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E.L. James
Denis Poroy/Invision/AP
E.L. James poses with her book "Fifty Shades of Grey" at a book signing during the first day of Comic-Con on Thursday July 12, in San Diego.
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updated 7/13/2012 2:58:56 PM ET 2012-07-13T18:58:56

Lola De La Cruz cried when she met author E L James. The 29-year-old fan had waited since 4 a.m. to accomplish the No. 1 thing on her Comic-Con to-do list — meet the writer of "Fifty Shades of Grey" — and 12 hours later, she got her chance.

"The relationship that's in the book is something that I've always wanted and haven't gotten in previous relationships, so it kind of gave me that hope that there's something still out there," she said as she wiped away tears after meeting James Thursday at the pop-culture convention. "It brought me back to life, so to speak."

Story: Who should play Christian in the 'Fifty Shades' movie?

James can relate. The 49-year-old mother of two was a fan herself, moved to start writing after reading Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series.

"I don't think I've ever been swept up in something like I was swept up with that," James said Thursday before her Comic-Con appearance in San Diego. "I read them and reread them and reread them, and then I sat down and wrote a novel."

That book hasn't been published — yet — but she followed by posting new pieces online. Those stories found an instant audience and eventually became "Fifty Shades of Grey."

Thursday's visit wasn't the London-based writer's first time at Comic-Con. She actually had come once before to participate in a panel for fans who wrote fiction inspired by the "Twilight" series.

Story: Crib note: 'Fifty Shades of Grey' baby boom

Now, she's the bestselling author of her own literary phenomenon — a romantic trilogy that commanded a seven-figure publishing price, has been translated into 42 languages, is dissected by book clubs and talk-show hosts and set to be made into a movie by the Oscar-nominated producers of "The Social Network."

"It's just crazy," James said, sipping a latte on the patio of a hotel near the San Diego Convention Center. "This whole thing has just been mindboggling, how it's happened and how it's exploded, and so quickly."

The "Fifty Shades" books, which follow the relationship between college student Anastasia Steele and billionaire-bachelor-with-a-taste-for-bondage Christian Grey, were published in April by a division of Random House, Inc. and have already sold more than 16 million copies.

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So what's the appeal of the titillating tale?

"It's a fantasy novel," James said. "It's a love story at its heart, which I think women like to read — a passionate love story. It's got some kinky sex in it, which is kind of interesting. ... I mean he is just ridiculously wealthy, ridiculously accomplished, as well, and it's nice to go on a holiday and just escape into their world."

Story: 'Fifty Shades' books now have fan fiction of their own

As 30-year-old fan Jennifer Norling of San Francisco put it: "There's humor, there's love, it's intense. It's pretty much everything a woman would want in her love life."

But, please, don't call it "mommy porn."

Though James said she doesn't want to be "a social commentator," she isn't a big fan of the term some journalists and pundits have used to describe her books' erotic content and female fan base.

"I think it is disparaging. It's actually quite misogynistic," she said. "Women like sex. If it's done well, it's really quite good fun."

Story: Is your mom reading 'Fifty Shades of Grey'?

Also fun for fans of the book — and James herself — is speculating who will play the central characters on screen. Readers share endless ideas on Twitter, and while James finds some of their suggestions perplexing, she hasn't ruled anyone out. She also betrays no favorites.

Besides, she's still not sure how involved she'll be in the production or if she might contribute to the screenplay. Universal Pictures and Focus Features announced producers Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti earlier this week, "so it's like, what's next?" she said.

She almost didn't want to do the movie at all.

"Books are such a personal experience for every individual reader," she said. "I just thought it's going to be really hard to do."

Video: Why are people obsessed with ‘Fifty Shades?’ (on this page)

But she owed it to herself — and to her story — to go for it.

"If the book says anything, it's life's not a dress rehearsal," she said. "Just go and do stuff. I'm trying to embrace that."

Random House is owned by German media company Bertelsmann AG.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Is this man ‘Shades’ of Christian Grey?

  1. Closed captioning of: Is this man ‘Shades’ of Christian Grey?

    >>> there's now a face to go with the name that has women everywhere running to their local bookstores.

    >> and swooning. a british professor developed a composite of the billionaire seducer christian grey from "50 shades of grey."

    >> all right. so we start with the hair, kind of channing tatum , brad pitt .

    >> then the eyes came from patrick dempsey and johnny depp .

    >> the face shape is that of david beckham .

    >> the lips, i'm sure you recognize them, they are val kilmer 's lips.

    >> based on that sketch, who should play this guy in the movie version which is coming to a theater next year.

    >> i read all the books and i don't see the composite looking like the guy. chris hemsworth , chris pine . alexander.

    >> i love ryan reynolds . he's too sweet for this role.

    >> ryan gosling .

    >> i thought he has enough edge.

    >> i'm going for a dark horse candidate like shia labeouf from the terminator.

    >> i've got one. take a shot at davie here. wow, davie.

    >> i've got to tell you i'm never going to look at dave the same way again.

    >> gilbert godfrey . i got a block and tackle. i'm going to go get some rope.

    >> before i saw the sketch, i thought adrian brody , just by the description.

    >> donny deutsch .

    >> he's saying pick me, pick me.

    >> not happening, donny. with the

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