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…