Updated: Sep 10
A renaissance black lesbian.
Shonia Brown never imagined that when she fell in love with Harlequin romances and TV soap operas as a young child that these fantasy worlds would lead to her passion as a black lesbian romance writer. Her original daydreams were filled with white knights and alabaster skinned damsels in distress from the printed word to the TV screen. But as she matured in age and body, so did her mind and desires. Shonia wanted to see more people that looked and talked like her with similar experiences as her own.
So, she began to write romance novels and soap operas with paper and pen, then on a used electric typewriter, her mother had discovered in a dumpster. The typewriter's keys were a little sticky, but Shonia managed to create some of her favorite young adult fantasies on that typewriter.
t wasn't until her late 20s and early 30's that Shonia truly came into her own as a self-published writer of a black lesbian romance, A Deeper Love, under her small print press, Nghosi Books. As Shonia would explain it during future book signings and interviews, her first novel was born from an infatuation for a straight colleague at work and Shonia's desire to remain faithful to her partner. Shonia shared her awakening into a more profound love for "self," her lesbian identity, and her humanitarianism through that initial journey.
But the infatuation and foreplay on paper became a more thoughtful exploration of finding one's true self through self-love. This transformation in her writing approach was due to her personal transformation after the end of a six-year relationship with her first lover. During that breakup, Shonia also lost her self-identity. She had often defined herself as a part of a couple, not as an individual. That difficult journey was the best gift she could have given herself. It is reflected in the varying temperatures and moods experienced throughout the novel.
Why does Shonia consider herself a Renaissance woman?
Shonia never imagined her introduction into the world of publishing would be as
a self-published writer. Her childhood dreams were thoughts of being signed by a book agent and then a publishing house that would take care of the necessary distribution and publicity for her book. She thought her only real responsibility would be creating the popular, addictive romance novels everyone would love and buy. But her rude awakening was to come faster than she realized when Shonia stepped into the highly unpopular genre at the time, black lesbian romance. She discovered during her search for these writers, even as a reader was difficult to uncover. There were plenty of new and familiar white lesbian writers in her reach, but the black lesbian writers seemed more focused on a historical genre or poetry. Many new black lesbian writers like herself were self-publishing, including Laurinda D. Brown, Deardria AdriEnne Nesbitt, and Trish Carter, to name a few. Fortunately, she was mentored by her peer and good friend, Deardria AdriEnne Nesbitt, former publisher of GateWay Publishing, and suspense thriller writer Brandon Massey. She learned more than she ever realized she needed to know about guerrilla publishing and marketing as a black self-published writer.
Shonia soon learned, as she did with the ending of her long-term relationship, that failure brings growth as death brings rebirth. Initially, she attempted to submit her first novel to an agent and other publishing houses, but Shonia's writing style never fit within their prescribed way of writing. So, through mentorships, research, and trial and error, Nghosi Books was born. Sometimes, life imitates art. It's also true that art imitates life in more ways than one for Shonia. Such as a request to learn how to build a company website from a former employer led her to use this new skill to revamp the company website and create the former Nghosi Books.com. Throughout her writing and publishing experiences, Shonia has developed presentation, marketing, graphic design, instructional design, networking skills, and much more. These learned skills have impacted her professional career as a technical writer, instructional designer, and project manager in a corporate environment.
Her self-publishing journey also created a desire to help other BIPOC lesbian writers get their voices heard and words printed for an underserved community. This desire led to publishing Longing, Lust, and Love: Black Lesbian Stories. This anthology has been well received over the past twelve years and has often been imitated but never duplicated by mainstream publishers. LOL! The authenticity of the lesbian writers in this collection and the variety of stories and topics covered speak to the heart of BIPOC lesbians of all ages and backgrounds. The anthology has also been recommended in an Essence magazine article as helpful insight for a black woman who is coming into her acceptance of her sexuality and identity. The mention of this small print press publication in a mainstream popular black lifestyle magazine is a true testament to Shonia Brown and Nghosi Books' influence within the LGBTIQ+ community.
Shonia's collaborative nature and gratitude for the blessings given to her extend past the publishing house (now Onyx Lee Publications) in 2002, when she released Nghosi Books.com and published her first novel,
Shonia realized Indie artists were coming into their own, but not without struggle. Her desire to promote her debut novel through an online presence metamorphosed into creating a website that would promote other self-published writers and create a forum for all indie artists. Like kudzu, this new purpose grew quickly into Nghosi Arts and both online and special in-person celebrations of indie artists.
The Nghosi name was derived from the African word Ngozi, which means blessings. She is never one to take her talents for granted. Shonia sees her ability to ignite powerful movements within her words and networking as a shared blessing. Over the five years from 2002 – 2007, Shonia built a popular indie artist forum, self-publishing house, and presence within the black and white LGBTIQ+ community.
In 2003, in partnership with Betty Couvertier, a former LGBTIQ+ activist, public radio show personality, and events promoter, Shonia created the first diverse annual Rock, Rhythm, and Rhyme Artist Explosion. This concert of independent singers, bands, poets, and dancers took place from 2003 to 2005 during the traditionally white Atlanta Pride festival. For her work in helping to bring exposure to diversity within the Atlanta LGBTIQ+ community, the Atlanta Pride Committee awarded Shonia with the Community Builder Award in 2005 and, three years later, the honor of Grand Marshall during the 2008 Atlanta Pride parade.
In 2009, after suffering the loss of her mother due to pancreatic cancer, Shonia went into isolation. The yearning to share her voice and stories with the LGBTIQ+ community motivated her to rise again like a Phoenix. Through grief came maturity in her voice and her focus. Although many things have changed within the community interests and the plethora of new BIPOC lesbian voices available, Shonia knows that it is never too late to reinvent oneself or bring people together in support of a better way of life. She continues to explore her fantasies and matters of her heart through a new persona in her pen name, Aunt Georgia Lee. The voice and writing of Aunt Georgia Lee are more seasoned and wiser. But Shonia continues to bring her readers the joy and pain of characters you will rejoice with, mourn with, love, and hate in a read that sweeps you up into their worlds and takes you on a ride that ends quicker than you'd like it to be but remains in your heart and mind forever.