Thursday, May 16, 2013

I Killed Liza Canaan

     I’m beginning my first official blog post with a confession: I killed Liza Canaan. Not that anyone knew her except for a writer I much admire, my agent, my family and a few close friends. Her life was very short. She lived just long enough to obtain a website, a gmail address, a professional Facebook page, a twitter account and a flickr account. And then I killed her.

     Well, first I disliked her on Facebook. Then I tried to block her from getting access to my personal account. And THEN, I killed her.

     I hadn’t intended to kill her. You see, about ten years ago, I published three pretty successful mystery novels about the New York City Fire Department under my real name (the name you see above. Yes, my passport and driver’s license are in that name and when people deliver pizzas to me, that name generally gets the pie to my door).

     After a 10-year hiatus raising kids, coaching soccer and leading a girl scout troop, I began a brand-new mystery series which my agent is shopping now. But it has nothing to do with the FDNY. It’s about a Puerto Rican homicide detective navigating the world of undocumented immigrants in suburban New York. I felt conflicted about going out for the first time on social media under my real name. So SJ Rozan, a wonderful and successful novelist friend, came up with a great suggestion: why not use a pseudonym?

     I loved the idea. Who doesn’t want to reinvent themselves? I got to pick my name: Liza Canaan (the “Liza” from my middle name: Elizabeth, the “Canaan,” a last name people wouldn’t mispronounce.) My real last name rhymes with “raisin” but is usually mangled into something approximating a sneeze. I missed accepting a high school writing award once because the principal called “Susan Shazam,” from the stage and I figured that couldn’t possibly be me. More like Gomer Pyle’s sister.

     Best of all, Liza could pick any birth date she wanted on social media and voila!—I was ten years younger. I went around a for two days pretending there were whole decades I had only read about in history books.

      Then I made the fatal mistake of “liking” myself on Facebook and suddenly, friends were asking why my picture (you’d think I’d have changed the picture) was appearing under two different names. Had I gone insane?

     So I unliked myself. That didn’t work so I blocked my professional Facebook page from talking to my personal one. We had spent two days together and we already hated each other. And then I decided to tell my agent about my brilliant idea.

     “It will kill your backstory,” she said.

     Until that moment, I wasn’t sure what a “backstory” was. It’s not like I have a rap sheet or anything.

     “People won’t know it’s you,” she said patiently. I need patience in anything dealing with social media. “You can’t talk about your work with real immigrants. Or your previous books. You’ll lose access to your story.”

     And I guess that’s the lesson here: we all have a story. Mine is going to have to be a part of me after all, like that uncle at your wedding who tells long stories but who remembers what you looked like at six. So Liza Canaan is dead—all except for her flickr account. I sort of wanted to keep some little part of her, you know?

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