A Conversation with Author Sheila Lowe by Kristen Weber
I’ve been a fan of Sheila Lowe’s since I read Poison Pen, the first title in her smart and gripping Claudia Rose mystery series. I was lucky enough to acquire the books as an editor at New American Library and eagerly continued to devour them even after I left the publishing house. Sheila’s latest, What She Saw, is a page-turning thriller and I am so excited to chat with her about this new book.
Welcome to Shelf Pleasure Sheila! Your latest thriller, What She Saw, is a departure from your Claudia Rose forensic handwriting mystery series. Can you tell us about the inspiration for this new direction?
Ironically, Kristen, the inspiration had a lot to do with you. You were my wonderful editor for the first three books in the series, but when you left the publisher and I became “orphaned” (which means the new editor didn’t offer me a new contract after the fourth book), my agent at the time said that it was very difficult to sell an already established series. Originally, I had planned to make What She Saw a Claudia Rose story, but in the interests of looking for a new publisher, I decided to write a standalone in which Claudia and some of her friends would play an important role. That way, Claudia’s fans would not forget her.
Is there anything special you’d like to tell fans (new and old) about this book?
The story tackles a couple of topics that have always been of interest to me, one of which was amnesia. Imagine how it would feel to wake up on a train and realize that you not only don’t know who you are or where you’re going, but some instinct warns you not to let anyone know, nor ask for help. That’s the terrifying scenario that faces a young woman who leaves the train in Ventura, California (which “just happens” to be where I live).
What were the research and writing processes like?
Thanks to the creepiness of losing one’s memory, this book is somewhat darker in tone than my series, and that’s the way I wanted it. Several early readers have said that as they were reading, it felt as though it was happening to them. I really tried to put myself in this young woman’s place and feel what she feels, from the time she first becomes aware that her memory has been wiped clean, to glimmers of what may have happened to cause the amnesia, to the stunning revelation of what actually did happen. The research involved (sorry, can’t reveal that without a spoiler) was fascinating and more than a bit scary. Uncle Google and Aunty Youtube were there to hold my hand the whole way.
You’re a court-qualified handwriting expert just like your series heroine Claudia Rose. How similar are your days, and how do you balance that career with writing fiction?
Unfortunately, though I would love to focus on writing, the work that pays the bills must always come first. In July, for example, I taught a course in handwriting analysis at UC Santa Barbara. This was part of their Summer Discovery enrichment program, which is populated by high school students from around the world. I taught 17 students aged 14-18. Most were from Italy, and one each from Japan, Kuwait, and Israel. Three were from the US. They all loved what they learned. My evenings were spent getting ready for the next class, and I worked on What She Saw mainly on weekends. This week I have several handwriting analysis assignments before I can get to my fiction writing. These include a cold case murder and several from men who want to understand their wives and girlfriends better. Another is a possible forgery case.
Claudia’s work is like that, too—and we never know from one week to the next what our schedules are going to be like. But of course, Claudia doesn’t always have the luxury of planning ahead. If someone is holding a gun on you, you can’t very well ask them to wait while you do the paying work!
What can us fans expect next from you?
Now that What She Saw is on sale, I am determined to get back to work on the next Claudia Rose story, Inkslingers Ball. I’m halfway through, and it’s been fun and challenging for me because it’s the first time a Claudia story has been told from a point of view other than hers. This time, Annabelle’s and Joel’s voices are heard, too. The title refers to a tattoo convention, and part of the story has to do with a “sugar skull” tattoo design. I hope to have it finished before the end of the year.
What books are currently sitting on your nightstand?
Fiction reading is Guilt By Degrees, a mystery by Marcia Clark (lunch and dinner reading), and for bedtime, Night Terrors by Dennis Palumbo, who gave me a wonderful blurb for What She Saw. On the non-fiction side, I’m about to start reading First Person Plural—Multiple Personality and the Philosophy of Mind by Stephen E. Braude. I saw a youtube interview with Dr. Braude and can’t wait to get into this book, which apparently deals with the question of where Multiple Personality comes from, and whether some patients are actually mediums, getting messages from the other side, rather than inside (at least, that’s what I think it’s about!).
Thanks so much for visiting Shelf Pleasure!
Thank you for inviting me. It’s my pleasure.
Learn more and order your own copy of What She Saw here.
Kristen Weber is a freelance book editor living in Los Angeles as well as one of the co-founders of Shelf Pleasure.
If you’d like to be featured as an author on Shelf Pleasure, email us here.
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