E. L. James

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E. L. James
E. L. James (cropped).jpg
James in May 2012
Born Erika Mitchell
(1963-03-07) 7 March 1963 (age 52)
London, England
Pen name E. L. James
Occupation Novelist
Citizenship British
Education Wycombe High School
University of Kent
Genre Romance, Erotica, Fanfiction
Notable works Fifty Shades of Grey
Spouse Niall Leonard
Children 2 sons

Erika Mitchell (born 7 March 1963),[1] known by her pen name E. L. James, is an English author. She wrote the bestselling erotic romance novels trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed,[2][3] along with the companion novel Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian.[4]

The combined novels have sold over 100 million copies worldwide, over 35 million copies in the United States and set the record in the United Kingdom as the fastest selling paperback of all time.[5][6] In 2012, Time magazine named her one of "The World's 100 Most Influential People."[7] The novels were subsequently adapted into a film.[8]

Early life and education[edit]

Erika Mitchell was born on 7 March 1963 in London, England, to a Chilean mother and a Scottish father who was a BBC cameraman.[9][10] She was brought up in Buckinghamshire.[9]

James was educated at the independent Pipers Corner School and at Wycombe High School, a state grammar school for girls in the town of High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, followed by the University of Kent in South East England where she studied History.[9]

Life and career[edit]

After leaving university, James became a studio manager’s assistant at the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield. She married Niall Leonard, a screenwriter, in 1987, and they have two teenage sons. As of 2012 they lived together in a "modest semi-detached red-brick house in a rather unfashionable area of west London" near Ealing.[9][11]

Fifty Shades Trilogy[edit]

Main article: Fifty Shades trilogy

James says the idea for the Fifty Shades trilogy began as a response to the vampire novel series Twilight. In late 2008 James saw the movie Twilight, and then became intensely absorbed with the novels that the movie was based on. She read the novels several times over in a period of a few days, and then, for the first time in her life, sat down to write a book: basically a sequel to the Twilight novels. Between January and August 2009 she wrote two such books in quick succession. She says she then discovered the phenomenon of fan fiction, and this inspired her to publish her novels as Kindle books under the pen name "Snowqueens Icedragon". Beginning in August 2009 she then began to write the "Fifty Shades" books.[11][12]

James has spoken of her shock at the success of the books. "The explosion of interest has taken me completely by surprise" she said.[13] James has described the Fifty Shades trilogy as "my midlife crisis, writ large. All my fantasies in there, and that's it."[14] She did not start to write until January 2009, as she revealed while still active on FanFiction.Net: "I started writing in January 2009 after I finished the Twilight saga, and I haven't stopped since. I discovered Fan Fiction in August 2009. Since then I have written my two fics and plan on doing at least one more. After that... who knows?"[15] In August 2013, sales of the trilogy saw James top the Forbes' list of the highest-earning authors [16] with earnings of $95m which included $5m for the film rights to Fifty Shades of Grey.[17] On 1 June 2015 James announced the upcoming release of Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian, which was released into stores on 18 June 2015.

Charity work[edit]

James was one of the British celebrities, including Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch and Rachel Riley, to design and sign her own card for the UK children's charity Thomas Coram Foundation for Children.[18] The campaign was launched by crafting company Stampin’ Up! UK and the cards were auctioned off on eBay during May 2014.[18]

Awards and honours[edit]



Year Title Note(s)
2015 Fifty Shades of Grey Producer


  1. ^ "E.L. James". Waterstones.com. Waterstones. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  2. ^ Julie Bosman (21 May 2012). "Libraries Debate Stocking ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Trilogy". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ "The Shy British Mum Behind 50 Shades of Grey". Time Magazine. 29 March 2012. 
  4. ^ Ron Charles (1 June 2015). "New ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ from Christian’s point of view". Washington Post. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  5. ^ Who Should be Time's Person of the Year 2012? E.L. James.
  6. ^ ""Fifty Shades of Grey" coming in hardcover". Salon.com. 10 January 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  7. ^ The World's 100 Most Influential People.
  8. ^ Belloni, Matthew (20 February 2013). "Universal Chairman Wants 'Fifty Shades' for Summer 2014, More 'Bourne' and 'Van Helsing' Reboot (Q&A)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c d Brennan, Zoe (6 February 2015). "EL James: The shy housewife behind Fifty Shades of Grey" (7 July 2012). The Telegraph. 
  10. ^ "M&S meets S&M Mum who erotic bestseller Fifty Shades Of Grey". The Sun. Retrieved 31 May 2012
  11. ^ a b Who is E L James? Chicago Tribune Retrieved 31 May 2012
  12. ^ Triple-X trilogy of novels has women talking (quietly). msnbc. Retrieved 31 May 2012
  13. ^ "Fifty Shades of Grey author E L James – Exclusive interview" (16 July 2012) Shropshire Star. Retrieved 16 July 2012
  14. ^ 'Fifty Shades' author 'stunned' at success of erotic trilogy TODAY MSNBC
  15. ^ "The Lost History of Fifty Shades of Grey". mediabistro.com. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  16. ^ "E.L. James Seals A Spot On List of Britain’s Richest Authors". Lia. Retrieved 23 June 2014. 
  17. ^ "Fifty Shades makes EL James top-earning author". BBC News. 13 August 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  18. ^ a b "Celebrity card auction raises over £8,500 for Coram". Coram.org. Retrieved 16 February 2015
  19. ^ The 100 Most Influential People in the World Time Magazine. Retrieved 31 May 2012
  20. ^ Alison Flood (3 December 2012). "EL James wins 'publishing person of the year' for making erotic fiction 'hot'". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 3 December 2012. 
  21. ^ Molly Driscoll (3 December 2012). "E L James as 'Publishing Person of the Year' draws outcry from literary world". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  22. ^ Alison Flood (5 December 2012). "EL James comes out on top at National Book awards". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  23. ^ "EL James wins at National Book Awards". BBC News. 4 December 2012. Retrieved 14 January 2013. 

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