Like her fictional character Claudia Rose, Sheila Lowe is a real-life forensic handwriting expert. As the mother of a tattoo artist and a former rock star, she figures she’s a pretty cool mom. Sheila lives in Ventura, CA with Lexie the Very Bad Cat, where she writes the award-winning Forensic Handwriting series. But despite sharing living space with a cat, Sheila's books are psychological suspense, definitely not cozy. So if you are offended by profanity, some violence and a sprinkling of sex, they are probably not for you. On the other hand, if you enjoy delving deep into the psyche and motivations of the main characters, give them a try.
Sheila also writes non-fiction books about handwriting: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis, Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous, and Sheila Lowe’s Handwriting Analyzer software. Stop by the dedicated website and sign up for notices: www.claudiaroseseries.com. For information about handwriting analysis: www.sheilalowe.com
Find out more on Amazon.
Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about Written Off, and what compelled you to write it.
Author: It’s the seventh book in the series. I start with a title and build a story around it. This time, I wanted to write about a female serial killer in prison and what brought her there. I decided to set it in Maine in winter, which seemed to be an appropriately bleak setting to tell the story of Roxanne Becker.
M.C.: What is your book about?
Author: In the dead of winter, handwriting expert Claudia Rose journeys to Maine to retrieve a manuscript about convicted female serial killer, Roxanne Becker. While searching for the manuscript written by Professor Madeleine Maynard, who was, herself, brutally murdered, Claudia uncovers a shocking secret: the professor’s explosive research into a group of mentally unstable grad students selected for a special project and dubbed “Maynard’s Maniacs.” Was Madeleine conducting research that was at best, unprofessional—and at worst, downright harmful, and potentially dangerous? Could that unorthodox research have turned deadly?
Claudia finds herself swept up in the mystery of Madeleine’s life—and death, soon realizing that Madeleine left behind more questions than answers, and no shortage of suspects. The professor’s personal life yields a number of persons who might have wanted her dead—and her academic success and personal fortune clearly made her the envy of fellow faculty members.
The University anticipates being the beneficiary of Madeleine’s estate—but when a charming stranger, claiming to be Madeleine’s nephew, turns up, brandishing a new will, all bets are off. The local police chief prevails upon Claudia to travel into town to examine the newly produced handwritten will. Later, rushing back to Madeleine’s isolated house to escape an impending storm, Claudia becomes trapped in a blizzard. With a killer.
M.C.: What themes do you explore in Written Off?
Author: The underlying theme seems to be what happens to children who have had a bad start in life. There are so many paths an abused child might follow. Despite similar backgrounds, one might develop a multiple personality, another becomes a serial killer. Yet another might use their bad experiences to propel themselves into success.
M.C.: Why do you write?
Author: Writing is a compulsion. When people say, “oh, that must be fun!” It’s sometimes hard to answer politely. They often don’t recognize that writing is a job, like being a doctor, lawyer, or, yes, a handwriting examiner. So, I am lucky enough to have two careers. I can’t say that I like writing, but I do love having written.
M.C.: When do you feel the most creative?
Author: Honestly, I don’t feel creative at all. But I guess making up characters and the world they live in is a form of creativity.
M.C.: How picky are you with language?
Author: I can be very picky when it comes to word usage. I go into my editor mode when I’m reading a book that uses wrong words or spelling. But here’s an irony—I came to the US from England when I was fourteen, and many of the word choices I make even now tend to be Britishisms that my publisher asks me to change.
M.C.: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
Author: I wish! Actually, now that you mention it, there are times—not very often—when I’ve written something and wondered “where did that come from?” I would love for it to happen more.
M.C.: What is your worst time as a writer?
Author: Time, as in time of day? Or process? I tend to write late at night, after I’ve done the paid assignments for my handwriting examination practice, and then frittered away the rest of the day on Facebook or other websites. It’s often ten pm by the time I think, Oh! I’d better get some work done on the book. Hey, maybe I’m improving, it’s only 8:30 tonight.
If you mean process—the worst time for me is the beginning—coming up with the right plot. I wish I were like my friend, Raul, who can churn out ten ideas in an hour. For me, I need to get A Big Idea, and then work it out in my head until I finally, weeks or months later, get it down in an outline.
M.C.: Your best?
Author: Process-wise, it’s writing The End, and then going back to edit and expand and make sure everything makes sense.
M.C.: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
Author: I’m 67 and so far, nothing has.
M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
Author: Opening a box of my first published book from Penguin. And even better than that, opening a box of my second published book! Seeing them on the shelves at Barnes & Noble was pretty cool, too.
M.C.: Is writing an obsession to you?
Author: Writers have to write. Is that an obsession? Maybe. It’s just something I do. Because I have a day job as a forensic handwriting examiner I don’t work on my books all the time, but I am always writing something.
M.C.: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
Author: My character’s work mirrors my own. Claudia is not me, but she takes the same kinds of assignments that I do. Of course, I’m not as brave (or foolhardy in some cases) as she is. In the first four books, the stories do have some connection to actual events in my life. They are not about those events, but they started with a kernel of truth and grew out of that.
M.C.: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Thoughts?
Author: I only wish I had a scintilla of Bradbury’s talent. I’m unfortunately far too pragmatic to allow reality to destroy me—and trust me, it has tried. I do become very involved with my characters in my head and heart, but in the life I live, I have to maintain some separation. Otherwise, it would be difficult to get on the witness stand and testify in court!
M.C.: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
Author: Yes, and I would love readers to visit and sign up for my infrequent—once or twice a year—newsletter: www.claudiaroseseries.com or contact me with comments: firstname.lastname@example.org