Today’s guest is Elizabeth Silver, author of The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, an Amazon Best Book of the Year, Amazon Best Debut of the Month, a Kirkus Best Book of the Summer, Kansas City Star Best Book of the Year, Oprah “Ten Books to Pick up Now,” and selection for the Target Emerging Author Series.
Elizabeth’s writing has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Review, The Millions, and others. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, the MA program in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia in England, and Temple University Beasley School of Law, Elizabeth has taught English as a Second Language in Costa Rica, writing and literature at Drexel University and St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and worked as an attorney in California and Texas. Born and raised in New Orleans and Dallas, she now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.[pullquote]Between pseudonyms and bylines, writers can get so attached to names. When I learned that someone else shared mine, another writer no less, who writes quite different prose, I laughed in both jest and exasperation. When I realized that we could potentially get confused, I started looking into the topic in greater detail, and saw how rich a topic it is for exploration.”[/pullquote]
When I was in the middle of writing my novel, The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, I traveled to an artist colony in France for an extended writing retreat in the Loire Valley at a wonderful center for creative holidays called Circle of Misse. As part of my tenure, I would have a short writing retreat and I would also teach a creative writing course.
On the first day of class, one of my students came to me, eager to show me that he’d read my work on Kindle. Confused, I inquired further. At that point, I had not sold a novel and my short stories and essays were published in small journals that, to my knowledge, had not been uploaded to Kindles or other electronic devices. It was then that he showed me my volumes of erotic fiction, sold on Kindle and perhaps in certain stores, perhaps self-published, and perhaps spectacular works of art. I didn’t know. I still don’t know. I haven’t read them. What I do know now is that there is another writer named Elizabeth Silver, who also goes by the nickname “Liz,” who appears to be around my age, lives in Pennsylvania where I went to college and law school and set my first novel.
My student, eager to start the class, told me that he expected me to be…older. Politely, I told him that I didn’t write those stories and that I’m sorry he downloaded the wrong person’s work in preparation for the course, but I hope he’d enjoyed them. He didn’t seem upset. In fact, to this day, I’m not sure whether he was happy or sad that I wasn’t the same Liz Silver.
As authors, we understand the significance of our names, bylines, and the names we choose to bestow upon our characters. Although we are not merely characters in our parents’ lives, our parents spent, we should hope, at least as much time deciding our names as we put into our characters’ births, so it would seem wrong to simply change our names for the sake of a byline. These two (or three or four) little words define us, they inform our personalities, and create an identity that cannot be changed merely by a new professional identity, or in many people’s cases, a marriage.
Which is why, when my publisher first announced the deal for my novel on Publishers Weekly as “Elizabeth Silver,” I immediately gave them a call. It wasn’t that I was mimicking Jerry Seinfeld in claiming that the other Liz Silver’s work was better or worse than mine—merely that it was different. Erotic fiction—“Not that there’s anything wrong with that”—is an entirely different genre with an entirely different set of readers. [Read more…]