TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Rochelle: Patchouli incense and a lost sense of time. I have to have my patchouli incense or candle burning in the background, no music. And I can go through an entire week thinking every day is the day in the scene I’m writing. An overriding Sunday afternoon or Friday night frame of mind can mess with my actual Monday through Friday appointments. I use calendar alerts to shake me out of the world of the story and into the real world to keep my life in order.
TQ: Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?
Rochelle: I’m an avid reader and discover new favorites all the time. Lesley Kagen has a brilliant, descriptive voice that pulls me into whatever time and place she chooses in her novels. My longtime favorite authors are Elizabeth Peters, Michael Connelly, Cleo Coyle, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and the classics by Hammett, Chandler, Poe, Oscar Wilde, P.G. Wodehouse (as you can see, I’m all over the genre and time map.) And I have to mention Carolyn Keene and Arthur Conan Doyle because my love for mystery originated with Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes. The writers who influence my writing are those who dare to show themselves. I applaud rule breakers. Cormac McCarthy may not be my genre cup of tea but he writes to please himself. I admire that.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Rochelle: I create a plot with Post-its on a white board, write Character Profiles for the cast, and then I let the characters take me wherever they want to go. I’ll refer to my outline board if I slow down or get stuck, but the characters always come up with a better plan than mine. You could say I’m a plotter outvoted by pantser characters.
TQ: Describe Who Do, Voodoo? in 140 characters or less.
Rochelle: Mysterious tarot cards, a voodoo spell book, and a best friend falsely accused team psychologist Liz Cooper with professor Nick Garfield to hunt for a killer.
TQ: What inspired you to write Who Do, Voodoo?
Rochelle: The inspiration came after dinner with a friend in Hollywood. We stood talking outside the restaurant next door to an open but empty Psychic Reading shop, one of hundreds of psychic shops in the city. I wondered how ten-dollar psychic readings paid the rent on one of the busiest and most expensive streets in Los Angeles. Could be the owner had a real gift and loyal customers, but my imagination created charlatans and back room conspiracy theories. My curiosity that night grew into an idea for amateur sleuths investigating supernatural or occult based crimes in Los Angeles.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Who Do, Voodoo?
Rochelle: A few of my excursions were bizarre and really fun. I signed up for tarot classes to write their definitions and symbolism accurately, took a voodoo tour of the New Orleans French Quarter for background and insight, spent hours with a LAPD homicide detective, and read a stack of books on the history of Vodoun. Chilling in parts, but so interesting. But there were so many times I wished I had married a detective or my brother had gone to law school. Murder and voodoo are a complicated subjects. I had so many questions!
TQ: Why did you set the novel in Los Angeles?
Rochelle: Los Angeles has a rich and fascinating culture, including a wide variety of alternative belief systems. The large geographical area and dense population makes it easy for subcultures to sprout and thrive unnoticed. One of my interviews for the novel included a Hollywood occult shop owner who happened to mention that she was invited to a local crucifixion. I was shocked but not surprised. I won’t ever forget that conversation. The downside of the L.A. setting is the amount of time my characters must spend in their cars. We count distance here in freeway time—rush hour versus non-rush hour.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?
Rochelle: The easiest character was Liz’s mother, Vivian Gordon, who is outspoken and self-obsessed. Viv always steps to the forefront of my imagination when I need her. The hardest character was LAPD Detective Carla Pratt whose professional ambitions tended to mask her human qualities. It was tough finding a softer side to her.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in the novel?
Rochelle: Not fair, they’re all my favorites! The most colorful and fun scenes to write were the séance and the voodoo ceremony. I’ve been to a few séances led by mystics with a sixth sense for hustle. The experience was good theater. The voodoo ceremony wrote itself, based on some New Orleans research and a lot of imagination. As I wrote the voodoo scenes, I kept looking up saying, “Fiction. Remember, this is just fiction.”
TQ: Who should play Liz Cooper (psychologist) and Nick Garfield (occult expert) if Who Do, Voodoo? is made into a movie?
Rochelle: So tough to choose because in my mind Liz is very much her own person. Nick always reminds me of young Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. I’ll answer two ways:
Classic: Myrna Loy as Liz, and young Harrison Ford as Nick.
Contemporary: A brunette Gwyneth Paltrow or Reese Witherspoon as Liz, and Simon Baker as Nick.
TQ: How many books are planned for the Mind for Murder mystery series?
Rochelle: Right now three, including Who Do, Voodoo? But the more I write this cast of characters, the more fun I have with them.
TQ: What's next?
Rochelle: Bruja Brouhaha, the second novel coming next summer, is set near L.A.’s legendary MacArthur Park in a neighborhood swirling with Santeria superstitions and beliefs. But right now, today, I’m living the dream of having my first novel in bookstores. It’s an unbelievable rush, and I’m thrilled to share the day with your readers.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Rochelle: Thank you, so very much, for inviting me—I had a lot of fun!
About the Mind for Murder Mysteries
Who Do, Voodoo?Mind for Murder Mysteries 1
Berkley, November 1, 2011
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages
Clinical psychologist Liz Cooper doesn't believe in the supernatural. But when her best friend finds a tarot card tacked to her front door-and is then accused of murder-Liz will have to find a way to embrace the occult if she wants to outwit the real killer...
What: One commenter will win a copy of Who Do, Voodoo? (A Mind for Murder Mystery 1) from The Qwillery.
How: Leave a comment answering the following question:
Tarot Cards or Palm Reading?
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