TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery!
Rochelle: Thank you! I’m thrilled to be here for Paranormal Cozy Mystery Month. How fun, and a perfect opportunity to chat about my upcoming August release, Bruja Brouhaha.
TQ: Writing quirks! What are some of yours?
Rochelle: Before I sit down at the computer I light incense to establish a mood, filling the air with whatever scent suits the novel I’m writing. In Bruja Brouhaha Lucia, a Botanica owner and Santero, favored lemongrass so—especially as I wrote her scenes—I burned lemongrass incense. And I must raise my hand to admit I chew Orbit Bubblemint gum while I’m writing. The more intense the scene, the faster I chew and the more bubbles I blow. Sugarless, but I may be their best customer.
TQ: Who are some of your favorite writers?
Rochelle: Oh, there are so many and they span a wide range of mystery genres from cozies to procedurals to thrillers to classics. I recently discovered John Sandford, love Louise Penny, always Elizabeth Peters. I’m excited to read Hank Phillippi Ryan’s new novel The Other Woman coming in September. I read every day, often three novels concurrently (one in the morning at the gym, another at lunch or dinner, another at bedtime). I try to keep up with current releases but—wow—there just isn’t enough time to read everyone I would like to. My favorite books propel me into unfamiliar settings, like Peters’ Emerson family in 19th and early 20th century Egypt. I attach to characters quickly; reading a series in order, from first to last, is a guilty pleasure of mine.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Rochelle: For me writing mystery requires at least a rough plan, coming up with sufficient clues to keep the reader engaged, understanding each suspect’s motivation, a general idea of beginning-middle-end. There are elements of each story I know in advance—the victim, the setting, a theme. Once I form a loose idea of what may happen I love to be surprised by my characters. The best part is when I’m positive I plotted out the right killer with the right motive, then the story twists and I discover I was wrong.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Rochelle: Writing the first draft—getting the story down and letting it unfold without stressing over perfection in every sentence, word, or action. The real fun comes later in the revising stages, but there is no revising a blank page. I read a great comment about training the right brain do its creative thing while ignoring the nit-picky left brain that needs every phrase to be perfect first time out. I aspire to master that skill!
TQ: Bruja Brouhaha is your second Mind for Murder Mystery. What inspired you to write mysteries with paranormal/supernatural elements?
Rochelle: Curiosity. The supernatural drops an undefinable element into the logic of solving a crime. There’s the rational explanation and then there’s a layer of ineffable mysticism. I let my readers decide what’s real. Nick Garfield the religious philosophy professor in my series best illustrates my attitude toward the supernatural and the occult: don’t criticize—observe and explore. Liz Cooper, the psychologist protagonist, conveys my doubts. Like me, Liz wants a rational explanation for everything. Supernatural/occult elements defy that demand.
TQ: Do you base your paranormal/supernatural elements on existing lore, make things up or both?
Rochelle: I read as much existing lore as I can find, and then I take creative license. Studying the history of voodoo for Who Do, Voodoo? and Santeria for Bruja Brouhaha fascinated me. Neither syncretic religion has a written canon defining rules of ritual and worship. Both belief systems were passed along orally and in secret, allowing leeway in my presentation. I’m conscious of remaining respectful to the basic tenets and stay as true as possible to common traditions, but I often invent ritual.
TQ: What sorts of research have you done for the Mind for Murder Mysteries? What is the oddest bit of information that you’ve come across in your research?
Rochelle: The occult titles lining my bookshelf go from the quaint to the bizarre. When friends see my library I blush and feel obligated to tell them, “It’s all research. No, I don’t practice voodoo or witchcraft.” Folders of Internet articles hold everything from Voodoo history to Santeria sacrifice, devil worship, fortune-telling, and tarot reading. I gather as much as I can find until I have a solid understanding of the basics, then I go out to explore. I take photos, scout locations, and collect curios. In fact, I recently set up a Bruja Brouhaha board on Pinterest for my research photographs. I took tarot lessons so I could write about the cards with authority. A New Orleans voodoo tour gave me a wonderful description of a voodoo sanctuary for Who Do, Voodoo? A back room spell performed on me by a Santera in a botanica in downtown Los Angeles is replicated in Bruja Brouhaha. I do follow a few superstitions I picked up along the way: you won’t see me set my pocketbook on the floor (money drain) or wish evil on anyone (comes back to you.) Oddest piece of information? Without a doubt, the occult shop owner who told me about her invitation to a crucifixion.
TQ: Tell us something about Bruja Brouhaha that is not in the book description.
Rochelle: I love the underlying theme about home woven through the story. Characters are uprooted, challenging them to define what home means to them. Is home a place, a feeling, or the people inside? And what would you do to protect yours?
TQ: In the Bruja Brouhaha who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Rochelle: Colorful characters are the most fun to write. In Bruja Brouhaha a standout was Liz’s mentor Dr. Carmen Perez. A medical doctor, clinic owner, former showgirl, and friend of Liz’s family, Carmen gave me an opportunity to create an accomplished woman in her sixties with stature, secrets, opinions, and a sexy flair. Carmen immediately established her voice in the story. The most difficult character to write this time was Liz. Usually logical and certain of herself, in Bruja Brouhaha Liz faces personal dilemmas and ethical decisions that challenge her to act from the heart and not from her head, making both of us a little crazy.
TQ: Which character in the Mind for Murder Mysteries has surprised you the most?
Rochelle: Liz’s mother Vivian Gordon has been the most polarizing character in the series. There’s no middle with Viv—readers either love her or she annoys the hell out of them. The deeper I go into Viv’s background, her intentions, and her heart, the more I love writing her. I had fun with her in Who Do, Voodoo? and more fun in Bruja Brouhaha. Viv is rife with attitude and all about herself, but she has more guts than I realized when I created her.
TQ: What's next?
Rochelle: More writing! I submitted my third Mind For Murder Mystery to my editor at Berkley Prime Crime for release in Spring 2013. I’m spending the summer promoting Bruja Brouhaha and visiting Los Angeles fortune-tellers to research my fourth novel.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Rochelle: I truly enjoyed stopping by again. I hope you and your readers are having a fun summer. Stay cool and happy reading!
Mind for Murder Mysteries
Bruja BruhahaA Mind For Murder Mystery 1
Berkley (Prime Crime), August 7, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
Practical psychologist Liz Cooper and occult professor Nick Garfield are enjoying the sixteenth wedding anniversary celebration for their charming hosts Paco and Lucia Rojas, devout Santeria practitioners who own the historic Botanica Rojas near MacArthur Park. But the small group of friends is left horrified and confused when the evening ends in tragedy.
Devastated by loss, Lucia, a Santeria priestess, blames the locals for the escalating crime in her beloved community. She casts a vengeful hex on the neighborhood, leading strangers and friends alike to dub her bruja—Spanish for witch—and turn on the elderly woman. Lucia may be in harm’s way, and it’s up to Liz and Nick to unravel a mysterious disappearance and solve a murder before more lives are lost...
Who Do, Voodoo?A Mind for Murder Mystery 1
Berkley (Prime Crime), November 1, 2011
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
WHO DO, VOODOO? the first novel in Rochelle’s thrilling new 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 Cooper’s friend Robin Bloom finds an unusual tarot card tacked to her front door, 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.
Liz turns to her brother’s ex-college roommate, occult expert Nick Garfield. As Nick leads her into the voodoo community to locate the origin of the deck, she can’t ignore their attraction to each other. Then a woman is found murdered 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...
There is a giveaway of Bruja Brouhaha (A Mind for Murder Mystery 2) with this interview. You can also enter to win the Grand Prize by using the Rafflecopter. The comment you leave to enter to win Bruja Brouhaha may also be used to enter to win the Grand Prize. Both Giveaways are open internationally.
To Enter to Win a Copy of Bruja Brouhaha
What: One commenter will win a copy of Bruja Brouhaha (A Mind for Mystery 2) by Rochelle Staab. The novel is generously provided by Penguin.
How: Leave a comment.
Please remember - if you don't leave a comment your entry will not be counted.
Who and When: The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Saturday, August 4, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.
*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*
To Enter to Win the Grand Prize
How: Fill out the Rafflecopter
Terms and Conditions:
1) There will be one winner of the Grand Prize.
2) The Grand Prize is separate from any giveaway associated with individual author visits during Paranormal Cozy Mystery Month.
3) You must leave a way to contact you with your comment. If you do not leave a way to contact you, your entry will not be counted.
4) The Grand Prize Giveaway is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address.
5) Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.
6) Giveaway Terms and Condition are subject to change at any time.
a Rafflecopter giveaway