(Image: Melanie Blake/PR)

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She’s been in the headlines since her scandalous novel, Ruthless Women, became the hottest book of the year – and author Melanie Blake admits she’s loving all the guessing games the public have been playing over who might have inspired the sex-mad, vengeful characters who’ve been keeping the nation turning its pages late into the night.

“You should see some of my messages,” she laughs, “Put it this way, the knives are out!”

Her novel focuses on a cast of deliciously devilish, highly sexed characters, all fighting to survive the reboot of Falcon Bay, a fictional soap opera – once the biggest in the world but now in peril of cancellation due to falling ratings. With ageing actresses desperate to cling on to their crowns and ruthless male executives intent on booting them out for younger women, it’s a true battle of the sexes. Throw into the mix a savvy agent desperately trying to keep her warring clients under control, and it’s clear why celebrity agent Melanie’s so familiar with her subject.

Agent-turned-author Melanie Blake says she's loving the fan theories about the characters in her new book – who are all based on famous people she knows

“It is technically fiction, but I have truly experienced every single scene in that book first hand. I’ve lived and breathed it all,” she tells us.

“Tragedy, bankruptcy, attempted suicides, criminal dealings – as an agent you see all that drama all the time. What goes on off-screen in real life is way juicer than anything that is ever aired, and that’s what I used to inspire the novel’s plot. They say write about what you know, so I did.”

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And Melanie certainly knows, having represented actresses like Stephanie Beacham, Gillian Taylforth, Patsy Kensit, Claire King and Beverley Callard during her career.

“Listen, soap stars are highly sexed – they’re super women! Some of them loved the book and they’re not afraid to say so.”

So who are the celebs filling Melanie’s inbox with angry messages?

Melanie says soap stars are highly sexed – and superwomen

“Oh I can’t name names, but I’m not going to deny I based some of the more vile characters on women I didn’t enjoy my time looking after. They are the ones now blowing up my inbox with rage, but I just laugh. Let’s call it karma!”

It’s no surprise Melanie has caused such a stir. She’s the most talked about new writer in decades and has been dubbed Jackie Collins for a new generation. And after meeting her and reading the book, it’s obvious why. She’s as powerful herself as any of the characters her star clients have played on screen.

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Her bestselling book has now sold 100,000 copies in the UK and been translated into five languages globally. But, just like the plot of a novel, Melanie has made it to the top the hard way. She started as an extra in EastEnders before climbing the showbiz ladder in six-inch heels to become one of the most powerful women in the industry.

But writing has always been her dream and finally, at the age of 44, she’s enjoying a second career in the spotlight. Fresh from the success of her best-selling debut novel Thunder Girls, Melanie wrote Ruthless Women during the first lockdown – an unexpected upside to the pandemic. And its titillating tale helped get a bored nation back into the bedroom!

Melanie loved penning her book in lockdown
(Image: melanie blake)

“It’s been labelled ‘everything Fifty Shades should have been’. Isn’t that fabulous?!” she laughs when we catch up. “The reason for that is because Fifty Shades is told from a man’s perspective, despite being written by a woman. In my book, no female is taken advantage of sexually by a man. If some bloke tried tying up one of my female characters, they’d be more likely to tie him up – then laugh! All the ladies are in control of their own sex lives – and that is very much my experience.”

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And no one can deny that experience is the driving force behind Melanie’s work. “Twenty years’ worth! Remember, soap stars are basically locked in factories all year round, they work God-knows-what hours, then four times a year they get to go to an award ceremony and it all goes on! Men do it and are labelled a stud, yet we all know what they call a woman who is sexually confident… It’s sexism. They deserve a bit of fun, it’s the upside of the backstabbing dog-eat-dog world of television.

“Soap actresses work harder than any other actor, they churn out more scenes in one week than an Oscar winner could do in their entire life – and look good doing it. Plus they lose all anonymity. These women are in our living rooms six nights a week, so the public feel they own them. I was talking to Gillian Taylforth the other day and she said the best thing about the pandemic was that she can go shopping in Tesco without being recognised, thanks to the face mask. It’s the first time in her entire life she’s been able to do that!”

Melanie's seen enough of the dark side of fame to know she doesn't want to chase it
(Image: Melanie Blake)

Her book Ruthless Women is out now

So how does it feel for Melanie now that she’s the one starring on the cover of magazines?

“It feels surreal! But I don’t care about fame. I’ve seen enough of its dark side to not want to chase it myself. But I understand it’s all part of the deal. I just wanted people to love reading Ruthless Women as much as I enjoyed writing it, so to see it be so successful has been wonderful. I put my heart and soul into it and I think that shows. If I’m remembered for nothing else, I’d be happy if they put ‘Here lies the author of Ruthless Women’ on my headstone!”

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And as for Melanie’s strong, glamorous image – is she always dressed to perfection?

“God no, away from work you’ll find me in jeans with my hair in a ponytail watching telly on the sofa next to my dog, scoffing a takeaway,” she admits. “But I’ve been around long enough to know that to stand out you have to have a strong image. I bet Jackie Collins was the same – it’s all part of the package. It’s a gender thing. No one cares what men who write books look like but with women, especially to sell overseas, you have to have an image. And I can certainly provide that!”

We can’t disagree with that!