Former Harvard lawyer Angela Claire, author of Tempting the CEO, discusses how golden handcuffs and unbreakable glass ceilings led to Boardroom daydreaming and a career in romance.
When people ask me how I got into romance writing, I say “golden handcuffs and glass ceilings.” And I’m not talking about BDSM for rich folks or mirrors above the bed. No, I’m talking corporate. Golden handcuffs are where they’ll pay you a ridiculous amount of money if they fire you, in order to incentivize you to stay. You never want to quit because you “lose” your illusory severance. The glass ceiling is when you’ve gone as far as you can in a company because of invisible barriers. The two combined can keep you in a job that’s both boring and stressful for years on end.
In my case, they led to romance.
I never wanted to be a lawyer. Not really. From a very early age, all I ever really wanted to do was to be taken by a handsome—and I mean, like, super handsome—pirate and whisked away to his cabin to be seduced. I studied hard in high school and college and kept my true aspirations under wraps…because after all, there wasn’t much of a future in being the love mate of a pirate on the high seas. But I made somebody a small fortune reading about those types of adventures if I couldn’t live them.
By the time I graduated from Harvard Law School, my romance-reading tendencies took a backseat to the sheer amount of legal minutia I had to master in my new profession. I headed off to Wall Street to get a return on my educational investment (i.e., pay back my student loans) and then later out into corporate America.
Over the years, I sat through endless meetings—golden handcuffs firmly in place and that glass ceiling not even tested by me anymore—until finally something funny happened. The part of my brain I needed to stay on my feet legal-wise got smaller and smaller as corporate law became second nature to me and the part of my brain that wasn’t otherwise occupied…well…it sought out that pirate ship again. I’d find myself in a boardroom listening to a fascinating presentation on the metrics of inventory turnover and I’d be drifting off to a tropical island. Tall, dark and handsome definitely involved.
The pirate ship gave way to a more familiar venue, the corporate setting, and instead of the gray haired men all around me, I’d imagine hot alpha CEOs. Instead of me, a forty-something—well, never mind how old I am—I’d imagine a young feisty heroine, smart, gorgeous, fit for a pirate ship but savvy enough to command a company if she chose, no glass ceiling in sight. I’d plot out snappy dialogue and intense emotions. And yes, blush, blush, passion…although I usually waited until I got home for that part of the daydream.
I took to writing my stories down and eventually got brave enough to submit them for publication. I was still undercover at my day job, giving no clue that I was anything other than your average corporate lawyer. But by this time, I wanted to be something else, something very different. No, not a pirate captain’s wench (though that would have been nice), but a romance writer.
It took a few years of my dual identity to work up my courage, and those long boring meetings helped a lot, but one day I managed to break out of the golden handcuffs and turn my back on the glass ceiling forever. Now I daydream and write at home, not sorry I lost my illusory severance. I’ve never been happier.