Sheila Lowe – Author Interview

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

My fiction work is in the psychological suspense genre. The series is called the Forensic Handwriting Mysteries. In DEAD WRITE, the third book featuring handwriting expert, Claudia Rose, Claudia takes on an assignment in the Big Apple working for an eccentric Russian matchmaker. She knows that the matchmaker’s previous handwriting analyst made some bad mistakes. What she doesn’t know is that her clients are not just dying to meet their perfect mate—they’re just dying! Drawn into the feckless lives of the rich and single, Claudia plunges into a twisted world of love and lies fueled by desperation. But desperate enough to kill? Clues in the suspects’ handwriting might help Claudia save the matchmaker’s dubious reputation before the names of more victims are scribbled into someone’s little black book.

Tell us something about yourself.

I came to the U.S. from England when I was 14, just before the arrival of the Beatles. I was already writing stories about being married to Ringo(!), but even then, I loved mysteries and always wanted to write one. Long before that came about, however, I started studying handwriting analysis and have now been in that field for more than forty years. Like my fictional character Claudia Rose, I am a real-life handwriting analyst who testifies as an expert witness in court, and I prepare behavioral profiles from handwriting for clients all over the world. Something interesting…well, I’m a cool mom. My younger son is a rock star in Europe and my older son is a tattoo artist.

What inspired you to write this book?

Over the many years I’ve been a professional handwriting analyst I’ve seen some interesting, sad, and even bizarre stories. So, when I started writing my series, I had plenty of fodder from which to draw ideas. None of my books are true stories, but there are elements from various situations that do have a grain of truth. For many years I had a client who was an international matchmaker (she is not “Grusha” in the book, though), so DEAD WRITE seemed like a natural.

How did you publish this book? Why did you decide on that publisher?

My publisher is Penguin (Obsidian Mysteries imprint). My first mystery fiction was published by a small press, Capital Crime. They sent that book, POISON PEN, to the major review magazines and it got a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, who called it “a dynamite debut.” That brought it to the attention of the large publisher, who made an offer for a multi-book deal. The fourth book in the series, LAST WRITES, will be released July 6, 2010.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I’ve always written, starting with awful poetry at a very young age. My first stories were the Beatles ones mentioned above. Mostly, though, I wrote non-fiction articles and monographs about handwriting, which were published in trade magazines. It wasn’t until 1999 that my first full-length book was published. I had tried working with an agent, but that was a bust. So I approached a editor who had shown interest in my work when I attended Book Expo in Chicago. He referred me to another editor who was looking for a book on handwriting analysis. I contacted him, he read my proposal and made me an offer for THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO HANDWRITING ANALYSIS. It’s not the title I would have picked, but it turned out to be a great opportunity and ten years later the book is still a bestseller in the series. The next year I was approached by a publisher to write HANDWRITING OF THE FAMOUS & INFAMOUS. I started writing fiction around 1997, but It ten years before my mystery fiction found a home.

What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?

For me, the hardest part of fiction writing is getting the full plot in my head. I’m lucky to have two writing groups to throw ideas around with. It’s important to first learn the craft—stuff like “leave out most of the adverbs” doesn’t sound like much, but it can be the difference between being published or not.

How do you do research for your books?

Google is my friend. So is Youtube—even though you can’t get the smells (sometimes you wouldn’t want to!), you can get the sights and sounds of just about any place or situation in the world.

What are you reading now?

My third book this week, Jonathan Kellerman’s latest—I don’t even look at the title. If he wrote it, I will buy it.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

In fiction I virtually only read mystery. My top favorites are John Sandford, Michael Connelly, Jonathan Kellerman, Tess Gerritsen, Deborah Crombie, Patricia Cornwell. The non-fiction books I read are usually spiritual in nature—I suppose you could say “new age.” Books like The Secret. My favorite non-fiction is Journey of Souls by Michael Newton.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

My next book in the fiction series is scheduled for release July 6. LAST WRITES takes Claudia and her friend Kelly into a remote religious cult to search for Kelly’s three-year-old niece. Kelly learns she’s an aunt when her estranged sister Erin shows up at her home in desperate need of help. Erin and her husband have been living quiet lives as members of The Temple of Brighter Light in an isolated compound. Now her husband and young child have disappeared, leaving behind a cryptic note with a terrifying message. Seizing an opportunity to use her special skills as a forensic handwriting expert, Claudia becomes one of the few outsiders ever to be invited inside the compound. She must uncover the truth about Kelly’s missing niece before the prophecy of a secret ancient parchment can be fulfilled and a child’s life is written off for good…

I’m also working on a non-fiction book called RELATIONSHIP RERUNS: Why do I keep dating losers? It’s about how handwriting reveals what motivates us to get into the same unhealthy relationships time and time again, and how to do something about it.

On the fiction front, I’m outlining a new standalone thriller that deals with two of my favorite themes—but I can’t tell you what they are, as it’s part of the mystery!

*What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Even if you are in a critique group, hire a good independent editor to review your work before submitting it. I do that, even though I have my editor at Penguin, because I want to limit the amount of rewriting I’ll have to do at the end of the book when she gets it. It’s an expense, but it’s worth the investment.

What are you doing to promote your latest book?

Everything I can possibly think of! I’ve spent the past four years traveling to a lot of mystery conventions and doing book signings, which is expensive, time-consuming and energy draining. I still think it’s important to get out and meet the mystery fans face-to-face, but am now trying to using my promo money more effectively. Doing this interview, for example, is an excellent way to get information out about my books to new and different people. I’ve been doing a lot of guest blogging and article-writing. I’ve started twittering (Sheila_lowe), I faithfully update my Facebook and LinkedIn pages when there’s something to say. I send out signed bookplates and bookmarks to anyone who requests them. I speak at book clubs, even over the phone. And I’m constantly looking for new and better ways to promote.

Where can readers learn more about you and your books?

For the fiction series (there’s a sample chapter of each book on the site): For handwriting analysis info: All of my books are available at your local bookstore, on Kindle, and through Amazon.