I’m a geeky, forty-something single girl and I live in a chaotic apartment on my own without pets because I can’t even keep a plant alive. I’m a computer analyst by day, writer by night and that keeps me sufficiently out of trouble.
I know you live in Europe. Netherlands, I think? Tell us about home!
I live in Belgium, actually, which is south of The Netherlands. We’re the ‘softer’ version. LOL!
Belgium is a small country wedged between The Netherlands, Germany and France. We have an even smaller cousin, Luxembourg, squeezed in there with us. We have three official languages, none of them English. Flemish, my native tongue, is a softer version of Dutch, which is what they speak in The Netherlands. You can compare it with American English and British English. We use a lot of the same words, can understand each other, but our pronunciation (and use of certain words) is different. Also, there are vast cultural differences. Belgians tend to be quieter, more reserved and less in your face than Dutch people.
Also, forget coming to Belgium to learn Dutch. Everyone will try to speak your language if they hear you’re not from around here. I’ve known people who’ve lived here for twenty years and still have less than a working knowledge of the language because we just don’t give them a chance to learn!
As far as LGBTQ rights are concerned, Belgium is a fairly open-minded country. We were one of the first countries to have same sex marriage and same sex adoption. It was passed into law without consulting us, and didn’t get a lot of opposition. Some people still don’t like it, but we don’t care
Recently we’ve had quite a bit of violence against LGBTQ people, though. My friends also tell me they don’t walk hand in hand with their boyfriends anymore for fear of being assaulted. It saddens me because let’s face it: it’s great to walk around the city and spot two guys holding hands. It makes me happy! Luckily I get to see this in the privacy of parties and get-togethers, but I’d still like it if they could just behave like any other couple and wouldn’t need to worry about what people thought.
Antwerp, the city I live in, actively promotes itself as gay-friendly. We have a very active LGBTQ social group, very well attended international summer parties (NaviGaytion, on boats bobbing on the river), a separate set of Pride festivities from our capital city and we will be hosting the WorldOutGames in 2013. I’m trying to get our English language m/m books into the Literary Festival which will be part of the OutGames. If they were translated into Dutch, I’d have an easier time for sure, but I’m not giving up yet.
How did you get started writing?
I started writing X-Files Fanfic on the official X-Files boards (yes, we could be open about it in those days). When that fizzled out (middle nineties), I didn’t do much more until I discovered Lord of the Rings fanfic. I never got into writing canon, also because, strangely enough, I’m not a big fan of fantasy, but the actors were too good not to write about (put a dozen, attractive, mostly single male actors on a remote island together for eighteen months and see what happens). It was a great learning curve for me. After a while even that became too limiting and my stories became more and more AU and I started writing “acting parts” for my favorite actors. Original fiction was only a small step from that.
What’s a fun fact about you? Something unique, a particular talent?
I love people watching. I live to sit outside a café in Antwerp and look at people and imagine what brought them there, what their story is. I never thought this was particularly strange until I told a few friends about this and they told me I had “a wild imagination”. According to my mother I get this from my father. I’m not complaining!
Ideal man/woman/one of each:
Ideal man: funny, nerdy, not afraid of eye-contact (for some reason this is very important to me) and honest to a fault, although a little tact goes a long way. You can imagine this is an impossible combination, especially in a straight man. In fact, I’ve only ever found it in a gay man (that should be plural) and they don’t want someone like me for more than friendship (understandably).
Ideal woman: confident, knows what she wants, not backstabbing, jealous or degrading (this sounds like I’ve been pulled through the wringer a few times, right? Right!)
Favorite movies/books/TV shows
TV: The Big Bang Theory (nerds, remember?), The West Wing (showing my age), anything CSI, NCIS, Criminal Minds, Without a Trace, Cold Case,…. I don’t really watch TV, unless it’s on DVD or data stick. I don’t have the patience to wait a week for another episode, or the kind of schedule where I can make sure I’m sitting behind my TV every week a the same time.
Movies: Lord of the Rings, anything sci-fi, anything with subtitles
Books: Anything m/m these days. I don’t have time to read other genres. Classics would be: The Front Runner, The Catch Trap, The Kushiel trilogy.
What brought you to Coffee and Porn in the Morning? Favorite part?
I admit I like the pictures. I love finding the link on my Twitter and clicking it to see what you girls posted!
If you could travel anywhere in the world (money and time and travel is no object), where would you go? Why? And for how long?
I’ve seen large parts of the world. If money and time were no object I’d take a year off work to spend time traveling around the Far East (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos) and then on to Australia and New Zealand.
Would you travel to space on a commercial flight, or are you Earth-bound for good?
Oh no, Send me up! I’m an astronaut in my dreams. Put me in stasis and fly me to Mars!
Which fictional character do you most wish were real?
Aragorn. Rugged, handsome, kind, walks through fire for his friends, knows how to be gentle. I’d put him in a shower first, but other than that, bring him on.
Social Media: Love it? Hate it? Discuss.
Like most people I’m somewhere in the middle. It certainly has its merits. I like Twitter, since it’s short and easy. I also have just one account on there, which is my professional one. Facebook is a bit of a mess, I think. It’s difficult to reach your target audience IMHO. I also have two accounts (a professional and a personal one) and I should get a third to keep my socializing away from my game playing (told you I was a geek). I’ve only just recently started socializing there for my personal life, since I’m part of a very busy local LGBTQ sports group and they post a lot of stuff on Facebook.
As a writer, I also need to go to places like Goodreads, but I’m not a fan of places where people can go and spill their guts about books they haven’t read. I’m all for free speech and people finding outlets for their ‘writing’ but as a person I need to protect my muses, so I don’t read the reviews.
Haven’t really gotten into any of the others, and frankly, don’t want to either! It’s hard enough to keep up with what I’ve got!
I also have a website and a newsletter,but everything that cuts into my writing time is hard to get excited about.
Do you have any guilty pleasures you’d like to confess?
I’m lactose sensitive, but can’t resist ice cream occasionally, even though I know it makes me sick.
Along that same line, I also crush on one of my gay friends occasionally, although I know it will never amount to anything. I can’t help myself. The things I look for in a man are just more easily found in gay men than in straight ones. So if you know a straight man who acts like a gay one, send him my way!
What are your interests/passions: charities, causes, etc?
I’ve always had a lot of gay friends and a sense of justice that was a little overdeveloped, so when I realized my gay friends weren’t given the same rights as my straight ones, I was outraged (think: adolescent sort of outrage and that was also the age I discovered it). I also realized that I’d been raised to not think homosexuality was any different than heterosexuality. I was still in high school when I came to the full realization that other people weren’t as open-minded and didn’t have parents who had gay and lesbian friends. This was the eighties and it wasn’t fashionable to support LGBTQ rights, but I did anyway. A group of us spent a few hours at the police station for chaining ourselves to the town hall to demand rights for gay people to marry. I wasn’t charged with anything and we had a laugh, but I was dead serious. When they finally signed it into law, we had a big celebration! Very few of my gay friends are actually married, but then not a lot of my straight friends are either. That doesn’t matter. The injustice is gone now and that’s what counts. They can get married if they want to.
As far as charity goes, I believe that since I don’t need to live off my writing proceeds, I have to give some of it away. For the last two years I’ve micro-financed a few documentaries and indie movies through IndieGoGo (www.indiegogo.com). They have all sorts of stuff going on, so check them out!
Also, I wrote a story, published by Dreamspinner Press for which $1.20 of every sale will go to the It Gets Better Project (www.itgetsbetter.org). It’s called “You Can Choose Your Friends” and we donated US$ 366 in April and only just now another US$ 310. I’m aiming to make that an even US$ 1000 by the end of the year, so I still need everyone’s help!
You can find it here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2715
Zahra Owens is a multi-lingual globetrotter who loves big cities, but also has a weak spot for the wide-open spaces that are so rare where she lives.
She likes her men either tough on the outside but with a huge soft center, or strong, silent and damaged. She makes it her personal goal to find them their happy-ever-after, the road there often leading via hospital beds, villas with gorgeous vistas or ranges full of horses.
Zahra is a proud member of the Rainbow Romance Writers and loves being the foreigner in the Romance Writers of America.
If Zahra had her wish, a day would have at least 36 hours, because how else would she find the time to finish all the novels still inside her head?
You can find Zahra at Zahraowens.com
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