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In an interview on the Today show, E.L. James, the British author behind the bestselling Fifty Shades trilogy, admitted: “I’m [as] stunned by its popularity” as anybody.
The trilogy — Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades of Darker and Fifty Shades of Freed — currently occupies the top three slots on The New York Times combined print and ebook bestseller list.
The novels tell the story of Anastasia, a college student (and virgin), who gets involved in a romantic relationship that involves S&M and bondage with a slightly older man, the billionaire Christian Grey.
James originally wrote the novels as Twilight fan fiction she posted on the web, before reworking stories with original characters. A small Australian publishing house issued ebook editions, which generated healthy but not unusually large sales that led to a contract with U.S. publisher Vintage, an imprint at Doubleday, for print editions.
The New York Times set off an explosion of interest when it called the series “mommy porn” and cited its popularity among trend-setting new mothers in the city.
An intense bidding war for the movie rights ensued. Universal and Focus Features reportedly paid $5 million for the rights, despite demands for script and casting approval from James.
Later in the interview, James confessed that she was “not a great writer” and “very undisciplined” in her approach to writing.
She called the novels her “midlife crisis writ large.”
See the full interview below.
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