I’m a little excited. When I read the Fifty Shades trilogy the first time round, it was pre-goodreads, so I never got a chance to review it, and doing reviews in the far-past tense are so hard to do, so I might make this one count for the whole series.
Okay, Confession Number One: Christian Grey got me pregnant.
I started reading this when I was halfway through writing Heads Or Tails, in early 2012- I think March. the first thing that struck me was that she’d used the surname ‘Grey’ which was the same as the protagonist I was writing then, the second was that she overused the words: ‘Oh My’ and ‘Inner Goddess’ so often that I was ready to beat my head against the mirror until my bathroom became the red room of pain… the third was that Oh My, did my Inner Goddess like Christian! Turns out, hubby liked the things that Christian did too and boom- pregnant!
Confession Number Two: I hated Fifty Shades Of Grey.
It took me soooo long to get onto the Grey train. I was hitting the emergency brake loudly- and on Facebook every few pages. ‘Oh, the writing is awful!’ ‘Oh, I don’t know if the sex scene are worth the inner dialogue!’ ‘Oh if this was my man, I’d beat him into submission!’ It was painful for me, and my first erotic read- ever-so it didn’t go down so well. The truth is, if I hadn’t bought it on audio ‘just to see’ I wouldn’t have turned the pages.
But thirty bucks is a lot of money to pay for a story so I listened on, updating my FB constantly with a stream of jackass ‘I am so much better than this’ posts that implied superiority, and then- she left him. She LEFT him! I couldn’t believe it. Not only that the heroine had actually managed to save herself, but that it hit me in the gut like a fist. I’d JUST started to glimpse the man inside the beast and she was walking out the door and she kept walking and I was crying- and I was hooked. Absolutely hooked. Never before or since have I read/ watched a break-up scene that hit me harder than this one did- every time they almost separated too. It was gut-wrenching. I didn’t like him, but it broke my heart. How weird is that? How cool to be forced to feel?
For me, this book is the reason why I try not to DNF anything. You never know what you could miss out on, if you give up, or if you let hype talk you out of something, or try to make up your mind before the ‘The End.’ I couldn’t get my hands on books 2 and 3 fast enough and oh my GOD, did I love book two! When he drops to his knees… that is some powerful shit. I was riveted, absolutely riveted. I was pregnant by the time I finished it, loaned hubby the audiobooks and between us, we must have listened to that trilogy 5 times.
Confession Number Three: 50 Shades got me pregnant again
A few weeks ago, after having invested 6 solid months in theatre (my ultimate goal is to write a musical) I came out of an audition feeling pretty disillusioned and knowing that the time I was spending on it wasn’t worth the time I wasn’t getting to write. I turned down the part I got and came home with a copy of the 50 Shades DVD and a bottle of wine, choosing downtime for the first time in months and a couple of hours later- pregnant! Now I’ve got no choice but to write for the next 10 months or so 🙂
That strikes me as hilarious because reading Fifty the first time lead me to think it was okay to have real, graphic but sparse sex scenes in my own books, which had been what was coming between me and agents who wanted my mermaid series to be YA for it to sell. Well, I stuck with my gut and the book I released got my three Beta readers pregnant too. I’ve had heaps of messages from people saying that my sex scenes have revved up their sex drives and have improved their marriages or gotten them pregnant, so I think the chain reaction is neat and proves that a story does not have to be perfectly written to have a perfect effect on the reader and to have a positive impact on their lives. Nor does it have to be hard-core porn to be arousing.
This series did up my sex drive. Maybe it had something to do with me turning 30 around the same time, but in the past, pregnancy had made me less amorous, not more, and the effects of 50 Shades on my libido and my husband’s sudden desire to send cute e-mails and text messages and look good for me is astonishing, really. Sorry if that’s an over-share, but books are so much more to me, than just a story. They’re little pages of dreams- they make you think of the house you want, the places you want to go, the relationship you want to have- especially with yourself- and I think what 50 Shades lacks in originality, it makes up for in impact for those who connect with it.
And what do women want? A man like Christian Grey. Not like him in every way of course- but someone imperfect and flawed who can knock us on our asses all the same, and will fall to their knees beside us to change because they want US just as badly.
That’s the magic. That’s the hook, that’s the point- There isn’t a woman in this world, hater of the series or not, who wouldn’t kill to be the one to bring this egotistical bastard to his knees. And the fact that the girl who does it isn’t excessively beautiful, a genius, a walking nymph, a fashionista, outgoing, world-wise or with a type-A personality is reason number two as to why it’s so relatable. It gives us hope.
It take a lot for a book to have an impact on me right now, and I’m certain that many people can empathise. In this world where you can easily read 10 fluff novels for free a week on a Kindle, grabbing your attention and making you want to slow down and bask in a story is a pretty tall order. And it’s a really tall order for me because like Ana, I’m one for the classics. My favourite books are Twilight Eyes, (Koontz) Gone With The Wind and The Godfather, so it takes a lot to make me turn the page- but this book got me, and whether it had a profound effect on it’s readers in a positive or negative way, there’s no forgetting it, and that makes it worth itself.
And here’s a little known fact: Fifty Shades wasn’t obligated to be better than any other book! And the fact that it came out publicly announcing that it was a re-hashed fan fiction and intentionally knocking off Twilight was disclaimer enough for people who consider themselves to be above such things to avert their eyes. But did they? Nope, they inhaled it and spat out the font afterwards like it tasted bad and this is really starting to get on my nerves now that I see people who disliked the first three books going out of their way to read Grey, even if he was the reason why they hated the first three.
Christian Grey is apparently abusive, and I get why people are turned off him for that- but once again, he’s not the worst offender in erotic fiction. Hell, he’s not even close! Compared to other books… does he imprison her? Brainwash her? Share her? Humiliate her? Belittle her? Nope, he tries to get her to eat a lot and this does NOT a monster make, so it’s illogical that this is the book people choose to make the yardstick for bad writing. Captive in the dark on the other hand, OMFG! Now there’s an asshole! There’s NO rape in Fifty Shades. There’s no abuse that isn’t asked for. None of the bossing around actually takes and there isn’t a thing Christian does that he doesn’t make right by the end, so the claims that it’s encoring domestic abuse and submission are just ridiculous. If anything, it’s about a woman breaking a man of such dangerous habits, so these accusations are clearly made by people who haven’t read one single other erotic book ever, or are pretending that letting a werewolf share you with the rest of his pack is okay, ‘cos it’s fantasy…nope, sorry wrong.
Most of the reasons why others don’t like it are the reasons why I do. It’s porn for people who can’t stomach hardcore, storyline-less porn. It’s BDSM for lightweights who don’t particularly want to immerse themselves in a world of depravity. It’s a romance without too many hearts or flowers. It’s unrealistic, unoriginal, over-long and in many ways, factually inaccurate but does that make it wrong? Absolutely not. I am so sick of feeling judged every time I read a negative review. The implications that it is stupid, pointless and a waste of time is pretty offensive to those of us who disagree. Reader’s private relationships with their favourite books are special things to them. Yeah, we can handle seeing other people who don’t like it, but this brings me to confession Number Four:
Fifty Shades Of Grey has made me want to be a better writer, reader and reviewer.
I am so embarrassed by the way that I mocked this when I first read it. Oh, all of my criticisms were bang-on and I stand by them (her editor seriously needed to red-pen about thirty ‘Oh-My’s’ ) and every single book could have stood to be about 10,000 words shorter… but the mistakes don’t make this book a write-off. People who criticise the writing style probably shouldn’t be swimming around in the erotic section in the first place, because aside from Tiffany Reiz’s ‘The Siren’ and ‘Captive In The Dark’ I’m yet to see a well-written novel with more than 5 sex scenes in it. (And for the record, as well-written as the other two were they depressed the HELL out of me- different strokes for different folks! let’s STOP the hate.)
And while we’re on that note- 50 Shades has been circulated the most widely and has received a LOT of publicity, but it no way is it one of the worst written books in history. I could roll off the name of 15 attempts at erotic fiction on my Kindle which read as though they’d been drafted in crayon compared to this- and judging by the cover art and sample of others, there are easily 10,000 that are worse in this genre alone- and a lot of them are getting five stars while 50 shades gets one by the same reviewers and it makes no sense. Take note peops: E.L James does not even come close to being the poster child for bad writing, so why is she copping all the flak? Why do we feel the need to make an example of her? Why do people who hated the first three go out of their way to read the fourth and torture themselves, just so they can mock it? Is that why we’re reading… to make ourselves feel superior to others? People doing that obviously need to step back from the books for a while and get a bit of perspective, because it speaks more about the books and authors that they love, than it does about E.L James’s ability to tell a story. You’re bored- try movie reviewing for awhile, because you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin when it comes to the written word if you’re going out of your way to hate.
And authors who do this- especially Indies- don’t even get me started, People in glass houses with shoddy grammar (like myself) and all that… Ripping another person’s work apart implies that we do better. Well, read your own one-star reviews, because none of us have the right to judge anyone until we’ve out-sold that person’s work and have gotten glowing reviews.
God, writing is something I wake up and have to do and I know that I’m far from perfect. I’d sooner die than spend more time picking apart someone else’s baby, when I could be writing, and I’d certainly never try and get attention by mocking someone else’s work!
That being said, I do thank the authors who go out of their way to hate the written word. It helps me eliminate a lot of potentially soulless books from my TBR.
So I’m not saying that people have no right to put this novel down. I’m saying, it doesn’t warrant the hate it’s gotten, and nor do it’s readers deserve to be made to feel as though they’re without taste for liking I, which is how a lot of us feel.
For me, Fifty Shades made me want to fall in love again. It made me want to have great sex. It gave me the push to self-publish, and even if all it did was inspire thousands of other potential author’s (like me) who think that they could do better to go ahead and put themselves out there. or drafted hundreds of lonely wives and mothers back into the reading well- or maybe into it for the first time- then it’s made a contribution to the literary world, and demands the basic level of respect that all books should be granted.
Because they’re books. For people who love reading enough, there need not be another reason to justify its existence or to pardon its shortcomings.