Traditional Publishing

A new start after 60: after a decade of rejections, I got my first novel published. Now I’ve got my dream, I won’t stop! – Tuesday April 30, 2024

After a successful career as a talent agent – representing Michael Parkinson, Ulrika Jonsson and Adam Ant – Melanie Cantor became disillusioned with TV. So she took up writing – and refused to give up on her passion.

At 61, after a decade writing four unpublished manuscripts and receiving hundreds of rejections from agents and publishers, Melanie Cantor got an email in 2019 from the literary agent Felicity Blunt. “It started off positively and I was just waiting for the ‘but’ to arrive, but it never did,” Cantor says. “She said she wanted to represent me.”

In 2020, Dorset-based Cantor’s debut novel Life and Other Happy Endings, about a woman with three months to live who spends her remaining time writing letters to those who have wronged her, came out. Its publication was the culmination of a lifelong fascination with writing.

“My father was an artist and even though I couldn’t draw for toffee, words were my creativity,” she says. “I used to write stories and poetry. When I was given a guitar at 15, I even wrote songs. I never thought being a writer was possible, though, since the only option if you were good at English in the 60s was to become a teacher.”

Rather than work in education, Cantor became a secretary for the theatre publicist Peter Thompson and developed her own roster of clients. In the 90s, she made the switch to talent management, founding her own agency that represented everyone from Michael Parkinson to Ulrika Jonsson and Adam Ant. Yet by 2008, she was becoming disillusioned and decided to take a new direction.

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