Recently my blog partner Laurie sent me a link to a YouTube® video parody of E.L. James’s breakout novel trilogy 50 Shades of Grey. I haven’t read the books, but who hasn’t heard the buzz, and the parody was hilarious. I would share the video with you all here, but I’m not sure it’s appropriate for a general audience.
The point is that the books have become such a phenomenon that even a determined effort to ignore them will be wasted. So, let’s discuss. How is it that something like this can happen?
Those of us who aspire to be professional authors slave over our computers for years, tweaking every word, seeking just the right formula of character and plot that will catch the agent’s eye or the editor’s ear. For us progress is glacial, though we occasionally have a little melt that carries us a few feet in a good day or a mile in a huge jolting leap forward.
But here’s this piece of hastily re-written fan fiction (yes, this was originally posted to a Twilight fanfic site) that somehow goes viral, snags the attention of the Powers That Be in New York and its unknown, (apparently) unskilled author wins the publishing lottery.
Is it that the ideas expressed in the work are new, or done differently somehow? Okay, I haven’t read the books, but from all accounts the answer is no. Nothing about the story of a young “innocent” woman in New York City having sexual adventures with a rich, sexually sophisticated/demanding man is new. The book is erotica, plain and simple. Our own Friend of Spacefreighters, Barbara Elsborg, writes in that genre and does an excellent job of it, thank you very much. And she’s not the only one (she’s just one of the best).
What E.L.James and her handlers managed to do was find a new audience for something that has been around for quite some time. For the crowd that is swooning over 50 Shades of Grey, erotica truly is a new thing. These are grown women who love Twilight, even though it is aimed at a much younger audience. Twilight deliberately avoids sex, for appropriate reasons. Twelve-year-olds shouldn’t be having any.
Romance novels aimed at adult audiences, especially paranormals featuring vampires, do anything BUT avoid sex. Christine Feehan, who along with Sherrilyn Kenyon started the whole paranormal phenomenon, writes some of the hottest vampire novels around in her Carpathian series. For readers of her books, well-written erotica is hardly shocking. It’s expected.
But for the mommies who were reading their daughters’ Twilight books, not so. When they got wind of this new thing, they suddenly discovered they were adults. Now they can’t seem to get enough. It’s a “mommie porn” stampede, worthy of laughs on Saturday Night Live.
The one good thing that could come out of this is that the competent writers of elegant erotica (like Barbara) and better paranormal romance (like Christine) should benefit from the expanded audience of enlightened readers. I’ve been telling everyone who brings up 50 Shades of Grey with me about Barbara and her books and sending them to Amazon to buy them. (Barbara—if you have business cards, send me a bunch.)
Meanwhile, E.L. James is getting paid, and as my friend Linda says, I ain’t mad at her. She got lucky—proof that the lottery does have winners. The rest of us keep buying our tickets and hoping our numbers come up.
The partial I sent out a while back yielded a request for a full from a major agent this week—for both my novels! The same day I got another request for fulls for both novels from another well-known agent based on a query-plus-five pages. Woo-hoo! Now my fingernails are being bitten down to the quick while I wait for their responses. Fingers and toes crossed, y’all!
Huge congratulations to Laurie on signing with her agent last week! We are indeed building some momentum around here.