- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Zane, an author who prefers not to use her real name, surprised fans at recent D.C. book signing by looking more like a Sunday-school teacher than a video vixen. “I’m the author,” she said on many occasions that evening at B. Dalton Booksellers in Union Station.

The 43-year-old mother of three (ages 6,15 and 22) is best known for her books about erotica, but her themes run beyond mere sex. Zane, who has written more than two dozen novels, also writes about abuse and the disabled and advocates adult HIV testing. She has had nine books on the New York Times best-sellers list, and she won an award in 2006 from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for her book on domestic abuse.

A D.C. native, Zane was raised in nearby Silver Spring, Md., by a schoolteacher mom and a theologian dad who taught at Oxford University. She earned degrees in chemical engineering and English at Howard University. Before she began writing, she was living in North Carolina with her husband and children and working as a sales representative. She is now divorced.

In a wide-ranging interview, Zane talks about growing up as a world traveler, exposure to other religions and cultures, and her latest book, “Total Eclipse of the Heart, which, she says, is about “toxic relationships” and the disabled.

Q: How does your father react to your erotica tales, particularly since he is a very religious man?

A: It’s like my daddy said to me, “People have sex.” I know I got here because my parents had sex. I have yet to meet somebody who didn’t get here because somebody had sex.

Q: Can you tell me something about you as a person?

A: I was born in Washington, D.C., and I grew up near Walter Reed Hospital but moved to Silver Spring when I was in elementary school. I went to Our Lady of the Woods out in Maryland for elementary school. I went to junior high in Silver Spring. I went to high school in Atlanta. And I went to Howard University. Both of my parents are retired educators. My mother is a retired D.C. public school teacher. She taught at Whittier Elementary School for many years, for many decades. My father is a retired professor of theology. He was actually at Howard University for 30 years, but he taught at several other schools as well.

Q: What kind of impact did the Washington area have on you growing up?

A: It’s fascinating because there are so many different cultural groups here. And actually, because of what my father did - he’s an expert on world religions. We would go to our regular church, and he would also take us to Buddhist temples and Jewish synagogues and that kind of stuff to teach us that it’s OK for people to be different. We all have to exist in the world together. There are a lot of great cultural things here in D.C.

I love plays and music concerts. It really makes a difference when you live in the city. I’ve lived in the country, too, and trust me, there is nothing to do in the country. So, I like the fact that there is always something to do here in D.C.

I was able to experience a lot of things around the world as a child because my father has taught at a lot of different places. He taught at Oxford in England. He taught at the University of Argentina. I was able to have a lot of experiences as a child that [have] really helped me.

One thing about our parents is that they were always supporters of us when we were growing up. Anything we wanted to try, they let us try. I’m very much like that with my kids. I believe in freedom of expression when it comes to children. And my parents felt very much the same way. My parents are supportive of everything that I do.

Q: You have children?

A: I have three children, ages 6, 15 and 22.

Q: Now the 22-year-old must know what you do.

A: Honestly, to them - my oldest son obviously understands what I do, my middle child kind of understands what I do, and none of them reads my books. Then my 6-year-old, of course, I’m just mom. I’m just mother to all of them. They don’t care that I’m Zane. They could care less. Trust me on that. My children understand what I do. They’re very accepting of it.

Q: In your novels, do you have a favorite character?

A: I don’t know who I would say is my favorite. I know that I myself am a combination of Rain from “Afterburn,” Tempest from the “Heat Seekers” and Rice from “Shame on It All.” I don’t have a favorite character.

Q: What is your latest book, “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” about?

A: This book deals with a lot of issues: toxic relationships and how many people stay in toxic relationships, hoping that something will change. The main character in this book has a disability or becomes disabled during the course of the book. I’ve long wanted to write a book about that. A lot of people make the assumptions that disabled people don’t have the same physical needs and desires that the rest of us do.

My books are not just about erotica. They are about life. That’s why I have an international audience. My books are also translated into Japanese, Thai, Danish and other languages. My books are really about life itself.

• Joseph Young is a writer living in Washington.

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