[Freed] saved me: E.L. James on her final book in the Fifty Shades series
The author of the Fifty Shades novels looks back on her creation as she bids farewell to the series
E.L. James, author of the bestselling erotic fiction series the Fifty Shades Trilogy and the subsequent Grey and Darker, has had a productive pandemic.
She's written and recently published Freed: Fifty Shades Freed as Told by Christian, the third book to retell the story of stormy and passionate affairs between the billionaire Christian Grey and his lover Anastasia Steele from the point of view of the male protagonist — bringing the saga to a satisfying end.
"Frankly, I threw the kitchen sink at this couple, so I think it's good to leave them in a good place," James told host Tom Power on CBC Radio's Q.
However, the author left us guessing when she added, "I always like to say, 'Never say never,'" and hinted a fourth book is in the works.
Through the looking glass of her own creation
Writing Freed offered James an escape from reality over the past 18 months, transporting her to Seattle and all the places where the stories in the book take place.
"It sort of saved me because I don't know what I would have done had I not had [the characters] to keep me company during this weird time," she said.
James revealed it was "quite an intellectual challenge" and "a massive jigsaw puzzle" having to approach the story from a different character's perspective.
She had to observe a world of her own creation as an outsider, from a very different angle, and figure out how to fit new thriller elements into an existing narrative.
"The wonderful thing about writing Christian is I don't have to describe anything because he's a bloke," said James, suggesting it was much more complex interpreting a woman's perspective.
It was also "really great fun" as a post-menopausal woman writing the character of an angry young man, she quipped.
Critical acclaim denied to books about women's desires, says James
James's story of passion, peppered with "very mild kinky sex," had the fans glomming onto every page as she brought BDSM fantasies into the mainstream with her Fifty Shades Trilogy.
But the work about women's fulfilment and desires is marginalized and not taken seriously by the critics, explained James.
"A lot of the time, a lot of people set out to shame you for doing something that you really enjoy and something that lots of other women enjoy," she said. "And I just wish they'd stick to something that is actually more interesting and more current.
"Things that women write for women is, you know, treated with scorn anyways, and it's just rampant misogyny that's in our society. It's just something that we have to deal with."
Whether you're a new or seasoned writer, publishing your first or 100th book, it's always terrifying because "you're really putting a bit of your heart and soul out there," she added.
I just want [Freed] to be a satisfying read for [the readers]. That's it. That's all I hope for.- E.L. James
The mysterious 4th book
The one thing James will miss about her Fifty Shades journey is the intense passion her characters had for each other.
"I didn't expect to fall in love with them, with both of them," she said. "But I did. And that's been lovely."
And when asked where she sees Christian and Anastasia 30 years from now — James wouldn't reveal any information, but cryptically hinted, "I have the fourth book figured out. That's why I can't tell you."
Hear the full interview with E.L. James near the top of this page.
Written by Vanja Mutabdzija Jaksic. Interview produced by Chris Trowbridge.