Love her or loathe her, Ms James certainly pushes buttons, doesn’t she? The recent #AskELJames Twitter Q&A had some interesting questions posed to the author, my favourite being from @skepticosaurus Will you be rewriting the book from Stephenie Meyer's point of view next time? Or this one. One wonders whether her publishers were expecting this kind of reaction or whether they expected her legions of fans to produce a flash-mob of adoration and publicity. I’m sure there were a lot of people praising the woman, but you never hear about all the nice stuff, do you? That doesn’t make news. But #AskELJames does - even on ITV!
So what is it about certain people – certain authors – that polarises opinion? EL James, JK Rowling, even Stephenie Meyer? They don’t write literary fiction, no, but neither do a lot of other authors and it doesn’t matter. We laugh, criticise and castigate. Are we jealous of their success or money? Maybe some writers are, but that doesn’t explain the hordes of non-writers who delight in name-calling and tweeting. Are we scared that if we admit to reading – even liking – these books, that other people might think us weird in some way. Do we appear less-educated because we admit to reading these books?
These people – these women – have made millions. Billions probably, when you add in film and other franchises. Better still they’ve got people reading; people who might not have read a book since their school days are lapping up (ok, bad choice of words there) these books and begging for more (I’ll stop, shall I?) That must be a good thing, surely?
JK Rowling has been banned by some councils and schools with her references to magic. Really? That’s just bizarre to me. I’m not a fan myself, but I can see the appeal – school stories, Mallory Towers for the 21st century and all about loyalty and friendship conquering evil. I have no issues with that and I wish the author well. I’m not so convinced about the carefully-stage-managed leak of her pseudonymous new books – but hey, it worked and kudos to whoever thought that one up.
James and Meyer are a different matter. I’ve read Twilight and the sequels, and I admit to quite liking them. They wouldn’t be on my list of best-books-ever-read, but I passed a few pleasant hours. I’ve not read James and I have no desire to - though perhaps I should, just to speak with more authority. But I do wonder whether these books have a more dangerous message. What are our young impressionable daughters reading (and of course they are reading FSOG) about male/female relationships. Is it healthy for such books to be fêted as masters of their genre? In Twilight, Bella sacrifices her humanity for Edward. Is that love? Maybe it is. But FSOG is a world darker and I doubt it’s an accurate introduction to the world it portrays. The definition of consent is a fine line and not one to walk without very careful consideration.
Would I write anything to make money? Well probably not anything. I wouldn’t intentionally defame or hurt anybody. I write contentious material anyway, but I do it carefully and with forethought. I’m sure the authors I’ve mentioned above do too. Would I risk ridicule to make their kind of money? Hell, yes! Money doesn’t buy happiness but I can be miserable in a great deal of comfort …