Forensic Handwriting Expert and Author, Sheila Lowe
Long, long ago and far, far away (well, Anaheim, CA) when I was a senior in high school, my boyfriend’s mother analyzed my handwriting from a book she’d read. Fascinated with the things she wrote about me, when I found a 25 cent booklet at the grocery store (this was 1967, when you could still find things for 25 cents) called Handwriting Analysis, a Guide to Your Hidden Self, I grabbed it up and started studying. For the next ten years I haunted the library and bookstores and read everything I could about handwriting analysis. When I finally discovered there were courses in this field, I was thrilled to bits, and the rest is, well, history.
Eventually, I became certified by the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation and a few years later, an attorney contacted me to handle a forgery case. I said I didn’t do handwriting authentication and couldn’t possibly testify in court. The attorney disagreed. He asked, “Do you know handwriting?” Well, yes. I’d been studying and working with handwriting for nearly twenty years by now. “You can do this,” the attorney insisted. “I’ll get you qualified.” And he did. That was 1985. Today, my practice is divided between handwriting authentication in cases of forgery, and behavioral profiling for employers who want to make sure they’re hiring the best person for the job. I also have PI and law enforcement clients, psychologists, and just plain folks. Basically, anyone who needs to understand someone else better is my prospective client.
Along the way, I wrote The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis, which has been an international bestseller, and Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous, and a whole lot of monographs and articles about handwriting, as well as Sheila Lowe’s Handwriting Analyzer software. But what I really always wanted to do since I read my first mystery at age 7 was write one. Finally, I did.
Of course, the logical thing to write about was handwriting analysis. After analyzing more than ten thousand handwriting samples over my career, I had collected some interesting cases. So my fictional handwriting expert, Claudia Rose, does very much the same type of work that I do, only she’s much braver (or sometimes foolhardy) in the way she goes about it.
A friend in New Mexico read my manuscript and told me I needed to enter it in the Southwest Writers Conference competition. With no expectations, I entered the first 20 pages and was thrilled when I placed third of 96 entries in the Mystery category. Well, of course this meant I would immediately get published, right? After all, part of the prize was dinner with the judges, editors (the late) Sara Ann Freed and Tom Colgan. Wrong.
Dinner was delightful and both editors invited me to send them the entire manuscript. Long, sad story short, neither bought it. Sara Ann, who had said initially that she loved the characters, and found them “slightly over the top in a Jackie Collins way” said she didn’t like the characters (!). Tom tried not once, not twice, but three times to talk his editorial committee into buying my book but they said it wasn’t strong enough. Huh? What does that mean? No one could tell me. It took seven years for me to figure it out, but once I understood, with the help of a good independent editor, what was needed, the book got sold.
In the beginning, I hadn’t thought about writing a series, but while trying to sell Poison Pen, the first book, I began writing Written in Blood, applying what I had learned along the way. “Friends” kept telling me to give up on Poison Pen and just chalk it up to experience, but there was no way I was going to let all the hundreds (thousands?) of hours I’d put into that book just languish in my computer. So every rejection I got, I wrote a new draft, polished, improved and, as mentioned above, finally got it right. I got a two book deal with Penguin, followed by another two book deal. Book three, Dead Write, is about to come out in August, and I’m currently working on Unholy Writ for release next year. The series seems to be selling well and I hope it will continue for some time.
I’m also writing a non-fiction book about relationships and handwriting. Psychological research tells us that people are motivated by four basic but complex needs: the need for love, security, power, the need to create. When we don’t get one or more of those needs met early in life, we tend to spend a big chunk of energy on pursuing it. For example, the person who doesn’t receive the proper amount or kind of nurturing as a child grows up looking for love (yeah, in all the wrong places), yet even when they find it, it’s never the right kind. They feel like a bottomless pit and keep making bad choices. Handwriting shows what it is that motivates us. Using the handwritings of celebs such as the Obamas, Britney Spears, Jack and Jackie Kennedy, and many others, the book will give clues to look for in the reader’s own handwriting that will help to avoid those bad relationships. I’m planning to include some graphotherapy exercises to help the reader work on dissolving blocks to relationship success.
Finally, I’ve learned over the past ten years that writing the book is the “easy” part. Getting it sold is somewhat harder. But the hardest part of all is the marketing. Like most people, I’d always thought that all the marketing would be handled by the publisher. I’ve learned otherwise. But that’s another story.
www.claudiaroseseries.com - forensic handwriting mystery series