This week, the publishing world lost one of its best and brightest… agent Carole Blake. Her sudden death was met in equal measure by shock and grief. A world without Carole was somehow unimaginable – even to those who imaginations light our lives every day through the pages of their books.
How we will miss her.
I first met Carole through the Romantic Novelists Association – of which she was a staunch supporter. When I joined as a terrified and awestruck unpublished writer, I heard about Carole Blake – the super-agent and co-founder of Blake-Friedmann. She was the agent every aspiring writer dreamed of having. She was spoken with in awe, and at times, with a touch of fear.
And then I met her. In a conference accommodation block kitchen, she sat around the table, discussing the best way to make a G&T – drinking wine, laughing and talking about books. Not for one second did I feel that I didn’t deserve to be there. As anyone who followed her on social media knows, she could be scathing of those who didn’t treat the industry with respect and professionalism – but for those who did, she had endless patience. And I was just one of those who benefitted from that patience.
Not long after, I moderated a panel, with Carole as one of the speakers. With an audience of mostly aspiring writers, she was the one to whom many of the questions were directed. My job was to make sure the other panellists were also heard, even if that meant turning the attention away from Carole. After the panel, she came up to me and told me it was one of the best moderated panels she had ever been on. I was immensely flattered, but that said more about Carole than about me. Although she was often in the limelight, it was not about her – it was always about books and authors and publishing.
At another event, she introduced me to Barbara Erskine, and seemed totally unaware that I was almost having a fan-girl meltdown at talking to one of my favourite authors. About knitting, I think.
Carole and I were alike in being – shall we say, neither tall nor slender. We discovered that we bought clothes from some of the same shops and designers. We both loved a statement necklace. Hers were the stuff of dreams. And I still remember the time we arrived at an event wearing the same shoes, although in different colours. We laughed at that.
Carole had such energy. Such a passion for life. It still seems impossible that she’s gone. The world is a poorer place without her, and I am grateful to have known her.
The day after hearing the sad news, I found myself in London, near a shop we had talked about many times. I went inside and spent a little too much on something pretty. I’m sure Carole would have approved.