One of the most fascinating people I’ve talked to thus far has to be Sheila Lowe. Sheila is a handwriting expert and author, and was kind enough to write a piece especially for Working Writers about how handwriting can help you focus on your writing. What an intriguing subject! Sheila has been asked to comment on very high-profile cases whether handwriting was concerned, and has also penned her own mystery series. I found her answers really interesting and I know you will as well. Enjoy this interview!
I’m fascinated with the line of business you are in. Please tell us about how you came to be a handwriting expert?
I started studying handwriting at the beginning of time. Actually, it was 1967 and I was in high school. My boyfriend’s mother had read a book on handwriting analysis and got me interested. I started reading everything I could get my hands on and practicing my new skills on all my friends, but it wasn’t until ten years later that I began formal studies with a teacher. Eventually I became certified and started working professionally in the field. Some years later I was contacted by an attorney who wanted me to handle a case of handwriting authentication, which involved going to court and testifying. Up until then I had only been engaged in the study of personality through handwriting, so this was an expansion of my knowledge and practice. The judge qualified me as a handwriting expert and I’ve continued working on forgery cases ever since.
How did you get involved with helping to solve forensic crime cases?
My handwriting analysis practice encompasses several areas, and it’s only occasionally that I’m involved in criminal cases. Having been around for so long—over forty years now—I get cases of all sorts referred to me. Often, when there’s a high profile case I’m called by media outlets for an opinion. For example, when OJ Simpson wrote a letter after his ex-wife’s murder I was asked to talk about the handwriting on the Hard Copy TV show. When Jon Benet Ramsey was killed I analyzed the ransom note for the Denver Post. A few months ago I appeared on Dateline NBC to talk about the handwriting of a man calling himself Clark Rockefeller, who was a person of interest in an unsolved disappearance and murder. Stuff like that.
How did your Handwriting Analyzer software come to fruition? What are some of the benefits this software provides?
In the mid-90s a small software company approached me, to discuss producing handwriting analyzer software. I had actually done something similar but less sophisticated many years earlier with my first husband, so I was aware that it was a complex and time-intensive project. In fact, it took well over a year to put all the pieces together and test it to my satisfaction. Now the software is used around the world by human resource departments, psychologists, governments, law enforcement, and individuals. It allows someone who is not trained in handwriting analysis to produce an accurate personality profile based on someone’s handwriting. It’s user-friendly and easy to use.
You simply go through a series of screens, each one illustrating parts of handwriting, and compare the handwriting you want to analyze to each screen, clicking on the picture that seems to describe it the best. After selecting from at least ten screens various types of reports, charts, and graphs become available. RI Software, who owns and distributes the Sheila Lowe’s Handwriting Analyzer offers a free trial on their web site www.writinganalysis.com. You’ll be able to analyze your writing and read a short version of your report on screen. It only takes a few minutes.
The Pro version was designed specifically for employers to better understand job applicants and make sure they are a good fit for the job. My team and I are sometimes hired to work at major conventions. We get hundreds of people lined up at the booth where we’re working, waiting for their handwriting analysis. Using the software allows us to do them in a couple of minutes and give the visitor a printout. For people who just want to analyze themselves and their friends and family, there’s a “lite” Personal version, and an add-on Relationship module.
You’ve got three fabulous mystery novels out. Tell us about the Claudia Rose Forensic Handwriting Mystery series. How did you get the idea to develop this character?
I’d always wanted to write a mystery, and they say write what you know. I thought that since virtually everyone loves to know about themselves handwriting analysis would lend itself to some exciting stories. Although most of the cases I handle in my practice are pretty routine and humdrum, there are also some kernels of ideas that can be gleaned—a jumping off point. The ideas for each of the four books I’ve written in the series so far (Last Writes is set for a July 2010 release) have had their start in a real-life story.
Share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?
The fiction series has gotten some great reviews and I’m always thrilled to hear from readers. It’s the greatest compliment an author can get to hear from someone who has stayed up reading til the wee hours, or finally had to stop reading and get something to eat. I’d love to continue writing about Claudia and Jovanic, so I hope everyone reading this blog will help me spread the word.
My very next project is a non-fiction book about relationships. The title is Relationship Reruns, why do I keep dating losers? It’s intended to help the reader understand what motivates her (or him) to keep dating the same person in different skin and how to break the habit. We’re all motivated by a similar set of needs—love, security, power, etc. But some people get stuck in a particular need and make choices that hurt them. The means I use to illustrate motivations is, of course, handwriting.
What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?
That’s just too hard to answer! But I will tell you that about twenty years ago a book I read profoundly influenced my life path: The Amazing Power of Prosperity by Catherine Ponder. It’s an old version of the more modern, huge bestseller, The Secret. Another was Journey of Souls by Michael Newton, which resonated with me in powerful ways, too. In my writing life, The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz was just great, and Word Painting by Rebecca McLanahan was beautiful and taught me a lot. I’m sure that as soon as I’ve sent this off to you I’ll think of a dozen others that I’ll wish I’d shared.
In the mystery genre my favorites are: John Sandford, Michael Connelly, Tami Hoag, Patricia Cornwell, Tess Gerritsen. The non-fiction books I read tend to be psychology- and handwriting-related, or spiritual.
Book you’re currently reading?
For my birthday recently I was given a copy of Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffeneger, the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife (which I loved—except for the ending, which I hated). I seldom read non-mystery fiction, but this author has a way of drawing me in and keeping my interest. Her writing style is fascinating to me, and I’m eager to see what happens to the characters she’s created. This book seems to be written in an omniscient point of view, which is interesting in itself, as we’re told as writers never to jump around from one person’s head to another. But Niffeneger switches mid-paragraph, so as a reader, you have to stay on your toes.
Any type of writing ritual you have?
Nope. Handwriting analysis work come first because it’s usually the most urgent. I spend hours and hours on email, generally mess around, do errands. By about ten p.m. I’m reminding myself that I need to get some work done on the current book and I work til around 1:00 a.m. Naturally, when I’m under the gun with a deadline approaching I have to be a bit more disciplined than that. Oh, I do write a fairly detailed outline before beginning the book. Then I don’t look at it again until I’m nearly finished.
Where can we learn more about you?
Thanks for asking. I have three web sites for different purposes. www.sheilalowe.com is for my personality assessment and handwriting authentication practice, including resources for anyone interested in learning about handwriting analysis. www.superceu.com is for continuing education for marriage and family therapists. I’m approved in the State of California, and MFTs and LCSWs can read articles on the site and take a test, for which they earn low cost continuing education credits. Then there’s www.claudiaroseseries.com for the Forensic Handwriting Mystery series and all things Claudia Rose. I’m about to add some photos of the area where Claudia lives and places she visits on her adventures. For example, in Dead Write, she went to New York to work with a Russian matchmaker.