Who’s E. L. James, the woman behind erotic hit Fifty Shades of Grey?

Book covers Fifty Shades of Grey
Erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, the first of a trilogy, will officially come out in the U.S. (under the Vintage imprint of Random House) April 3, 2012, but it’s already a New York Times bestseller that’s sold hundreds of thousands of copies through an on-demand Australian press, The Writer’s Coffee Shop.

It’s an addictive extra-guilty pleasure that spread by the word-of-mouth of women hungry for some titillation, and has been credited with boosting the sex drives, and therefore saving marriages and relationships,of ladies around the world.

How did this book get so popular? Where did it come from? And who is it’s author, E. L. James?

E. L. James, who is a former television executive (she was head of production at an independent production company, and was a production exec at BBC for eight years)Fifty Shades of Grey author photo erotic fiction started all this when she got so inspired by Twilight (first the movie, then the books) that she had to write her own fan fiction. She initially wrote steamy stories about Bella and Edward under the name Snowqueens Icedragon. She called her tale Master of the Universe. Later, as her story developed, she changed the names to Ana Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. Christian is a late-twenties self-made billionaire, and Ana is a virginal literature student who can’t resist his charms, or his aggressive sexuality. The sex scenes are reportedly graphic, steamy, and full of BDSM sexplay (BDSM stands for a combination of three phrases: “Bondage and Discipline,” “Dominance and Submission,” and “Sadism and Masochism.”)

James’ real name is Erika Leonard (EL!) She’s a fortysomething mother of two teens, from West London who sold her book rights to Random House for seven figures, and the movie rights to Grey to Universal Pictures and Focus Features for a reported $5 million. She told Entertainment Weekly she ultimately went with Focus because they gave her approval for scripts and casting (she wants “beautiful unknowns”,) they make her laugh, and they have a history of dealing well with difficult, or sensitive material (Brokeback Mountain, The Pianist, The Kids Are Alright, to name a few.)

For years, in order to escape from a job she hated, she would bury herself in hundreds of romance novels, so by the time she finally chose to pen one of her own, she was already immersed in the language of erotic literature. Grey has been criticized for being repetitive, lacking certain logical details, and even unimaginative, but despite any shortcomings, it seems to dish out the right amount of provocative prose to get Leonard’s fans satiated. Maybe part of her effectiveness is that she didn’t really set out to do anything, except write for her own pleasure: “I wrote the books for myself. It’s my fantasy writ large.” She also makes no claims to her literary talent, telling Time “I don’t think I’m a great writer by any means. But I can tell a story.”

James owes part of her success not only to breathless and blushing word of mouth and Facebook hype, but also to tons of community buzz on book site goodreads.com, where they nominated underground book for Best Romance.

You can also read a lot of quotes from the books. Here’s are a few of my favorites:

“Why don’t you like to be touched?”
“Because I’m fifty shades of f**ked-up, Anastasia”

“Don’t get your panties in such a twist… and give me back mine.”

“I am going to have coffee with Christian Grey… and I hate coffee.”

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