Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Elizabeth L. Silver

Elizabeth L. Silver grew up in New Orleans and Dallas and currently lives in Los Angeles. She holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia in England, and a JD from Temple University Beasley School of Law. She has taught ESL in Costa Rica, writing and literature at several universities in Philadelphia, and worked as a research attorney for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

From Silver's Q & A about her latest novel, The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, with Caroline Leavitt:

I'm always interested how a novel sparked? A college dropout on death row for murder--where did that come from? How did The Execution of Noa P. Singleton come into being?

After years of writing fiction and toying with a variety of day jobs in writing-related fields, I switched directions, and in my late-twenties, attended law school. I entered my third year of law school and took a course in capital punishment, where I learned about the death penalty from some of the country’s top anti-death penalty attorneys in Austin, Texas. The course included a clinic component in which I worked on a clemency petition, visited death row, interviewed inmates and met with a handful of victim family members with my supervising attorneys. I also attended a symposium at the Texas State Capitol where several lawyers, journalists, filmmakers, and a solitary victim’s rights advocate spoke about the problems with the death penalty as it related to one potentially wrongful execution. Only one person on the dais represented the voice of the victim, surprisingly, and she was the mother of a victim ten years later still struggling with her position. While listening to each person express a different perspective on the issue, the complicated relationship between a mourning parent trying to forgive and an admittedly guilty inmate struck me as an intricate and conflicted bond ripe for exploration. It wasn’t about guilt or innocence necessarily, but instead about the fragility, doubt, and unease in each of these people. I also knew that I wanted my protagonist to be intelligent, self-educated, and someone with whom readers may be able to relate, despite her residence and status. Instantly, my new project was borne, although at that point, I wasn’t sure the body it would occupy or the story that would carry it along. I rushed home, and over the next few months before the bar exam, wrote the first and last chapters of the novel.

A lot of this extraordinary novel occurs in prison. Did you do research? What was that like? Did anything surprise you and turn the plot of the novel in a way you didn't expect?

Most of my research came from...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Elizabeth L. Silver's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.

My Book, The Movie: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.

Writers Read: Elizabeth L. Silver.

--Marshal Zeringue