E L James: Letter To My Younger Self

The Big Issue asked the Fifty Shades of Grey author what she would say to her 16-year-old self if she could go back in time and revealed some of her answers online today.

Photograph: Victor Lerena/EPA

Topics discussed include dating, teen angst, the price of success, her sons, love, laughter, and the joy of motherhood.


If I went back and told my teenage self what was in store for her she’d be completely freaked out. She’s been writing stories since primary school, so if I told her she would actually get published, she’d be very proud. But if I gave her a hint of the scale of the success she’d be giddy and scared. And to be honest, that’s how I feel now.

I’d tell my 16-year-old self – value your privacy. Going through the process since Fifty Shades began to take off, I’ve realised I don’t want celebrity. I’m not interested in doing lots of interviews, going on TV – any of that. People make assumptions about you based on nothing. It’s frightening. I want to be able to go on the Tube and listen to my iPod and no one knows who I am. I’ve had a very successful career in TV, which I really enjoyed, so to have all this suddenly happen to me in my middle age has been a huge bonus, but I almost feel it’s happening to somebody else. Meanwhile, I come home at night and do the laundry and chat to my children and that’s the real part of my life. All the other stuff is kind of unreal.

If I’d known how successful the books would be, I might go back and tell myself – don’t talk to anyone in the media about them. Ever. I try very hard when dealing with the media to just be myself. But I’ve become a lot more guarded lately because so many things get taken out of context. People are obsessed with my sex life, which is completely bizarre – it’s a work of fiction.

I believe my readers are mostly interested in the love story. That’s the overwhelming response. The press seem to navel-gaze about the sex but what the readers want is the love story. Women love to read a passionate love story and that’s fundamentally what it is. I’ve had loads of letters from male readers too – one great one from a guy who’s 71, and he said, ‘Thank you so much for reminding me what it’s like to fall in love’. That is so sweet.

To read the entire article, click here.