The Interview: Melanie Blake
Author and celebrity agent to the stars Melanie Blake tells us about her sensational new book, how she made it to the top of her industry, and her life in south west London…
There’s a new novel causing quite a storm. Just days after being published, Ruthless Women, which charts the eye-popping antics of the cast and crew of a TV drama, flew into the Sunday Times bestseller list at number four. And it is winning great accolades from readers and critics alike, having been described as doing for the entertainment industry what The Devil Wears Prada did for fashion, exposing the dark underbelly behind the glitzy facade.
Of course, it is fictional. But Melanie, who has risen from TV extra to the top of her game as a celebrity agent, has drawn on her experiences to create the book. There’s plenty of speculation as to how much is based on actual people and events but mostly, readers are loving this glorious slice of lockdown escapism.
Say Melanie: “The reviews have been overwhelming, the critics have praised it across the board but it’s the readers I really care about so to see them raving about the book and all the five star reviews is the real reward for me.
“I loved writing this book and so hoped the public would take it to their heart, but you just never know if you are going to have a hit or a miss – so the fact it’s such a mainstream success is the cherry on top of all the positivity.”
While the book is a steamy and scandalous romp, it also has a more serious aim – namely to see more powerful older women in fiction. Explains Melanie: “I’d like the book to change the way women are written about. Ruthless Women is mainly led by women over 50, and the leading character is 70, which is unheard of in fiction. They all defy their ages to have lives rich in drama, sex and scandal and in my experience the older woman is usually the most interesting as they’ve lived full lives.”
Melanie wrote her first book The Thunder Girls when she was 19 but it was only published a few years ago when Melanie was in her 40s. The hit book, which Melanie has turned into a play, also features women in their 50s, and the feedback from publishers initially was that she needed to make her characters younger. But she stood her ground, and proved them wrong.
“Having a bestseller about older female characters will help publishers realise that there is a market for that so my hope is that I’ve opened some more doors for other women who want to write strong female-led stories too.”
Melanie’s own life reads like a novel. Coming from an underprivileged background, at 15, she was told by her high school career advisors that her decision to do work experience at a local record shop was an ‘embarrassment to the school and a clear example that she wouldn’t go far in life or her career’.
That only made her more determined to succeed. With sheer grit, she worked her way up. By 21, she was working on the BBC’s Top of the Pops show and by 27, she was one of the UK’s leading music and entertainment managers. She went on to build her own acting agency, managing clients in leading soaps such as EastEnders and Coronation Street – and Dallas and Dynasty back in the 80s. Names she has represented include Patsy Kensit, Stephanie Beacham and Danniella Westbrook.
Today, she works with a smaller number of clients so she can focus on her other passions too, working as an author, producer and a playwright. When the pandemic is over, The Thunder Girls – which sold out on its first night – will be touring again. Melanie is also penning a new novel – Ruthless Men.
Far from her humble background, Melanie is now a self-made multi-millionaire and a property entrepreneur. She lives in a beautiful home off Fulham Road. She tells us: “It’s a house from the 1800s but I’ve stripped it all back to floorboards and white walls – which is always the look I go for with all my homes, I don’t like to go for bright colours, I let my art work and objet d’art lift the rooms for me.”
As to her rise to the top, what does she think is the secret to success?
“Only work in areas you are passionate about – that way it never feels like work.
“Never look to anyone else to approve what your gut instinct tells you is right and, finally, spoil yourself – successful businesswomen often have to sacrifice a lot to achieve what we do – men have a lot less to juggle to make it to the top – we are expected to keep homes, raise children, maintain a marriage and have a successful career – it’s a lot – so I am all for indulging when you feel the need – whenever I pull off a big new deal I always buy myself some jewellery as a reward.”
She adds that determination is crucial: “I don’t give in, I don’t listen to negatives, I only believe in glass half full and I buy the milk myself!”
- The Sunday Times Bestseller Ruthless Women by Melanie Blake is out now. Published by Head of Zeus in eBook and Hardback, £12.99 available from all good bookstores.
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