Zane (not her real name) is the best-selling author of a plethora of African American erotica, including “Dear G-Spot,” “Afterburn,” “Gettin’ Buck Wild,” “The Heat Seekers,” “Addicted” and “The Sex Chronicles,” to name a few.
This iconoclastic phenom has also edited or contributed to such other titles as “Love is Never Painless,” “Caramel Flava,” “Chocolate Flava,” “Best Black Women’s Erotica,” “Brown Sugar 2,” “Twilight Moods,” “Dark Dreams” and “Becoming Myself.”
Besides writing, Zane is the publisher of Strebor Books International for which she is responsible for acquiring dozens of titles per year and now has nearly 50 authors signed to her imprint.
She serves as the moderator of PlanetZane.net, where thousands of her fans who call themselves “Zaniacs” converge on a daily basis to discuss her work, as well as love and relationships. Zane has more than 35,000 MySpace friends and nearly 400,000 friends at BlackPlanet.com.
Here, she talks about “Zane’s Sex Chronicles,” the daring Cinemax television series loosely based on her own real life sexploits, which premiered on Cinemax in October of 2008 and whose first season was recently released on DVD.
Congratulations on the release of the first season of “Zane’s Sex Chronicles” on DVD. Did you like the way the book was adapted to the screen?
I was very, very happy with it. From the beginning, my goal was to have the highest-rated show in Cinemax history. We laugh about that now because it was kind of bold when I said it, but we actually achieved it. So, I couldn’t be more pleased.
What was the source of our inspiration for this steamy series?
I had led a double-life for more than five years. So, it’s really about me and how I led a double-life that my friends and family knew nothing about. In fact, my parents didn’t have a clue that I was Zane.
With your father being a minister and your mother being a schoolmarm, how did they react to learning the truth that you were the best-selling author of all this popular, graphic erotica?
Their reaction was nothing like I expected. More than anything else, they were interested in understanding why I felt like I couldn’t talk to them about it. They really had raised us to self-explore and to do anything we wanted to do, so they were very open about it. My father understood how he had raised me and, in his opinion, sex is a very natural part of life, and how everybody got here. And he definitely understands the basic purpose behind what I do. It’s not just writing about sex.
Do you take credit for creating this whole movement of black erotica?
There was already an underground movement of black erotica. And I didn’t start out to write erotica. This wasn’t anything that was planned. I just started writing short stories for self-entertainment when I was living in this little hick town in North Carolina. One night, one of my friends handed me a story to read that was being circulated around at the factory where she worked. It turned out to be one of mine. That was when I realized I was kinda on to something.
Why did you start out self-publishing?
Several publishers offered me book deals, but all of them wanted me to change my writing style. In fact, I never even intended to put out a book. By the time I published “The Sex Chronicles” in May of 2000, I couldn’t even print them fast enough. The same thing happened with “Addicted” in August of 2000, which is when The New York Times called it the hottest paperback in the country. After that, Simon and Schuster came back and agreed to sign me as is.
How would you describe your books? As erotica? As romance? Are they aimed at a specific audience?
A common misconception is that my books are about sex. I think my books are really about life. The sex is literally the last thing I write when composing a book. I write the rest of it first, and then go back and fill in the sex scenes. Even with the TV series, I believe my readers appreciate and really get into the character development. So, my stories are really about life and different issues people are dealing with. And they aren’t aimed at a specific audience.
You’re a single woman, I suppose that when you’re dating a guy who knows you’re Zane, he must feel a certain amount of performance anxiety.
Frankly, yes. [Laughs]
What are your goals when you write a new story? Characters? Morals? Or making the story sexier?
The first two are my priority. The sex scenes are very easy. To me, sexuality is just a part of normal everyday life. I concentrate much more on the morals and character development than anything else. Getting my message across is what really matters to me. I get letters from women who express that they realize that there are good men who exist, and that they don’t have to just settle, and that maybe they should expand their options and what they define as a good man.
Where do you want to go next as an entrepreneur?
My goal for this year is to delve deeper into movies and television. In addition to that, I’ll be starting a Zane-branded music label, because music has always been an important part of my life, and I like to do things I’m passionate about. Music in many ways defines who I am today. Prince is almost single-handedly responsible for my being sexually uninhibited. And I write to music. So, music, in many ways, has defined me.
Is there always a price of pain to pay for love?
I think there is. Love does require a degree of sacrifice on the part of both people.
Who or what do you credit for your success?
Wow! Well, other than God who obviously is the source of my talents and blessings, I would say my parents.
Does your writing about the black body and black sexuality carry any political implications?
I don’t feel that my writing is really political. I believe that women are still very much undervalued by today’s society. My whole point overall is to empower women of all races to understand that we only get one shot at life, and that we are entitled to be just as satisfied as men are. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice our happiness because we think we’re less worthy. I believe that a woman should feel empowered to make her own choices when it comes to her sexuality.
Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
Nobody’s ever asked me if I have any regrets.
Do you have any regrets?
Yes, I do have many, many regrets. But at the same time, I do understand that everything I’ve done was for a reason, and I’ve accepted and learned from my mistakes. And as I’ve matured, I’ve learned how to have fewer and fewer regrets by simply doing what I want to do regardless of the consequences. For instance, if I have feelings for someone, I will tell them. So, at least I’ll know that I expressed them.
When was the last time you had a good laugh?
What was the last book you read?
“Daddy by Default” which is a book that I’m about to publish. The last published book I read was “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell.
What are you listening to on your iPod?
One of my favorite songs right now is “Sex Therapy” by Robin Thicke. I also like “It’s the God in Me” by Mary Mary, but Prince is still my all-time favorite. I listen to him all the time.
What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
The minds of repressed people who prejudge me without knowing anything about me. Most of my harshest critics are people who have never read any of my work.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
Someone who just enjoys life, and knows that every day is a gift. Someone who tries to be the best mother that she can be, because that’s my biggest job in life. I believe that the best judge of my character, and the only thing that matters to me, is what my children say about me to their friends when I’m not around.
How old are your children, and do they know that you’re Zane?
Yes, they do. They’re 6, 15 and 22. But nobody at my daughter’s high school knows that I’m Zane. And until recently, when I did The Mo’Nique Show, nobody at my daughter’s school knew. But a secretary recognized me.
What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?
What is your favorite dish to cook?
How do you get through the tough times?
Prayer. I also cry, and I do what I call an emotional clearinghouse. I’ll take however much time I need to pray, to cry and to let go. To accept the things I can’t change, and to release the people out off my life who aren’t good for me.
What is your earliest childhood memory?
When I was three years old, my uncle brought over a puppy Labrador retriever to give to me as a pet. I was terrified of it at first. But my brother made me pet it on the porch for hours, until I wasn’t scared anymore. And I ended up having that dog for 16 years.
Who was your best friend as a child?
Pam, Cornelia and Don were my best friends in high school, and I’m still close to all of them.
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
To find their own voice, and not to try to emulate anyone else. To do it for the right reasons. I write because it’s a cleansing and an entertaining experience for me. Too many people get caught up in how much money they can make, ignoring the fact that the readers don’t care about that.
How can your fans help you?
By living and appreciating life to the fullest. So, what people can do for me is to really be themselves.
How do you want to be remembered?
As someone who made her own path in life, and left her own trail.