IN SHONIA’S OWN WORDS…I’m a voyeuristic lover of life seen through pages of a novel and characters on a movie screen. Although often my novels will imitate portions of my life, I take liberty in embellishing the truth. LOL! I’m a native Atlantan who has traveled across the country somewhat recently but finds it very difficult to leave the ATL for too long of a period of time; although I’ve contemplated living six months of the year in New York and six months living in Atlanta. I enjoy both slow and fast paced environments but really don’t want either one exclusively. I’m a mother of an eight-year old Maltese, Onyx Lee, and a nine-month-old Golden Lab/Retriever, Kashmir Lee. They are probably the only children I will nurture besides my one-year-old godson, Hamilton Wesley. And I’m the other half of a four-year-long term relationship. Besides nurturing my family, I also enjoy nurturing my writing abilities, other LGBT writers’ abilities, and providing an online forum for indie artists of all disciplines through www.nghosi.com.
First of all, how did the concept of Longing, Lust, and Love: Black Lesbian Stories come about?
One of my goals with www.nghosi.com was to provide a small print press for African-American LGBT writers. There aren’t many independent presses or publishing houses for that matter that support the black gay community. Lisa C. Moore, Publisher and Owner of Redbone Press and Robin G. White, Publisher and Owner of Kings Crossing have done an amazing job of setting the standards for this type of literature. However, their main focus originally appeared to be more on poetry and religious/self-awareness anthologies, etc. I wanted to provide another aspect to our voices…that of erotic literature and the new voices that have yet to be heard of. The desire to provide a forum for new black gay voices was the initial inspiration for LLL. When I sat down with three supporters of the project, we talked about what the topic of the anthology should be and our first thoughts were of “love” but more so about the different stages that you go through to get to that final, most rewarding stage of lesbian love.
Give a brief synopsis of the anthology.
It’s truly everything you heart’s desire and more! You’ve heard about it, you’ve read about it, most of us have been through it, the various stages of lesbian love. It starts with the lingering looks across the room at an interesting stranger, romantic e-mails, flowers, and wearing leather on your first date.
Then once you have her, stage two kicks off with all-night sex sessions that leave you sore but still wanting more. Soon you don’t even want to leave the house for months, and some of your friends even forget your name. Then, if you’re lucky (and not on the second date, mind you), the third stage comes around and you’ve settled into the comfy couch of your relationship. Twenty-five (25) talented black lesbian writers take you down memory lane or towards a journey for the very first time to ultimate pleasure in our New Voices Series of longing, lust, and love!
How has the reception of LLL been?
The reception has been surprisingly wonderful! You’re never really sure when you venture into something new what the reception will be. Also because I’m a computer geek and spend a lot of my time online working on the website or promoting artists, etc., and not much time out in the community, I wasn’t sure what the interests would be in the anthology. It has been five years since I published my first novel and about two years since I stopped heavily promoting it. Sooo, I was a little unsure but from the very first time we offered a preview sale in November 2006 for early bird purchases, to this morning as I check our stats on Amazon.com, the popularity and sales of this anthology has been growing like wildflowers!
How did you choose the authors for LLL?
The anthology took two years to develop. We started in 2004 with a Call for Submissions and got a great response from writers across the country. But both a desire to add a lot of quality work to the anthology and the need to raise capital for the project delayed the publication. The majority of the writers chosen based on their submissions (mostly unknowns) and two of the writers were hand picked, authors Laurinda D. Brown and Trish Carter. I couldn’t see Nghosi Books’ first anthology without contributions from these very talented writers and luckily for us, both were happy to participate.
What were you thinking when you were editing these hot stories?
Finally, more ideas to add to my own sexual repertoire! LOL! No, just kidding…well only a little! Some of the stories were truly hot and erotic, like “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” or “Look at Me When You Come.” They were so erotic that I got hot and bothered and luckily for me, my partner was there to help…uh, help me read and comment on some of the stories.
But then some were that were funny and reminded me of my own club days, like “The Birthday Party” and “She.” And then there were many that just gave me that warm and cuddly feeling on the inside, like “Steps Were Made for Climbing” and “Titaliyo.” The stories gave me a range of emotions which was just what I was looking for when creating an anthology of longing, lust, and love.
How did the authors react to having their works published?
All of the writers were excited about the publication and even more so when they received their copies of the books. I have to thank our graphic designer, Keith Saunders of Marion Designs and our lovely cover model, Dani Nikole for really producing a beautiful cover and marketing material. The writers were proud of the final product and were happy to share the book with their family and friends. Many of the writers have offered additional support with marketing, selling, and performing at different events to help increase the interest in the anthology.
What I enjoyed about LLL was how real the characters seemed. How do you think these stories speak to our black lesbian community?
First of all, I want to thank you for supporting the anthology as well and for your feedback. It’s great to hear that because that’s exactly what appealed to me about the stories as well. One of the other many reasons why I write and why I want to support other LGBT writers is so that our voices are heard and that both straight and gay communities can see just how “similar” we ALL are rather than how “different” we are. The only major thing that is different about us, is the fact that we love someone of the same sex and that’s pretty much where the differences end. I think that these characters shed a lot of light on who we are in the black lesbian community and prevent people from holding on to stereotypical views of us.
Describe LLL in three words.
Other than the actual words of the anthology, which truly sum up what you can expect and enjoy from the book, I would have to say that three other words would be: groundbreaking, unforgettable, and orgasmic!
Tell me, Shonia, have you ever lusted or longed for someone?
Yes. I have, more times than I would care to admit. LOL! Before I truly understood my sexuality, I used to have strong crushes on my female teachers from as early as kindergarten. I’ve always been attracted to older women! Later in life, it was dark skinned women, or a woman with a sexy, raspy voice, or pretty big brown eyes, or a woman n with a Jamaican accent, or the smell of sweet, hypnotic perfume, or a sultry laughter, or killer walk! Women all shapes and sizes, all color complexions and cultures have aroused me and even when I’m in a committed relationship, I let my adoration for women soar freely, safely, and respectfully in the pages of story not in reality!
What’s the best thing about love?
The feeling of “home.” When I’m truly in love, I feel as if there is no other place or space in time I’d rather be in. I’m finally at peace, at rest, at home.
Which one would you rather have: longing, lust or love?
I’d rather ALL three! Just because we find “true love” doesn’t mean the passion, lust, and desire have to die. I strongly believe that in order to keep a relationship vibrant, ALL three elements have to exist.
You’re a published author in your own right with your debut novel, A Deeper Love. Did putting this book together get your own creative juices flowing?
After A Deeper Love, I started working on two very different stories that will ultimately be published under the Nghosi Books name. But I decided to wait on finishing/publishing either until LLL was completed. One of my main reasons was the desire to give other writers exposure, the same or even better than what I had had with ADL. I would have loved to publish both a second novel and the anthology simultaneously, but that will come in the very near future. After publishing/promoting LLL, I was reminded of the excitement of seeing everything come together after committing to the solitude of writing, and yes, was inspired to finishing my second novel.
Tell me about Nghosi, the arts and entertainment technology company you founded?
In 2002, along with promoting ADL, I also opened an online artist forum that would promote indie artists of all disciplines. I’ve always enjoyed helping others in anyway that I can and had dreams of starting a small business, a consultant firm. When the book was finished and I was advised to create a website to promote the novel, and later requested to revamp my day job’s website, God’s plan came together and was revealed to me. I was provided with the time and resources to learn web design, marketing/promoting, and self-publishing so that I could not only publish ADLbut also pursue the dream of starting a consultant business and in turn helping others. I started initially with the idea of using Nghosi Books.com to market/promote artists and use Nghosi Productions (a separate website and business) as a way to support small businesses.
Three years later, I realized that in order to keep up with everything and for synergistic purposes, I needed to combine the businesses into one, Nghosi Online (www.nghosi.com) an arts and entertainment technology company that would not only market/promote the artists but also offer consultative services to these same artists and network with them so that we all would be able to share our talents (blessings) with each other.
The name of the site, Nghosi was derived from the Nigerian Ibu Tribe word, ngozi, which means blessings. I truly believe that any sort of talent we are provided with is a blessing from God that should be shared with others, and therefore, the name Nghosi was born. I changed the spelling of the word a little to include t he first letter in my name because Nghosi is truly apart of me.
What are you working on next?
We just distributed a Call for Submissions for the next anthology, I Love You to Death: Black Lesbian Diaries, and a Model Call for the next book cover model. I’m also working on finishing my second novel, The Minister’s Wife, as well as updates to the site.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Right now, a typical day for me would include an early morning wake-up from our new puppy, Kashmir Lee for breakfast and doggy walk. Then an hour of P90X, an insanely crazy DVD workout routine created by Tony Horton of Beach Body fame.
Then mad dash for getting ready for the day job and eating a vegan breakfast. Eight to 10 hours at the day job as a technical writer and then a mad dash home to do another doggy walk and dinner for Kashmir and me. A fresh vegan dinner and then playtime with Kashmir. About two hours of book time or Nghosi Online time, and then some quality time with my partner and then off to bed to start another very similar day the next day.
What do you do for fun?
My lazy day fun is being a couch potato with my partner and our two kids (Onyx lives with my mother) and (Kashmir lives with us); or reading a good book, listening to music, making love, getting a massage, cooking dinner and sharing a meal with loved ones, not exactly in this order. My more active day fun would include working out (I’ve just gotten into this mind you), playing with the kids, shopping/running errands, having game night with friends, making love, again, not exactly in this order!
What are your favorite books? Favorite authors?
My favorite current book is Laurinda D. Brown’s Strapped. I just recently finish reading it in about two days consistently! I love, love, love, this book. My other favorite recent book is Kim Barnouin and Rory Freedman’s Skinny Bitch. My all time favorites are anything by Nikki Giovanni and Dr. Bertice Berry’s Redemption Song.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
As an entrepreneur: seasoned publisher and author, motivational speaker, DJ, and Fitness Instructor. Shoot, I have 10 years to drop the weight, get fit, and eat healthy and I’m inspired to do so right now! I also see myself in a committed, loving relationship with the two kids, and perhaps two adopted real kids. I’m not completely sure what the future holds, but I do know that most of all, I want to be healthy, happy, and in loved with life, and have life in love with me!
What motivates you to write?
Passion for life and others.
What piece of advice can you share with aspiring writers?
Write about what you know, love, and dream of, and never allow anyone to tell you that you can’t do or be whomever you want to be. Praise God for his blessings, love what you do, and don’t worry about the money and the prestige.
Your desire must first be to pleasing God and then yourself, and all things that you need and were meant to have will follow. Have faith and believe in all things being possible.
Why do you feel it’s important for black lesbians to share their own stories, as you did with Longing, Lust, and Love: Black Lesbian Stories?
To me communication is powerful. When we leave things unsaid or undiscovered, we open ourselves to all sorts of negative feelings and actions. People are hiding in unhappy marriages, behind the pulpit, and enduring all kinds of self-induced abuse because they are ashamed of who they are or afraid God will punish them or not love them. But I truly believe God loves ALL people and he already knows who we are. God is okay with our sexuality, the problem lies within and with others who refuse to accept people for who they are and now for who they “think” they should be. Even we share our own stories more, we can heal and we also allow other people the freedom to be themselves as well.
Interviewed December 2008
Shonia Brown’s Reviews