Zane is a one-name publishing phenomena who through erotic novels and millions of fans has become a brand name unto her self. The acclaimed author, publisher, bookseller and producer joins Toni Morrison and Terry McMillan as one of only three African-American women to make the New York Times fiction bestseller “print list” in this century. For years, she kept her identity secret, and still refuses to tell her name, choosing instead Zane, a moniker she picked up while visiting Internet chat rooms. She’ll tell you she’s the divorced mother of three sons and spends her days in suburban Maryland tending them. Yet for Zane, writing erotica is akin to sliding into a sexy negligee. And when readers come away from her salacious books, like “Addicted,” “The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth,” “Gettin’ Buck Wild: The Sex Chronicles 2,” ” Shame on it All, and “The Heat Seekers,” they almost feel like peeling back the sheets and taking a long drag from a cigarette.
Zane, 40, looks very much the suburban mother she is. But she is much deeper. She recalls becoming a speed-reader at age 10 and polishing off several books a day by middle school. Writing came naturally to her, but she chose to follow another career after graduating from Howard University. It wasn’t until age 30 that she started her writing hard-edged erotic stories for her own enjoyment. After developing a cult following through Internet circulation, Zane turned down several deals with publishers who sought to tone down her work’s hard-core sexuality. She self-published her first three titles in 2000, selling over 250,000 copies through word-of-mouth alone. She has since sold over 6 million books.
Recently, the prolific author was in Philadelphia to promote “Love Is Never Painless: Three Novellas” ($22.95, Atria Books) by herself and two other authors, Eileen M. Johnson and V. Anthony Rivers. Next year, Zane will hit the big screen with the release of the erotically charged thriller, “Addicted.” In her partnership with Suzanne de Passe, de Passe/Zane Entertainment, she will produce at least six film projects yearly as well as television series and straight-to-DVD projects.
“Suzanne de Passe and I teamed up almost two years ago and we were going to put ‘Addicted’ straight to DVD, but then Lion’s Gate approached me about doing it as a theatrical release, which made it all the better,” explained Zane. “I mean really, situations just kind of find me. I don’t really go looking for them. It’s kind of strange actually. I didn’t go looking for a movie deal like that but I got one and that all that matters. ”
The deal, which will pair Lionsgate’s targeting of specific market segments with Zane’s passionate fan base of predominantly African-American women, continues Lionsgate’s commitment to bringing cultural sensations in large niches to a broader North American filmed entertainment audience.
“‘Addicted’ does for women what “Fatal Attraction” did for men,” said de Passe. “It will make women think twice before risking it all!”
Like many of Zane’s novels, “Addicted”, has been translated into several foreign languages.
“My novels have allowed me to encourage cultural conversation about the taboo topic of women’s sexual desire, and by turning ‘Addicted’ into a feature film with Lionsgate, that conversation will be expanded,” Zane said. “I know from communication with my fans that when women liberate themselves sexually, it improves all other aspects of their lives, so getting my first film made is a personal and political triumph for me.”
Zane has built a fervent following through her explicit, erotic depictions of female desire as told from an African-American perspective. She is also the publisher of Strebor Books International, an imprint of ATRIA/Simon and Schuster. Under Strebor, she acquires 15 to 25 titles a year and currently has nearly 50 authors under her imprint. Next year, she will launch a Christian Fiction Line and a Youth Fiction line, as well as a body product line this summer and clothing and adult toy lines in the fall. 2007 will also mark the release of “Dear G Spot,” Zane’s first non-fiction book.
“It’s really a collection of many of the advice mail I’ve gotten throughout the years, as well as my commentaries on different subjects,” said Zane. “I think it will show people how confused they really are about relationships and their sexuality and also reemphasizes why I do what I do: because there is a need for it and that is the reason why it works and women crave it.”
Although women are Zane’s primary book fans, men have taken to viewing her advice on line at Zaneland where her blog has become quite popular because of her sexual candor.
“We live in a world where the main sexual position is called the missionary position and as far as I’m concerned that says it all: Men think that we are vessels for their pleasure,” asserts Zane. “My whole point is if women are going to have sex in their lifetime—and the majority of us do—there’s no reason we should walk away from the experience any less satisfied than the man.”