LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - E.L. James, the British author and producer of the erotic "Fifty Shades of Grey" novels and film franchise, knows that her story about an attractive couple engaged in a kinky relationship is very much a fantasy.
In the "Fifty Shades" trilogy, Christian Grey is a young handsome billionaire entrepreneur with a penchant for bondage, discipline, dominance, submission and sadomasochism (BDSM) who introduces the beautiful but naive Anastasia "Ana" Steele to his world of whips and sex toys.
"It's a wish fulfillment piece that you can escape into, you can become Ana, you can see where you can go to with this guy and change him to be a far better human being, and of course, that's just a fantasy," James, 53, told Reuters.
James' trilogy, born out of fan fiction that she had written inspired by young adult vampire love story "Twilight," has sold more than 150 million copies worldwide since its 2012 release. It became a pop culture phenomenon, making erotic literature mainstream, and spawned a film franchise for Universal Pictures.
The "Fifty Shades of Grey" film, starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, grossed $560 million worldwide in 2015. The sequel, "Fifty Shades Darker," debuted in theaters on Friday.
After the first film ended with Ana and Christian driven apart because she couldn't commit to his desires, "Darker" sees the two reconcile, but on her terms. James said Ana is now "empowered and strong" and that it is Christian who finds himself under her spell.
Ana and Christian's relationship, in which he exhibits controlling and stalker-ish habits, fueled a domestic abuse debate after the books were released. When the first film came out, a grassroots movement urged people to donate to women's shelters rather than see the film.
"What I find really annoying about these people is that women are entitled to their fantasies too, and it's a far safer place to explore things in a book," James said.
"This does not encourage domestic violence, it's not about domestic violence, they're completely missing the point - however it's an important issue so I'm glad it's out there," she added.
The film franchise wraps up next year with the release of "Fifty Shades Freed" and James said she's already written another book exploring a young adult love story - with no sex.
"If you can make people fall in love with your characters and care about them, then that's a huge achievement," she said.
Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Sandra Maler