You may have heard of “50 Shades of Gray,” the bestselling trilogy about a billionaire with a bondage fetish and his young lover. But if you’re an African-American woman, you know that Zane has been putting out erotic fiction for more than the last decade.
The forty-something author with several “New York Times” bestsellers under her belt has put out 28 books in that time, both as author and publisher, and is the creative force behind the Cinemax series “Zane’s Sex Chronicles.” Her publishing empire, Strebor Books, has 28 authors signed to it. But what you might not know about Zane is that she’s an advocate for women behind the scenes, helping advise them through life and relationship crises both privately and via her Facebook page.
Her latest book, “Zane’s Z-Rated: Chocolate Flava 3,” just came out this week and it’s full of the sensual fiction she’s known for.
Read on for more on how she got started and what’s she’s learned from writing sex.
Blackamericaweb.com: You’re well known for your erotic fiction. What motivated you to start writing it?
Zane: The funny thing is that I didn’t set out to write erotica. I never read any erotica. People just classified me into that because I wrote very detailed sex scenes but it wasn’t intentional. It just happened to turn out that way. I’m just a very detailed writer who is very detailed when it comes to sexuality. So I never sat down and said "I’m going to become and erotic writer."
Once people started regarding you in that respect, was this a genre that you wanted to continue or was it something that you just already did?
It was just what I already did. I wouldn’t classify all my books as erotic. Some of them are definitely not erotic like “Love is Never Painless” and “Breaking the Cycle” which is about domestic abuse. Those are definitely not erotica. I write a variety of genres. I write dramedy. I write romance novels. I write non-fiction books and then I write erotica. The Z-Rated is definitely erotica. But the majority of my books are just stories.
You’ve been heralded as an author who’s allowed African-Americans in particular to become more comfortable with their sexuality. Do you think that’s a more accurate representation of your work?
I think that’s accurate but I would expand that. I think I’ve helped women become more comfortable with their lives, period. I’ve been answering advice email for 15 years and I would say that 85-90% of my emails have nothing to do with sex. They have to do with women being abused or mistreated or trying to deal with their children or life in general. Sexuality is a part of that but that’s definitely not all that I’m about.
Were you surprised by how your books were received?
I was surprised by how big it became. I had put out stuff over the Internet for three years before ever putting a book out. I don’t think anybody could imagine selling millions of books and being published in different languages and having TV shows and all that. No, I definitely didn’t envision all of that.
You’ve done 28 books in 12 years? What is your writing process?
I go months without writing anything. If I wrote all the time I could write a book a month, easy. But I don’t write all the time. I go out, experience life. I publish 3-6 books a month by other people. If I wrote every day, I’d be dangerous. I have no ritual. There comes a time when I have to lock myself away somewhere. I have various hotels around the country where I can hibernate until I get whatever I need to be done completed.
Were you bothered at all that “Fifty Shades of Gray” has blown up so big off of three books when you’ve been doing erotic fiction for over 10 years?
This is not the first time that erotica has gone mainstream. I had my first “New York Times” bestseller in 2001, she had hers in 2012. So that kind of speaks for itself. My last book “Chocolate Flava 2” spent six weeks on “The New York Times” best-seller list. “Sex and The City” is a billion dollar brand and people are acting like that never happened. How can this be something new when they’ve had three blockbuster movies, a TV series, product lines and the whole 9 yards?
You’ve had a successful TV show with “Zane’s Sex Chronicles.”
I’ve decided not to do a third season with “Sex Chronicles.” There’s a new series coming to Cinemax in 2013 called “The Jump Off.” It’s about men and how they love and how they bond together and people who have seen it have completely flipped out over it. I can’t wait for it to air because I think it’s going to spark a lot of conversation between the sexes. Amin Joseph, who played Tarik in“Sex Chronicles” is going to be the star.
In your time writing and and helping women, what have you learned about relationships that you think is the most important thing people should know?
What I’ve learned is that most women need to love themselves. We will protect our mothers, our daughters, our children, our friends, our men but we don’t protect ourselves. Women need to learn to love themselves from within. If you truly love yourself, you will not allow someone to hurt you or mistreat you. When you look in the mirror and embrace who you are whether you have rolls of fat or you don’t like your hair or [whatever], you can say I’m not going to let anybody hurt me. Trust me, I know from personal experience, once you get to that point, you will not have any issues.
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