I’ll admit it. Java could not wait to talk to E. L. “Erica” James, that naughty English author whose “Fifty Shades” trilogy about Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele is burning up the bestseller lists these days! (I am up to Book 3, which by the way has a partial story line that takes place in Hamden, CT??? but the Kindle died and I have to wait for it to recharge to find out what that is all about.)
Funny, unassuming and genuinely perplexed at all the political hullabaloo about her salacious story line, the 40-something-year-old James is a married former TV exec, housewife and mother to two teenagers who has written erotica before. Her life, though, has changed 180 degrees since Grey and his dominant/submissive relationship with Ana hit American bookstore shelves last month. Her limited United States book tour includes a stop Wednesday at the Omni Hotel in New Haven, where Roxanne Coady’s R.J. Julia Bookstore is hosting a sold-out ladies night that includes a reception and discussion about the book with the famed author. Java can’t wait!
In in the meantime, James, at home in West London, England, graciously took a call from Hartford CT and was more than happy to talk (in her delightful English accent) about silver ties, red rooms and what she categorizes as mere “romance” novels, as she Spilled the Beans with Java.
Q: I want to ask the really interesting questions first. Do your own books excite you?
A: Yes. Especially when I had to re-edit them. I did find myself getting quite horny.
Q: Is there a red “play” room in your house?
Q: Does your husband own a silver tie?
A: He does now…several of them.
Q: Is he intimidated by Christian Grey’s, uhhh, expertise?
A: No, he’s good with it. He is actually very supportive of me. He always has been.
Q: You have two teenage sons. What do they say when they have to explain what Mom does for a living?
A: The boys are 15 and 17 and they have known for ages that the books were quite racy. Mydesk is positioned so that my computer faces the wall, and I wear headphones and listen to classical music while I write, so often they would pop up behind me while I was typing and I did not know they were there. When I would realize it, I would shut down the screen so they could not see. They are very supportive and do slightly roll their eyes about some of it all. And really, what teenager is really interested in what Mum is doing. I did, however, tell my older son’s girlfriend that she is not allowed to read the books until she is 18.
Q: More seriously, I am getting hammered with comments and emails that your books have set women back 100 years, that the story line turns women into property, that the dominant/submissive story line is twisted and that the writing just downright stinks. And then there is the other side, experts and women applauding it as “mommy porn” that is reigniting relationships. Television shows have trotted out sex therapists, psychologists, doctors and whatever other experts they can dig up to weigh in on both sides. What’s your response to it all?
A: It is just a love story. That is all. I have no idea why everyone feels the need to dissect it. It is being overanalyzed. It is just a love story with a little bit of kink. I never dreamed the books would turn into all of this. I find it very difficult to get my head around the reaction of some people to the story. It blows my mind the way some people are trying to get underneath the books. It was just great fun to write, and that is what the books are, just fun books. It’s not my job to get into it with those who think otherwise. It is just a fancy, romantic, fictional, love story
Q: How exciting is this all for you?
A: Again, I am just blown away by what has happened to the books. But I have to say I am so tired, between putting three books out in such a short time, and the touring and the interviews and now the movie. I have not slept much in the past three days because of all the publicity and requests and it all is still so surprising to me. Everything has happened so fast.
Q: You mentioned the movie, which of course has created a buzz of its own, especially when it comes to casting Christian. Will you be involved, and while he does not quite fit the age demographic, I have read that you are a huge Brad Pitt fan.
A: The movie, I hope, will be a collaborative effort with the studios.
Q: And Pitt as the leading role, or perhaps Ryan Gosling, Robert Pattinson, Zac Efron or someone else?
A: I have no one in mind and have to plead the Fifth. (Then she begins chuckling).
Q: Are you excited about the U.S. tour?
A: I am kind of excited and kind of terrified. It is very daunting it is very difficult to do it all. This has all happened so fast. I just haven’t had a chance to step back.
Q: What did you buy as the money started rolling in?
A: I haven’t really bought anything yet but would like to plan a nice holiday with my family soon, perhaps to the Caribbean. Somewhere I can lie down and the kids can run about.
Q: Will there be a fourth in the “Shades of Grey” series. A story line like, they have a couple of kids and the “red room” is redone into a pink or blue nursery?
A: I don’t know yet about another book, although everyone is hollering for a book written from Christian’s point of view.
Q: Are you an imaginative person or a very experienced one?
A: When I worked in TV as a producer, I handled logistics and the business side of things. Writing these books and others is the creative side of me and it has been nice to finally channel my creativity. And as far as being autobiographical, maybe a very little.
Q: Are there other books in your head?
A: I actually have three I have written but never published. Two of them are the same genre as “Fifty Shades,” the second is a young adults’ book. I am going back to the first one and will re-edit it. I think readers would like it.
Q: Something no one knows about you?
A: I am so untidy. You should see my bedroom. Christian really wouldn’t like it.