If you’ve subscribed to my Examiner feed or to the MMT Facebook page, then you already know how excited I was to interview New York Times bestselling author Zane last Monday. Her latest book, VENGEANCE, was released on the following day, and she took time out of her busy schedule to fit in a phone call with yours truly.
Vengeance is a suspenseful and erotic novel, set in the same world as the two books that came before it – Addicted and Nervous, which both feature psychiatrist Dr. Marcella Spencer. Following a protagonist named Wicket a.k.a Ladonna Sterling, a beautiful but emotionally damaged (diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder) pop star hell-bent on vengeance against the people responsible for her traumatic past, the book chronicles a journey of self-discovery, truth, healing and forgiveness – while highlighting such topics as family trauma, mental illness, and gender identity.
Open and extremely humble, Ms. Zane discussed everything from the new book to tolerance on social media, and even sounded off on what she felt about last week’s Billboard Music Awards tribute to the late singer/musician Prince.
Can you talk about the research process that goes into a project like this?
I did extensive research. And I’ve been blessed to get many compliments from psychiatrists after they read Addicted and Nervous, so hopefully I’ll get them after they read this book (laughs). In “Nervous,” the second book in the series, I actually tackled Multiple Personality Disorder. I had no idea that it was so prevalent in society until I wrote it. A friend’s mother, who died about a year and a half ago, actually had Multiple Personality Disorder. It’s really crazy to me that I used to think it was such a rare thing, but it’s not that rare. And it’s the same with Intermittent Explosive Disorder – it’s way more common than people think.
On the stigma attached to mental illness, especially among African-American and religious communities:
A lot of mental illness is masked behind religion. I have a relative, whom I believe may have Bipolar Disorder, that is finally considering seeking treatment. But she would use “God speaking to her” as a way of making excuses for what she does in her life. And it’s a stigma, but it can happen to anybody. Different circumstances and factors can influence it, but a lot of people are not getting help.
Because of the aforementioned, Zane allowed the main character in Vengeance to confront her family history, and in the process realize the cycle of “hurt people hurting people.” The author expressed wanting to illustrate a compassionate portrait of mental illness, in addition to displaying issues within the transgender community with the same consideration – particularly with the character Hannah, who becomes a mother figure to a younger Wicket.
I decided to do a transgender character because I noticed when I would post something on my Facebook page about the transgender community, some others would become really heated and post negative and mean comments. I kicked a couple of people out of one of my groups last night for that very reason. I don’t have any tolerance for people writing negative posts that are racially motivated or that deal with gender identity, because it’s just not right.
On writing a tragic turn in Hannah’s story (slight spoiler):
I was so stressed out that day, I had to go get donuts from the store! I was in a hotel writing and had to go out literally to buy donuts and other comfort food to mentally prepare. I do get really deep into my writing – to me the characters take on a life form. And I wanted to explore that whole situation because so many transgender people are not accepted, and they just want to live like everyone else. In this case, Hannah’s parents had rejected her, and her whole life she just wanted to feel accepted.
Zane mentioned taking her children on a recent trip to Atlanta’s Civil and Human Rights Center because she wanted them to see how others had dedicated and sacrificed their lives to obtain equal opportunity. Further driving home her point on acceptance and what she wants people to take away from the book, she shared:
I feel like everybody is entitled to live their lives. So, I hope that people will learn tolerance. Many are afraid of others simply because they don’t understand them. When I was child my father, an expert in World Religions, not only took me to our church, but to Buddhist temples, Jewish synagogues, and Seventh Day Adventists churches so I would have that exposure. And my parents also exposed me to different types of people – like on trips to Scotland where there were no other black people around at all! And I am very glad they raised me that way. I’ve become fascinated by various cultures and people, and I pretty much get along with everyone – as opposed to being scared of and making assumptions about others.
And on the MMT signature question – what artist’s biopic would she bring to the big screen?
I would say B.B. King. I am fascinated with the man he was and how much he accomplished. The first anniversary of his death just passed (May 14th) and I knew a lot about him, but learned much more recently. Like, one year he performed 342 shows – in that single year. And, until he was 70, he flew himself to many of his shows with a private pilot license. So to me, he was a highly energetic person, almost up to his death.
And the only reason I would not pick Prince – he is my favorite artist of all-time – is, although a lot of people are saying a bio is needed, I feel like he already did it on his own (Purple Rain).
And since she mentioned Prince, how did she feel about that Billboard Music Awards tribute?
There is no one they could have gotten to emulate him. But I appreciated that they let actual legends do the tribute – I’m a huge fan of both Madonna and Stevie Wonder – as opposed to someone younger like Drake. People like Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Prince and Michael Jackson have had decades long successes. It would have been nice, however, if they picked an upbeat song for the first – instead of “Nothing Compares 2 U.” I think there would have been a negative reaction no matter who they chose (to perform), but people can’t take away that a legend honored another legend.
Although I agreed that Prince’s boots are too tall to fill, I shared that there were a few other living legends and older performers – like Sheila E., Chaka Khan, and The Time – that I wouldn’t have minded seeing invited – and that I am hoping the upcoming BET Awards tribute includes musical offspring like D’Angelo, Bilal and/or Janelle Monae and please, please, please invite Lenny Kravitz and Gary Clark Jr. on guitar!
But back to Vengeance, a quick and exciting read that I consumed in two days straight. Again, this novel has erotic content, and explicit language, so it will not be everyone’s cup of tea. I did ask Zane if she believed she had a huge following in the religious community to which she responded, “I’m speaking during a fundraiser at a church tonight!”
PS: here’s holiday weekend giveaway #4! Want to win a “signed” copy of Vengeance? You must be a subscriber of this site, and send an email with your full name, address and the subject line “Revenge” to firstname.lastname@example.org and answer the following: Name the 2014 movie based on a Zane novel and name one of the stars. I will select one winner at random and notify by Thursday, June 2.
Good luck family! Thomasena