EL James, says Christa d’Souza in The Sunday Times, is a “very contained” person. Unless, that is, she’s talking about Ed Sheeran – “he’s gorgeous” – or Nutella (which she eats straight out of the jar), or her fans.
There are plenty of those, so many that her erotic novel series Fifty Shades of Grey, which she started publishing on the internet in 2010, now earns her a reputed $1m a week. Doubtless the film version, of which she is co-producer, will make her even more money.
So has success changed her? A bit, inevitably. She still has her hair blow-dried in Acton and does her own supermarket shopping. Her home life remains important – she has two teenage sons who, she insists, are not at all embarrassed by her tales of bondage and submission. And she’s not materialistic, well not really. “I mean I like nice things, but ever since I’ve had money, I actually find shopping a lot less pleasurable.”
That said, she doesn’t have to take the underground in rush hour any more, and her husband, Niall Leonard, no longer has to work out of the garden shed. (He’s a scriptwriter whose credits include Silent Witness and Monarch of the Glen.) They each have an office in their new house in Ealing.
She’s even started doing a bit of art collecting (just Peter Blake for now), drinks Whispering Angel rosé – there is a Fifty Shades of Grey wine collection, selling for $18 a bottle in America – and on her wrists, says d’Souza, dangle bracelets from Hermès and Tiffany.
She has 750,000 followers on social media and does a lot of crossing the Atlantic – “fat bird bouncing between London and the USA”, is how she puts it, on Instagram.
She’s crossed the pond 30 to 40 times already this year and recently spent three days in LA, where she stayed up till 4am each night drinking wine, smoking and generally “partying” her “butt off”. “Everyone smokes in LA,” she says. “They drink a lot, too, and they drive, which I find quite shocking.”
A novel approach to product placement
Thirteen years ago Fay Weldon shocked literary purists when she was paid £18,000 to feature the jeweller Bulgari in one of her novels. Now William Boyd is doing something similar.
The hero of his new 17,000 word story, Alec Dunbar, is down on his luck and accepts what The Guardian calls “an apparently innocuous courier job” in Scotland. He sets off to drive there in a battered old Land Rover Defender. The Land Rover bit is important. Boyd has been paid “reportedly a low six-figure sum” to feature the Defender in his story.
When Weldon was attacked for her Bulgari tie-in, she told The New York Times: “When the approach came through I thought ‘oh no, dear me, I am a literary author. You can’t do this kind of thing; my name will be mud for ever’.
But after a while I thought, ‘I don’t care. Let it be mud’.” Boyd is similarly insouciant. “I have no idea how I’ll be viewed,” he says, “and I don’t really care, to be honest.” Why should he? If the story’s a good one, no one else will care either.
Tabloid money: We need a Lord Leveson for the banking industry
• “Where’s a Lord Leveson for the banking industry, Mr Cameron?” asks Tony Parsons in The Sun. “The banks did this country infinitely more harm than the newspaper industry.
Over 100 journalists have been arrested” and most of them have never been found guilty “of a damn thing. Why no investigation into the banks that almost destroyed capitalism? That’s a bit more serious than hurting Hugh Grant’s feelings.”
• “Julie Davies is a teacher,” says Rod Liddle in The Sun. “You pay for her salary through your taxes – £45,000 a year, since you asked. That’s a decent wage, isn’t it? Now, here’s the question. When do you think Julie last stood in front of a class of kids and, y’know, actually taught them? When did she last do the stuff which we paid for her to be trained to do? Here’s a clue – it was a long time ago. This century, definitely – but only just this century.”
Since the year 2000, she’s been a full-time activist for the NUT, and suspended from teaching at all. “The schools think she’s an obstructive troublemaker and want nothing more to do with her. But they – or, rather, we – still pay the awful woman’s salary.”
Recently, the schools (in north London) decided they were sick of this arrangement, which is “madness”. But now other teachers at those London schools have come out on strike “in support of this freeloading idiot”.
So, if you’re a parent in north London you have to fork out for childcare because your kids are at home all day, and for the teachers who aren’t teaching, and “for the brilliant Julie Davies, the non-teaching teacher who the schools in question think is worse than useless”.
• Like the banks, supermarkets are now eating humble pie for destroying towns and small businesses “while manipulating our purses with inflated prices and crafty ‘offers’”, says Fiona Phillips in the Daily Mirror.
“Sainsbury’s is the latest to be forced to grovel, promising it’ll plough £150m into price cuts. Which makes me wonder how much they’ve made ripping us off” in the past.