I was very saddened to hear of the death of literary agent, Carole Blake. I met and had some correspondence with her in 2014 and she was incredibly helpful and encouraging about my writing.
I had submitted a synopsis and the opening chapters of my novel ‘Whereof One Cannot Speak’ to a competition for attendees at a Writers Conference in Nottingham. I was delighted – and a little intimidated – to win the prize of a consultation with Carole.
She opened by telling me that I “wrote beautifully” and when I replied rather sheepishly that she was very kind she retorted briskly “agents aren’t kind, agents are direct!” After that we got on famously and talked well beyond our allotted time about family secrets, favourite authors and other matters. At the end, Carole said she would like to read the whole of my book, even though she had promised her assistant that she would not pick up any extra work from the conference.
After a few weeks, I received a detailed critique from Carole, something well beyond the line of duty, and she also incorporated comments from two of her assistants who had also read the whole 100K words. I had known that my ‘experimental’ approach of building a fictional three-generation novel around a core of memoir might fall flat but was too close to the material to make a detached appraisal. The upshot was that Carole advised me to remove a section of direct memoir from the book and concentrate on the fictional element which she judged to be stronger.
I followed her advice and removed the memoir but was loathe to discard it totally. Instead I reworked it and wrote further chapters and it eventually became ‘The Naples of England’. This has received positive reviews from many people whose opinions I greatly respect and I was on the point of sending Carole a complimentary copy – as if she needed any more books! – when I heard of her untimely death.
She was a great encouragement to me when she had no need to be. I will return to ‘Whereof One Cannot Speak’ and reflect with gratitude on her encouraging (and direct!) remarks as I complete it.