Good morning, RU Crew! I first met Rochelle Staab at RWA in San Francisco through the lovely and amazing Jessica Barksdale Inclan. Rochelle’s debut mystery, Who Do, Voodoo, was recently released by Berkley Prime Crime, and she’s here to tell us all about her publication journey! Lucky for us, Rochelle has offered to give away a copy of Who Do, Voodoo along with a purple WDV pen to one lucky commenter (US only, please).
Thank you so much for inviting me here today, Kelsey! I’m thrilled to be on campus at RU.
Rochelle: I was very fortunate. In fact, Liz Lipperman—friend, author of the hilarious Clueless Cook series, and fellow writer at the Book Cents Agency—likes to tease me by telling people, “She took a class, wrote a book, entered a contest, and sold.” My journey wasn’t quite that simple—I invested a great deal of time and hard work into the effort, but I sold the first book I wrote.
Kelsey: How long was it from the time you began writing seriously and the time you sold?
Rochelle: I made the original notes for Who Do, Voodoo? in 2003, but I didn’t fully expand the idea until I began taking classes in the UCLA Writers’ Program in 2006. I continued writing in the program until mid-2008 then left to finish the book on my own. The final rewrite of Who Do, Voodoo? was completed in the fall of ’09 and sold on April 1, 2010. April Fool’s Day!
Kelsey: Why do you think this particular manuscript sold?
Rochelle: I didn’t even think about selling until I had written a novel I loved. Diligence played a major role on the creative end. So many excellent writers helped me develop my craft, story, and voice along the way. I didn’t understand the conventions of writing mystery, especially with a romantic subplot, and I made a lot of false starts. My characters brought the plot to life. Once I learned the rules, I put them to work. I rewrote, then went back and rewrote the whole novel again in my own voice. I ended up with a story I was proud of.
My break came at the 2010 San Diego State University Writer’s Conference. I had made a list of imprints I thought would be open to buying Who Do, Voodoo? based on their current releases. Pre-conference, I requested an advanced reading appointment and chose two editors from the publishers on my list. SDSU selected Michelle Vega from Berkley Prime Crime to read my first chapter and, in our meeting at the conference, she was gracious, complimentary, and offered valuable insight. At the close of the weekend, she gave Who Do, Voodoo? her Conference Choice Award for favorite read! I’ll never forget the moment I saw my name and title on the award board. The high lasted for days. There is a bit of magic in matching the right author with the right editor. We matched. Michelle is my editor today.
Kelsey: What surprised you about the sell?
Rochelle: My agent, Christine Witthohn, is a wizard. Once I told her the San Diego story, she got on the case and went after a sale. When she called me on April 1 to tell me I sold, I was at a salon in Beverly Hills, right across the street from the building where the climax of Who Do, Voodoo? is set. I walked outside and stared at that building and at the sky for a long, long time.
Kelsey: What challenges have you faced since “the call” you didn’t realize you would encounter?
Rochelle: Because Berkley Prime Crime bought Who Do, Voodoo? in a three book deal, my biggest challenges were developing the discipline necessary to write fast and under deadline to get complete books two and three, and learning the art of self-promotion. I have a marketing background in the music industry, but I never realized the time demand good promotion requires. I love every minute, but do you know where I can buy four or five extra hours each day?
Kelsey: Is there anything you wished you’d done before you sold?
Rochelle: I wish I had written fiction every day of my adult life. Practice develops strong writing muscles and a strong voice. Like almost anything worth doing, a little bit of daily, consistent practice goes a long way. I get a kick out of reading the Who Do, Voodoo? pages I wrote in 2003. I’m a much different writer today.
Kelsey: What’s your best advice for writers who are still waiting to sell?
Rochelle: Never give up, never stop writing, and never lose hope. And above all, write to entertain and please yourself.
Kelsey: Do you have anything else you’d like to share with the Romance University readers?
Rochelle: The romance community was my first “outside of class” family when I began writing. Years and years ago, before I ever had a serious thought about writing, I saw a segment on CBS Sunday Morning about the RWA National Conference. The organization and power of the writers filmed in the book room impressed me. So when someone in my writing class said conferences were the place to network, I thought of RWA immediately. And hey, I like huge crowds. I went to Nationals in San Francisco in ‘08 (and met Kelsey there!) and came home psyched. The romance community, including LARA my local RWA chapter, has been a consistent source of joy and support from the day I began writing. Community is invaluable, especially when you’re new and definitely when you’re frustrated. When the road is tough, the group is there to encourage you on. And when things go well, your fellow authors are the first to do the happy dance for you.
Kelsey: And last, will you tell us all about your debut book?
Rochelle: Who Do, Voodoo? the first novel in my Mind for Murder mystery series features no-nonsense Liz Cooper, a Los Angeles psychologist forced to embrace the occult to clear her best friend of murder. When Liz’s friend Robin Bloom finds an unusual tarot card tacked to her front door, Liz—the practical-minded shrink—dismisses the card as a prank. 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. More cards and darker threats begin to appear at Robin’s doorstep, and Liz realizes someone very dangerous is upping the ante. She turns to her brother’s old college roommate, occult expert Nick Garfield. As Nick guides her into the voodoo community to locate the origin of the deck, she can’t ignore their attraction to each other. But Liz and Nick’s search into the supernatural subculture leads to murder and Robin becomes the prime suspect. Determined to clear her friend, Liz joins forces with Nick to unravel otherworldly secrets and seek help from beyond—or risk being outwitted by a cunning killer.
Rochelle’s book is set in Los Angeles. As a reader, which cities do you love for book settings? Feel free to ask Rochelle about her writing journey, and don’t forget…she has offered to give away a copy of Who Do, Voodoo along with a purple WDV pen to one lucky commenter (US only, please).
Pop in Monday for C.J. Redwine’s monthly column!
Excerpt from Who Do, Voodoo? by Rochelle Staab
A chill of anticipation washed through me…
Madame Iya’ rocked back and forth, shaking a small brass rattle. “We humbly ask you to send the spirit of our beloved Sophie to join us.” A full minute passed then Madame Iya’ spoke again. “Sophie is here.”
A candle popped. Shadows flickered on the walls outside of the circle. A draft swept across the floor and flickered the flames of the candles. I thought I saw a shadow move behind Jimmy and Tawny. I brushed away the sensation that someone else was in the room with us. I tensed up.
“Nola. Sophie wants you to publish her spell book.” Madame Iya’ let out a deep sigh. “She wants me to help you complete it.”
Linda’s body went rigid. She clenched her hand over mine and began to rock. She spoke in a deep and insistent voice; a voice I didn’t recognize. “No. I don’t want that. My secrets have to be protected. There will be danger. No.”
“What are you talking about, Linda?” Nola said.
Linda stared across the room. “Linda’s not here, my treasure.”
“Who are you?” Nola’s words came unsteady, searching. “Sophie?”
“Not Sophie. I’m Callia.”
The back of my neck tingled. Who was Callia? Linda gazed around the circle. She stopped when she got to me. Her face had changed: the softness drained from her features. She looked tired, older. Her eyes were vacant. A small terror edged my rational mind aside. I had a fleeting sensation that someone else’s eyes were staring at me from Linda’s face.
“You have to keep my secrets safe and with my family. Your question is answered inside.” She held her eyes on mine. “Promise me.”
I nodded warily, not knowing what she meant. “I promise.”
A door down the hall slammed shut with a force so hard it rattled the windows. Tawny screamed. I jumped.
Rochelle Staab is former award-winning radio and music industry executive. RWA 2010 Golden Heart® finalist WHO DO, VOODOO? is the first novel in her Mind For Murder Mystery series. BRUJA BROUHAHA, the second novel in the series will be released in summer of 2012. Visit Rochelle at:
- First Impressions with Avery Aames, Hank Phillippi Ryan & Rochelle Staab
- Weekly Lecture Schedule for July 23 to July 27
- Duffy Brown: The Importance of Plan B
- Debut Author Series: Nancy Naigle, Author of Sweet Tea and Secrets
- Interview with Debut Author Adrienne Giordano