Posted On November 4, 2011 by Print This Post

Debut Author Series: Rochelle Staab, Author of Who Do, Voodoo?

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).

Welcome, Rochelle.

Thank you so much for inviting me here today, Kelsey! I’m thrilled to be on campus at RU.

Kelsey: How many manuscripts did you write before you sold?

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:




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25 Responses to “Debut Author Series: Rochelle Staab, Author of Who Do, Voodoo?”

  1. Hi Rochelle,

    Nice to see one of my ITW friends here!

    I loved reading about your writing journey and can totally relate to writing to a deadline now. Nerve racking!

    Congrats on your recent release!


    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | November 4, 2011, 4:47 am
  2. Hi Rochelle,

    My city of choice is Chicago. Writing every day is the key. It does improve your skill and voice. Editing your own work sharpens you up too. I keep answering the question in my head. Who do, voodoo? You do.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | November 4, 2011, 6:00 am
  3. Hi Rochelle! Thanks for being with us at RU today! Do you write full-time? What is your method for getting books written fast and on time?

    As for favorite settings . . . I’m from Virginia and I love placing my books there. I can pick the mountains of Roanoke, the beautiful city of Richmond, the waterfront and beach of Norfolk and Virginia Beach, the colonial beauty of Williamsburg, the bustle and intrigue of DC or the rural rolling hills of my hometown of Danville. And, the tourism motto is “Virginia is for Lovers” – perfect!

    As a reader – anywhere! it’s like cheap travel!


    Posted by Robin Covington | November 4, 2011, 6:32 am
  4. I love rural areas and the mountains as a setting as well. I also like foriegn places- a really great way to “see” different places.

    Posted by Juliette Springs | November 4, 2011, 7:31 am
  5. Rochelle –

    We’re so happy to have you at RU today!

    Can you share a little about what inspired this particular series and also a little about your writing process?

    I can’t wait to get my hands on Who Do, Voodoo (which was renamed from its original working title, right?). I have a trickle of an idea for a series with an ongoing hero and heroine, but it’s merely a thread right now :).

    Happy Friday!

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | November 4, 2011, 7:38 am
  6. *waves madly* Hi Rochelle! This is sooo exciting! I’ve read Rochelle’s book and it’s easy to see why her editor snapped it up. I looooove the story of how she sold.

    Rochelle and I haven’t met in person (yet) but I’ve been featuring her at Barnes & Noble’s Mystery Forum all week. Here’s the link:

    Rochelle – I love the title and story idea for your next book. Would you give us a little preview?

    Posted by Becke Davis (Becke Martin) | November 4, 2011, 7:48 am
  7. Hi Rochelle….

    Congrats on your sale…what a fun title for a book and a great excerpt as well! My favorite places to write about are right here. Rural and small town. I keep trying to write big city, but it’s a struggle!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | November 4, 2011, 7:52 am
  8. Hi Rochelle, congrats on your sale, very exciting!! Wonderful premise and delightful cover!

    Posted by Mary Kennedy | November 4, 2011, 9:20 am
  9. Hi Mary! Thanks so much for stopping by!

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | November 4, 2011, 10:33 am
  10. Congratulations, Rochelle! I love when you say, “I wish I had written fiction every day of my adult life.” I can totally relate to that sentiment.

    But I can only go forward from here, making the most of each day given to me.

    Posted by PatriciaW | November 4, 2011, 10:40 am
  11. Hello everyone! Wow, what a great group! A big hello and thank you to Mary Jo, Juliette, Carrie, and Mary for stopping by.

    Tracey—yep, the deadlines are a shocker after having unlimited time to finish. Breathe and show up, that’s my mantra now. And keep writing. I’ve talked to so many writers who promise me the ‘writing muscle’ develops with practice.

    Robin & Kelsey—yes, I write full time now but for me full time is a few hours every day. Avery Aames gave me a great tip: set a timer for two hours and go for it. Sometimes I eke out a scene in two hours, but on good days I can keep rolling for up to four. Those are the best. I find if I end my writing at a moment in the story I’m excited to continue, I have a great place to begin the next day. When I’m struggling, I sketch a small outline of what I want to accomplish. And if THAT doesn’t work, I know I’m on the wrong track altogether.

    The inspiration for the series began with one character (and he’s not my protagonist!) I was waiting for a restaurant valet to bring my car. Next door was a Psychic Reader Shop (there’s one on every mile in L.A.) The shop was open but no customers, no one at all inside. I wondered how the plethora of psychic readers in town paid the lease in, in some cases, high rent sections of the city. With due respect to the gifted seers in town, my devious mind went to the dark side where charlatans scammed the innocent. I had an idea for a professor of the occult who, on the side, consulted LAPD on occult related crimes. That character became Nick. But I wanted a foil for him, a doubter, a savvy woman who could make Nick explain, in layman’s terms, the theory and history of alternative beliefs (like voodoo). Enter Liz, the skeptical psychologist who challenged him. And though they have opposing beliefs, their personal chemistry became magical. I have so much fun with those two!

    Becke—big wave right back at you! Thank you for asking. The second novel. BRUJA BROUHAHA, takes Liz and Nick to the section of L.A. near MacArthur Park. Mayhem, a puzzling disappearance, and a vindictive hex in the heart of Santeria culture.

    Carrie—”write what you know”, isn’t it so true? Big cities are easy for me, I’ve lived in Manhattan then Los Angeles all of my adult life. A small town (which sounds sooo appealing) would be my challenge!

    Patricia—right on. We show up every day, and do what we can. But staying in the moment, writing every day, produces big results. And we grow.

    What a thrill to be here! ~Rochelle

    Posted by Rochelle Staab | November 4, 2011, 11:26 am
  12. Rochelle, I’m so excited for this book. I bought it last night and can’t wait to dive into it. Congrats on selling your first book! I look forward to many more to come.

    Posted by Tiffinie Helmer | November 4, 2011, 1:01 pm
  13. Oh, you’re so sweet. Thank you, Tiffinie!

    Posted by Rochelle Staab | November 4, 2011, 1:04 pm
  14. I’ve been excited to read this book ever since we met last year at Crime Bake. 🙂 And I love Liz’s description of how you sold. Now THAT is a synopsis!

    Even though I consider myself a “city mouse”, my contemp stories tend to be set in smaller towns. My historicals are usually set in London, but that’s where all the action was. LOL

    Posted by Donna Cummings | November 4, 2011, 1:38 pm
  15. Rochelle, I teared up at both seeing your name as a favorite read and your Call story. Congratulations on your successes.

    I like reading stories that take place where I’ve been, as LONG AS THE DETAILS ARE RIGHT!!! 🙂

    Posted by abigail sharp | November 4, 2011, 1:39 pm
  16. Yay, Rochelle! I love your sold story! We at LARA are lucky to have you with us.

    As a writer, I write the cities I know – San Diego, Santa Monica, Simi Valley. But as a reader, I love reading about Paris, London and Rome. I’ve been to all three, but don’t feel I “know” them well enough to set a story there.

    Posted by Christine Ashworth | November 4, 2011, 2:33 pm
  17. Donna, I hope to see you and talk again again real soon. We sure had fun that weekend. Still remember the crowd on the dance floor! Were you at the séance we threw?

    Oh Abigail, thank you. Now I’m tearing. And right on about location accuracy. I’ve read a few novels based in Los Angeles that have characters driving across this freeway-riddled, traffic-jammed city in five minutes. A true Angelian knows it takes twenty minutes outside of rush hour and one hour inside of rush hour to go anywhere. Makes me crazy!

    Posted by Rochelle Staab | November 4, 2011, 2:39 pm
  18. Hi Christine! Thank you for stopping by. I love my LARA family xo

    Posted by Rochelle Staab | November 4, 2011, 2:40 pm
  19. Rochelle, I don’t think I ever told you that I think your promo photo is lovely. What do you think the most important thing you learned at UCLA?

    BTW, my favorite setting is West Virginia. My novel CHILD OF THE MOUNTAINS is set in Confidence and Paradise, WV–yes, the names are real.

    Posted by Marilyn | November 4, 2011, 3:27 pm
  20. Hi Rochelle!

    I like big city and small town settings. It’s kind of fun inventing small towns and their denizens.

    Love the premise of your book. I had my cards read ages ago and bought a tarot card set, but haven’t read up on it yet.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | November 4, 2011, 3:29 pm
  21. Thank you for the compliment on the photo, Marilyn! My favorite, too. Photographer, writer, and friend Jeffrey Bloom took the shot in his garden.

    Great question about UCLA. The entire experience was invaluable. I left the program with a solid sense of structure and style, along with the how-to’s of the publishing business. I met both of my critique partners in class. But the single most important lesson? Easy: use and protect your own writing voice. Seek constructive criticism and discard the rest. Opinions are subjective, too many opinions are confusing. Not everyone is going to like our work (I wish!) but we can value and listen to the views of those who ‘get’ our style.

    Hi Jennifer! I did the same thing with the tarot. Had a reading ages ago, bought a deck, never took time to learn the symbolism. But then! the need for accuracy in WHO DO, VOODOO? triggered me to take the classes. The Fool’s Journey is an incredible story. If you ever think about taking classes, do it! We had so much fun.

    Posted by Rochelle Staab | November 4, 2011, 4:41 pm
  22. Rochelle –

    We may have more folks drop by tonight, but I wanted to say thanks so much for hanging out with the RU crew!


    Posted by Kelsey Browning | November 4, 2011, 7:25 pm
  23. Kelsey, thank you so much for inviting me. What a wonderful way to close my very first release week. I had a great time!

    Posted by Rochelle Staab | November 4, 2011, 7:40 pm
  24. Donna Cummings, you’re the lucky winner of a copy of Rochelle’s book. Please drop me a note at with your snail mail addy.


    Posted by Kelsey Browning | November 6, 2011, 11:37 am

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