Fans of bestselling author Zane got a rare opportunity to come face-to-face with the reclusive erotica writer last week.
More than 200 people packed the second floor of the Central Library last Thursday evening to hear the New York Times bestselling author dish about her life, her work, and of course, her books, which have sold millions of copies around the world. Her local appearance came during a nationwide tour to promote her latest, “Zane’s Z-Rated: Chocolate Flava 3.”
“I’m enjoying it,” the mother of three and Washington, D.C. area resident said of the two month long tour, which also included a stop in Greensboro last week. “It kind of lets me know I’m on the right path with what I’m trying to do, which is empower women in every aspect of their lives. It’s exciting.”
Zane, who adopted her pen name as a means of staying anonymous when she first began writing short erotic stories online, is also a publisher with more than 90 authors signed to her imprint and executive producer of the Cinemax series “Zane’s Sex Chronicles.” A new show, “Zane’s The Jump Off” is slated to air on the cable network in January, and her debut novel, “Addicted,” which she published herself in May 2000, is currently being made into a major motion picture starring Nia Long and Boris Kodjoe.
Carolyn Woods, supervisor of the Popular Library Department at Central, extended an open invitation to Zane, one of her personal favorites.
“You are our rock star author,” Woods told the author before the start of the program, which had to be moved from the library’s auditorium to accommodate the massive crowd. “You look like every woman. I’m glad you are who you are. As a full-figured woman, I love showing the world that we’ve got it going on, too.”
For an hour, Woods and audience members peppered Zane with questions on a variety of topics, to which she responded with candor, giving the event the feel of a conversation among friends.
The author thrilled the audience by revealing that she has strong ties to the Twin City.
“My mother and several aunts attended Winston-Salem State University,” she said at the start of the event, eliciting enthusiastic cheers from the group. “I’m very glad to be here and I’m amazed at the turnout. Thank you for coming.”
Zane, who is currently writing her 30th book, “A Three Piece Meal,” said she was actually living in Kannapolis when she got her start as a writer.
“I would get really, really bored at nights, so I started writing these stories on the internet, and I started getting these amazing responses,” she said. “…I actually got offered three major deals by three major publishing houses, but I turned them down because they all wanted to tone me down.”
Despite her success, the NAACP Image Award winner, who holds a degree in chemical engineering, has managed to keep her personal life almost entirely out of the public eye.
“For many years, nobody knew what I looked like. I literally lived a double life for five years,” said the 45 year-old, who kept her identity so secret that a close friend once brought Zane’s own work to her.
“She came knocking on my door one night at about midnight. She said, ‘Oh my goodness, you’ve got to read this…’ It was one of my stories, ‘The Airport.’ That’s when I knew it was starting to get crazy.”
Even Zane’s own family was unaware of her connection to the sultry collection of books that have catapulted her to international fame. By the time she told her mother that she was a published author, three of her titles were occupying the top five spots on Essence magazine’s best-seller list. Though she admitted she was reluctant to share the truth about her steamy profession with her parents (whom she says actually reacted positively when she finally came clean), Zane told the audience she doesn’t concern herself with the backlash she says she gets constantly due to the nature of her work. She said it is meant to empower women, and her readers get the message loud and clear.
“It doesn’t bother me,” she said of the criticism. “I was clear before I did this that everybody wasn’t going to agree with it, but I understand why I’m doing it, so that’s all that matters.”
City native Nikia Speas praised Zane for creating a body of work that she describes as “bold” and “exciting.” Speas, a cosmetologist, said she is starting a book club at her shop, 2 Times Better Hair Salon, for fellow Zane fans.
The event was followed by a reception and book signing. Library officials say that the Zane appearance may be one of the best-attended author events ever.
See the full photo album on The Chronicle’s Facebook:Zane Speaks