Black Erotica Author Zane Has Secrets — & Not Just Between The Sheets

Photo: Condee Watts.
Welcome to Don’t Yuck My Yummm, Unbothered’s sexual wellness column and digital diary aimed at destigmatizing Black womxn’s intimate experiences. Trust us, this ain’t your mama’s how-to-guide. From the policing of our bodies, the antics of respectability politics, and the rise of toxic male "dating coaches," Black womxn are in need of a safe space for storytelling, education, and advocacy when it comes to sex. Don’t Yuck My Yummm is an opportunity to amplify the voices of folx who are doing the work. We encourage you to turn the mirror on yourself and join us on our self-discovery experience.
When we think about Women’s History Month, we commemorate the revolutionaries, the scholars, and the moguls of our time. So it should come as no surprise that the woman I chose to honor for this installment of Don’t Yuck My Yummm  embodies all three because… Black women. (Need I say more?) I’m talking about someone who revolutionized an entire genre of literature, educated the masses of Black women on sensuality and pleasure, took an AOL webpage and built an empire, and impacted me on a personal level. I’m talking about the incomparable Black erotica author, Kristina Laferne Roberts, aka Zane. 
Before the podcasts, book deals, TV shows, and lingerie lines, there was just one story — a story posted on an online chat page that would catapult this writer into infamy and send shock waves across the Black community. Zane’s work was a vibe and a cultural moment. I can still remember the women of my family talking in hush tones and passing The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth around amongst themselves. Zane’s books were ones I often snuck to read when no one was home. (Sorry not sorry mom, ha!)  I never knew that Black women could talk like that outside of hip-hop. And as someone who grew up in a religious household, Zane’s presence in the literary space helped me feel less awkward as I navigated all the hormones and feelings I was having as a teenager. It meant something that Zane also looked like me, especially in a time when the poster children for women’s sexual awakenings were Dr. Ruth and Carrie Bradshaw.
I knew I had to reach out and get the story about her roller coaster ride to virality straight from the source. What I learned during our time over Zoom is that Zane is not even close to being done shaking the table of gender norms and erotica. In fact, she's been working this whole time. I had the pleasure of connecting with Zane to delve a bit deeper into the early makings of her career, the impact it had on our community, her thoughts on desirability politics, the male gaze, and what she's cooking up next. 
Unbothered: At the beginning of your writing journey, did you have any idea that this would be a catalyst for the cultural moment that we saw in our community? 
Zane: Absolutely not. I had no idea I would be doing any of this, but that’s how I know I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I know that I am walking in my passion and my truth because I didn’t plan any of this. 
Now I’m curious. What was the original plan? 
Z: As far as being Zane, I really didn’t have one, and so for five years I led a double life. People often talk about imagining living a double life; I literally did. No one knew I was Zane. Not my parents or my friends. I had friends sending me Zane stories and talking about Zane. I kept it well hidden. 
I remember when your books somehow found their way into my high school library. I’m still unclear how that happened. Ha! For many, your work was the spark of their sexual awakening. Who sparked yours?
Z: Easy answer, Prince. When I was in high school, I would come home and listen to Prince and Tina Marie everyday. Tina Marie was a catalyst for the romantic side that developed in me. Her songs, her lyrics, and her voice really touched me. And Prince lit the freaky side of me. His stuff back then was a shock compared to other stuff back then. His freedom of expression and the things he talked about fascinated me. “Do Me Baby” was my anthem! 
Since you were heavily influenced by music and literature growing up, what was it that drew you to Black erotica? 
Z: Well it’s a funny story because I had never read erotica in my life. I didn’t even know what erotica was. When I wrote my first story, I  posted it in an AOL chat room. That’s how long I’ve been around. That's actually how I got the name Zane; it wasn’t a pseudonym. People kept asking me online for my real name and I wasn’t going to give them my real name so I said Zane. One night I was bored and I wrote my first story called The Seduction and I sent it to a few people I knew from the chat room. I asked them what they thought of it and they said it was so hot and started passing it around. Next thing I knew, people started asking to be on my email list. I thought it was funny, to be honest, and ended up writing a couple more stories. I had three different stories and I posted them on my free web space through AOL. Within three weeks, it had 8,000 views by word of mouth before AOL took it down because of the content. 
From there, someone told me about a Black erotica message board where people were posting content, and that’s where I started sharing more of my work. It really just grew from there. I started [the now inactive], and I started posting my work and other people’s work because there was such an issue finding somewhere to host your work. I knew I was on to something when I was living way in the country in North Carolina and one of my friends who worked on freightliner trucks came banging on my door after midnight and said, “Oh my God! You have got to read this!” She said the guys at her job had printed something out and were passing it around to everybody. I asked her what it was and she said, “It’s this story called Airport by some dude named Zane.” Needless to say, I was shocked. All she kept saying was, “Read it! Read it! Read it!” When she left that night, that’s when I knew I was on to something and that this thing was out of control. These guys at this trucking factory in rural North Carolina were all talking about my stories. 

People often talk about imagining living a double life; I literally did. No one knew I was Zane. Not my parents or my friends. I had friends sending me Zane stories and talking about Zane. I kept it well hidden.

This just shows how things can evolve when a community that has been underserved finally finds someone that matches their voice. As your reach began to grow, was there ever any concerns around judgment, backlash from the community, or the male gaze? 
Z: Oh yes, I knew it was coming. While most of the response I got was positive and women were thanking me for making them feel normal about their sexuality, there was also the negative feedback. I knew I was going to intimidate a bunch of men. Even with my book, The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth, I subtitled it “shattering the myth” because my whole point was shattering the idea that women are less sexual by nature than men — more specifically, that Black women are meeker than our sexual counterparts of other races. That was intentional. I believe on the front of that book I said, “If you are sexually repressed, oppressed, or have any hangups, put my book down.” I was not trying to hear it! So trust me I was prepared for all of it.  
I love that you were prepared and continued to move through your purpose. Your presence alone in the literary space made it okay for other women to take up space. What are your thoughts on the surge of Black womxn and femmes who are healing and reclaiming their autonomy? 
Z: First, I want to say this. I was not the first person to write Black erotica and I want to give credit where credit is due. What I did was take Black erotica from the back of the bookstore to the front, which shocked even me. There was a time when nobody knew who I was and I would go to a bookstore thinking I would have to go in the back to find my latest book, but as soon as I walked in the store there were these huge stacks of my books next to the latest Stephen King book. That tripped me out. What I did do is I made it more commercial, but there were Black erotica writers way before me. When I put out my sex manual Dear G-Spot, I proclaimed that day the National Claim Your Pussy Back Day. I made a statement encouraging my readers to claim it back, and all the radio hosts that day were talking about my message. My whole thing is, if you are not being satisfied or your partner isn’t doing what you need them to do, then claim your pussy back. l I feel like if we're going to have sex during our lifetime, we should enjoy it. We shouldn't feel like we're just a vessel for somebody else's pleasure, so I'm very glad to see that it is so openly talked about now. I’ve had women in their 50s or 60s come up to me saying that I was the reason they were finally able to enjoy sex and that meant a lot to me. It still means a lot to me. 
That just shows how broad your audience truly was, and I love how inclusive your characters were as well. You wrote for every body type, ethnicity, and age. Was this intentional?
Z: Well I'm blessed in the fact that I didn't grow up with a narrowly focused view of the world. I grew up with parents who taught me not to fear the differences in others but to embrace them. There were many times where I was in an all Black situation, but there were many times where we may have been the only Black people anywhere around. My grandfather got his Phd. in Edninburgh, Scotland and he was a world renowned expert on world religions, so he would take us to churches, Buddhist temples and synagogues. Even at my 16th birthday party, one of my mother's best friends and her husband gave me my first car and she was Samoan and he was a Holocoust survivor. I grew up around a plethora of people, so I’ve always seen the world as inclusive. 

It trips me out because I’ve had people say, “You need to make a comeback,” but I ask come back from what? To me, "comeback" means you failed at something, and I’ve never failed at anything. I just took my time.

It’s amazing that you were able to have that safe space to explore. What would you say to someone who doesn’t have that and how can they walk in the purpose of their sensuality and sexuality?
Z: First thing they have to realize is that they only get one shot at this, and the hardest thing that a lot of people have to do is not care about what other people think. That's another thing that I'm blessed with, because I really don't care. I’ve had people ask me if I’ve read articles written about me. I don't know what they’re talking about because I don’t read them. I learned a long time ago that people are going to judge me, make up things about me, feel like they know me, and I don’t care. I remember I went to a writer’s conference 20 years ago at this University and nobody knew who I was. But I went because I wanted hear the panels, listen to people speak, and hear about their books. I'm sitting there eight months pregnant and all the sudden I hear my name come out somebody's mouth on the stage. I’m squinting trying to see who it is because I know they don't know me. And this guy was giving a whole speech like he was an expert on me. My thought was he should be pushing his own work, and I had to hold back because I was tempted to ask a question. But the people in the audience attacked him! They were asking, “Why are you worried about Zane?” I mean that really hurt him. I don't know what his purpose was or  if he thought that was going to help him sell more books, but he ended up being attacked. And that's generally what happens when people say something negative about me. My fans are extremely loyal and I don’t even have to say anything. 
True community will ride for you no matter what, even if it has been a while since they have received a piece of work from you. I am curious to know what your thoughts are on the current state of erotica?
Z: You know it's funny because people think it's been a long time since I've done anything. But what makes you think I haven't done anything? You’ve gotta listen to my scripted podcast, Purple Panties. I’m pretty sure you’ll dig it. I have still been doing stuff under Zane,  but I'm also doing stuff under my real name. I also released a movie last year and it's going to be on Tubi soon. I wrote, produced, and directed a movie called I Wish I Never Met You because everybody knows somebody they wish they never met. That’s won at least a couple of dozen awards. I even won Best International Film By a Female Filmmaker at the International Black and Diverse Film Festival in Toronto in 2022. So I’ve been around. But it’s interesting because I’ve heard that a lot lately. Another media outlet even did an article called “Whatever Happened to Zane?” It’s interesting because when it was sent to me I had just done a live radio interview. I have an iHeartRadio podcast called Let Me Go Ask. I filmed another movie in July that is in post production, which I was very excited about doing because I’ve never done a horror movie. I do have at least three upcoming books, so I’m still out there.
So what I am hearing is a followup interview! And I look forward to sitting down with you.
Z: And I’ll admit to something I’ve never admitted to. I actually have a book out under another name. Actually, I have a few, but I’ll tell you about one. It’s called Sidechicology by Allison Hobbs and Body of Work. I am Body of Work; that’s one of my other names. It’s a fictional tale about these two ministers and their side chicks. It’s very erotic. Allison Hobbs is one of my authors I’ve published at least 37 books by. We had talked about writing a book together for years. It’s quite interesting and I’m going to turn it into a movie. I do a lot of ghost writing and have a lot of books that people will never know I wrote. I just finished ghost writing a feature film script for someone. So I am booked and busy. 
You took the words right out of my mouth, and clearly there is still a place for Zane in 2023. When you think about your empire today, where do you see it fitting in this social media-driven society we live in? 
Z: You know, the internet made me famous. No one knew who I was and I gave away my work for free for three years before I ever put a book out. So when I released The Sex Chronicles, within six months I had sold 230,000 copies, self-published. It’s an interesting question because I am in talks with several networks right now, so I’m not going anywhere. I’m taking it to the next level. What I will say is that I appreciate all of the shows that have been on lately that have been about women and their sexuality. I’m glad to see it and I’m ready to push the envelope a little further. It trips me out because I’ve had people say, “You need to make a comeback,” but I ask come back from what? To me, "comeback" means you failed at something, and I’ve never failed at anything. I just took my time.

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