One of my favourite TV shows is Sex and the City. I have all the DVDs, the TV shows, the movies, I adore this show. I even have an etched SATC cosmopolitan glass with from when I worked at Paramount Pictures and it was used as marketing material.
So, considering how much I love Sex and the City, you'd think that I'd like 50 Shades of Grey. But I don't. The difference between the two is vast.
I cared about what happened to Charlotte, Carrie, Samantha, and Miranda. Sometimes they were selfish. Sometimes they were reckless. Sometimes I couldn't understand how it could be so difficult to find Mr Right. The thing is, I cared about what happened to them. I laughed with them. I cried with them. I wanted them to find the love of their life. I hated it when they fought and didn't talk to one another. And I freely admit I loved Big.
I didn't finish reading 50 Shades of Grey. And it had nothing to do with the writing. I just couldn't connect with either character and I didn't care what happened to them. They could have slipped off a cliff and I would have said, "Meh. Fish will get a feed tonight."
Both stories are uber-successful. Both writers are uber-successful. (Sex and the City is based in part on a book of the same name by Candice Bushnell). Both writers have the type of success all writers dream of.
When 50 Shades first came out, my husband asked why I didn't write something like that.
I don't begrudge E L James her success. Often, these mass widespread successes are driven by the market, not the publisher or marketing campaigns. In my opinion, this book came at a time when adults were fleeing the YA market (Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer) and these women wanted something to distance themselves from teenagers. What is more distant to a coming of age vampire novel than bondage.
The market i.e the readers made 50 Shades the success it is. There's no point yelling at E L James. She wrote a book. It went supernova. Every writer on the planet wants their book to go supernova. But this does open up the question of whether a writer would write something they don't particularly care for if it sold books and made them money.
I don't even bother contemplating writing a book like 50 Shades. It's not what I write. It's not why I write. I much prefer the interaction between the SATC girls and their men than I do the interaction between Ana and Christian.
So would I be E L James for the money? Much to my husband's disappointment, the answer is no. Much like in love where there is a line that can be crossed where we settle for less than we want, I can't trade money for my conscience. Pity. I'd like a new house, new clothes, to give up work, new furniture...