rochelle staab
rochelle staab
rochelle staab

Rochelle


Rochelle Staab
Portrait photos of Rochelle by jeffreybloomphotography.com

Rochelle Staab, a former award-winning Top 40 radio programmer and Warner Bros. Records advertising and marketing executive, blended her fascination with the supernatural and her love for mystery in her Mind for Murder Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime.

Rochelle began writing professionally one phrase at a time creating radio promotions and, years later, advertising campaigns for music albums. She found her author's voice writing a weekly music sales trend analysis for fellow label executives at 4am every Wednesday morning. Bleary-eyed and in a rush to email the news to her colleagues to read with their first cup of coffee, she bypassed business formality and wrote colloquial. The dry statistics came to life with drama or humor, and her creative editorials grew from the original four recipients to a following of hundreds. The positive responses to her style gave her confidence to enroll in fiction writing classes.

In 2007 Rochelle left the music industry to pursue a career as an author. WHO DO, VOODOO? the first novel she wrote, became a bestseller. According to Library Journal, "Staab sets her fairly sophisticated blend of the occult in a flashy West Coast locale for great escape reading."

WHO DO VOODOO? went on to garner Best First Novel nominations for the 2012 Anthony, Agatha, and Eureka! awards. The novel was a 2010 Golden Heart® finalist for Contemporary Series: Suspense/Adventure.


Q&A


Q: You were a marketing and advertising executive with a major record label, and while WHO DO, VOODOO? is set in the entertainment industry, your protagonists are a psychologist and a religious philosophy professor with an interest in the occult. What intrigued you so much about these professions and characters that you felt compelled to step out of your comfort zone, give up your life—um, I mean devote your time—and write about them?

A: Making Nick a professor was an easy decision—I wanted an open-minded character with an intellectual viewpoint of the occult, not quite a believer, not quite a skeptic. I gave him a religious philosophy PhD so he could be paid to travel the world investigating alternative belief systems. Liz's PhD in psychology made her a great foil for Nick. Her experience with human reactions and thought processes makes her bypass the woo-woo to look right into the you. I wanted her to be doubtful when Nick was didactic. Liz is based on a very wise psychologist I know who scoffs at the supernatural. As far as my background, you might be surprised how many of my supernatural escapades were music industry-related. Alternative thinkers filled my comfort zone. I learned about Mercury Retrograde the year Yoko Ono requested a retrograde single release date. The seance in WHO DO, VOODOO? is partially based on a seance I attended, conducted by an aspiring actress claiming contact with the dead. Everyone there was in the entertainment industry. And a Latin-American woman in the industry inspired my Sophie character. Scary chick, she could even sneer with a voodoo vibe. Good times

Q: All the books in the Mind for Murder series will have a twist of the supernatural. WHO DO, VOODOO? tackles tarot, hoodoo, and curses. I know you researched voodoo, took tarot classes, and visited occult shops. We both know there are police procedural nitpickers standing by waiting to hang a mystery writer for an incorrect detail, but what about the supernatural? Voodoo is a real religion and not all tarot readers are flakes. Are you afraid of backlash if you get it wrong?

A: I don't know that there is a wrong. Voudo is a real religion, a syncretic combination of West African beliefs and Catholicism. However, because the original form of Voudo was practiced in secret in the mountains of Haiti under fear of discovery, no written canon exists. The traditions, rituals, and customs passed orally through generations. WHO DO, VOODOO? is a fictional story with fictional opinions by fictional characters. I attempted to address voodoo and the characters who believed with the deep respect I developed in my research. For accuracy in the tarot portions of the novel, I took four months of tarot classes to be sure I understood the symbolism. The Fool's journey through the deck is delightful, enlightening, amazing—and subjective. While basic themes hold, I think my character Liz has the best interpretation: Tarot is similar to a Rorschach test.

Q: If book lovers were to walk into Liz's and Nick's respective houses, what would they discover on their bookshelves? Would they find WHO DO, VOODOO? and BRUJA BROUHAHA there?

A: Aw, I've been nudged into a wisecrack. Of course the Mind For Murder Mysteries are on Liz's and Nick's bookshelves. If someone wrote a mystery series featuring you, wouldn't you keep a copy on your shelf?

Academic Nick's bookcase is loaded with philosophy tomes, obscure texts on ancient belief systems, archaeology, geography and the canons of the three major religions. And baseball. Nick reads classic detective fiction: Chandler, Hammett, Cain, and Stout. But you'll also see a collection of classic movie DVDs.

Liz only has a small bookcase with a few psychology and reference books in the den of her post-divorce townhouse. Liz left her book collection—unused cookbooks, college texts, two Nora Roberts novels from her mother (hint, hint), erotica novels from Robin (ahem), thrillers including IN COLD BLOOD and the Sanders' DEADLY SIN series from her father, plus her yearbooks and albums—in boxes in ex-husband Jarret's garage. She does love crawling into bed with a smart mystery.

Q: Rochelle agreed to fill out a little questionnaire so we can get to know her better.

Okay Rochelle? Ready, Set, Go!

Chocolate or Coffee? Coffee
Beach, mountains, or city? City
When you're writing: music, silence, or other? Silence
Plotter or Pantser? Detouring Plotter
Salty or sweet? Salty
Summer or winter? Winter
Burger or sushi? Burger
Comedy or drama? Comedy
Favorite smell? Rain
Favorite color? Red
Favorite Film? Bull Durham and/or The Philadelphia Story
Most Played Song on Your iPod? "Stronger"—Kelly Clarkson
Favorite Quote? "The minute you begin to do what you really want to do, it's really a different kind of life."—Buckminster Fuller

And with a nod to Bernard Pivot:
What is your favorite word? Yes
What is your least favorite word? (a phrase) We'll see.
What sound or noise do you love? Music
What sound or noise do you hate? My phone ringing in the dead of night
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Sports analyst
What profession would you not like to do? Politician
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? It's about time, Rochelle. What would you like to know? Ask me anything.

Interview by author V.R. Barkowski

Rochelle Staab lives in Los Angeles and serves on the board of directors for the SoCal Mystery Writers of America. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters In Crime, International Thriller Writers, Romance Writers of America, the NARAS, and Mensa.