Friday, January 22, 2010

Guest Blogger - Sheila Lowe

When I started thinking about your question, “how do you add mayhem to my mysteries?” I decided I’d better start by looking up what mayhem really meant. I thought I knew, but confess to being a little surprised when I saw the dictionary definition: the willful and unlawful crippling or mutilation of another person. Yikes! Of course, as a mystery writer that’s exactly what I do; I just hadn’t thought of it quite that way. Crippling? Mutilation? Oh, my. Then I considered the mayhem I’ve wrought in my books. I’ve killed by drowning, strangulation, anaphylactic shock, skiing into a tree. I’ve written shootings; a taser attack; some hand-to-hand violence, too. Sounds pretty mayhemmy to me all right.

I will confess, as a mostly non-violent person myself, those are not the easiest scenes for me to write. There has been murder far too close to me, and as a result, hearing gunshots in my mind, or visualizing looking down the barrel of a gun is harder than it once was. But I am interested in the psychology of violence, from both victim’s and perpetrator’s point of view, so when I’m writing about it, I put myself in the position of each party to the action and try to understand how it might feel to be a killer, or come face-to-face with one.

Regardless of the mode of killing or other mayhem, there’s usually an underlying need for control that has pushed the perpetrator to the point of no return. Sometimes the killer is an ordinary person under extraordinary stress who goes to extreme lengths because of a situation he’s created or landed in. It might be the need of a betrayed lover grasping for control, trying desperately to hold on to the last wisps of the relationship he’s lost. It might be a serial killer whose need to dominate and control drives him to murder over and over. Maybe he felt totally powerless growing up, and seeing the fear in the eyes of his victim, knowing he’s in control for the first time in his life, gives him an amazing rush that he wants to recreate. There are all sorts of reasons why people commit mayhem.

As mystery writers we get to create any situation that appeals to our imagination and resolve it in a way that pleases us. That’s so much better than the real-life version!

Like her character Claudia Rose in her award-winning Forensic Handwriting Mysteries series (NAL), Sheila Lowe is a real-life court-qualified handwriting expert who testifies in a variety of handwriting-related cases. With more than forty years experience in the field of handwriting analysis, she’s a frequent guest in the media when there are interesting handwritings to comment on. Most recently, Us Weekly magazine online asked for her opinion about Tiger Woods’. She’s also the author of the internationally acclaimed The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis, and Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous, and Sheila Lowe’s Handwriting Analyzer software. and Twitter: @sheila_lowe

Sheila Lowe
(805) 658-0109 - Forensic handwriting mysteries. Dead Write in stores now


  1. It is indeed better than messy real life. And I am sorry for whatever loss you experienced.


  2. Sheila,
    Handwriting analysis holds my interest and I will definitely be buying your mysteries and other books. What a great blog and thank you so much for taking the time to write it.

  3. Thanks for giving me the opportunity! I was referring to my daughter, who was the victim in a murder/suicide, the biggest loss of all. Writing about murder as fiction is quite different from having it in your face.
    I hope you like the books!


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