Best-selling author and celebrity agent told by a teacher she would only write labels in a factory credits Emmerdale and northern women as key to her success as self-made millionnaire
In school Melanie Blake dreamed of being a writer but was told by a teacher the only thing she'd ever write was labels on boxes in a factory.
She endured a turbulent childhood, lived on foodbank handouts, left school dyslexic and with no qualifications.
This week she is set to get the keys on a house she dreamed of owning as a young woman in a fancy part of London - and paid cash for it, well she is now a self-made millionaire.
In between she has worked as an extra on Emmerdale and Coronation Street, blagged herself a job as the agent of a soap star, partied in Leeds with television’s favourite actresses and became a Sunday Times best-selling author.
Her new novel, Ruthless Women has been in the publication’s best sellers list for weeks and is publishing house Head of Zeus’ lead book release for 2021. It is being translated into languages from Russian to Hungarian.
With another book in the making, tours and personal appearances are set to see Blake, originally from Stockport, jetting around the world where possible.
But she credits Yorkshire and northern women with being crucial to her success, which was kickstarted when, as a 17-year-old extra on Emmerdale, she told that year’s British Soap Awards winner that she wasn’t marketing herself effectively.
Speaking exclusively to the Yorkshire Evening Post, she said: “Claire King (portraying Kim Tate in Emmerdale) was the very first person that hired me.
“Without her, I would not be here doing this today. I was a supporting extra up north doing Emmerdale and Coronation Street. I was working lots of different jobs in all sorts of places including handing out flyers at Leeds City Varieties, York Dungeon, Bolton Abbey and the Bronte Museum. I was in Leeds and Yorkshire for two years and used to live on Whitehall Road, opposite the Yorkshire Evening Post offices. I used that opportunity when I was there to speak to actresses that I was a fan of and tell them what I would do if I was them.
“It was ballsy - a teenage extra talking to a 40 year-old woman. Claire King was friends with the extras, as were Gaynor Faye (Judy Mallett in Coronation Street in the 1990s and Megan Macey in Emmerdale from 2012 until last year) and Beverley Callard (the actress from Morley who played Liz McDonald in Coronation Street). Lots of actresses won’t even speak to the extras.”
King was also up for a soap award and Blake remarked that if she won, she would get on the front covers of magazines but King said she was too old at 40. She won and Blake said no-one had tried to get her on the cover of a magazine - to which King is reported to have said ‘if you think you can do it, have a go’.
Blake said: “It was too good an opportunity to miss. I was living in a £15-per-night B&B and bought the TV magazines from the corner shop, called every agent and said I was Claire King’s publicity, made up a name and blagged it. By the end of it I had three covers and she said I was hired.”
Within a month Faye, Callard and Sherrie Hewson had hired her and King taught her how to do a VAT return over lunch. Over her career as a celebrity agent, she has also represented the likes of Patsy Kensit, Michelle Collins, Stephanie Beacham, Emily Lloyd, Denise Welch, Jennie McAlpine, Laila Morse, Daniella Westbrook, Amanda Barrie, Gillian Taylforth and Nadia Sawalha, earning herself the tag ‘Queen of Soaps’.
Blake is a regular columnist for several national newspapers and two years ago her first novel The Thunder Girls was released in paperback and also proved to be a best seller. She had actually written it years previously and had Leeds writer Kay Mellor give it the once-over who told her “not to give up”.
The Thunder Girls was meant to be her only novel but, as lockdown restrictions stopped the nation in its tracks last March, and with Blake confined to the capital, she set to writing Ruthless Women drawing on all of her experiences on soap sets and in the showbiz world as her inspiration.
She rounds off the acknowledgements page with a note to her then-English teacher who had said that the short stories she was writing “didn’t make sense” because they were about powerful women.
As a child, Blake would read Jackie Collins novels as a form of escapism and she recalls wanting to be like the career driven women.
She said: “I was someone that should not have made it. I left school with no qualifications, there was no way into show business. I wanted to write and got told I couldn’t. It was a tough life, I was very unhappy. In those days Manchester was not a media city and all roads led to London at that time but it was here in Yorkshire that my fortune was made.
“I used to buy the YEP and read it when I was living here and filming in Esholt, it is so well respected. I have great memories of going out with Adele Silva and partying in Leeds, we would stay out all night. It was three Yorkshire roses that gave me the power - Claire, Gaynor and Beverley. I have been supported massively by northern women.”
Ruthless Women takes readers on a wild ride behind the scenes of beloved TV drama Falcon Bay, beamed globally to millions three days a week from its picturesque location in the Channel Islands.
In this coastal setting, tensions are high and the racy novel has since been dubbed as perfect for fans of Killing Eve and The Devil Wears Prada.
Falcon Bay was once one of the world’s most popular soap operas, but now with ratings and syndication at an all-time low, the production has been sold to an American businesswoman, beautiful and malevolent Madeline Kane, the new network owner who arrives on the tiny island just off Jersey, determined to do whatever it takes to get the show back to number one.
Writer Farrah, star Catherine and producer Amanda are the driven, ambitious women who keep the show on the road. But Farrah is losing episodes to the network’s lead male rival, Catherine is terrified of the public falling out of love with her and Amanda’s evil husband Jake, who is also the vice president of the network, is plotting to get his own wife kicked off of the show.
The cast and crew turn against each other with loyalty, decency, and trust, replaced by scandal, betrayal, and an outrageous ambition to survive.
Blake is currently working on Ruthless Men which picks up where her Ruthless Women novel left off from.
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