the architecture, symbols, rituals, and beliefs of ancient civilizations. The older, the better.
Name something that makes you laugh out loud?
The adventures of my misspent youth. My deepest belly laughs come from sitting with my oldest friends recapping our exploits. It’s a miracle we reached adulthood unscathed and fairly respectable.
Is there any advice that you would give to struggling writers?
Yes, without hesitation: Write every day. I know the advice seems simplistic, I thought so the first time someone gave it to me. But you develop your craft—voice and style—with practice. If writing is your passion, you won’t want to stop. Above all, write to entertain yourself. And read every day—good novels are inspiring, bad novels are instructive.
Do you have any news of upcoming events or projects that you’d like to share with us?
Before I do, I want to thank you so much for interviewing me! Today is an incredibly special day for me—the release date for WHO DO, VOODOO?—and the culmination of a dream. The complete list of events and appearances surrounding release is on my website. WHO DO, VOODOO? is the first in the Mind For Murder mystery series and I’m already excited about the second, BRUJA BROUHAHA, set for release next summer.
1. Giveaway is for 1 copy of Who Do, Voodoo? by Rochelle Staab to 1 winner.
2. Giveaway is open Internationally (wherever The Book Depository ships)
3. To enter, please leave a comment or question for Rochelle with your email address (if you put your email address in the form, it’s not necessary to include it in the body of your comment). Following the blog is not necessary, but is ALWAYS appreciated.
4. If you follow this blog (via GFC or Facebook) please let me know in a SEPARATE COMMENT and I’ll give you ONE extra entry.
5. If you follow Rochelle on Twitter, let me know for ANOTHER extra entry (for a MAX total of 3 entries)
6. Giveaway ENDS 11/8/11