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Video: E.L. James’ husband: I didn’t inspire ‘Fifty Shades’

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    >>> back now at 1:20 with mr. "fifty shades of grey." not christian grey but the husband of the best-selling author e.l. james. her steamy trilogy has smashed publishing records and opened a new conversation about intimacy in the process. now her husband of more than 20 years and a longtime television writer nile leonard is out with his debut young adoubt novel called "crusher." good morning to you. we'll talk about your book but fair to say different than your wife's work.

    >> completely different, yeah.

    >> i know you've answered this question a thousand times but mostly overseas. let's set it straight here in the u.s. are you or are you not the inspiration for christian grey?

    >> i'm not the inspiration for christian grey except --

    >> let's get into that a little bit. i know you helped proofread the book. when you were reading what she wrote, were you surprised or shocked?

    >> when i was proofreading, i was looking more for her grammar mistakes than anything else.

    >> probably the only one way looking for commas.

    >> that's what she wanted me to do, and i did notice a few things. i was interested to see what she was interested in. it wasn't a complete surprise.

    >> you kind of knew she had some of these ideas swirling about in her head?

    >> yeah.

    >> to say this has been a phenomenon is kind of ain understatement, 30 million copies of this trilogy sold in the u.s. alone. your wife is listed in "time" magazines most 100 influential women. sails of sex toys have skyrocketed what. a marketing campaign you've had.

    >> in the beginning there was no marketing campaign at all. purely word of mouth and the momentum grew and grew, and as you say it became beyond a phenomenon, something metaphors couldn't capture. there are no words for it. we used to sit around and say wow.

    >> when did you realize this has kind of taken on a life of its own?

    >> well, it was on new year's eve last year. we got two e-mails, separate times from hollywood producers asking about the rights. a review appeared on a shopping site online i had to buy the book because i went to the hairdressing salon and everybody was talking about it or reading it and we realized something was going on. rumors before on twitter, social networks , moms on the play field and passing it around the school gate and around new year's we learned something was going to happen.

    >> grammar and commas aside, do you like the book?

    >> i think it's an amazing book. i think it's fast moving and funny and engrossing, a tremendous compassion. i love it.

    >> it's a little controversial because it definitely pushes the envelope. are you surprised that it resonates with so many women?

    >> i think we've -- we were both really surprised, wanded to write it for herself and a few friends and when it took off it completely surprised us.

    >> you wrote something recently in "the guardian," journalists ask if fans turn up on our doorsteps asking silly questions. journalists do. do we have a dungeon or red room of pain? well, do you?

    >> maybe, but we've got a very ordinary small house and there isn't a lot of room for -- we barely have room for the ironing, never mind all the equipment.

    >> so your life hasn't changed a ton?

    >> so far -- this has all happened so quickly. life goes on. we have kids at school. we have to walk the dog and do the shopping and all that stuff still happens. i have to say not much has happened.

    >> your sons are teenagers. have they read the book?

    >> no. it's not written for boys or men anyway. it's written for women so i don't think it would be their sort of book even when they are old enough to read it.

    >> let's talk about your book "crusher." this process of seeing the wife write a book, inspired you. you're a tv writer but never written a novel.

    >> i'm a tv writer and wrote a lot of episodes and felt very satisfied except in tv you're constrained by the format, have to hit the commercial breaks and length and stick to the budget, and then i saw her writing her book and realized she had this freedom and doing what she really wanted to do and doing it her own way and i envied that. i had forgotten that joy of just doing it just for fun, and so i wanted to capture some of that when i started writing "crusher."

    >> in your book your protagonist is a teenage boy, and his stepfather ends up dead and is a tv writer. a little close to home there.

    >> i got bored listening to myself talk constantly about all the things i was going to do. in chapter one the hero's father talks about what he's going to do and comes to a sticky end. punishing myself for all the time i wasted. so to find out who murders his dad.

    >> "fifty shades of grey" going to be made a movie, as you mentioned. who is christian grey? we hear ryan gosling .

    >> all sorts of crazy rumors. when i deny one, it just starts another, so my official line is no comment.

    >> do you know?

    >> i have no idea.

    >> niall leonard, the book is "crusher," thanks so much.

    >> thank you, savannah.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 9/11/2012 10:27:48 AM ET 2012-09-11T14:27:48

Talk about expectations. The husband of best-selling author of “Fifty Shades of Grey” has come out with a book of his own. In an interview Tuesday on TODAY, Niall Leonard answered questions everyone is asking — about his wife’s erotic novel.

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First, he answered the obvious.

“I am not the inspiration for Christian Grey, except in the sense that being married to me might have made her invent Christian Grey,” he said about the protagonist in his wife’s book.

And no, the couple’s small, semi-detached house does not feature a dungeon or a “red room of pain” full of sex toys.

“We barely have room for the ironing, never mind all the equipment,” Leonard said.

Leonard said his wife, E.L. James, mainly wrote the book “for herself and a few friends,” and that the novel’s extraordinary sales surprised them both.

“In the beginning, when there was no marketing campaign at all, it was purely word of mouth, that momentum just grew and grew,” he said. “It became beyond a phenomenon. It became something that metaphors couldn’t capture. There are no words for it. We just used to sit around and go, ‘wow.’”

Story: ‘Crusher’: Murder and mystery in London's underworld

Leonard said he is a fan of the novel, which he described as passionate, funny and engrossing: “I think it’s an amazing book.”

Watching the joy his wife got out of writing the book inspired Leonard, a longtime television screenwriter, to pen one of his own. His debut novel, “Crusher,” however, is anything but erotic. Instead, it centers on a teenager who tries to clear his name after becoming the prime suspect in the murder of his stepfather, an embittered television screenwriter.

Story: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ loses top spot on Amazon’s best sellers’ list

Leonard said he has enjoyed his career as a TV writer but found it frustrating to be confined to very specific format, length and budget. He craved the freedom his wife had when writing her book.

“She was doing what she really wanted to and doing it her own way, and I kind of envied that,” he said. “I thought, yeah, I had forgotten that, that joy of just doing it just for fun, so I wanted to capture some of that when I started writing Crusher."

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Story: 'Fifty Shades' inspires undies, boots — even the kitchen sink

Leonard said the success of his wife’s book really hasn’t changed life much for the longtime couple.

“We have the kids at school. We have to walk the dogs. We have to do the shopping. All that stuff still happens,” said Leonard, who also has gotten used to his wife’s spotlight.

For the record, he doesn’t know who will play Christian Grey when the novel is adapted for the big screen.

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

Leonard said he’s heard all sorts of crazy rumors but doesn’t have the lead on any of them.

“My official line is no comment,” he said. “I have no idea.”

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