British author E.L. James' life has turned into a fantasy as overheated as the story in "Fifty Shades of Grey" (Vintage, $15.95 paper), the first book in her mega-bestselling erotic trilogy launched here in April. She has signed a deal to bring "Fifty Shades" to the big screen, become a millionaire and been credited with inspiring women to re-examine and rekindle their sexual desires.
The trilogy -- which includes "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed" -- is the story of Anastasia Steele, a college graduate who enters a relationship with a 27-year-old billionaire who prefers bondage to "vanilla" sex. Originally published by a small Australian publishing house, the books are being translated and published in 35 countries. The first foreign edition comes out in Spain in June.
We chatted with James at the Garden City Hotel on Monday during her two-week East Coast book tour; she was wearing a necklace and bracelet with handcuff charms.
You've said that when you came to New York City for a book party in January you got the first inkling of how big the following might become for "Fifty Shades of Grey." Why?
I think it was the screeching. I felt like Brad Pitt. It was extraordinary.
Why have the books become such a phenomenon in the United States?
I think women like a really good love story, and that's really what it fundamentally is, at its heart.
You have two teenage boys. How are they dealing with the fact that their mom has become famous for a hot-and-heavy novel?
They're tremendously proud of me. Slightly embarrassed, sort of mortified, I would say. And not that interested. They're in their own little world.
Have they read the books?
No. I haven't forbidden them. They do know it's very racy stuff. That's a bit weird when it's your mother writing that sort of thing. They're not readers anyway, much to my husband's and my shame.
How will you be able to make them into movies without their being rated X?
It'll be a challenge. That's one of the reasons why we went with Universal and Focus. Focus has brought a lot of challenging material to the screen -- for example, "Brokeback Mountain."
Who should play the lead? You've repeatedly declined to mention names.
I'm still pleading the Fifth. Every other tweet, every other Facebook posting is this guy, this guy, this guy, this guy.
What will you be writing next?
I don't know if I'll ever write anything again, frankly. I'll probably sit in a small, dark room for a while.
This all must be overwhelming.
I'm looking forward to going home and getting back into my Uggs and my jeans . . . and doing laundry and shouting at my children. The usual stuff. I miss that. I think the very first thing I said to Val very tongue-in-cheek, was, "I do not want to be famous." I can't think of anything worse, frankly.