Elizabeth Silver

DEGREE: JD, Beasley School of Law, 2008
OCCUPATION: Woman of letters . . . and law
LOCATION: Los Angeles
Story by: 
Alix Gerz, SMC ’03, CLA ’07
Photo by Marc Campos
To say that Elizabeth Silver, LAW ’08, is inspired by the law may be an understatement. The Los Angeles–based attorney is the author of 2013’s The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, a highly acclaimed debut novel rife with the drama and legal conflict that result when one’s protagonist sits on death row.
More specifically, The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is the story of a young woman convicted of murder who has never said a word in her own defense and the murder victim’s mother, a Philadelphia-based attorney who commits to making a bid for clemency—if Noa starts talking.
The book is everything a young writer wishes for her work: It was published by Crown, a division of Random House; was called a “fantastic first novel” by The Washington Post; has been optioned for a film (“It is quite fun to think of dream casts,” says Silver); and is being translated into six languages.
Silver, who was raised in New Orleans and Dallas, always knew she wanted to be a writer, just like she always knew she wanted to be a lawyer. Though, Silver says, she planned for law to be a day job and “means to the literary end.” What drew her to law was the “narrative, particularly in criminal cases,” she explains. “In those worlds, the work is about the person, telling a story from a particular perspective, which translated in my mind as fiction.”
Silver got her BA in English from the University of Pennsylvania and an MA in creative writing from England’s University of East Anglia. Back in the U.S., she worked in the publishing industry and taught writing and literature before heading to Temple to study law.
The inspiration for Noa came while Silver was in her last semester of law school, when she took a class on capital punishment. Then, while serving as a judicial clerk in Texas, she drafted an opinion on the death penalty—the issue at the heart of her novel. After finishing her clerkship she took a year off to write, then moved to Los Angeles for a law job. The powerful story of Noa sold just two months later.
Her career roles are now reversed: Silver writes full time (a second novel is in the works) and moonlights as a lawyer. “I want to keep my foot in the game,” she says, “and to experience the thrill of the courtroom, which even at its most banal moments is a center of great drama and story.”