The author of the "Fifty Shades" phenomenon seems like the core fans she'll meet in Edina Thursday -- suburban, prone to fantasy, but with a lot more money.
It's time to pay some attention to the woman behind the grey curtain.
Not that she hasn't gotten plenty of notice lately, but E L James, author of the "Fifty Shades of Grey" mommy-porn trilogy that has outsold Harry Potter in her native Britain and singlehandedly revived the publishing industry in the States, is coming to Edina. Cheeks will flush up and down each quiet tree-lined street full of nicely naughty book-club members sighing, "If only I'd seen the future in S&M lite first."
We caught up with the 49-year-old James, a former TV producer who left her job less than a year ago, by phone from her home in suburban London.
Q Can you walk around your neighborhood without people waggling their eyebrows at you lasciviously?
A Oh, crikey. Nobody does that -- they just usually say well done and congratulations. My neighbors have been great. My friends are as bemused as I am by this extraordinary response.
Q How do you feel about the critical strafing your books have received despite their immense popularity?
A It works both ways. I've had huge support, as well. I ignore the negative stuff. There's a huge amount of envy, like, why didn't I write that? There is so much noise written about these books, and I keep waiting for it to die down. I'm sure it will, and it'll be back to business as usual. It's just taking a long time.
Q Your real name is Erika Mitchell. How did you come up with your pen name?
A It took me two seconds. James is a family name and E is my first initial. L is my middle initial; but I don't tell the name.
Q The whole "Fifty Shades" journey began as fan fiction for the "Twilight" series written by Stephenie Meyer. Have you two ever met?
A We've never met or corresponded. I'd love to meet her. She's inspired countless numbers of women to write.
Q When you were just starting, who did you think you were writing for?
A Myself. It was my own fancy, writ large, and I had no clue it would appeal to women around the world. I don't think of it as a BDSM book, I think it's a love story. Women like to read a good, passionate love story. I think of it as a form of escapism. Some people call it a modern-day fairy tale.
Q What if your books have sent millions of women on quests for their own Christian Greys?
A Good God. Christian Grey would be hell to live with in real life.
Q How did you come up with your euphemisms for various body parts, like "his happy trail"?
A I can't remember. I probably heard it somewhere, who knows. It occurs to you while you're writing. I really need to re-read these books.
Q What's your fan mail like?
A The most gratifying are tweets and e-mails saying, "I haven't read a book in 28 years and I just went through all of yours in two weeks."
Q What happens at your appearances?
A In New Haven, Connecticut, I walked into a crowd of 1,200 women. They all looked up and started cheering and I thought, holy [crap]. The wonderful thing is, they were all different ages. There's a misconception that the fan base is all middle-aged women. I see college students and grandmothers, too. And another weird thing is, I have bondage-club owners come to signings and tell me more curious people are showing up because of the books.
Q Have your kids read the books?
A I have two boys aged 17 and 15, and neither wants to read them, which is a huge source of irony for me. They know they're salacious, and I wouldn't stop them, but they don't have any desire to.
Q Your husband, Niall Leonard, has just written a book himself, right?
A Yes, it's a young-adult novel called "Crusher" about a boy who finds his stepfather murdered.
Q How do you spend your free time?
A Oh, I have a terribly underworld kind of life I'm not very public about. [She laughed.] I'm on social media a lot. I like to get out with friends and what-have-you. Actually I'm a very boring person, without a lot of free time, but if I did I'd be writing again. I'm trying to rewrite the first book I ever wrote, in 2009, a love story.
Q Will there be more sequels, or should the "Grey" saga lie back upon its pillows, utterly spent?
A I hope it's happily sated.
Q So how's your sex life?
A Fine, thank you, no complaints. I had great fun researching the book.
Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046