It's possible EL James is actually Stephenie Meyer releasing GREY to make up for the fact that MIDNIGHT SUN remains unfinished in spite of millions of passionate fan requests for the ending of Twilight from Edward’s point of view. More likely, it’s just EL James providing readers with Christian’s POV because it’s exactly what we want. Her ability to take readers' opinions into consideration for use in telling her tales is a huge part of why they were so popular to begin with.
Though I was hardly one of the earliest fans, I did begin to read the series as a work in progress. Like many, I waited for new chapters and pounced on them as soon as she published, offering payment in kind words and encouraging comments because that's how you "paid" for fan fiction. For all the money James has made since publishing, it's important to remember that she gave the world the original version for FREE. With tens of thousands of online reviews and comments, people gave plot input and made character wishes that James absorbed before going back into her bunker to keep writing.
As James moved forward, she filtered all of that input, charging the story with a unique energy that allowed her initial fan base to feel connected to her creative process. At it's heart, Fifty Shades is a stunning example of collaborative fiction that would have felt like a huge risk, had anyone been able to predict how much the books would explode.
The hunger for her story in particular overlapped with a particular famine in the traditional book marketplace. Between the scrubbed down YA filling shelves post-Twilight and and the overly adultish Adult romance section was a barren wasteland. The fan fiction sites were full of college-aged romances, but the book seller's weren't offering many options at all. James' launch of the series with a small publisher on shot up the charts, proving that readers wanted edgier conflicts, even more dramatic character studies, and detailed sexual experimentation. Self published new adult stories came up as algorithmic suggestions, readers gobbled them up, and publishers eventually got on board.
Today’s New Adult market owes a lot to Fifty Shades for showing the world that there is a place for the specific character ages and conflicts that make NA so much fun to write and read. Now the category has matured, and James is jumping back in with exactly what her readers want.
James could have decided that her next book would be a cold retelling of governmental filibusters complete with paint drying and heroin (ahem...) She would have gotten a gabillion dollar advance and we'd all still be clicking those preorder links and salivating at the mouth, and it would be hard to compare it to the original series. Given how much flack she gets for reimagining someone else's characters, it would have been the easy way out.
But James didn't take it. Instead, she listened to readers, and is giving us even more of the story we love. My favorites parts in the originals were the email exchanges between Ana and Christian, because they showed him unfiltered so I’m eager to read more of that. I’m also curious to see what James has learned about authoring since completing the trilogy. In some ways, this is her debut novel, and I'm pretty excited to see what she does.
I'll be in Nashville this weekend, celebrating authors, bloggers and books, but I'm pretty sure I won't be the only one sneaking peeks at my device to gobble up GREY, at least once.