Guest Author Interview: Sheila Lowe!
It’s time for another author interview! I had the privilege of meeting Sheila Lowe at a bookfaire earlier this year where we were both guest speakers. I thought you might like to hear from her about her writing process and fascinating life. We can all grow and learn from each other’s journey!
Like her fictional character Claudia Rose in the award-winning Forensic Handwriting Mysteries series, Sheila Lowe is a real-life forensic handwriting expert and the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis and Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous. Her analyses of celebrity handwritings have appeared in Time, Teen People, Us, Mademoiselle, and many others. She’s written for numerous Bar Association magazines (that’s legal, not drinking!). Sheila holds a Master of Science degree in psychology and lives with her Very Bad Cat Lexie in Ventura, California.
1. Hello! Thank you for visiting my blog today. I’m looking forward to hearing the gems you have to share from your writing journey!
Thanks so much for the invitation. I don’t know how many gems I have—they might only be pasteboard—but I’ve always got plenty of opinions to share!
2. I’m sure you have a lot to share. You can’t write a series without learning something! First of all, what is your favorite genre to write in and what is the age range you generally write for?
I write both fiction and non-fiction. My first love has always been mystery fiction, and that’s what I’m focusing on these days. My audience is adult, probably from about 30 to infinity. I do have some young readers, and a couple of my books feature a 14 year old girl, but my mysteries are definitely not for anyone under the age 14.
3. How did you get into writing for this genre and age? What makes it fun and interesting to you?
I started reading mystery when I was about 8, and had always wanted to write one. At age 14, I began with a few short stories that had a slight a mystery bent—that’s when the Beatles were a huge hit, and I wrote about them, and I was always married to Ringo J. Then life got in the way—marriage, kids, divorce, writing non-fiction. It wasn’t until my late 40s that I came back around to mystery, and much longer until I got published. By then I had analyzed over ten thousand handwritings and had plenty of interesting material. Not that my books are actually about those peoples’ lives whose handwritings I had analyzed, but they held many promising kernels that germinated into viable ideas for books.
4. What is your process of developing the plot for a story?
I am one of those writers who outline, at least, loosely. I tried writing my third novel without an outline and it just meandered off into the desert until I realized I would have to reel myself back in and start over if the book was ever to get finished and meet my deadline. I need to know approximately where I’m going to go before I get started. So I write out some ideas, pull them into a flexible framework, then start fleshing out those ideas, scene by scene. It seems to work for me.
5. How do you go about coming up with your characters?
Many of my main characters are a composite of real people plus whatever other characteristics I need them to have. A couple of them, however, are pretty close to, and informed by, good friends of mine—and they know it. In fact, they sometimes read what I’ve written and say, for example, “Zebediah wouldn’t say that, he’d say this…” The person on whom Claudia Rose’s friend Kelly is based gives me some great material. People often ask if Claudia is me, to which I reply that she’s not, but maybe she’s who I would like to be. She’s much braver than I am, and she enjoys flying. Oh, and she’s much younger than I am. But we do the same kind of work and share similar outlooks on life.
6. What do you find is the hardest part of writing a novel?
Um…writing the novel. No, seriously. The thing I least enjoy is the initial getting it down on paper. I suppose that’s a way of saying coming up with the plot is the hardest for me. I’m not a great idea person, but once I get the ideas, I can write them.
7. What do you find is the most enjoyable part of writing a novel?
The editing. Once it’s down on paper, I’m pretty good at going back and layering in the depth and texture, correcting what needs to be corrected, etc. I don’t like big rewrites, but I try to make sure that the second time around is pretty much just tweaks. And the next time around there will be less tweaking needed, and so on.
8. What writing tip would you like to share with us?
One important thing I learned from working with my first editor is don’t write a weak main character. She pointed out that in those early drafts, Claudia was always feeling guilty. I hadn’t realized that, but it was true, and once I changed her attitude, she became much more likeable and genuine. Also, leave out the adverbs (words that end in “ly”) whenever possible. Use of a lot of adverbs is a sign of lazy writing. If you leave most of them out, you’ll have a much stronger book.
9. Please give us a summary of one of your latest books or upcoming new releases.
My agent is currently out with my next book, WHAT SHE SAW, which is a story about a young woman with amnesia. It’s not part of my Forensic Handwriting Mysteries series, but some of the series characters appear in it. My current project, which I’m now outlining, is in my Claudia Rose series, and is titled INKSLINGER’S BALL.