Two women in Texas are suing the owner of the Writers Coffee Shop, Amanda Hayward, for a share of the profits from "Fifty Shades of Grey" by E.L. James. The erotic novel was originally published by the tiny Australian e-book publisher and was already reaching bestseller lists internationally when Random House came calling with a reported $1-million deal.
The Writers Coffee Shop was founded by two women in Texas and two in Australia, according to the Fort Worth Weekly. The site was created to write and share fan fiction, which was small potatoes until James' book came along. "Fifty Shades of Grey," which was conceived as a sexy, adult remaking of the characters in "Twlight," went through a few makeovers on its way to becoming a smash international hit.
One of the Texas founders is Jenny Pedroza, who filed suit last week in Texas state court for a share of the proceeds from "Fifty Shades of Grey" and its sequels, "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed." She is joined in the suit by Christa Beebe, a former staffer at the publisher.
The suit accuses Hayward of "conning" Pedroza "out of her rightful partnership interest in advances and royalties flowing from the New York Times best-selling 'Fifty Shades of Grey' trilogy," Publishers Marketplace reports.
The complaintants allege that Hayward set up a business entity to deal with Random House and manage the books' royalties, an entity that cut them out of the profits.
The suit states, "Hayward told her partners that the partnership prospectively needed to be restructured into an entity solely owned by her for 'tax reasons.' She then fraudulently induced Pedroza and Beebe into signing 'service agreements' with TWCS, and subsequently terminated both of them."
There has been no comment from author James on the suit. The film adaptation of "Fifty Shades of Grey" is slated to be released just before Valentine's Day next year.