Jun 18, 2015 3:53 PM

EL James spends 'Grey' day with New York City fans

The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) For "Fifty Shades of Grey" fans, Thursday belonged to Christian.

A fresh book in the erotic franchise was released on hunky Christian Grey's 28th birthday to the delight of teens to mid-life mommies eager to read the story as told from his perspective.

Kimberly Caravallo, 20, a college student from the Bronx, wasn't about to miss it. She and her sister waited nearly 15 hours to be first in line at a Barnes & Noble store along Fifth Avenue to get their copies of "Grey" signed by EL James herself.

They passed Wednesday night sitting on the sidewalk and napping. "We came a little bit unprepared with just a little sweater," she said.

Why? Because Christian is "extremely dreamy."

Roughly 300 other people joined them as James passed release day in New York rather than back home in London. She also attended a fan event in suburban Long Island and answered a few questions, including a request for her take on why the damaged billionaire who likes his sex rough is so popular.

"Because he doesn't exist, really," James offered wryly.

That doesn't matter much to Amber Garrow, a 38-year-old teacher's aide and mother of four from Connecticut. She hopped on a train at 4:30 a.m. and headed to Manhattan for her fourth time meeting James.

So what's the big deal about the retelling of the first Fifty book from Grey's eyes? It's the period where he first meets the young and innocent Anastasia Steele and tries to convince her to embrace his BDSM lifestyle as his submissive. Ana narrates the trilogy that has sold more than 125 million copies worldwide.

"We've been curious about his thoughts and how he feels about certain situations," Garrow said. "It's truly about two people saving each other."

And did her kids know what she was up to? "My oldest one just rolls his eyes and walks away," she said.

Much of the excitement was a short turnaround between James' announcement of a fourth book earlier this month and its release. Her publisher, Penguin Random House, said 1.6 million copies have been printed. Downloads hit the tops of lists at Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com.

Not that any of these fans had much time to dig into James' fresh pages before stepping up to have their copies signed.

Christopher Basso, 24, from Linden, New Jersey, planned to save "Grey" for later, when he was all alone.

"Christian, I think, has always been kind of the impetus that kept people reading," Basso said. "He didn't like revealing things to Ana. Now we get to find out."

What's Grey's allure?

"Christian is a boy, you know. He's like a child in an adult's body that needs to be nurtured, and that's what Ana does to him. She brings him into, kind of, adulthood," Basso said.

Through three books and one blockbuster of a movie starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, Christian's outer shell was intact.

"Nobody gets to break that. Except Ana, but now everybody will get a chance to see just what makes him Christian," Basso said.

Are the books mere smut or an epic love story?

"I think they go hand in hand," said Artavia Jarvis, 25, a Manhattan writer of young adult and dystopian lit.

"I think he's probably just as controlling as we thought," she said, "but it'll be fun to hear it from his point of view and not hers."

James, meanwhile, giggled and joked her way through her Long Island fan meet-up, where she was also asked if the books have improved her sex life.

"Oh. Um," she demurred. "I think we should move on."

___

Follow Leanne Italie on Twitter at http://twitter.com/litalie

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