Long before national morning talk shows became enthralled with Fifty Shades of Grey, Zane had the tongues of hot and bothered readers wagging nonstop. For more than a decade, fans of wildly popular Zane novels have been burning their fingertips on her steamy page-turners. And Friday, the reigning queen of erotic fiction will see Addicted, one of her 30 titles to date, hit the big screen.
The foray into the world of erotic literature was at first anonymous for Zane.
Because of the nature of her books, the Maryland author initially did not even tell her family and closest friends she was the writer behind the popular and sexually charged material.
"Addicted started out as a short story, but I became fascinated with the main character," she recalled. "I got caught up in my imagination and the passion of it all and I never intended to put it out. It was self-entertainment. It wasn't even on my mind to publish it, so I always tell people to write as if no one will ever read it."
The film adaptation based on the 2001 best-selling novel that put her on the map is directed by Bille Woodruff and stars Boris Kodjoe, Tyson Beckford, and Sharon Leal. The story revolves around Leal's character, Zoe Reynard, an affluent woman whose sexual appetite causes her life to spin out of control.
"Everyone wants to know how I do all of these things at once and all I can say is I'm really good at keeping a detailed list of things to do," the author said. "It's stressful sometimes, but I'm passionate about what I do, so it works out for me."
Since the Simon & Schuster release of Addicted 13 years ago, social media has become a force for the marketing and promoting of new literature. With more than one million followers on Facebook, Zane remains one of the most popular African American authors in the game.
Along the way, she has encountered public critics and people in her personal life who clutch their pearls at the provocative pictures she's been painting since her 1999 self-published debut, Zane's Sex Chronicles.
"That's fine if somebody doesn't like what I do, but if I cared about what other people thought, I wouldn't have ever put out my first book," she said. "I may spend one week writing about sex and answering e-mails about sex, but the other 51 weeks are filled with other things."
Still, she adds, passionate sex is what makes the world go around.
"I'm a very detailed and imaginative writer who writes about real people, so if I'm writing about real people, then I don't think I should have to tone down what they do in their bedrooms because that's when people are the most alive," she explained. "Porn is two people having sex, erotica is caring about who they are to each other and why are they having sex with each other and the feelings involved. It's the emotional connection that matters."
Though she has not read Fifty Shades of Grey, she is still congratulatory of author E.L. James' success. She does note, however, that the success of her similarly themed book went unnoticed.
"I wish I would have got that type of coverage and media and people saying go read my books, because that would have been very helpful," she said.
Hollywood is banking that Zane's strong legacy and fan base will turn into box office dollars.
"I believe that Zane gave power to women through literature, especially African American women," said Veronica Britto, 37, manager at the Lovett Memorial Library branch in Mount Airy. "She has taught women not to be afraid of our feminism and to not be afraid of what we want at the job and at home with their husbands. Zane's ability to meet women where they are in every situation is refreshing. Her writing style is engaging and brings readers into worlds that they never knew existed before."
Britto recalls delighting in who the author really was once her identity was revealed early in her career.
"I was surprised to find out who she really was, you know, a housewife and a mother, and I appreciated that a great deal," said Britto.
Though Zane speaks openly about her writing career and Friday's big-screen debut of Addicted, she offered only a "no comment" on the touchy topic of her Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing on June 11. The Washington Post reported this year that Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot had dubbed her the state's "top individual tax cheat." According to filings by the federal government, the author, whose real name is Kristina Laferne Roberts, owes the IRS more than $540,000 and the state of Maryland $337,151.85.
Despite the financial controversy, she appears to be forging full steam ahead. Her most recent novel, The Other Side of the Pillow, will also debut as a stage play this month in Dallas.
And although Friday will mark the first time one of Zane's books has made it to the silver screen, her work has appeared on Cinemax in the form of Sex Chronicles and Zane's The Jump Off.
Now that a face has been put on the Zane franchise, she maintains a great sense of normalcy where she rests her head.
"I don't really have any books in my house, but I do have copies of my books that have been published in other languages, but that's about it," she said. "I like separating my professional life and my private life, and, besides, people come in and they start trying to collect free books."