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.

Sheila Lowe

(805) 658-0109 - forensic handwriting mystery series


Rob Walker said…
Hi Sheila and Marilyn -- I love this subject and have a great appreciation and faith in it as a science. I have used it often in my own books, and YOU GO GIRL! I love your books! They are fantastic and you can take that to the Bank as Baretta would say!
Enjoyed the post --
Your new book has a terrific title and a lovely LOOK!
More power to you and you gotta come on ACME some tinme!

rob walker, author of Dead On
Helen Ginger said…
Thanks for telling us of your road to publication. Very inspiring. And congrats on the series.
Anonymous said…

Great interview.I'm embarrassed to tell you that I've had an ARC of POISON PEN since 2006.

For some reason I've forgotten, I put it aside. I just now pulled it off the shelf, opened it up and read the first few pages. I love it!

Oh, well. There's a time for everything under the sun. Apparently this is my time to read POISON PEN.

And I have a lot of catching up to do! Good luck with the new book.

Pat Browning
Krill Press 2008
Anonymous said…

Great interview. I'm embarrassed to tell you that I've had an ARC of POISON PEN since 2006. For some reason I've forgotten,I laid it aside at the time.

I just pulled it off the shelf and read the first few pages. I love it! I have a lot of catching up to do.

Good luck with the new book.

Pat Browning
Krill Press 2008
Sheila Lowe said…
Thanks, all! I am really enjoying writing the series and love it when my experience help other writers.

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