Meet Zetta Brown, Novelist & Publisher

With great pleasure I'm kicking off the New Year introducing native Texas author, Zetta Brown, now living in Scotland. Zetta has been on the literary scene since 1998, authoring several short stories that have earned her residency at The Writer’s Colony in Dairy Hollow, secured her the regional first-place National Society of Arts & Letters (NSAL) award for her short story “Black Water,” along with many publications that have published her short stories, articles, and interviews.

Currently Zetta is the Editor-in-Chief for LL-Publications, a company she owns with husband, author and publisher Jim Brown. In addition to the titles Zetta has written, “Cherries Jubliee," "Devil Don’t Want Her," and her debut erotic romance title that caught my attention; "Messalina–Devourer of Men,” LL-Publications also has to its credit several other titles written by a diverse group of authors available in print and ebook format.

It is an extra plus, and again with great pleasure, that Zetta has granted OEBooks with a Q&A Interview.

Interviewed by RYCJ/OEBooks Jan 2011

I’ve read that you enjoy characters written with more than one dimension. Can you explain how you see more than one dimension, and as an example share a few of Messalina’s, and Zetta’s, dimensions?

Too many authors tend to think characterization starts and stops with gender, race, height, weight, and sexual preference. They don’t go too much deeper to consider the other aspects that make up a person. Some will justify this by saying “well, it’s only a short story so they don’t need much depth.” I think characters should be overdeveloped no matter how long or short the tale. The reader may not know every detail about a character but the author damn well should.

It’s the same with real people. We don’t like it when people make snap judgements based on our physical appearance so authors should take the time and care to develop characters more fully, and not just the main characters but (some of) the secondary characters too.

In MESSALINA the main character Eva Cavell is an alluring but sexually repressed woman. All of her family and most of her friends assume her to be a certain way because she keeps her wants and wildest desires under wraps. Eva’s close friends suspect otherwise, but Eva is not about to break cover. You’ll have to read the book to discover what’s beneath her surface ;)

Personally, I’m the same way. Someone may look at me to see a big black woman and assume all kinds of things about me and my lifestyle—but I know better. For example, I may be black...but I can’t stand rap music and hip hop. And you can see from my using the term “black” rather than “African-American,” I’m not too concerned about being PC.

I haven’t delved in to devouring Messalina just yet. I, however, will soon. But before I do, I’m curious to know how you came up with the name/title Messalina.

I have always been interested in ancient Greece and Rome and studied the Classical Age at university. Messalina was the wife of Emperor Claudius I and she had a reputation for being a loose woman (to put it mildly) and she devoured men with her sexual appetite. As empress of Rome, Messalina had an “official” persona but she also had a much more scandalous private persona and this aspect suited my main character nicely.

What appeals to you by writing/reading in first person vs. third person?

The story and sometimes the character dictate the point of view. I’ve written in first and third person and don’t have a preference. It all depends on what is the best way to tell the story. When it comes to reading, once again I don’t have a preference, but just like with writing, the POV needs to be appropriate for that particular story if any reader is expected to get into it.

After finally completing Messalina, what were the ‘high’ points in bringing Messalina to life? Writing phase? Copy-editing phase? Production? Or…???

MESSALINA started as a short story for my own personal reading back in 1993. I knew back then that I wanted to know and read more about these characters so the short story evolved into a novel that was finally published in 2008. That’s a long time to spend on any manuscript, even if working on it in fits and starts like I did. So my “high” point was just completing the damn thing! LOL But a close second was during the self-editing process where I noticed certain themes emerging and decided to play on them during the rewrites.

Outside of the writing and rewriting of Messalina, has there ever been a time when you’ve sat back, and for enjoyment, read Messalina…or any of your other books?

Oh yeah. I write stories that reflect what I would like to read so every now and then I do just that. By publishing these stories I hope to find others who feel the same way. You can’t please everyone, but I’ve been lucky to find others who like my stories too. This doesn’t mean that I’m totally enamoured of my work because I believe writers should always learn and seek to improve. But I’ve been known to re-read a story or a scene I’ve written and indulge in a satisfied grin every once in a while. If an author likes his or her own work, they shouldn’t feel ashamed in admitting it.

Also, skipping back to production, I see Messalina was published by Logical-Lust Publications; a publishing company you and your husband own. What is the satisfaction you get from owning your own publishing house?

We’re lucky to have the ability to publish our own work and the ability to publish the work of authors whose work we enjoy. We’ve published total newbies as well as established, award-winning authors at both Logical-Lust and LL-Publications, and when we look at the range of the authors and stories we produced and see how other people are reading and enjoying their work as much as we do, we can’t help but feel proud.
Now I’m wondering how your family and friends characterize you?

Certain words come to mind, but perhaps the one that sticks out most is “brat.” 

And as a child, what were some of the books you "first" read?

As a child I read at an advanced level and was reading fifth grade-level books in the first grade. The first book I remember reading and comprehending at this age was a biography about Mary McLeod Bethune. I also read books by Marguerite Henry and of course Judy Blume. By the time I was in middle school, I had “graduated” to reading Harlequin and Silhouette romances. My mother also got me hooked onto Archie comics and I still collect those today.

I recall when I was younger, most kids, and adults for that matter, didn’t enjoy reading. Do you see the growth in reading as ‘the’ new hobby because of the technological tools hosting books, or are the stories coming out today more diverse and interesting?

I think gadgets and diversity of topics have helped. As kids we are told what to read and in some cases told what to think about what we’ve read so when we become adults we are either totally burned out or turned off when it comes to reading. I remember as a kid that I hated writing book reports...but I write book reviews today. What’s the difference, you ask? The difference is that when you write book reports for school, you are not really free to express your feelings about what you read. You’re only expected to demonstrate your comprehension of the text. As an adult who voluntarily reviews books, I’m free to take an objective and subjective approach to the books I read.

I agree that perhaps the wide range of choice and the ease of access to books has helped. The Internet makes it possible for people to shop and find books online, and it’s made it possible for readers to actually communicate directly to authors when this was virtually impossible “back in the day.” When a reader can send an email or post on a blog during a chat with their favourite author—and get a response—that reader may be more inclined to read that author’s work and perhaps the work of others.

But I do think it’s important that reading should be approached as being fun rather than a chore, especially when it comes to getting children to read. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for and they are quick to learn all the new technology, which in some ways makes them much more knowledgeable than adults...scary!

The biggest question is how do you support other authors?

By giving encouragement and answering questions when I can. The publishing world is full of divas and people who think they know it all, and frankly, I don’t have time for or pay attention to people like that. Getting (and staying) published is hard enough without getting sucked into nonsense because, believe it or not, there’s enough room for everyone who is serious about the craft of writing and the business of publishing.

I’ve met many authors over the last several years and a majority of them are not household names, but I buy their books because I enjoy their writing and some of them are now my friends. It’s rare for me to pick up a NYT bestseller because there are so many wonderful authors who don’t have a NYC publishing machine behind them.

Thank You Zetta!

Read RYCJ's Review of the Messalina: Devourer of Men