By L.J. Sellers
Her interest in the occult started around the same early age as her love of mysteries so it seems only natural that Rochelle Staab would eventually write a paranormal whodunit. Taking it a step further, Staab’s debut is titled WHO DO, VOODOO? and comes with high praise from reviewers and authors alike.
RT REVIEWS says: “The first in the Mind for Murder mystery series set in Los Angeles grabs your attention from the start with creepy tarot cards, voodoo priestesses, and cursed spell books. A fresh and entertaining premise for a new series that is cleverly plotted and executed.”
The series features no-nonsense psychologist Liz Cooper who teams with the more open-minded Nick Garfield, a religious philosophy professor who specializes in the occult. Staab says the professor character came to her first, and then she developed Liz “to be his foil.” “Having two characters with divided opinions allowed me to write from several sides of the supernatural coin,” she says.
In WHO DO, VOODOO? Liz’s friend Robin Bloom finds an unusual tarot card tacked to her front door, and Liz writes it off 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. As more cards and darker threats appear, Liz realizes someone very dangerous is upping the ante.
Staab says the first idea for the plot was the threat of a Tarot card. “Then I knew I was going to kill someone,” she adds with a delicious laugh. Soon after conceiving the story, the author made a trip to New Orleans where a voodoo priestess took her on a tour of voodoo shops, with a detour through a cemetery where the priestess performed a ritual at Marie Laveau’s grave.
“I find voodoo’s syncretic mix of African and Christian images and ideas fascinating,” Staab says. For accuracy on the cards, she took four months of Tarot classes; and for crime scene direction beyond normal channels, she interviewed a homicide detective and met with firemen.
Although her interest in mysteries started young, she put her writing desires on hold while she had an amazing early career in radio as vice-president of programming for a group of Top 40 radio stations, the first woman and youngest person to earn the title back then. From there, she segued to a long career with Warner Bros. Records where she worked in marketing for a wide variety of artists including Madonna, Eric Clapton, Green Day, and Michael Bublé.
“But I’d always wanted to write,” Staab says. “I’d start two pages of a novel, then not look at it for two years. Eventually it was time to quit talking about writing and do something about it.” Staab enrolled in the UCLA Writers’ Program—which has launched more than one author’s career— and wrote WHO DO, VOODOO? while developing her craft.
She learned how to query agents, then landed one and sold her first novel. Berkley Prime Crime also bought the next two books in her series, a testament to Staab’s talent. Next up is BRUJA BROUHAHA, which delves into Santeria in a setting near MacArthur Park.
As a reader, Staab sticks to mysteries and thrillers, naming Elizabeth Peters as one of her favorite authors. “As a kid, I inhaled every Nancy Drew mystery, reading them at least five times each,” Staab says. “And I still relish the excitement of diving into a great mystery or a fast-paced thriller.”
Fellow mystery authors love her debut. “A spellbinding blend of voodoo and tarot traditions, WHO DO, VOODOO? is a superlative supernatural mystery,” says Cleo Coyle, author of the national bestselling Haunted Bookshop and Coffeehouse Mysteries.
Hank Phillippi Ryan (an Agatha, Anthony and Macavity winning author), adds, “Smart, sophisticated and utterly spellbinding. This magical mystery is captivatingly clever, completely charming, and compelling from its irresistible beginning to its unpredictable end.”
Rochelle Staab is a former radio programmer and music industry executive. Early in her career she became the first woman and youngest VP of Programming for a chain of Top 40 radio stations, was named Radio Executive of the Year in 1976, and went on to become Program Director of Los Angeles Top 40 station KIIS-FM. Her success in radio segued into a marketing position at Warner Bros. Records where she had the honor of working with hundreds of talented artists. During her years as VP of Advertising at the label, she and her team won awards for creative excellence and innovation.
To learn more about Rochelle, please visit her website.