BAM Interview with Zane
Renowned erotica author Zane stopped by our offices recently, and we had the opportunity to chat with her about the launch of her career, what she’s doing to help other authors do the same, and her experience as executive producer of her first film.
BAM: Tell us a little bit about how you got your start, you know prior to having a publisher. Because you started out self-published, right?
Zane: So, first I’ll say that I never intended on publishing a book. I started in like November of 1997, and I used to go into AOL chatrooms and stuff. And I was bored one night, and I wrote this story called “First Night” and I sent it to some people I had met online. And next thing I know, people are emailing me saying “I want to be on your email list.” To which I responded, “What is that!?”
So what I started doing was copying and pasting their emails into a file in alphabetical order. And so I wrote a couple of more stories: “The Airport” and “Seduction”, and I sent them out to those same people. And it just kind of blew up. I put it on my AOL page – back then they gave you a free web page – I put it on my free web page and then like in three weeks I had something like 8,000 hits by word of mouth online before AOL took it down because of the content. So for the next few years I built up kind of this cult following of people who wanted to read my stuff, including a lot of different authors like Eric Jerome Dickey, who’s one of my biggest supporters. So I just kept on doing it; I started a monthly erotica ezine where I would have one story in there, plus a funny joke, and then maybe talk about a topic. Around that time women started emailing me for advice as well. So that’s how I got started with my advice columns. I wrote an advice column for Ebony for a while and I’m actually – believe it or not – a certified life coach, so I have actual clients that I help.
Anyway, a rumor got started that I had a book out. People started emailing me, saying “Zane, I’ve been looking all over for your book.” And I thought, is someone else out there writing under the name “Zane?” Because I didn’t have a book. Eventually several publishers contacted me, but they wanted me to change my writing style. My first two thoughts were: first, it was never my intention to write a book; second, no one knew I was doing this, not even my parents. But anyway, I started thinking, this is kind of crazy but maybe I should put a book out. I ended up putting out The Sex Chronicles, self-published in May of 2000. Within the first six months or so, I had sold a quarter of a million copies. And I followed it up with this little book I had already written called Addicted. I was originally going to put it on my website, like a chapter a month. But after the success of Sex Chronicles I figured I might as well publish Addicted as a book, too. It became so popular that in November of 2000, The New York Times put out this article saying “Addicted is the most popular paperback in the country, and people are addicted to trying to find a copy.” So it was at that point that [publishers] came back around and wanted the book, and said “OK, you can write the way you want to write.” I ended up going with Simon & Schuster because there was a certain level of comfort with them, and it worked out perfectly because now I run two imprints there.
Vengeance by Zane
After fleeing from Atlanta years ago following a traumatic event, Caprice Tatum decides it’s time to return to her roots only this time, she’s coming back as Wicket, the international pop sensation who’s the very definition of fame and fortune. And while she may be the perfect diva onstage, offstage she’s desperate to finally lay her past to rest. Her plan? Revenge. But can Caprice truly overcome her past? Or will it drag her even further into darkness?
BAM: So how did you handle demand like that as a self-published author?
Zane: It was just crazy. And that’s when I realized I needed to hand that part of it off to someone else. Because I had storage bins all over my house, and I had handtrucks that I was using to cart cases of books around in. One day I dropped a handtruck on my foot and ended up in the emergency room. So that’s when I said “that’s it” and decided I couldn’t do it on my own anymore.
BAM: How long does it take you to come up with an idea for each book?
Zane: Oh I’m way ahead.
BAM: Four or five books ahead?
Zane: Oh yeah. At least.
BAM: You mentioned your imprints. Can you tell us a little bit about how you decided to start those up?
Zane: When I decided to self-publish, I thought, there’s got to be other writers out here that are kind of in the same boat, where they’re kinda right outside the box and can’t find traditional publishing deals. So I immediately decided that I would publish other people. Now I’ve published at least 110 other authors, and some of my authors [have published multiple books], like Allison Hobbs is currently on book number 28, and then you have Cairo who’s [published] in the high teens. And then last year I started Infinite Words, another imprint under which I’ve published several other authors.
BAM: How does it feel to go from launching your own career to going and helping launch the careers of other aspiring authors?
Zane: It’s a wonderful feeling. As a child I just loved to read all types of different books, so to be able to publish all kinds of different books and give people opportunities, I just love it.
BAM: So back to Addicted – which they made a movie out of – what was that experience like? How involved were you in the production of the movie?
Zane: Extremely involved, as I am with most things! I’m one of the two executive producers, and the director, Bille [Woodruff], I’ve known him a very long time. So when he came on board, we did a lot of talking about the cast. Sharon [Leal] had already been kind of on the radar from before, and so we picked her [for the role of Zoe] and then one day the director called and said “what do you think of Boris [Kodjoe] as the husband?” And I already knew Boris, so I was like “yeah, sure!” Then the director said, “well who are we going to have her cheat on Boris with?” So we decided on William Levy, which was a great choice, and that was actually his first English-speaking role. And he just did a great job. The whole thing worked out well.
BAM: So you definitely have more work on your plate now than when you started?
Zane: Oh yes, definitely. And I actually created, executive-produced and wrote all the scripts for my TV shows.
BAM: When do you sleep?
Zane: Well, I don’t sleep much!
BAM: You mentioned keeping everything secret for so long. Was that intentional?
Zane: Yes, it was intentional. My own parents actually didn’t even know I was writing these books until I had had three bestsellers. I guess not many people have truly lived a double life, but I did it for five years. Which is probably why I’m so good at writing books about women living double lives.