If you've got questions for Elizabeth L Silver, please do post them below, and I'll pass them on to her to respond to. Thank you.
WARNING: Contains plot spoilers!
Join Date: 10/15/10
Join Date: 05/20/13
Q. Someone had asked earlier in the discussion why Noa went along with Marlene's ordering Noa to separate Sarah and Caleb? Perhaps the author would have an interesting perspective on this.
Liz Silver. Hello. Thank you for these wonderful questions and for reading my novel with such insight. I hope these responses help in some small way spur along some further discussion or illuminate other questions you may have.
This is a great question. Although each reader will take away a different interpretation, Noa (for me) went along with Marlene’s request for several reasons: she needed the money, she was bored, and it would also help her get a little closer to her father with whom, after all this time, she had developed conflicting emotions. By the point Noa meets Marlene, Noa had already walked away from Caleb; however, that familial pull, that need for parental acceptance is still strong, and she would want to know what he’s doing after they stopped seeing each other. Marlene also tells Noa that Caleb and Sarah were seeing each other while Noa and Caleb were reuniting, so she is hurt by Caleb’s lies, and this might have also pushed her over the edge. Independently, none of these reasons might have given Noa the impetus to try and break up the relationship, but in the aggregate, they form enough of a motivation that Noa accepts the money she so desperately needs in a subtle form of revenge for her father’s lies.
Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that she doesn't really try that hard to break up the couple and the minute she learns about the pregnancy, she tries to separate herself from Marlene's plans. In Noa's mind, breaking up (what she may think is) an unhealthy relationship might not be the worst thing in the world, particularly with someone as toxic as her father, but she never goes beyond this initial request.
I hope this answered your question or cleared up any confusion you might have had.
Join Date: 04/18/11
Q. I was wondering the same question as StaceyR. Also, did the author, as she was developing the character of Noa, see her as a basically weak or basically strong character?
Liz Silver. What a wonderful question. As I was developing Noa, despite her caustic shell, I do realize that she could initially come across as basically weak. I think that when people put forward such a rough exterior, they are often quite weak and use elements of voice to overcompensate. However, in Noa’s case, I think she is basically quite strong as soon as we understand her motivation for accepting her fate. In many senses, she is standing proud and refusing to yield to Marlene and accepts responsibility for her actions for both Persephone and Sarah. This decision, to many, I think can be viewed as basically strong because she understands her actions and is willing to take responsibility and punishment for them. Of course, this is a matter of opinion based on each reader’s interpretation of strength of character. Noa is unable to remove herself from her past errors, her family, and her years of mistakes, and yet she had decided on a new way to pay for them, which takes a force of strength that may not be so palpable. Most people are probably mutts in terms of character – they find weakness in certain elements of their lives and strength in others. Noa is no exception.
Join Date: 04/18/11
Q. What WAS the symbolism for Noa's name, and why did Noa send the bracelet to Marlene in the end of the book, and what was Marlene's intention in wearing the bracelet instead of sending it to Persephone's parents, as Noa had requested?
Liz Silver. "Noa" is an Israeli girl's name I've loved for years and have always wanted to use for either a child or character in a story. The novel came before children, so that is the short version. However, the name means, "motion" or "movement" and indicates Noa's internal struggle. She's never stopped running from her earlier actions. Contrastingly, she is living in solitary confinement on death row where she has almost no physical movement, which is a representation of her paradoxical existence.
Noa sent the bracelet to Marlene at the end of the book because the bracelet was something that Marlene always noticed as misplaced on Noa in her somewhat classist view of the world. Marlene never quite understood why someone like Noa could have had such an expensive piece of jewelry. Noa understood that Marlene wanted to piece together the pieces of what happened, but she couldn’t tell her expressly what she wanted to know—that Sarah and Persephone's deaths were linked and that Noa was ready to die for both of them. By sending Marlene the bracelet, Noa is giving Marlene the answers that she needs without spoon-feeding it to her, something that Marlene would appreciate. Noa would not be someone who could expressly state a clear confession, nor would it be genuine or believable, after staying quiet for so many years.
Noa also repeatedly refers to the bracelet as a handcuff, which it is in many ways. It cuffs her psychologically to Persephone's death and places her in an emotional prison for ten years, and when she hands the bracelet over to Marlene and Marlene places it on her wrists, Marlene is essentially handcuffing herself to Noa, to the past, to her daughter's death, and into a prison that she will now be living. It is the sign that Marlene is beginning her awareness of what transpired. It is possible that, because Noa understands Marlene so well, she always knows Marlene would never give the bracelet back to the Rigas, which is why there is no long note of explanation. Instead, it is simply the name of Persephone's parents (which is easily connected by the newspaper clippings and her conversations with Ollie regarding her childhood), and the diamond bracelet, and this was Noa's final gift to Marlene—the one thing Marlene wanted to know from the start.
Join Date: 10/16/10
Q. We've been talking a lot about the book cover. Were you involved in its design? Do you like it and how do you interpret it?
Liz Silver. I absolutely adore the book cover and feel so lucky to have had a designer create the ideal jacket for Noa and Marlene's story. I was involved at the beginning when they asked for my initial input and hoped it would be a simple all-text cover, as the title presents such a strong image. Once the word, "execution" is in a title, images begin to seem less relevant. The designers came up with this initially and it was love at first sight. I can claim no ownership over the brilliant strike-out and color choices.
I think the strike-out is a clever exploration of the concept of execution as well as Noa's identity. Has she been erased? Has she been executed? Has she been forgotten? How significant does an individual's story become once they are gone (or once they are imprisoned)? Is this how Noa sees herself? On a more pragmatic level, I hope it invites readers browsing in a bookstore to pick up the book and ask the same questions: Why is that name crossed out? To what extent do our stories remain once we are gone? Who is the victim in cases like this?
Join Date: 10/16/10
Q. What is your view of the death penalty? Did you feel that you were writing an "issues" book, or did it just turn out that way?
Liz Silver. I did intend to write the novel initially as an "issues" book, so to speak. I spent two and one half years working in criminal law, where I worked on several death penalty cases from different sides (as an advocate against the death penalty and also from a neutral perspective for an appellate judge, whose role it was to affirm or reverse trial decisions). I hoped to explore both sides of the death penalty debate from the eyes of an admittedly guilty inmate and a mourning parent trying to forgive. As the writing progress, the story took over, but ultimately, yes, that was my original intention. In the process, however, the issue of handguns, class, and parenting also became incredibly important to me.
Join Date: 10/16/10
Q. Many people have commented on the lack of religion in the book. Was it a conscious decision on your part not to have religion play a role? If so, why?
Liz Silver. This is a great question and I think has a two-part answer. On the one hand, I finished the first draft of the novel without almost any indication of religion because the story did not call for it and the characters did not focus on religion in their lives. Although many death row inmates do find religion and religion is a strong source of support in prisons, I did not think that Noa would open herself to it. At one point, she says, "I'm not saying I found religion in here just because I can't watch a sunset anymore. God, that would be cliché, and I’d rather die than pass on that impression." That is the extent of her discussion of religion, which I think represents her beliefs. I do think she has a moral compass, but it is guided by things other than religion. For example, one of her biggest fears is to be a cliché or to be a nameless body in a prison cemetery that nobody will know. She dies a statistic, as she anticipated, but refuses to enter the death chambers like everyone else.
I think on a practical scale, if I added religion into the book, it would also overcomplicate matters and add another issue to the mix that might muddy the narrative. These characters do not lead religious lives and Noa's religion is her guilt (which in some opinion, can certainly be based on religion), but not one in particular. I hope this helps!
Join Date: 04/05/12
Q. Given your legal experience and your intimate knowledge of Noa, would you agree to to represent her, pro bono, in an appeal? If no, why not? If yes, what would be your motive for doing so, and the basis for your plea?
Liz Silver. What a fascinating question - this is the first I've been asked this question specifically. The short answer is yes. The longer answer would deal more specifically with the basis of the appeal and at what point she might have come to me (or I might have been appointed to her case). At the point the novel begins, Noa has exhausted all of her seemingly available appeals, so what is left is clemency, and I, too, believe Noa is a good case for clemency. The questions in her case easily lend themselves to clemency - was it legal innocence or actual innocence? Was she guilty of first degree murder? Second degree murder? Was Sarah pregnant at the time of her death? Was Sarah going to die from her heart condition on its own? How do we approach the co-conspirators?
On another level, she would be entitled to an automatic appeal based on her death sentence. Whether she contributed to the mitigating evidence at trial or on appeal is only part of the concern, while other appealable issues would be possible trial errors. Noa's lack of willingness to contribute to her defense doesn't necessarily indicate ineffectiveness on her attorneys' part, but it does lend itself a shadow of doubt that ethically may make this true even if the law would not necessarily agree. Her appeals could be based on improper evidence being presented (for example part of her interrogation). If indeed she asked the police to stop when she thinks she did, then the interrogation following it might not be admissible. This is questionable in the novel. Jury bias may also be considered, which is also hard to prove, based on the relationships being formed. In addition, several additional grounds for appeal might include: proper autopsy procedure, allowing certain statements and evidence into trial (e.g. excessive photos of the autopsy), and irrelevant and prejudicial testimony from her past. All attorneys would also argue ineffective assistance of counsel. A legitimate appeal would certainly be available to her with "newly discovered evidence," as Ollie believed he made with Sarah's pregnancy, but ultimately the court did not believe it. Noa wouldn't have another shot at that claim, unfortunately, but hopefully a more skilled lawyer with decades of experience would have been able to take that theory from the start and more properly follow up with it.
I hope this answers your wonderful question. Thank you so much for reading the novel!
Join Date: 04/05/12
Join Date: 10/15/10
Please login to post a response.