When people say, “I’m a writer.” The image that immediately pops in their head is someone focused and determined at a typewriter, laptop, or hell even in a notebook. Writers are supposed to be serious people, people all about the art and their entire focus are writing their next book. It’s an image that Hollywood has been trying to sell since the beginning of time.
Hollywood is a lying liar that fucking lie!
Y’all, writers from Fanfiction Writers to accomplished New York Times Best-Selling Authors are the biggest drama queens! And where they are drama queens, there is sure to be good gossip! This is how I began this monthly series: “The Monthly Tea”. It began by me telling the convoluted tale of Gloria Tesch and it got so popular on twitter I knew that I had to make it a thing. You can check it out here and I promise you one day I will write up Gloria’s special brand of clownery but today I will tackle the Twilight fanfiction writer turned the New York Times Best Selling Erotica Author E. L. James.
You’re thinking: ‘But Georgina, E. L. James is old news’. Chile, let me assure you that whatever you think about E.J. James you don’t know the whole story! Now get up grab a glass a wine, or better yet a glass of piping hot tea and get comfy because we are going to breaking down the shady ass rise and fall of E. L. James.
To get the full context of this tale ya’ll have to go back in the TARDIS and travel back to 2005 when Twilight busted on to the young adult scene. By 2008, when the first movie adaption was released it was a full-blown phenomenon You couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a Twilight fan, and a lot of them were so rabid you wanted to hit them with said rock.
While it’s predecessor, Harry Potter was mostly celebrated. After a while, the opinion on ‘Twilight’ became very divisive.. You either loved it or hated it There were many reasons why people hated it: Bella was a Mary Sue, Edward was a stalker and an abuser, and Jacob was a would-be rapist. I will fully admit that I am biased as hell against ‘Twilight’. I hate the effect that ‘Twilight’ had on the young adult genre especially with the overused tropes of ‘the love triangle’ and ‘toxic abusive behavior’ is true love.’
And since I was on the anti-Twilight side, I only saw the rabid fans that were physically attacking antis, A gross replica of Bella’s womb being sold on Etsy, the twilight tattoos, and don’t get me started on the frozen sparkly Edward dildo. I didn’t get the same version of fandom: So I’m letting an actual twilight fan and Reddit user hurricangst describe it for me:
Well to understand this, you really need to understand the Twilight fanfic community. Bear with me! It pretty much gets written off as laughable and silly (can’t blame people), but truthfully, Twilight fanfic commonly has very little do with Twilight. Even Twilight’s fandom hates Twilight. A lot of people got into the series, found the community, and began to either:
See the validity of the criticisms now that they were forced to write in the universe.
Grow tired of writing and reading about the exact same 5 things.
Grow tired of writing in a universe that didn’t support porn.
And unlike this anti-Twilighter, I didn’t get front row seats for the fuckery that was to come.
Erika and Her “Hobby”
Erika Leonard better known as E. L. James had a pretty common life before she became famous. Her mother was from Chile and her father was from Scotland. As a kid, she went to all girl’s schools and then went to university. After university, she got a job working for the National Film and Television School as a studio assistant. During that time, she married a screenwriter Niall Leonard. They settled down and had two kids.
Much like Stephenie Meyer, she was a wife and mother that wrote in her free time. The only difference was Stephanie was working on her original novels and E. L. James was working on fanfiction. In 2008, E. L. James saw the first ‘Twilight film’ and became obsessed with ‘Twilight’ world. She immediately went back and read all the books and in August 2009 she wrote her first Twilight fanfic which was a continuation of ‘Twilight saga’ and one other fic.
At that time, the ‘Twilight’ fandom was thirsty for smut. They had to wait 4 long years for Bella and Edward to get to a place where sex could happen and then screwed them over in ‘Breaking Dawn’, What fans eventually got was fade-to-black scenes instead of anything explicit.
Therefore, explicit fanfic was very popular. This also paved the way for All-Human Aus to take center stage. According to hurricangst:
There were stories where vampires didn’t exist (like FSOG). They got CRAZY popular within the community because they were essentially just generic romance novels with characters we already knew (made it easy to write and consume, as we already liked and cared about the characters). Though there were always nods to the original Twilight series within them, you didn’t even have to know Twilight to enjoy an AH-AU.
Masters of the Universe
In January 2009, E. L. James saw the success of TaraSue and other writers who were jumping on the Twilight All Human AU bandwagon and decided to try put her lot in it. She wrote ‘Masters of the Universe’ and posted it on Fanfiction.net and other fanfiction archives. It was an instant hit, but some people were like: “Isn’t this a blatant rip off of the movie Secretary?”
And again according to hurricangst it was really a blatant rip off of TaraSue’s fanfic and other popular writers in the fanfiction genre:
Fifty Shades is actually a ripoff The Submissive and dozens of other insanely popular Twilight fanfics.
Chile, E. L. James is no fresh trout! Again, say what you want about the quality of her writing but E. L. James was very clever and decided that she should self-publish her book. With her loyal fan fiction readers behind her, she propelled her books to #1 on ‘The Amazon Best Seller’s List.’ After that, she was picked up by the Penguin Random House imprint Vintage Books and suddenly just like Stephenie Meyer both her and her books became a household name.
Hitting the Big Time
‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ sold 125 million copies worldwide in 2015 and was translated into over 52 languages. E. L. James had finally hit the big time and you would think everything would be all sunshine and rainbows. I mean E. L. James had not only been picked up by a big time publisher but she got more money than she can spend in one lifetime. Not only that, Fifty Shades of Grey was everywhere. Chile, she was on all the news programs, her photos in every magazine, and then there was the talk of her books being made into movies.
But just like the old saying says, “Be careful what you wish for!”
Unlike her predecessor, from the very beginning both E .L. James and ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ was mocked. With Twilight, it took a little for the anti-twilight sentiment to rise. I don’t know if just the public sentiment around anything connected to Twilight had turned for the worse, or if it was the horrible writing, abuse portrayed as love, or the cringe-worthy sex scenes but despite it’s financial success, Critics panned the book ; it practically became a national pastime to mock the series..
Even, celebrities got in on the action, from Gilbert Geoffrey to Ellen DeGeneres, there was no short of mocking! And instead of trying to deal with the deluge of criticism (no matter how righteous that criticism was) James blocked everyone who wasn’t %100 enthusiastic about her books. Even the tiniest bit of criticism can and will get you blocked by E.L. James.
The Dissemination of The Twilight Fandom
With that in mind, the Twilight fandom was not at all happy at how E. L. James treated them In my opinion, they had every right to be angry. E. L. James had straight-up jacked shit from other fanfiction writers and since fanfiction writers have zero rights under copyright law, she could get away with it.
And you know what? This is not unusual. Hunties, authors can and will sue you for copyright infringement if you steal from them, but fanwork creators are a legal grey area. Scammers and Plagiarists especially target fanwork creators because they can do it and it’s nothing as fanwork creators can do about it.
However, in this case, Stephenie Meyer who had every right to sue E.J. James. Incredibly, Stephenie Meyer gave her pass. Especially given that it was a very blatant rip-off of ‘The Twilight Saga’. Ya’ll, with fanfiction turned into original novels, a careful author will erase any connection or trace of the fandom it came from. This? This was blatant as hell that Anastasia Steele was Bella Swan and Christian Grey was Edward Cullen!
E. L. James was practically getting away with murder and making millions of dollars. She decided immediately after her success that the fanfiction readers propelled ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ to #1 on the Amazon had outlived their usefulness. She had already deleted ‘Masters of the Universe’ (which is to be expected) but she blocked all of her fanfiction supporters and old fandom friends on social media.
In 2019, the Twilight fandom is pretty low key now. ‘Not even the 10th Anniversary and Meyer releasing a genderbent version of her book as a companion to her special 10th-anniversary edition of Twilight could completely revive the fandom to its former glory. Now, I’m not saying that it’s completely gone. It’s just nowhere near as active as it once was. I will also admit that fandoms that are not getting constant new original content from its creator will die down. But it’s undeniable that E. L. James’s betrayal helped put a nail in Twilight’s fandom proverbial coffin.
It’s 2019 and once again just like Stephenie Meyer, her 15 minutes of fame have dried up. E. L. James did get movie adaptions of ‘The Fifty Shades’ series. Starring Dakota Johnson (‘The Social Network’) and Jamie Dornan (‘Once Upon A Time’). It made $571 million in the box office worldwide despite it once again being panned by Critics and anyone with a modicum of sense. People went to the movies for 1 of 3 reasons: to watch soft-core porn, because they were fans, or to watch the train wreck happen.
The same thing happened to Twilight. The only difference between E. L. James and Stephenie Meyer’s careers at this point is that E. L. James finished writing a book from Christian Grey’s perspective titled ‘Grey’ that made her protagonist look ten times worse. While Stephenie Meyer’s Midnight Sun which was discontinued because of someone leaking the first draft—and now it will always linger on her website and cloud storage folders across the internet.
I don’t know if that was a nod to Meyer or a way to scoop up the Twilight fans who were still bitter that Midnight Sun was canceled seemingly because of bullshit.
And then later, James once again followed in Meyer’s footsteps and E. L. James in a surprise to everyone published another book that wasn’t connected to ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ this year, ‘The Mister’. To my delight, it was immediately a flop just like Meyer’s previous non-Twilight books. The only people who gave a damn about ‘The Mister’ were the people reviewing it and/or mocking the book such as Jenny Trout. And the reviews? The word B L I S T E R I N G comes to mind! After that, it faded mostly into obscurity. The question is: will she try again to publish another book or eventually accept that her 15 minutes of fame is over?
We can only wait and see!
UPDATE 10/22/2019: The thing about E. L. James is this chick is constantly full of surprises. I got some tea that I’m just bursting to share! Ya’ll remember E. L. James’s new book ‘The Mister’? I gave her the benefit of the doubt that she was finally writing an original book. Chiillllleeee, I spoke too soon! Turns out that one of Jenny Trout’s readers discovered that ‘The Mister’ was ripped wholesale from the BBC TV show ‘Poldark’ based on the book series of the same name by Winston Graham. Trout compares both plots and characterizations and woo boy it’s pretty damning. Unfortunately, Winston Graham died in 2003, so he can’t go after her some much-deserved litigation but the BBC sure in the hell can!
Speaking of litigation, I got some tea on why Meyer didn’t go after E. L. James. A good friend of mine on twitter Author L.A. Knight is a Mormon just like Meyer. It turns out that it is a major no-no for Mormons to sue anyone unless it’s very necessary. And since Meyer is a very conservative Mormon, this explains why she declined to go after E. L. James for copyright infringement.
Now, this all the tea I have for now, but I’ll make sure to update you guys as things progress.