“Fifty Shades of Grey” author E.L. James laughs at her writing, ‘I’m not a great author’

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I have to admit that I have not yet read Fifty Shades of Grey, that widely popular S&M book trilogy that is being made into a film. My mom has read it though, and so have many of her friends. I’ve had several uncomfortable conversations with my mother about it, and after I told her to stop talking about that damn book she brought it up repeatedly to tease me. Her 70 year-old friend was enthusing about how sexy it was and how I just HAD to read it. So basically I haven’t read it yet because I associate it with my mom. I know this is not logical.

Anyway the book started out as Twilight fan fiction, written by British author, E.L. James. James switched around the character names from Edward and Bella, developed the story beyond fanfiction and put out the book through a virtual publisher as both an e-book and an on-demand print edition. In a new interview on The Today Show, James laughs repeatedly at the fact that her fantasy on paper has become a bestseller, and admits that she’s not a great writer. She also gets uncomfortable when the interviewer reads back some of the things she’s written. In other words, she’s all sorts of awesome. I love when she’s asked “do you need a couple of glasses of wine [to write]” and she says “I always need a couple of glasses of wine!

British writer E.L. James, author of the erotic romance trilogy beginning with the bestselling “Fifty Shades of Grey,” can’t believe the impact of her work, or the influence her books have had on the fantasies of women around the world.

The suburban mother of two, who wrote the books as “Twilight” fan fiction, said she’s “stunned” at the success of the story. “I was amazed how popular it was. I’m still amazed,” she told TODAY’s Michelle Kosinski Tuesday.

The books, which have been passed around by women like contraband, follow the relationship between the young student Anastasia Steele and the “very attractive” Christian Grey, who has “unruly dark-copper-colored hair and intense, bright gray eyes.” Soon after first meeting, the couple embarks on a passionate affair as Steele “learns more about her own dark desires” in Grey’s “red room of pain.”

A film adaptation of the series is in the works. But despite all the attention, James says there isn’t anything revolutionary about her books.

“This is my midlife crisis, writ large,” she said. “All my fantasies in there, and that’s it.”

While the couple in the “Fifty Shades” books are haunted by outside forces much like their predecessors Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, there aren’t any vampires or werewolves in the story. Protagonist Christian Grey, a wildly successful billionaire, is described as a man “tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control,” while Steele is his perfect match with her pure, “quiet beauty” and “independent spirit.”

James thinks of the books as “kind of raw,” and says she doesn’t think she’s a great writer or a very disciplined one.

Still, Grey, whose silver ties (used as tools of bondage in the book) have become a bit of a cultural phenomenon, is described in the novel as “the richest, most elusive, most enigmatic bachelor in Washington state.” Is that what women really want?

“Once you’re in charge of your job, your house, your children, getting the food on the table, doing all of this, all of the time, it’d be nice for someone else to be in charge for a bit maybe,” said James.

But in real life, it’s different.

“You want someone who does the dishes.”

[MSNBC via Evil Beet]

Now I like her so much that I really want to read these books and see what the hype is all about. They sound cheesy as hell but incredibly enjoyable. Our friends at Evil Beet found some of the worst quotes from the book on this tumblr 50shadesofsuck. I don’t think James would disagree that some of her writing sucks. She admitted writing it on her phone after all. Now she’s laughing all the way to the bank.

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55 Responses to ““Fifty Shades of Grey” author E.L. James laughs at her writing, ‘I’m not a great author’”

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  1. WaywardGirl says:

    I like her. The writing in 50 Shades is awful, but at least she acknowledges it (unlike Stephanie Meyer who thinks she is the voice of a million young women and takes her books, oh, so seriously)

    • sarah says:

      I actually love 50 Shades but you are so right, the writing is awful. I enjoy the story but so many times reading it I just wanted to punch the author in the face for her “style” of writing.

      • Launicaangelina says:

        So is her writing style the same as Peter Griffith’s on Family Guy? Peterotica is the episode I’m referring to… Lol!

      • GimmeABreak says:

        LOL!! ” I wanted to punch the author in the face…” Let ‘s hope that whoever wrote the screenplay isn’t as bad! It is, quite possibly, the worst written book ever. Yes, EVER!!

  2. Chatcat says:

    “Once you’re in charge of your job, your house, your children, getting the food on the table, doing all of this, all of the time, it’d be nice for someone else to be in charge for a bit maybe,” said James.

    I read the triology, I am 48 year old professional, mom of 3 sons aged 17-24 and couldn’t figure out why I liked the stories but I did. She is correct, it wasn’t good writing or such…it’s basic and simple as her statement and her story.

    • MsLib says:

      I read a lot and enjoy a well written book. I have put down books after 30/60/90 pages that I just couldn’t stand although they had Oprah’s approval and 4+ stars at Amazon. These books were FUN: like Cotton Candy, Rainbows, and Lollipops!

      • Chatcat says:

        I agree MsLib…like soap operas of the 80’s. I am thinking specifically GH and Luke & Laura…God I rushed home from high school to watch it daily. And who doesn’t love Carnival treats!!! lol

  3. lucy2 says:

    Can’t be any worse than actual Twilight itself.
    Haven’t read it, but find it a little strange that one is able to turn fan fiction, admittedly based on another person’s characters, into their own copyrighted work.
    There was just some article in EW about this, and I for some reason thought she was trying to remain unknown. Guess not!

    • lani says:

      uh, actually it can. I read part of it when it was a fanfiction and had to stop when the guy pulls out his lover’s tampon when she tells him “no” cause she’s on his period. That 50 shades dude is suppossed to be a dom, but he just comes off like some OCD neurotic Rainman. At least Edward has good hair.

      But good for her for making money off it and not taking herself seriously.

      • orly says:

        Lani, that scene didn’t happen as you described. Bella/Anastasia never told Edward/Christian “no”, that would have been rape, and that never happened in Master of the Universe or Fifty Shades of Grey. The scene is too explicit to post here, but it didn’t happen the way you said at all.
        The whole story is junk food for the brain. A fun read if you can look past the flaws.

  4. Eileen says:

    THis is hilarious and awesome! I keep hearing about this book and keep meaning to get it. Now I’m definitely going to.
    Someone here was talking about The Black Dagger Brotherhood a few weeks back and I got 6 of them-holy sh-t that is some steamy stuff as well! I was blushing reading it!

    • MorticiansDoItDeader says:

      Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series is similar. They aren’t written well, but the eroticism borders on the grotesque. The man character is a succubus/vampire hunter with multiple vampire/werewolf/shapeshifter lovers. there’s BDSM throughout and a snuff film story line in one of the books. 😳

      • Camille (The original) says:

        I loved the first few AB books in the series as they had great mysteries as well as the sexy stuff, but then as the series went on it became ALL about the relationship/sex stuff (with no real story line) and they became boring because the writing progressively got worse as the series went on.


    • Mauibound says:

      I tried to read those, I really did but they were so awful!!!!

    • Mauibound says:

      I tried to read those, I really did but they were so awful!!!! ( the brotherhood ) I really liked the Anita Blakes for the first part of the series but man, the author got so hung up on describing everyones outfits it became very silly! Oh and the adjustible penises were a riot!

      • MorticiansDoItDeader says:

        @camille, I feel exactly the same way. No effort was put into the series after obsidian butterfly (like @asli said). She focused so much on trying to make sensational sex scenes that the story lines began to suffer and the sex scenes became tired.

        @Asli, the last AB book I picked up was Hit List. It was more of the same, and I just couldn’t get into it, so i put ot down and started reading A Game of Thrones. Requiem was an ok character. I liked JC, but the more “lovers” Anita took, the less we saw of him. I’m a Laurell K. Hamilton “Facebook” fan, and she posts all of the time. Her personality is exactly like Anita. It’s almost like she thinks she is her. It’s super annoying.

        @maui, I guess Laurell ran out of things to talk about besides sex and goth gear! LOL

    • Eileen says:

      lol! Well on behalf of all my girlfriends and me-thank you! We have enjoyed them and now even our significant others are curious and want to read them!

  5. Lisa says:



    As a LOVA of literature…if you want to read a REALLY good book on this subject matter…check out “Topping From Below”…by Laura Reese…

    • Lindsay says:

      I read that one! It’s based in the city I used to live in. And you are right – holy hell that’s a steamy book!!

      • Susan says:

        Thank you for the recommendation. I would love to read some good erotica now that I have a Nook, but wasn’t sure where to start. I had a feeling “Fifty Shades” would not be cream of the crop, but I’m on the waiting list for the ebook from the library, so why not, I suppose.

  6. Roberta says:

    I read the first book and while E.L. James is nice, her writing is atrocious. The book was severely in need of editing. She repeatedly uses her “subconscious” and her “inner goddess” throughout the entire book. She created her characters as Americans, but failed to use American terminology. Like calling her purse a satchel and instead of taking a vacation, her characters went on a holiday. Overall, the sex scenes in the book are the only reason to pick this up. She excels in that area and nowhere else. Still, if you can overlook her overused phrases, it’s a decent read.

    • DreamyK says:

      I finally gave in and started to read it this morning. All the Bella mannerisms are in there: blushing, clumsy, fidgety, submissive, hair behind the ears, lip biting, ad nauseum. Totally annoying, in other words. I haven’t arrived at the part where a D/s contract outlining boundaries and limits to push is revealed, but for the life of me, I simply cannot figure out why he finds this awkward girl so appealing.

      I do have to say, much to my surprise, it’s a strangely compelling read, mostly because I want to find out how she reacts to his revealing his true nature and how the author assimilates his cold sexuality while still maintaining him as enough of a romantic/sympathetic figure for women to still find him swoon worthy. I have a large erotica/romantica collection, so none of this writing is new ground for me. It’s not a horrible book so far, but I’m glad that I borrowed it instead of buying it.

      For those who are interested in some great authors that do Domestic Discipline, BDSM/D/s check out Sophie Oak, Alta Hensley, Lainey Reese,Leah Brooke and Cherise Sinclair. They’re graphic without being totally hardcore/gritty, monogamous with a happily ever after. The hardcore/gritty stuff is a whole different genre.

      And a big thanks to eReaders that’ve allowed people to download their choice of kink without having a cashier check out their mom porn stash and with no telltale book covers for others to get all judgy.

      • atlantapug says:

        You can find out what he sees in her at the end of the third book. She does a chapter from Christians point of view just like Midnight Sun.
        I actually really liked the male character. I thought his personality and how it developed from his childhood was interesting.
        The sex wasn’t very shocking. At all.

  7. RhymesWithSilver says:

    Ha ha! I had no interest in this book before, but I like her! I want to come over and hang out with E.L. James, drink wine and maybe watch something trashy on Starz.

  8. Green_Eyes says:

    The quotes are cheesy… cheesy like the old Harlequin Romances my sister & I would read & laugh at when we were younger. If they get steamy I’d say they are the cheesy Harlequin Romance Novels on Steroids. I will say kudos to her, damn, all those times my Sis & I laughed & said we could do better, joking about starting our own series…

  9. Aiobhan says:

    The writing is horrible but the story is not that bad. I will never admit to any of my friends that I like it though. Don’t get me wrong I love erotica/erotic romance and can name about 20 better author’s who write this stuff (Maya Banks,Lora Leigh, Joey W. Hill, etc) but it is not as bad as some other stuff.

    You have to appreciate a woman who can laugh at herself and call it like it is. Plus she is a successful woman who likes dirty books like I do; I cannot really hate on her.

    • orly says:

      I can’t stand Lora Leigh’s writing. It’s all smut and the stories are sort of incoherent. The whole Surrender/Submission/Sacrifice… series was a mess. I quit after the 3rd book because the characters’ decisions made no sense, there was no character development so it wasn’t possible to connect with them.

      • Aiobhan says:

        I should not have included Lora Leigh because for the exact same reasons you stated I stopped reading her books but she was (and still is) very popular. I don’t really know why though. She has a problem with consent between man and woman that irks me. But her couples dynamic is similar to this book. I love smut but it can get in the way of an interesting story sometimes. I love Joey W. Hill because she switches between maledom and femdom. The sex scenes are very inventive and the story is beautifully told as well.

      • Orly says:

        Yes, I love Joey Hill as well. The whole Vampire Goddess series was great!
        Yeah, the characters in LL books are so random, I mean, they go from not seeing each other for years to instantly getting into a D/s relationship. It’s weird. I find that to be different with 50shades because they is actually a story, albeit, not a great one.

        As for smut, J.R. Ward does it for me.

  10. mln76 says:

    Wow its kind of cool that she doesn’t take herself seriously but considering the amount of time I wasted reading the Twilight crap I’m not willing to read this.

  11. Chatcat says:

    Again, I am an avid reader (3-4 books per week) over various topics, fiction and non-fiction. These books are escapism for many who just need to have a few hours of escapism that has a naughty twist (fantasy). The intent was never to be a literary marvel and it’s not…not even close but it appeals to a host of everyday women in the world who are just looking for a “time out” of their reality.

  12. Steen says:

    I read this story a couple years ago when it was still “Master of the Universe,” just one of the million Twilight fanfiction stories on the internet. It was one of the better fanfiction stories I’ve read but I’m surprised it’s become as big as it has. There are so many other stories out there that are just as good or better. Oh well, good for her.

  13. Dibba says:


  14. Ana says:

    Wow I didn’t even know about her, but being myself a someday-aspiring-writer she inspires me! haha

    I should have kept that Sailor Moon fanfiction I wrote in my teenage years then! lol

  15. Chatcat says:

    Oh and for all those EL James bashers of her fanfiction…she is the one who is hilariously laughing…all the way to the bank!!!!

    PS I never read any twilight or saw any of the movies…no interest in vampires, werewolves, ghosts or goblins.

  16. Samantha says:

    I like her, but the books…even the sex scenes left me meh. That might just be because I’ve been reading Ellora’s Cave’s BDSM romances for years though. Give me Joey W. Hill any day.

  17. skipper says:

    This woman will see her day in court.

    You cannot steal someone’s life story and profit off of it.

  18. Janet says:

    I browsed through it in the bookstore. The writing is so godawful I couldn’t make it through the first ten pages.

  19. Alarmjaguar says:

    Showing my age, but this totally reminds me of the Clan of the Cave Bear and Valley of the Horses books — when I was in junior high, all of my mom’s friends were reading them, and when I read them I realized it was b/c they were basically full of porn scenes! It felt pretty transgresssive as a 7th grader (right up there with Flowers in the Attic that my friends were reading).

  20. Riana says:

    She seems like a nice lady but I’m just so over bad quality being rewarded.

    Kim K should become mayor and then read this at her celebration party with Justin Bieber playin in the background Eden from Toddlers and Tiara’s giving a toast with go-go juice.


  21. Jenna says:

    Yes the writing is bad and some scenes have you rolling your eyes so much you fear that they may fall out, but at the end of the day it gets the job done for tons of women I suppose. And she is making money off of it so I’m sure she’s not complaining.

  22. Beatrice says:

    Yeah, she’s laughing all the way to the bank. I got duped by the hype and read the books–the writing is bad and I didn’t think the sex scenes were all that shocking. I didn’t like Ana at all because she was maddenly immature. Try as I might, I could not imagine Christian Grey as a 28 year old man–the dialogue between he and Ana made them sound like middle aged British people. This is a testament to the adage “Sex sells.”

  23. only1shmoo says:

    See Stephenie Meyer, it’s OK to admit that you can’t write worth a sh*t (no, seriously, just admit it already, it’s getting embarrassing)!

  24. Chickie Baby says:

    Two of the standard writing rules are “write what you want to read” and “write what you know”.

    Based on the horrible the writing style is in these books, she sure didn’t write about what she knew, so it makes me wonder what SHE’S not getting in her life to write so intensely about it!

  25. Elizabeth Rose says:

    I read it for the lols but even then it was difficult to get through. It was hideously written and boring. I think if one was to play a drinking game with the term ‘inner goddess’ you’d get a pretty serious case of alcohol poisoning.

  26. Mike says:

    Although I will never read this book or watch the movie (unless I am on a date with a Supermodel and she insists as a prelude to sex) I appreciate anybody who can laugh at themselves. I wish her the best of luck (unlike that Twilight lady)

  27. Bad Fairy says:

    She shouldn’t put herself down. Its not good marketing. But at least she is honest.

  28. Jenny says:

    Remember the beauty series by Anne Rice( but the trilogy was ghost published under a different name, that I can’t remember) maybe Meyers & James are Rice descendants; one went w/ vampires the other went with kinky f$&@kery!

  29. Zoe says:

    Well…she did write initially as a fan-fic piece, sounds like it was for her interests. She didn’t write it to be serious Pulitzer prize winning fiction and she’s probably surprised it caught on like it did. Like her honesty 🙂

  30. Cherith says:

    So I know that they are making a movie out of this so here are my thoughts on the main characters. Natalie Portman without a doubt should play Anna Steel. Channing Tatum fits the description for Christian but he just can’t act (shake my d*** head). So I believe Ryan Gosling is perfect!!! Jose should be Jay Hernandez. Richard Jenkins as Roy. Sarah Clarke as Anna’s mother. Rachel McAdams as Kate. Taylor is important but I can’t figure who would be him.

  31. AnnabelFan says:

    James writing is amateurish, but the characters are likeable. If you want to read some really good BDSM stories go for Annabel Joseph. Great characters and well developted storylines with lots of HOT sex.
    Don’t start with Club Mephisto unless you like hardcore.

  32. Lanette says:

    The Beauty series is under A.d. Roquelaure. That was my first erotica book series read! I think Fifty Shades has been entertaining enough to read. I haven’t gotten to the third book yet. I find myself skimming over books. a lot, but that’s ok. Loved the Brotherhood

  33. Dingo says:

    I had actually read part of her fanfic, Master of the Universe. It was boring. Pure porn and very little character development. Never bothered finishing it. Sad to say there are thousands of Twilight fics that are extremely well written and many have some explicit sex as well, but the writers never changed the names and went public. If you want to read some GREAT stories with erotica, go to Fanfiction . net and search for M rated stories. They’re free, and like I said, some are outstanding. I’m glad I found out about 50 SOG before I wasted my money.