Cover Chat: Andrew Shaffer's upcoming Fifty Shames of Earl Grey

E.L. James’ Fifty Shades tsunami is causing a flood in the reading community, and I gotta say, I kind of feel like I’m drowning in it. The series has exploded, resulting in an upcoming film adaptation, waves of controversy (it's even being banned from a Florida public library system) and an upcoming parody, Fifty Shames of Earl Grey, from author (and RT reviewer) Andrew Shaffer.

James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, for those of you who have been living on the moon (because, really, if my grandma is asking me about the book, someone visiting the RT website probably knows what’s going on), was originally self-published as fan fiction and then released digitally and as a print-on-demand book through a small Australian publisher. Eventually the book began climbing bestseller lists and, after receiving unexpected media buzz from mainstream outlets, was snatched up by Vintage Books. The book then skyrocketed to the top of the NYT bestseller list, where it currently sits as #1. A happy turn of events for E.L. James’ writing career, for sure.

The story recounts the sexual awakening of college co-ed Anastasia Steele after she meets young, dominant millionaire Christian Grey. Grey introduces Steele to the world of BDSM. The two begin a Dominant/submissive relationship, with Christian controlling her physically and psychologically as Anastasia struggles to figure out if this is what she wants in a relationship.

But there’s been heaps of controversy over the series in the romance community. Many argue that the book, as a representation of the erotic fiction genre, just isn’t very good. (RT Book Reviews even released a reading list of BDSM and erotic fiction alternatives in our July issue.) And what better way to make fun of something that is so dividing and controversial than to write a parody?

For the project, Shaffer will take the pen name Fanny Merkin. (Yes, that is a wink-wink-nudge-nudge speak for a woman’s “downtown fun zone” and a swanky covering for said zone). As Merkin, he will be releasing a tongue-in-cheek novel that, like the original, tells the story of a young girl who meets a more sexually experienced man, Earl Grey. The tale will poke fun at the fan fiction roots of the Fifty Shades series, James’ sometimes overly-detailed writing style, as well as the story’s two protagonists and their relationship.

And, judging by the cover, which Shaffer debuted last week, Fifty Shames looks like it's going to be downright hilarious. I feel like whatever brilliant words I have to say about this cover won’t do it justice. Feast your eyes upon Fifty Shames’ glorious heap of sexual innuendo, readers. First, there’s the iconic silver tie, outright mocking the cover of Fifty Shades of Grey. Then a man, whom I am assuming is Earl Grey, decked out in a sharp business suit, is holding a cup of tea, daintily lifting his tea bag from the cup. Teabagging, if you will. And, to top it all off, Earl’s hand holding the teacup is also flashing the “Shocker”. (For the sake of maintaining what little bit of modesty I have left, you can read about the hand gesture in this informative Wikipedia article.)

If I could give this book cover a standing ovation, I would.

You can pick up a copy of Fifty Shames, releasing on July 31st. Be sure to check out our reading list of top BDSM reads, plus our Everything Erotica Page for more genre news. And if you're going to be in NYC for BookExpo America next week, make plans to stop by Shaffer's Teabagging Party!