At the same time we say goodbye, we get to say hello!
Please welcome Sheila Lowe, author of Outside the Lines and other works. Sheila has joined us here at Mysteristas and we are thrilled! By way of introduction, here’s her interview.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Not having to go anywhere. Staying home, sitting at my computer in my raggedy hang-around-the-house clothes with a cup of tea and a good idea to write about. Rain pattering against the windows would be a bonus; however, I live in Ventura CA (otherwise known as paradise), and rain is mainly in the realm of fantasy. But it would be part of my perfect day.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
Accessory: My “implements of death” necklace, which was originally a bracelet made by SinC member Evelyn Moore. It has a gun, knife, chalice, handcuffs, and a typewriter. I wear it when I give talks to mystery groups.
Fragrance: Poison (seriously) or Tabu.
Phrase: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Meal: Baked potato loaded with butter, cheese, and sour cream (yeah, I know, not so healthy).
Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
For me, it’s all about the people in the books. I skip over the bits about the scenery or lengthy descriptions of what they ate or how they dressed. I have a slavering admiration for the realism of John Sandford’s characters. They speak like real people and I love their sense of humor, as well as the relationships between characters. Tami Hoag, too, writes great characters and her descriptions of their actions (“bits” and tag lines) leaves me envious.
Do you listen to music when you write?
Often, I do. It might be classical piano (I used to play about a 100 years ago), Ben Webster, Big Band, or Golden Oldies from the 60s (specifically “British Invasion”—that’s the time when my family moved here from England), and sometimes meditation-type music, all thanks to Pandora.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
The Godiva G Collection, which is in the Top Ten Most Expensive Chocolates in the world. I would like my books to reflect the sheer delicious decadence of chocolate that costs $120/pound. I want my readers to value them that much.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I tend to start with a title and build a story around it. The underlying theme of Outside the Lines became linked with ecoterrorism. Some health issues have had me reading about the effects of GMOs on our food, which made me think about how some of the people involved in what is broadly called ecoterrorism might also be viewed as heroes.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Big surprise–I thought I was writing about power and revenge and other such themes, but in a recent radio interview, the host pointed out something I had not recognized: a recurring theme in my stories is “mothers and daughters,” which made perfect sense. My mother–now in her late 80s–and I have no relationship (which is why book four, Last Writes, is about a religious cult much like the one that requires my mother to cut off contact with her children), and I had a difficult relationship with my own daughter, who I lost to a murder/suicide in 2000.
Tell us about your main character.
Claudia Rose is a forensic handwriting expert, a modern woman in her early 40s who is unable to have children of her own. She becomes a surrogate mom to Annabelle Giordano, a troubled girl she meets in book #2 and who continues through the series. Despite being commitment-phobic, Claudia has a love interest–LAPD homicide detective, Joel Jovanic, who is often frustrated by her penchant for getting involved in cases that end up putting her in danger (she doesn’t mean to!).
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Tess Gerritsen’s medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles for her cool forensics, Minnie Driver (I’d love her to play Claudia, with Gerard Butler as Joel), and at the risk of losing some readers, Hillary Clinton, who I admire for her grace under fire.
If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
My favorite writers, some of whom I’ve already mentioned: John Sandford, Deborah Crombie, Tess Gerritsen, Michael Connelly, Tami Hoag, Robert Crais. I’ve met all of them briefly (Deb Crombie was kind enough to blurb one of my books), but would love some extended time over dinner to quiz them about their paths to success.
What’s next for you?
With book #6 just out, I’m outlining #7. I need a deadline, though, or it will never get any further. I’m excited about it and have already written the most detailed back story I’ve ever conceived. How much of that back story actually gets onto the page remains to be seen, but by the time I’m finished, I will know each character and his/her background and motivations intimately.
Sheila has a new book out today! Outside the Lines is the sixth installment in her Forensic Handwriting series. Congratulations, Sheila!
What should have been a routine afternoon on the witness stand for Forensic Handwriting Expert Claudia Rose turns into a shocking assault that leaves her bruised and bloodied. Following on the heels of a series of other traumatic events, the attack sends Claudia to the brink of a breakdown.
Her fiancé, L.A.P.D. Homicide Detective Joel Jovanic, learns of the attack while leading a homicide investigation into a mailbox bomb. An innocent housekeeper in the tony Venice neighborhood is dead and the homeowner is the CEO of a major pesticide-producing corporation that has been targeted in the past. When a notebook found in a geocache near the crime scene leads to the protest group People for Safe Food, Jovanic needs Claudia to identify the handwriting of a suspected eco-terrorist.
Though she may have recovered physically from the assault, weeks later Claudia’s fears continue to plague her. Desperate to get away, she accepts an invitation to lecture in the UK, but her trip turns into a nightmare when she runs afoul of both the FBI and New Scotland Yard. Jovanic’s homicide case has followed her to London where she finds herself unexpectedly allied with the chief suspect.
The mother of a tattoo artist and a former rock star, Sheila Lowe lives in Southern California with Lexie the Very Bad (sometimes Evil) Cat, where she writes the award-winning Forensic Handwriting series. Like her fictional character Claudia Rose, Sheila is a real-life forensic handwriting expert who testifies in court cases. Her books are “medium boiled,” (definitely not cozies) psychological suspense. She takes ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances and makes them squirm.
Sheila has also authored non-fiction books about handwriting: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis, Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous, and Handwriting Analyzer software, as well as many monographs about handwriting and personality.