Help me welcome fellow Book Cents Babe and new Berkley sister, Rochelle Staab, who just signed a three book deal with Berkley on her mystery series, yet unnamed. I was lucky enough to get her first interview as a contracted author. First a little back-story.
A veteran of the radio and music industry, Rochelle Staab began her career at a radio station in Milwaukee, her hometown. Opportunity took her to Manhattan where she eventually became the first woman and youngest VP of Programming at a successful national chain of Top 40 radio stations. She moved to Los Angeles, programmed KIIS-FM for two years, and then took a position at Warner Bros. Records in Burbank. During her long career at WB she held different positions as the music chart liaison, music sales research analyst, marketing director, head of pre-release music security, and VP of Advertising. She left WB in 2007 and remains a consultant while she focuses on novel writing. Hollywood Hoodoo, the debut in her mystery series, will be published in 2011.
Here we go:
Liz: Tell us a little about the first book in your series and its characters:
Rochelle: In Hollywood Hoodoo, mysterious tarot cards, a cursed voodoo spell book, and a best friend falsely accused team L.A. Clinical Psychologist Liz Cooper and Religious Philosophy Professor Nick Garfield in an unlikely partnership to hunt down the real killer of a voodoo initiate. Despite their philosophical differences - or maybe because of them – their attraction to each other simmers. The sequels will continue with Liz and Nick investigating crimes with occult themes, including black magic and superstition.
Liz: Did you start out in another genre or have you always planned to write mysteries geared for series?
Rochelle: I’ve always been a mystery fan and loved series since my first Nancy Drew. Love Nancy and the gang. Nothing to beat the rush of a new adventure with characters I knew and cared about. Instead of the characters aging, I did. I knew River Heights as well as I knew my own neighborhood. The Elizabeth Peters Amelia Peabody series showed me how a series can blossom as the family of characters grew. Knowing Amelia, Emerson, Ramses et al, and the location in advance let me as a reader concentrate on the plot. That’s what I want to establish with my readers – a solid base of familiarity so the story can go wild.
Liz: What is hoodoo, anyhoo? (I crack myself up!!) How does it differ from voodoo?
Rochelle: You crack ME up, Liz. The simplest explanation would be: hoodoo is the dark side of voodoo. Voodoo rituals could include requests to spirits for love, good health, a solution, or good fortune. Hoodoo rituals would wish evil, death, destruction, or just plain nastiness on a person or situation. Bad stuff because some believe what you put out comes back to you threefold. Don’t want to mess with the hoodoo if you don’t want it to slap you back in a mean way.
Liz: How did you snag your agent?
Rochelle: Cold query! One of Christine’s clients praised her in an online writer’s group. First time I ever heard a writer brag about her agent so I did some research then sent Christine a query. She answered my query with a request for a full the day Hollywood Hoodoo picked up a Conference Choice Award at the SDSU Writer’s Conference. I couldn’t sleep that night; I was too excited to close my eyes.
Liz: What were you doing the day she called to offer representation? How did you react to that call?
Rochelle: Hilarious story – I had jury duty on a trial at the Criminal Court building in downtown Los Angeles. It was pouring buckets outside. I was eating lunch in the courthouse cafeteria at a small table by the window, surrounded by lawyers and jurists. When Christine called, I could barely hear her. I was too excited to put a coherent sentence together. The cafeteria was too crowded and serious for me to throw my arms in the air and scream with joy - which is exactly what I wanted to do. Had to wait until I got home where I spent the evening walking around the house in happy disbelief.
Liz: Hollywood Hoodoo is also nominated for two writing awards. What about those calls?
Rochelle: Yes, I am so honored. I missed the call for the Fire & Ice nomination – I was at the gym. Believe me, I did an all caps triple OMG responding to the e-mail. When I got the call about the Golden Heart nomination, I was in the stationery aisle at CVS Pharmacy. The CVS guy stacking pens for display watched me pace up and down the aisle with glee. I grabbed him and told him the news. He didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.
Liz: What were you doing the day you got "The Call”? How did you react?
Rochelle: You’d think I never spend a moment at home. When “the call” came in I was getting a haircut. Head soaking wet, Diane snipping away, my phone rings. Christine gave me the great news about Berkley Prime Crime. My mouth dropped open, not sure if my mouth ever closed. I got the whole salon in a happy lather.
Liz: Have you come down from Cloud Nine yet?
Rochelle: Nope. I want to hold on to this gratitude as long as I can.
Liz: How long have you been writing and how many manuscripts did you write before you sold?
Rochelle: I’ve been writing radio promos, speeches, and advertising copy since my music industry career started. I began writing Hollywood Hoodoo three years ago in the UCLA Writer’s Program. It’s my first novel.
Liz: Any advice for the writers out there who are waiting for the kind of news you've just received?
Rochelle: Find critique partners who know the genre you write and appreciate your style. My critique partners are my treasure. Write every day. Protect your voice. Then follow your heart and your instincts – and believe in yourself. Dreams do come true.
Okay, y'all, hit her with all your questions. Anyone who gets a three book deal after only completing one manuscript deserves to be bombarded. (Just kidding, Rochelle!) Seriously, she's got to have magic answers, so ask away.