Reporter’s Notebook: Interviewing ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Author E.L. James

Apr 16, 2012 1:51pm
abc el james author elizabeth vargas thg 120413 wblog Reporters Notebook: Interviewing Fifty Shades of Grey Author E.L. James

"50 Shades of Grey" author E.L. James sat down for an interview with Elizabeth Vargas.

It was cloudy and drizzling — just as you’d imagine London might be — when I arrived at our shoot location for my interview with E.L. James, the author of one of the most buzzed about books this year. Her trilogy, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Fifty Shades Darker,” and “Fifty Shades Freed” has taken the publishing industry and most recently, Hollywood, by surprise and by storm with its rapid rise from a fan fiction e-novel to New York Times bestseller. And may I say, the number of moms talking about the books at school pickup every day is astonishing.

But E.L. — her first name is Erika, though she’s trying to keep her last name out of the media as long as possible — had plenty of surprises for us, too. Until that morning, she had not spoken at length with any broadcast news media. My first question was, of course, whether she had imagined her books taking off the way they have.

“Never in a million years,” she said, “It’s been really quite scary. I don’t really like the attention to be really honest.”

It was something she both said and showed in her body language throughout our chat. The brains behind what she calls “a love story with kink” is very much the girl, or rather, the “mom next door.” She is the devoted wife to a television-writer husband and mom to two teenage sons, of whom she is fiercely protective, especially with the recent media interest in her back story. Until January, when she suddenly landed her book deal with Random House and movie deal with Universal/Focus Features, she worked in television, too, as an executive often dealing with contracts — something she carried over into her fictional world.

Given how um, graphic some of the sex scenes are in her books, I was surprised at how embarrassed she seemed talking about them. I must say, I was surprised when she confessed she had tried out a lot of what she put in the book on her own husband…whose reaction was more on the line of “Oh, it’s going to be one of those nights again.”

In the steamy first book, the protagonist, Anastasia, is presented with a very detailed dominant/submissive contract by her love interest, Christian Grey — a devastatingly handsome, young billionaire, who just happens to be a bondage enthusiast on the side.

“I wrote something up and then I gave it to a lawyer friend of mine,” Erika revealed in our interview, “[She] re-did it for me and she said that we were never, ever to speak of it again.”

In her infectiously funny way, Erika then added that said friend required a long hot shower afterward.

Tune in for more of my interview with E.L. James tomorrow on “Good Morning America” and Friday on “20/20.”

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