Writing With … Rochelle Staab

I’m thrilled to welcome Rochelle Staab to the blog to help her celebrate the release of her debut mystery, WHO DO, VOODOO? I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with Rochelle at three writers conference now, resulting in much gabbing on the sidewalks and in the hotel lobbies of San Francisco, New York and St. Louis. Rochelle is an award-winning former radio and music industry executive. WHO DO, VOODOO?, the first novel in her Mind for Murder mystery series, features Los Angeles psychologist Liz Cooper and religious philosophy professor Nick Garfield. You can visit Rochelle’s website at: www.rochellestaab.com

Q. Tell us about your book and what inspired you to write it.

A. WHO DO, VOODOO? is a murder mystery with a voodoo twist, combining my love for mystery with a long-standing awe of mysticism. Throw in some charlatans inspired by the abundance of psychic shops in L.A. and my plot took shape. Liz is a no-nonsense clinical psychologist who views the supernatural as an emotional crutch, nothing more than search for outside explanations for personal inner conflicts. But when her best friend Robin finds a menacing tarot card on her front door — the same card drawn in a reading for Robin’s husband the day before his death two years earlier — Liz sets out to locate the cruel harasser. In the search for the card’s origin, Liz enlists the aid of professor Nick Garfield, her brother’s college roommate and expert in religious philosophy and the occult. Nick introduces Liz to the voodoo subculture in Los Angeles. When their search leads to a dead body and Robin becomes the prime murder suspect, Liz has to cast aside her doubts to trap a scheming killer while dodging a voodoo curse. Belief systems are polarizing and I present several viewpoints on the supernatural: Liz the skeptic, Nick the intellectual observer, and a cast of characters with mild to serious investments in the occult. Who is right and what is real is up to the reader to decide.

Q. Did you need to do any special research for the book? If so, what’s one of the most interesting facts you discovered?

A. Researching voodoo and the supernatural made for a lot of interesting outings, from voodoo tours to psychic readings. I took four months of tarot classes to fine-tune my card reading skills. But one of the most interesting theories I learned from studying voodoo, witchcraft, and the occult is the ubiquitous fact that whatever you do comes back to you. The boomerang effect threads through every alternative belief system I researched.

Q. Many people are content to just be readers. How did you become a writer?

A. Natural curiosity and a desire to create. Dialog ran through my mind since I was a child, composition was easy for me in school. After many fun decades in the music industry marketing the talents of recording artists, I found I had a desire to make my own creative imprint. I knew nothing about novel structure or the publishing business so I enrolled in the UCLA Writers’ Program — one of my better decisions.

Q. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

A. Sleep. I adore my bed. I also like crowds and get great pleasure in attending conferences, movies, sporting events, and parties. I love visiting friends. I was the kid who didn’t want to go home from school and I still thrive from taking classes. And once a week I bring my lunch to Santa Monica beach to take in the beauty and power of the Pacific Ocean.

Q. What are you reading right now?

A. Barbara Michaels’ AMMIE, COME HOME. I was in the mood for a good, creepy, supernatural story and Michaels (aka Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Mertz) delivers.

Q. If you were stranded on that proverbial deserted island, what five books would you want to have with you?

A. I assume you don’t mean ESCAPING DESERTED ISLANDS FOR DUMMIES or the one-volume Columbia Encyclopedia. If you allow me sets, I could narrow my choices down to the complete works of P.G. Wodehouse, William Shakespeare, Aristotle, W.H. Auden, and Oscar Wilde. I can’t single out one from each. It’s too hard.

Q. What’s your favorite movie?

A. Without hesitation, Bull Durham. The 1988 flick combines my three required elements for a good movie—good setting, good clothes, at least one good kiss—with minor league baseball (I LOVE baseball) and a strong dose of hoodoo. Great banter. Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) delivers my absolutely favorite movie kissing quote: “I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.” Oh, yes. I made Liz’s ex-husband in WHO DO, VOODOO? a baseball player because of Bull Durham.

Q. What’s your favorite food?

A. Turkey dinners in autumn and winter; watermelon in spring and summer.

Q. Cats or dogs?

A. Cats. I love animals, adore dogs, but cats taught me volumes about living and loving. Cats are mystical. Like babies, they can see the what-whats over your shoulder. Cats come when they’re called. But always at their leisure. Cats are intuitive. They sense when your mind disappears into a book or into your computer, and then they sit on top of the offending item to bring you back. Cats do what they want, when they want.

Q. Name one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you.

A. Just between us, okay? On Sunday and Monday from September through January, I am a NFL statistical dweeb. I enjoy numbers and record weekly statistics for all 32 teams, watch the Red Zone Channel (all games) on Sunday, and I prefer not go out on Sunday or Monday nights. Although I’ve never been to the Super Bowl, I did attend the Ice Bowl, one of the greatest NFL games in history. The wind chill factor was 48 degrees BELOW zero but silly me was on a date so I dressed for cuteness not for warmth. I still remember my numb toes and the scent of whiskey drifting above Lambeau Field in Green Bay.

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