Critic, feature writer, novelist, and patron of Humanists UK
Stephanie Merritt was born in 1974 in Surrey. She read English at Queens’ College, and graduated from Cambridge University in 1996.
Stephanie started reviewing books professionally while reading English at Queens’ College, Cambridge. After graduating, she became Deputy Literary Editor of The Observer in 1998, where she also wrote features across most sections of the paper. In 2005 she became a full-time writer, writing for The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, the New Statesman, Red, Grazia, Marie Claire, New Humanist and the TLS, as well as continuing to contribute regularly to The Observer.
Merritt’s first novel Gaveston won a Betty Trask Award from the Society of Authors in 2002. Her second novel was Real, about a struggling young playwright, for which she was also commissioned to write the screenplay. In 2010, Heresy was published, her first novel in the series of historical fiction thrillers featuring Giordano Bruno, under the pseudonym S. J. Parris. It was followed by Prophecy (2011) Sacrilege (2012), Treachery (2014), Conspiracy (2016), and Execution (2020). She has also written a memoir, The Devil Within, published in 2008 and shortlisted for the Mind Book Award, which discusses her experiences living with depression.
Merritt is also a regular speaker and chair at literary events, including the Hay Festival, Edinburgh Book Festival, the National Theatre, Foyles, the British Library, Guardian Live and the Southbank Centre. From 2007-8 she curated and produced the Talks and Debates programme at Soho Theatre. She has been a judge for the Perrier Comedy Award, the Orange New Writing Prize and the Costa Book Awards. She is a frequent contributor to Radio 4’s Front Row and Saturday Review and occasionally pops up on TV, usually talking about books.
She appeared on the Humanists UK podcast What I Believe in 2020.