Gerren Keith Gaynor interviews author Zane for Centric:
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that when it comes to erotica novels, author Zane is the genre’s reigning queen. Over the last 15 years, she’s published 30 books and has had her signature no-holds-barred literary sexcapades turned into the television series “Zane’s Sex Chronicles.”
And on Oct. 10, the author will be entering a new medium when her New York Times best-selling novel “Addicted” makes its film debut in theaters nationwide.
But even with her massive success, Zane admits she’s noticed the limitations of her career as a Black writer. With the explosive rise of America’s fascination with the novel “50 Shades of Grey”–which is making a film debut of its own–it’s hard not to see the way in which race plays a role in mainstream’s ever-whitewashed popular crowd.
“It’s interesting that I still have yet ’til this day never been on ‘Good Morning America,’” Zane tells CentricTV.com. “There’s no true justification for that other than the color of my skin, because my accomplishments are there.”
In an exclusive interview, Zane goes back in time to tell us how she became the dominating author she is today, her views on sexuality and the lack of respect for writers of color. She also tells readers what they can expect from her new novel “The Other Side of The Pillow” and, of course, the film everybody’s waiting for, Addicted, starring Sharon Leal, Boris Kodjoe, Tasha Smith and Tyson Beckford.
Take a look.
CENTRIC: So you’ve been writing professionally for over 15 years?
ZANE: My first book came out in May of 2000, but I started posting stories online in November of 1997. So it depends on which one you consider my start.
Where were your stories being posted online?
Originally on America Online until I got so many hits and they shut that down. Then I started posting on Black erotica boards–those disappeared as well. And then I think early 1999 I launched Erotica Noir, which is still my primary website. That is where I was posting until I put out my first book.
That’s interesting. You did this in a time before social media. Usually when writers are promoting they’re posting on Facebook and Twitter–almost like marketing. How did you get your writing out there?
It was all word of mouth. I didn’t do anything (laughs).
To date, how many novels have you written?
The one that just came out (“The Other Side of The Pillow”) is my 30th book, however, I do have other books written. I have written 34, but the 30th one just came out.
So I read that you first started writing erotica novels at night when your children went to bed. Where did the inspiration come from? Did you always have a sexually imaginative mind?
It’s so funny. I’ve never read erotica so that’s actually not what I considered myself to be doing. I was just bored and was just writing. I think where it comes in with me is that my stories have always been about other stuff…I’m just a very detailed writer, so when it came to the sex thing I didn’t tone anything down. There are some books that I’ve edited that are clearly erotica, but most of my novels you could literally just say “and they had sex” and it would still be a complete book. In other words, it’s just a part of life.
What would you say is your favorite or most profound novel that you’ve written and why?
It’s always what I’ve either just finished writing or what I’m currently working on, because that’s what I’m living and breathing at the time. All of my books have a very special meaning to me, but I’m always most emerged in whatever I’m currently working on. With that being said my favorite book would have to be “The Other Side of The Pillow” that just came out and “Vengeance,” that I’m currently working on.
Tell us a little about the plot of “The Other Side of The Pillow”…
“The Other Side of The Pillow” is about two people in the Washington, D.C. area. Jemistry is a successful high school principal but she, like a lot of women who had a lot of bad past experiences when it comes to relationships, is very bitter. And Tevin is a successful vascular surgeon who is divorced. He’s also been through a lot of different things, and when he sees her performing this poem called “Bitter” on spoken word night, unlike all the other men in the place who are like ‘oh goodness no I’m staying away from her,’ he sees something in her and decides to take a shot and try to knock down her walls. But ultimately the book is about how two mature individuals go about entering a relationship and not running at the first sign of drama, making adjustments, and the sacrifices it takes to make a relationship truly work in order to actually find happiness.
Your core audience seems to be women–particularly African-American women. Why do you think they’ve gravitated toward your novels over the years?
Because they can relate to my characters. I write about real issues women deal with. Generally when I’m writing a book I tend to write about what is trending in the world as far as what people are dealing with. Like when I wrote my book “Love Is Never Painless”–it was because I read an article in Woman’s Day many years ago that said that 8 million women in the United States alone were addicted to pain pills. I had a couple of friends who were in that same situation, so I decided to write a book about it where the main character’s wife was addicted to pain pills, and when she could no longer get them, she ended addicted to crack. For every book I had a reason behind it.
Undoubtedly the theme of your catalog is sex and sexuality. Lately, however, there’s been a lot of pushback against women being too sexualized. What is your stance on sexuality? Is there a limit?
I think that people should do whatever it is they want to do. No matter what Nicki Minaj and other people are doing–or even what I’m doing–the parent is the ultimate role model. I believe there’s nothing wrong with expressing your sexuality. As long as it’s not illegal or hurting anybody. The problem is that there are a lot of women who live their lives unhappy because of the fact that they’re trying to hide who they truly are. So I have to commend anybody who is not doing that and simply being themselves. But when people meet me they’re like ‘you look like a Sunday school teacher, a PTA president’ and you know what’s funny? I’ve been all of those things, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not uninhibited when it comes to my sexuality.
In many African-American households sex is never really discussed. Do you think the community fails to fully embrace sexuality?
I think there are a lot of religious connotations that come in play where people don’t want to discuss it. One thing I realized as a parent myself was, whether I like it or not, my children are going to grow up and have sexual desires. I would rather discuss it with them myself than have them learn it from someone else. And I would rather them feel like they can come talk to me about stuff, because I don’t want them to feel ashamed.
How did you initially feel about the success of “Fifty Shades of Grey”? Some critics of color criticized the world’s fascination with the novel, arguing that it had clearly been done before by you and that race had a lot to do with it. Did you feel the same way?
I actually have not read the book. I recently saw the preview for the movie at a theater and to be honest it reminded me of the movie 9 1/2 Weeks. I agree that a lot of the stuff has been done before. I don’t feel any kind of way about it. I think she had great marketing support, she had a lot of people she knew because of her background as a TV producer, and it paid off. It’s interesting that I still have yet ‘til this day never been on “Good Morning America.” There’s no true justification for that other than the color of my skin, because my accomplishments are there. I feel like everybody was talking about it so people felt an obligation to read it.
Erotica books written by Black authors are often dubbed “street literature.” Do you ever get offended by that title?
I think that Black authors as a whole are not given the same amount of attention that they deserve as other writers. Even with me traveling on this book tour, I’ve had all of these New York Times best-sellers and every airport store that I’ve been not only have they not had my book, they haven’t had any Black authors’ books. How can they not have my book with best-selling authors? I don’t get that. Half the people they have in those stores I’ve actually beat them on the New York Times list.
Because everything is digital these days and book sales are not what they used to be, do you ever worry about the future of printed literature?
I think there are always going to be those who like to read hard copy books. On this tour I’ve been selling a ton of books and we went through one case of books in like ten minutes the other day. As far as digital books, authors still do get paid from them. It’s just kind of sad to see bookstores close; it’s sad to to see libraries empty. I don’t know so much if it’s the digital books that are hurting the industry as it is not as many people reading, and having so many other options and things readily available [on the Internet]. I think we’re our own worst enemies. Everything is becoming more convenient but we’re also taking away jobs and businesses. But books will always be around; people will always want to read books, it’s just that we’re up against so much other competition.
You’ve had your novels turned into a television series, but never on the big screen, does it feel any different now that your novel “Addicted” will hit theaters in October?
I’m excited about the medium. Most writers would love to see their books turned into movies. I’m very proud of the movie [Addicted]. It’s very good. I’m excited to see the reactions to it. I just hope that people truly go out and support it. My fear is that if people don’t go out and support or go out and get the bootleg copy, Hollywood will shy away from turning other Black books into movies. I feel like I have a lot weight on my shoulders with this, to be honest. If it does well hopefully it will open up opportunities for other people. I think people are truly excited about it, but I just hope they actually support it. We’re doing everything we can to make that happen. We have AddictedGroupSales.com and we have goodies for people including a free sequel to this book if they purchase their ticket online. Lionsgate is doing everything they can. There’s so much promotion going behind it, so if everybody actually shows up to the movie theater who are excited about seeing it, then it’s going to be amazing.
Did you have say in the casting of the film?
We considered doing this before many years ago and Sharon Leal was one of the top contenders back then after we had auditions for close to 100 people. Bille Woodruff asked me if I thought Boris [Kodjoe] would be a good Jason and I said absolutely yes (laughs). Tasha Smith said a long time ago that she wanted to play Dr. Spencer. I’m very happy with the cast. Some of the conversations started many years before it went into production. I think that everybody did great; they all played their roles well.
Is there anything you haven’t achieved that you’d like to in your career?
Addicted comes out Oct. 10 and my first play based on “The Other Side of The Pillow” launches Oct. 21 in Dallas. You can go toZaneOnStage.com to find out more information. Then we’re going back out in the Spring to about 40 other cities, so I’m very excited about that. The cast will be announced in a few weeks.