Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year

This was the year when:

I saw lots of much missed beloved friends
I rediscovered Henry James
I learned how to stand up paddle board
My eldest student went off to college
My second eldest student went off to school on the mainland
My two third eldest students fell wildly in love with reading
I researched Second Book
I started writing Second Book
I took the scary ballet class
I moved to a new part of London
I met my new adorable god son
I re-fell in love with walking through London at night
I made it home for Christmas


Wonderful people offered to help launch Nell into the world on February 1.

Thank you.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Packing--Now Unpacking

In fairness, the bag really does look like it holds more stuff than it actually does.  It is deceptively less roomy than one would imagine.  I live in the tinyest flat imaginable--lovely, homey, cosy, comfy, bright, but tiny--and one would not imagine that there would be so much stuff to pack.  Where does this stuff live when it is not marching into the suitcase?

Everything starts with books.  Christmas present books, reading books (I am reading Forster, Maugham's letters and West--it is like falling into a vat of emotionally charged, sun warmed, beautifully written, early 20th century honey), and research books.

I am a bit like Linus from Peanuts about my research books.  All my best beloved non research books live on the East Coast.  Hawaii is too wet and London is too small and they seem to like the East Coast.  My research books on the other hand are nomadic.  They go to the beach, the movies, the departure lounge, the bus, the ballet studio, the library (where they can commiserate with more well adjusted, grounded, non roving research books), the park, the pub, the subway, the playground and the museums.  They go out for dinner and wish I would use an umbrella.

They meet my friends.  They get scribbled in: "Dentist, 430, Tuesday".  They drive in the Honda.  They get dropped into the sea.  I love that they live big, varied lives.  But they are heavy.  I am only going for a few days.  Do they all need to come?  And then I look at their soft, broken in spines and crumply covers and illegible notes that track my life as I write this second book and I think, yes.  They need to come.

But then we might only be going as far as Heathrow.  My flight was cancelled yesterday and today and there is a good chance that the plane might not take off tomorrow...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Lovely Review from Rick Friedman at Goodreads

"Exit the Actress: A Novel by Priya Parmar is quite simply one of the most original, engaging and well written novels I have come across in many a year. Written through diary entries, Letters, Official Announcements, invitations ect- the reader is immersed into 17th Century London, through the eyes of Nell, a poor "Oyster Girl" who grows up to be a stage star and Mistress of Royalty. That Ms. Parmar can create such a real and human character is nothing short of breathtaking. This book is, without doubt,the first book of a MAJOR new talent in historical fiction."

I just read that review out loud to my mother.  It is the kind of moment you daydream about when you are in the thicket of a book that is not yet a book and you cannot see your way forward or back.  It is the kind of daydream that kickstarts you back into writing when you splutter to a stop.  It is the kind of daydream that you never imagine will happen.  

And then one day, it does.  How magical.

Rick Friedman is a wonderful man who has a wonderful  bookclub.  It is a vast, energetic book club and he leads it with verve, skill and devotion.  He makes it a lovely place to be.  

My publicity team adore Rick.  He and my publicist Jessica are organizing a Goodreads Giveaway.  It takes time, effort, thought and kindness.  I am so very, very lucky.  Thank you, Rick.

Ps: It looks like I am snowed into London for Christmas and not going to the States...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Book Signing

So, are you free on February 8, 2011?  Want to meet me on the corner of 57th St. and Park Avenue at the Borders Books in Manhattan?

It is one of my favourites.  Enormous.  Big armchairs, four floors, great poetry section, yummy hot chocolate, center of town... so you'll come?

I'll carry a copy of Wuthering Heights and a white winter rose so you will know it is me.

My first book signing and of course I am wondering... what do authors wear to their first book signing...

PS: my brother receives this blog by email and just told me the format has changed?  It now looks as though it comes from a random stranger instead of just a normal plum bean email.  Not sure what is happening.  Will investigate...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mechanic vs Alchemic

I have been thinking about frameworks.  I was talking to a writer friend yesterday about deadlines.  He is a prolific journalist and absolutely, non negotiably, needs the eleventh hour rush of adrenaline to get it done.  His process--what a horridly artsy yet weirdly sausage factoryish sort of word--requires a superimposed structure.  His 1200 word article will happen as soon as it has to happen--has to happen because of an external rather than internal mechanism.

Lots of writers work this way. It takes huge amounts of confidence.  To know that at any point you can flick a switch, turn the cranks and there will be work you are willing to show someone--amazing.

I am not like that.

"I don't need deadlines," I told him, sounding provincial and self contained.

"Sure you do," he said.  "You just get in there first.  A deadline is just a way of making yourself write when worry you can't.  You have that."

And he was right.  I have a strict, self sustaining, near ritualistic process of writing.  I have a mechanical system of getting the words onto the page:

-Turn on the computer before I do anything else.
-Write four pages.
-Stop after four pages.
-Write even if I have nothing to write.
-Take one day off a week.

And creatively, I am equally and bizarrely strict but there is only one rule:

A storytelling bumble bee of random, elusive, hazy, unformed thought will go flying over the even squares of my brain.  Follow it.  Do not worry about the destination, the end of the story, the end of the sentence.  Follow it.  It is going somewhere fun.

My journalist friend was right.

And... terrific news!  Sharon Kay Penman just wrote to me and wants to do an interview before Exit the Actress comes out in February.  I am over the moon!

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Richard Pevear and Larisa Volokhonsky.  Their translations of War and Peace and Anna Karenina are sumptuous, fluid and lyric.  The heavy prose is wrought light and clear and the emotional currents of the language sail under an unfaltering breeze.  Their translations are magnificent.

I bought it.  I have been circling it somewhat wolfishly and today, feeling warm and Christmassy after lunch and a long walk with old friends, I bought it.  You can only read Dr. Zhivago at Christmas.  Not in the sun, nor on a beach, nor on the run, nor with a peach.  It must be cold, dark, wintry and snug.  Yuri and Lara go with gingerbread and woolly socks.

I have read this book at least seven or eight times and I never learn.  I will hope he is telling the truth.  I will hope he finds her.  I will hope she finds him.  I love this story.

Nell news: the second printing numbers are up and the total in print is now above 33,000...

Writing news: closing in on a title...

Saturday, December 4, 2010


May.  Thanks to wonderful Mari (who has the wonderful blog Bookworm with a View),  The Manic Mommies Book Club is going to read Exit the Actress in May.  They are a marvellous reading group.  The conversations with the authors are generous but incisive leaving a wide, clean arena for discussion.  The readers are engaged and vibrant and the other books that have been chosen look fantastic.  Nell and I are delighted and are going ice skating to celebrate...