There are few more recognisable names in the world of books than E L James, but in case you’re unfamiliar: inspired by the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, the British author born Erika Mitchell sat down in 2009 to write two fan fiction sequels to the series; after self-publishing them, the books took off, and by the end of the year, she’d begun writing a series of books centred on the erotically charged relationship between college grad Anastasia Steele and business man Christian Grey that would become the Fifty Shades series. A phenomenon was born.
Today, Fifty Shades is a household name. The original book set a record for the fastest-selling paperback of all time in the UK; the first trilogy is now a renowned film trilogy; and with the new release of Freed, the third book in the trilogy from Grey’s perspective (and sixth book overall), James has quelled thirst the world over for the series’ grand finale – for now, at least.
To celebrate the novel’s release, we asked James to take on our 21 Question about life and literature. Below, she waxes about her love of Beatrix Potter, drinking champagne with Jane Austen, and signing handcuffs for strangers.
Madeline Miller. The beauty and precision of her prose leaves me in awe.
As a teenager I discovered Jilly Cooper’s early books and my love affair with romance novels began.
Twilight. What can I say? This was the series that inspired me to put pen to paper and changed my life.
While I was a student I spent a summer putting belts on skirts in a clothing factory. Before that, while I was still at school, I worked in the canteen at Sainsburys in High Wycombe.
You don’t have to start at the beginning.
The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale. It’s an epic love story of a brave young woman and a young man with a traumatic past. I’m sucker for this trope.
Anything by Dickens.
A singer in a jazz café.
Being with my husband and my kids, especially if we’re travelling somewhere. My boys are highly entertaining, so it’s always a good laugh. These precious moments are rarer now, as my children are young men with lives of their own.
I love doing jigsaws.
iMac on. Mug of fresh bean-to-cup coffee. Noise-cancelling headphones. And whatever piece of music is inspiring me at the time; right now it’s Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World”, played on repeat.
In the US at a book signing, I was asked to sign a pair of handcuffs for a law enforcement professional.
If I speak it – it might come true.
Cloning myself so I could finally get everything finished!
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.
Yes!! Definitely. With the obligatory rubber ducky too.
Coffee a.m., tea p.m.
Readers asking and asking and asking and asking – all over my social media.
Freed by E L James is out now.
Photograph at top: Nino Muñoz
Image: Alicia Fernandes/Penguin
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