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, and had similar experiences as her own. So, she began to write romance novels and soap operas at first with paper and pen, then on a used electric typewriter her mother had discovered in a dumpster. The keys of the typewriter were a little sticky, but Shonia managed to create some of her favorite young adult fantasies on that typewriter.
It wasn’t until her late 20’s 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. Through that initial journey, Shonia was able to share her awakening into a deeper love for “self,” her lesbian identity, and her humanitarianism. As Shonia would explain it during future book signings and interviews, her first novel was born out of an infatuation for a straight colleague at work, and Shonia’s desire to remain faithful to her partner.
But the infatuation and foreplay on paper became a more thoughtful exploration of finding one’s true self through self-love. This transformation in 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, as she had often defined herself as a part of a couple and not as an individual. That difficult journey was later realized as the best gift that she could have given to herself. It is reflected in the varying temperatures and moods that are experienced throughout the novel.
My stories and characters are my families and friends. They are what I dreamed could be and how people should be. Can we pretend?
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 filled with notions of being signed by a book agent then a publishing house that would take care of the necessary distribution and publicity for her book. She simply thought her only real responsibility would be to create the popular, addictive romance novels that 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 of the new black lesbian writers like herself were self-publishing, Laurinda D. Brown, Deardria AdriEnne Nesbitt, Trish Carter, to name a few. Under the mentorship of her peer and good friend, Deardria AdriEnne Nesbitt, former publisher of GateWay Publishings, and suspense thriller writer, Brandon Massey, Shonia 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 did attempt to submit her first novel to an agent and to 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. 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 for the revamp of the company website and the creation of Nghosi Books.com. But sometimes, life imitates art. Throughout her writing and publishing experiences, Shonia has developed presentation, marketing, graphic design, instructional design, networking skills, and much more. These learned skills have been impactful to her professional career as a technical writer, instructional designer, and project manager in a corporate environment.
Her journey into self-publishing 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 the publishing of 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 background. The anthology has also been recommended in an Essence magazine article as helpful insight for a black woman who is just 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 the influence that Shonia Brown and Nghosi Books have been within the LGBTIQA+ community.
Shonia’s collaborative nature and gratitude for the blessings that have been given to her extend pass the publishing house, which is now OnyxLee 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, as well as 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. Never one to take her talents for granted, Shonia sees her ability to ignite powerful movements within her words and networking as a blessing that must be shared. Over the course of five years from 2002 – 2007, Shonia built a popular indie artist forum, self-publishing house, and presence within both the black and white LGBTIQA+ community.
In 2003, in partnership with Betty Couvertier, a former LGBTIQA+ activist, public radio show personality, and events promoter, Shonia created the first diverse annual Rock, Rhythm, and Rhyme Artist Explosion, a concert of independent singers, bands, poets, and dancers that 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 LGBTIQA+ 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.
During 2009, after suffering the loss of her mother due to pancreatic cancer, Shonia went into isolation before the yearning to share her voice and stories again with the LGBTIQA+ 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. Although the voice and writing of Aunt Georgia Lee is more seasoned and wiser, 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 world and takes you on a ride that ends quicker than you’d like it to be, but remains in your heart and mind forever.