07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My True Confession

by Madelle Morgan

What do you do when you’re a closet romance writer in a male-dominated profession and your first romance is published?

Back then I, a senior professional engineer and manager, had not informed my own employees, boss, colleagues nor industry clients that I wrote romance (and never intended to).

THEN  (drum roll…)

Soon after the print version became available, an amazing opportunity arose to sell copies of my debut romantic suspense Diamond Lust at my workplace annual charity fund-raising event. The offer included posters of my book cover plastered beside elevators throughout the 2,000 employee complex. Dozens of those employees were geologists, mining industry scientists and technologists — the ideal target audience for a novel about diamond mining in Canada’s far north.

BUT  (cue sad violin music…)

A manager needs respect, right? I’d acquired hard won credentials to counteract male chauvinism that had dogged me throughout my career. I’d been called Blondie, hit on in my younger, thinner days, and in two different jobs was assigned to a two man survey crew as a superfluous third until I proved myself, when I had exactly the same expertise as my male classmates. 

Madelle at 22

One summer I assisted two civil engineering professors with surveying and water samples in a remote area. 

One of them said to me, “I wouldn’t allow my daughter to do this work.” What did he expect the women in his classes to do with their degrees – sit at home and build bridges with Lego?

In 1987 I was the first woman in Canada to graduate from a civil engineering Master’s degree program in Construction Project Management. While searching for a new job, with five years of project experience and a construction boom underway, I was repeatedly fed the line, “We’re not hiring at this time.” At a very brief job interview a condo construction company executive asked, “What will you do with your child?” Apparently he’d never heard of daycare. I didn’t get the job.

Needless to say, for decades I only exhibited my logical, analytical left brain self at work in order to claw my way up the pay scale in line with male counterparts. I hid my creative ultra-feminine writer alter ego from co-workers. Meanwhile, naturally I incorporated occupational knowledge into my novels, as do other professionals such as MDs, forensic pathologists and lawyers who write commercial fiction.

Then my professional career and the opportunity to promote my romantic suspense novel at work collided. (Cue crashing cymbals...)

Dare I make my True Confession?

The excellent opportunity for Diamond Lust publicity was too good to miss.

(Ta da da DAH!) The Big Reveal of my romance writer persona to those in my professional life. I sold quite a few print copies at that charity book sale, including to men with whom I worked.

In the dark hours of second-guessing my decision — OMG, have the guys read the massage scene? What was I thinking? — I realized that the respect of those who “didn’t approve”, and indeed there were several, didn’t matter to me anymore. Besides, how many books had they published, eh?

At that point my two personas finally merged! I’m a romance author AND an engineer. To validate that, fans subsequently downloaded more than 100,000 copies of my free short story The Next Big Thing, which describes an engineer’s very sexy invention.

Do you think making my True Confession years earlier, instead of when early retirement was on the horizon, would have risked my professional credibility? What would you have done and why?

Postscript: Diamond Lust is only $1.49 in the Kindle and Nook Book stores, and $0.99 at Ellora’s Cave.


Maureen Fisher said...

Great blog entry, Madeline. I can't speak for your profession, but I, too, was in a fairly male-dominated one (I.T.). By the time I came out of the romance-writer closet, I discovered most people, men and women, were impressed and interested in what I was doing. Lots of people at work bought my first book. Then again, I had earned my professional stripes and wasn't interested in climbing a corporate ladder. I'm not sure what I would have done in my younger years. Then again, that's why many romance writers have pen names.

Judith Ashley said...

In my younger years,even reading romance novels was 'tainted'. Now many more people admit they buy and read romance so being out in the open as a a romance writer is easier regardless of one's profession.

I think all women are challenged when they work in male dominated professions (I worked in law enforcement in the 1960's in the county jail because women were not in patrol cars). I wasn't writing then but it would have been Very Difficult to have the male officers and inmates know I wrote romance.

We've made a lot of progress in male dominated professions but still have a long way to go. Thankfully, my granddaughters do not have to endure some of the conditions in which I worked.

Madelle Morgan said...

Maureen and Judith, I agree things have changed in the western world, but in some countries my story is still not unusual. I remember a female engineer with an androgynous name who arrived in Saudi Arabia for a job only to be immediately sent home. She went on to have a stellar career - in North America.

Judith Ashley said...

So true, Madelle...even though we've made progress, there are countries where it isn't a problem because women can't get the education.

BTW: Whatever happened when they read the massage scene? Inquiring minds and all that...

Madelle Morgan said...

You know people - I expect the guys who bought my book skipped to the "good parts" just like women. I assumed they did. No guy DARED comment to my face. Maybe those scenes gave them some ideas for when they got home. ;)

Judith Ashley said...

Laughed outloud, Madelle - there may be a group of women who sing your praises every day/night.

Sarah Raplee said...

I would have done what you did, Madelle and for the same reasons. I know it must be a relief not to hide that side of you any more.

Great post!