Like her protagonist in the Claudia Rose mystery series, author Sheila Lowe is a court-qualified handwriting expert who testifies in forensic cases. In addition to her mysteries, Sheila is also the author of Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Handwriting Analysis.
You write a mystery series about Claudia Rose, a forensic graphologist – or handwriting expert. What prompted you to come up with THAT occupation for a sleuth? (As if I didn’t already know the answer!)
That’s an easy one! By the time I was ready to start writing mysteries I had been analyzing handwriting for more than thirty years. Most of the analysis work I do is pretty cut-and-dried (mostly analyzing applicants for companies who are hiring, or cases of forgery), but there are occasionally interesting stories that provide the kernel of an idea. Since my work has to do with understanding people, it seemed like “write what you know” was good advice for me.
How long have you been writing? What prompted you to begin the Claudia Rose series?
I suppose I’ve been writing most of my life, starting with awful poetry around 9 years old. I wrote short stories, mostly about the Beatles(!), in junior high school for the amusement of my friends. And then I started writing technical papers about handwriting, which eventually led to publishing The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis (the title was not my choice, but it’s part of a hugely successful series, so I can’t complain too loudly), then Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous. Finally, I decided it was time to go back to my first love—mystery fiction. A woman I knew had died, apparently, a suicide, but those who knew her had doubts about that. There was no suicide note, but I thought, what if there had been one? What if there were a question of authenticity—did she really write it? So that was the jumping off point. I didn’t know I was writing a series, it just sort of happened naturally.
How do you juggle your time between your two careers?
Handwriting analysis still pays the bills and has the most urgent deadlines. Like most consultants, there’s no regular schedule of work coming in, so when a client calls with a need for an analysis or an attorney with a handwriting authentication case, that comes first. With my writing, I tend to put it off and put it off, then suddenly realize that my deadline is about to hit me in the kisser, so I then pour most of my energy into whatever book I’m working on at the time. Somehow, it all seems to get done.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a writer?
Turning off email and getting down to work. Otherwise, I spend the entire day typing emails back and forth, and it’s about 8 or 9 o’clock (or later) at night before I start to do anything truly productive (like now—it’s 12:45 a.m.). Writing-wise, everything is challenging about getting it down on paper. I enjoy the editing part of writing far more than the initial storytelling.
What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.
What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?
Last night I turned in my final edits of book four in the Claudia Rose series, which is about a missing three-year-old and a religious cult. My publisher has changed the title and I’m having a hard time remembering the new one. I still think of it as Unholy Writ, which is on 1000 bookmarks I’ve already handed out. But the title is now LAST WRITES.
Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?
One of the most valuable lessons I learned is this: cut out most of the adverbs, it will strengthen your writing in ways that will surprise you. Those pesky words that end in “ly” are a sign of lazy writing and most should be cut. When you must find other ways to say it, you will be forced to come up with something far more descriptive and interesting. Honestly…
Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.
I do have a growing list of events coming up, too many to list here. But next, I’ll be speaking at Left Coast Crime on March 12. I’d love your readers to visit my web site, which I keep updated as new events are added: http://claudiaroseseries.com/signings.php
Why is the science of graphology considered to be so accurate when the appropriate number and type of handwriting samples have been collected?
Graphology, when properly done with adequate handwriting samples, should supply at least 85% accuracy. Sometimes it’s much higher than that, but because people are so complex, it’s unlikely to be 100%. Handwriting reveals how the writer has integrated the myriad of experiences into his or her life and how s/he behaves as a result. Similar to body language, tone of voice, and facial expression, it’s an expressive behavior, a reliable mirror of what is going on inside. It all rests on the practitioner to produce an accurate report.
FUN QUESTION: Blue ink or black ink – and why?
Black gel ink for business signatures because it’s much harder to wash out or erase if someone is trying to forge your signature. Blue ink for personal missives as it’s not as harsh as black. But really, it’s all personal choice, and your choice of ink color may say something about you, too.
What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):
For my mysteries: http://www.claudiaroseseries.com/
For handwriting analysis: http://www.sheilalowe.com/
For my Handwriting Analyzer software (try it free): http://www.writinganalysis.com/
And for marriage and family therapists: http://www.superceu.com/
Oh, and the blog, which I share with some excellent writers: http://mystery-writers.blogspot.com/
Thanks so much for the opportunity to share with your readers.