Priya Parmar: Biography

Priya Parmar

Priya Parmar is the author of two novels of historical fiction. Exit the Actress (2011) is about Nell Gwynn, the mistress of Charles II. Vanessa and Her Sister (2014) is the story of Virginia Woolf and her sister Vanessa Bell. Vanessa and Her Sister is a New York Times Notable Book of 2015, and chosen as Best Book of the Year by Elle Magazine UK. It was also named an Editor’s Choice for the New York Times Sunday Book Review.

A former student of Mount Holyoke College, Priya Parmar also attended the University of Oxford and the University of Edinburgh. Among her favorite authors are Evelyn Waugh, Jane Austen, W.H. Auden, Ian McEwan, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. A book that she enjoys rereading is Wuthering Heights.

Vanessa and Her Sister is an entirely fictional novel, because Vanessa Bell didn’t keep a diary. Parmar relied upon Bell’s and Woolf’s letters, and upon interviews with Bell’s descendants. Parmar chose to write the novel as a series of entries in Bell’s journal. She wanted to write it from Bell’s perspective because her voice, in comparison to Virginia’s, is relatively unheard.

Priya Parmar lives with her husband and they divide their time between London and Hawaii. She has worked as an editor and as a dramaturge. Her favorite pastime, besides writing, is swimming. She considers herself to be a poor speller. She struggles with self-criticism but also believes that a good quality of hers is her ability to be happy. Her advice to new authors is to write the thing you need to write.