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E.L. James, writer of '50 Shades of Grey,' is USA TODAY's author of the year

8:51 AM, Dec 20, 2012   |    comments
E.L. James, author of the 'Fifty Shades of Grey' phenomena, is USA TODAY's author of the year.(Photo: Michael Lionstar)
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Back in January 2008, Steve Jobs famously observed, "The fact is that people don't read anymore."

Not quite.

Fast-forward to 2012, when an unknown Brit proved that Americans can be passionate, feverish, even obsessive readers - at least those with double X chromosomes.

Which is why E.L. James is USA TODAY's author of the year.

After being acquired by a U.S. publisher, James' erotic trilogy, Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, sold 35 million copies in this country alone in 2012.

Adore it as a sizzling romance bravely probing the forbidden side of sadomasochistic desire or loathe it as demeaning anti-feminist tripe, but James' series has proven that the novel - whether in print or e-book pixels - remains a heavyweight in the boxing ring of popular entertainment.

"I think women love a passionate love story," James tells USA TODAY. "That's it. Fundamentally, that's what (the trilogy) is." The "mommy porn" label is "misogyny in its finest form. I just ignore it."

James' breathless depiction of the journey by virginal Anastasia and bad-boy billionaire Christian Grey to the farther shores of kinky sex introduced a once-Puritan nation to "the red room of pain." The series also mastered USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list for much of the year. Fifty Shades of Grey, the first book, spent 21 weeks at No. 1.

The series turned the entire erotic-romance category from tepid to torrid. As 2012 ends, James reigns as the queen, but there's a growing court of ladies in waiting (among them Sylvia Day) ready to seize her NC-17 throne.

This time last year, James was a little-known London TV producer who went by her real name, Erika Leonard. Today, she's one of Barbara Walters' 10 most fascinating people of 2012.

Alas, for James' detractors, neither she nor erotic romance is going away. There's a Fifty Shades of Grey movie in the works, and the author is working on a new series.

"I am rewriting the first book I ever wrote," says James with calm assurance. "It's another sort of passionate love story."

USA Today

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