What's the best way to celebrate a publishing phenomenon that began its life as fan fiction? With a literary parody, of course. On the heels of Vintage acquiring world rights to E.L. Grey's much-covered 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, and Universal snapping up film rights, a satirical take on the erotica series, called Fifty Shames of Earl Grey, is now circulating among book editors.
The comedic work, by author Andrew Shaffer (who is known to many in the publishing world for his alter ego on Twitter, @evilwylie), grew out of an experiment, of sorts. Shaffer, who has a reputation in the Twittersphere for refreshingly snarky comments about the book business, is also a reviewer of romance and erotica books. After he read about the excitement the book was generating among suburban women in The New York Post, Shaffer read the novel itself, which he described as the "Plan 9 From Outer Space of erotic romance." Amused by how bad the novel was, Shaffer started live-tweeting excerpts from the work, mocking its, er, literary merits.
Shaffer said he was drawn to 50 Shades of Grey for two reasons: the first was James’s backstory as someone who had become a self-published sensation in a seemingly short period of time. The second draw was the trashy element of the work itself. "I've read hundreds of professionally published romance novels," he said, “most of which were as good, or better, than Fifty Shades of Grey." That this book, which began as Twilight fan fiction, was the one to find crossover success, fueled his desire to do a satire.
The live-tweeting episode led Shaffer to start posting excerpts of a parody of 50 Shades on his blog, evilwylie.com. Those posts drew so much attention--within three days, 2,000 people had read the first chapter and an offer of a small advance came in (via Twitter) from a small press--that he quickly pulled a full manuscript together and gave it to his literary agent, Brandi Bowles.
Bowles, of Foundry Literary + Media, is now circulating the book among editors, and The Gersh Agency is repping the work in Hollywood.
Shaffer plans on publishing the book, if it’s acquired, under a pseudonym. He’s also acutely aware of the meta nature of what he’s doing—writing a parody of a novel which, itself, is a variation on another novel—and he’s celebrating that fact. "I was upfront about my intentions to ‘sell out’—I posted that once I sold the book to a publisher I would change the characters' names to Edward and Bella and hide out from my fans in a McMansion in Beverly Hills. Of course, this all just parodies EL James' path to success, so maybe what I'm really doing is an extended piece of performance art?"