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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 61)
Willesden, London, England
Pen nameE. L. James
Snowqueens Icedragon
EducationWycombe High School
Alma materUniversity of Kent
GenreRomance, erotica, fan fiction
Years active2011–present
Niall Leonard
(m. 1987)

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 Fifty Shades series of erotic romance novels,[3][4] which spawned a multimedia franchise including a film trilogy of the same name.[5] Prior to this, she wrote the Twilight fan fiction "Master of the Universe" that served as the basis for the Fifty Shades series 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.[6][7][8]

The Fifty Shades novels have sold over 150 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.[9][10][11][12] In 2012, Time magazine named her one of "The World's 100 Most Influential People".[13]

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][14] 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.


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 set out to write a sequel to the books. 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.[15][16]

James has spoken of her shock at the success of the books. "The explosion of interest has taken me completely by surprise", she said.[17] James has described the Fifty Shades trilogy as "my midlife crisis, writ large. All my fantasies in there, and that's it."[18] 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?"[19]

In August 2013, James topped the Forbes' list of the highest-earning authors due to her book sales[20] with earnings of $95m which included $5m for the film rights to Fifty Shades of Grey.[21]

Personal life

James married Niall Leonard, a novelist and screenwriter from Northern Ireland, in 1987. They have two sons. As of 2012, they live in Brentford, West London.[1][15]

Awards and honours


Fifty Shades trilogy

Fifty Shades as Told by Christian trilogy

Mister and Missus duology


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 f g Brennan, Zoe (6 February 2015). "EL James: The shy housewife behind Fifty Shades of Grey". The Daily Telegraph. No. 7 July 2012.
  2. ^ Acuna, Kirsten (13 September 2016). "Meet the author behind the steamy 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' phenomenon". Business Insider. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  3. ^ Bosman, Julie (21 May 2012). "Libraries Debate Stocking 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Trilogy". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Luscombe, Belinda (29 March 2012). "The Shy British Mum Behind 50 Shades of Grey". Time.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Cain, Sian (17 April 2019). "EL James's The Mister – turns out books and sex can be this bad". The Guardian – via www.theguardian.com.
  7. ^ Faircloth, Kelly (15 May 2019). "E.L. James's The Mister Fucks a Duck". Jezebel.
  8. ^ Gilbert, Sophie (18 April 2019). "The Indelible Awfulness of E. L. James's 'The Mister'". The Atlantic.
  9. ^ "EL James' 'Freed,' as told by Christian Grey, coming in June". The Detroit News. Associated Press. 8 March 2021.
  10. ^ Doward, Jamie (2 April 2017). "Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James now worth £37m". The Guardian.
  11. ^ Luscombe, Belinda. "E.L. James - Who Should be Time's Person of the Year 2012?". Time. Archived from the original on 26 November 2012.
  12. ^ "'Fifty Shades of Grey' coming in hardcover". Salon.com. Associated Press. 10 January 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
  13. ^ a b "The World's 100 Most Influential People". Time. Archived from the original on 19 April 2012.
  14. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  15. ^ a b Johnson, Steve. "Who is E L James?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  16. ^ Triple-X trilogy of novels has women talking (quietly). msnbc. Retrieved 31 May 2012
  17. ^ "Fifty Shades of Grey author E L James – Exclusive interview" (16 July 2012) Shropshire Star. Retrieved 16 July 2012
  18. ^ 'Fifty Shades' author 'stunned' at success of erotic trilogy TODAY MSNBC
  19. ^ "The Lost History of Fifty Shades of Grey". mediabistro.com. Archived from the original on 27 July 2014. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
  20. ^ "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.
  21. ^ "Fifty Shades makes EL James top-earning author". BBC News. 13 August 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  22. ^ Flood, Alison (3 December 2012). "EL James wins 'publishing person of the year' for making erotic fiction 'hot'". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  23. ^ Driscoll, Molly (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.
  24. ^ Flood, Alison (5 December 2012). "EL James comes out on top at National Book awards". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  25. ^ "EL James wins at National Book Awards". BBC News. 4 December 2012. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  26. ^ Bond, Emily (22 June 2023). "'Fifty Shades of Grey' Author on Why So Many Romance Novels Don't Get What They Deserve". Huffington Post.
  27. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (31 May 2018). "Book Club review – simulated sexcom for the over-60s". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 September 2018.

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