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E. L. James

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E. L. James
E. L. James at the 2019 London Book Fair
E. L. James at the 2019 London Book Fair
BornErika Mitchell
(1963-03-07) 7 March 1963 (age 59)
Willesden, London, England
Pen nameE. L. James
Snowqueens Icedragon
EducationWycombe High School
Alma materUniversity of Kent
GenreRomance, erotica, fan fiction
Years active2011–present

Erika Mitchell (born 7 March 1963),[1][2] known by her pen name E. L. James, is a British author. She wrote the best-selling erotic romance trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed,[3][4] along with the companion novels Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian, Darker: Fifty Shades Darker as Told by Christian, and Freed: Fifty Shades Freed as Told by Christian. Prior to this, she wrote the Twilight fan fiction "Master of the Universe" that served as the basis for the Fifty Shades trilogy under the web name Snowqueens Icedragon. In 2019 she published her first book unconnected with the fictional world of Fifty Shades, The Mister, to negative critical reaction.[5][6][7]

The Fifty Shades novels have sold over 125 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.[8][9][10] In 2012, Time magazine named her one of "The World's 100 Most Influential People".[11] The novels were subsequently adapted into the films Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed.[12]

Early life

Erika Mitchell was born on 7 March 1963 in Willesden, Middlesex to a Chilean mother and a Scottish father who was a BBC cameraman.[1][13] She was brought up in Buckinghamshire.[1]

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.[1]

After leaving university, James became a studio manager's assistant at the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield. She married Niall Leonard, a novelist and screenwriter from Northern Ireland, in 1987. They have two sons. As of 2012, they reside in Brentford, West London.[1][14]


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.[14][15]

James has spoken of her shock at the success of the books. "The explosion of interest has taken me completely by surprise" she said.[16] James has described the Fifty Shades trilogy as "my midlife crisis, writ large. All my fantasies in there, and that's it."[17] 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?"[18] In August 2013, James topped the Forbes' list of the highest-earning authors due to her book sales[19] with earnings of $95m which included $5m for the film rights to Fifty Shades of Grey.[20] 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. Darker: Fifty Shades Darker as Told by Christian was released 28 November 2017.[21]

Awards and honours



Year Title Note(s)
2015 Fifty Shades of Grey Producer and Cameo
2017 Fifty Shades Darker Producer
2018 Fifty Shades Freed Producer
2018 Book Club Cameo[27]


  1. ^ a b c d e Brennan, Zoe (6 February 2015). "EL James: The shy housewife behind Fifty Shades of Grey". The Daily Telegraph. No. 7 July 2012.
  2. ^ "Meet the author behind the steamy 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' phenomenon". Business Insider. 13 September 2016. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  3. ^ Julie Bosman (21 May 2012). "Libraries Debate Stocking 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Trilogy". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "The Shy British Mum Behind 50 Shades of Grey". Time. 29 March 2012.
  5. ^ Cain, Sian (17 April 2019). "EL James's The Mister – turns out books and sex can be this bad" – via
  6. ^ Faircloth, Kelly. "E.L. James's The Mister Fucks a Duck". Jezebel.
  7. ^ Gilbert, Sophie (18 April 2019). "The Indelible Awfulness of E. L. James's 'The Mister'". The Atlantic.
  8. ^ "Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James now worth £37m". The Guardian. 2 April 2017.
  9. ^ James, E.L. "Who Should be Time's Person of the Year 2012?".
  10. ^ "'Fifty Shades of Grey' coming in hardcover". 10 January 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
  11. ^ The World's 100 Most Influential People.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  14. ^ a b Who is E L James? Chicago Tribune Retrieved 31 May 2012
  15. ^ Triple-X trilogy of novels has women talking (quietly). msnbc. Retrieved 31 May 2012
  16. ^ "Fifty Shades of Grey author E L James – Exclusive interview" (16 July 2012) Shropshire Star. Retrieved 16 July 2012
  17. ^ 'Fifty Shades' author 'stunned' at success of erotic trilogy TODAY MSNBC
  18. ^ "The Lost History of Fifty Shades of Grey". Archived from the original on 27 July 2014. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
  19. ^ "E.L. James Seals A Spot On List of Britain's Richest Authors". Lia. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  20. ^ "Fifty Shades makes EL James top-earning author". BBC News. 13 August 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  21. ^ "E.L. James teases Fifty Shades Darker from Christian's point of view". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  22. ^ "The 100 Most Influential People in the World". Time. Retrieved 31 May 2012
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ Molly Driscoll (3 December 2012). "E L James as 'Publishing Person of the Year' draws outcry from literary world". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  25. ^ Alison Flood (5 December 2012). "EL James comes out on top at National Book awards". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  26. ^ "EL James wins at National Book Awards". BBC News. 4 December 2012. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  27. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (31 May 2018). "Book Club review – simulated sexcom for the over-60s". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 September 2018.

External links