Books & Literature

Interview: Authors Tina Morganella and Maria Jimenez on Wear a Mask, Cupid!


In 2020, Tina Morganella and Dr Maria Isabel Jimenez put together a collection of stories chronicling the struggles of dating in the Covid era. We caught up with them to hear all about it.

Tina Morganella and Dr Maria Isabel Jimenez are two forces of nature. Long-time friends, they decided last year to put together a book on the difficulties of dating during a pandemic. Wear a Mask, Cupid! was the result. 

Glam recently caught up with them for a chat. 

Maria and Tina first met via email.  

TM: I used to work at UniSA and Maria was taking a PhD there. 

MIJ: I was doing some lecturing as well, and I used to send Tina the students’ exams to edit them. I was still in uniform in defence at the time. I thought this lady sounds so nice. Her emails were ever-so polite! Then one day I met her when I went to her office, and it went from there. 

Their collaboration on this book grew out of the friendship, rather than vice versa. 

TM: We were just sitting around, and I mentioned that I really wanted to undertake a creative project. My contract had finished, and I just love working towards a goal. But I didn’t want to do it by myself, so I pitched her this idea. We knew we’d have complementary skills. I’m the creative side and Maria’s the logistics side. It’s the first time we’ve really worked on a project together, after eight years of knowing each other. And it went so well we’re already working on our next project! 

They put a call out on Facebook for dating stories and were (predictably) inundated. Although spoiled for choice, the important editing task was to find a broad cross-section. 

TM: We definitely wanted to represent many different perspectives: different sexualities, age groups, genders, cultures. We looked high and low for someone with an Indigenous voice but we couldn’t find one. We just felt that it didn’t matter as much about the story; it was more about the voice. 

Although they did receive some interstate and even overseas contacts, most of the material came from local daters. 

TM: We do actually know some of the contributors personally. And it’s interesting when you’re talking to people about the book thinking, “I know the whole back-story!” And this is Adelaide so I’ve already met someone who met someone who told a friend, “I think I’m one of the people that’s being written about.”

MIJ: Well the serial-dater story … I was one of them!

Strictly in the name of research, Tina also put her profile on a couple of dating sites. 

TM: I took one for the team. 

MIJ: I was so proud of her. I was like, “You go, girl!”

TM: I actually put on my profile that I’m not here to date, I’m doing this project and I want to hear some stories. So men contacted me. Of course, they completely ignored that part! But I did speak to a lot of interesting people and ended up going on one or two dates, so that was an added bonus!

MIJ: I [date] on and off. And at the moment I’m off. So Tina keeps me honest. I remember one time when we were going through the guys [stories] and Tina said, “Maria I’m going to take this off you, because it’s like giving an alcoholic a drink.” 

TM: Yes, I remember saying, “I’ll drink that!” Mind you, after the project, I got myself right off [the dating sites].

Maria has a fascinating background, coming to Australia from San Sebastian, Spain, at the age of twelve, with no English. She is now a successful air-force officer. 

MIJ: I’m a logistics officer. At the moment I work with a unit that provides logistics support to the civil community like the bushfires in Kangaroo island. We also maintain the supply chains for our [planes], maintain all the army vehicles, and are working with Subcorp to establish their warehouses [and their] routine of production. I fell into the air-force when I was very young. And I fell into the academic thing as well. I got hired by UniSA through an ex-lieutenant-colonel and that’s how it all began: the next chapter.

Tina’s background is just as fascinating, but very different, beginning with studying creative writing at Adelaide Uni. 

TM: I wrote mostly short fiction, and some memoire and travel writing. I’ve been freelance editing for a couple of years now and doing some copywriting. I didn’t fall into it­­–I was dedicated to it!

Funnily enough, Maria is the logistics officer who falls into things: Tina is the creative writer who is super logistic. 

TM: I’m very goal-oriented, which is why I wanted to do this project. And I wanted to be accountable to someone. We actually set a publishing date, and then worked backwards. This was about capturing this moment [COVID] really quickly. 

Highly intelligent, well-educated women tend to have a rough time on the dating scene, as both these women know. 

MIJ: I get both sides of the coin. I can meet someone who’s very attracted [to me] but they want to compete. And I cannot have a relationship where I’m competing with my partner. Or I get the other level, where they don’t even know what a PhD is! So I’m either stuck with the guy who’s obnoxious or with the guy where I’m thinking, “Well, what are we going to talk about?” So there’s a huge gap with nothing in the middle. 

TM: I haven’t done a lot of dating, but I have had two men say recently, “You could be intimidating.” 

No prizes for guessing that they are both single, and happily so. 

Wear a Mask, Cupid! appeals to a broad range of readers. 

TM: We’ve got two audiences. We’ve got the group that has done the online dating and wants to see if people have had the same experience. The other group has never done online dating and are like, “Oooh, what happens?!”

Their next project will be very different, collating the stories of veterans with PTSD: subject matter clearly dear to Maria’s heart.  

Meanwhile, Wear a Mask, Cupid! is giving readers a chance to commiserate, recognise themselves in the stories, or just take voyeuristic pleasure in the antics of others. 

Interviewed by Tracey Korsten 

Purchase the Wear a Mask, Cupid! from Amazon, or from Tina’s website.

Read our review here.

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