Sizzler Editions: Where do you get your ideas?
Gender Studies, Second Wave Feminism, a combination of world mythology and real life. My parents are anthropologists so I grew up hearing tales and legends from different peoples and began to wonder what these gods' and heroes' private lives might be like. Logically Aphrodite must have bad hair days and feel cranky now and then, even if she is the embodiment of pure erotic female power. In the case of
these stories, I lived in Armenia for two years in the mid-1990s as a Peace Corps volunteer and saw what the country was going through – there was this older generation coming out of Soviet rule with a failed economy and rampant alcoholism who were, to put nicely, rather traditional in their views of sex and women and how the universe was
suppose to work. But there was the new generation of kids my age and younger, who had just tasted Western decadence for the first time and said, “yes please, I want more of that!” Erotica, Feminism and Queer Rights had yet to make much of a foot hold back then, but that was changing. I suppose it says something that most of the Armenian translators I work with now are from Detroit or L.A., where ideas about sexuality have advanced beyond the whole Madonna/Whore tiresomeness. You can judge a culture's health by the manner in which they treat sex in all its forms, and so the more Erotica we can translate and write in Armenian the stronger that culture will become.
Q: What Do You Like Most About Being An Author?
A: As much as Erotica can be considered a radical art, helping to change other people's lives for the better would be a wonderful reward. One of the things that upset me when my Peace Corps tour was over and I had to return to the States was the knowledge that 99% of my female students and friends were destined to simply get married in their
teens, have babies for the next 30 years and give up on their dreams. Not that motherhood isn't a noble profession, mind you, but under a different set of circumstances these women would be lawyers and doctors, judges and who knows what. I don't delude myself into thinking that a collection of short stories will change the world, but if it can change a few people's views on gender rights and the spiritual force we call erotica, then that is a start.
Q: What is your advice to beginning writers?
A: Plots dealing with real people and not emotionless sex-bots are nice things. Dialogue that doesn't make me giggle also is an added plus (unlike porn, you can't turn off the sound to cheesy dialogue of the written word). Erotica is an art. It needs to be practiced, refined and sharpened. So much modern smut I read comes off sounding like it was jotted down in mid-orgasm, and while that might be great for the
author it doesn't leave the reader with much to work with. Or, and this might be worse, it is simply a retelling of the cliched “I'm a swinging sex god and here's a gynecological description of Angelina Jolie” ... while that might satisfy some people's needs I would like to think we are capable of better things.
Q: What Can Your Readers Look Forward To From You In The Future?
A: I love stories of ordinary woman doing extraordinary things. I've been reading up on the Dahomey Amazons, the Fon (tribal) all-female army from the Kingdom of Dahomey (now Benin, Africa) which lasted up until the end of the 19th century. Perhaps a collection of stories based on Seh-Dong-Hong-Beh, a woman general who, in 1851, led some 6,000 of her female warriors against the fortress of Abeokuta. That would be, as they say, kick-ass. Or, perhaps, the erotic life of Privates Vasquez (played by Jenette Goldstein) from Cameron's film Aliens (1986). Either way, blood, estrogen and orgasms will, hopefully, flow.
Zachary Jean is a hospice nurse from Grand Rapids, MI. Much of his writing is drawn from his Peace Corps experience when he lived in Armenia in the mid-1990s. The Red Mother is his first collection of published stories.