When senior vice president, sales, Penguin Random House, Ananth Padmanabhan found his epigraph — “for the pursuit of pleasure, and the pleasure of pursuit” — he knew he had something going. Edited excerpts:
Would you call Play With Me an Indian man’s answer or counterpart to 50 Shades of Grey? What inspired the book?
Look at it like this: Play with Me is the perfect pillow book. We know erotica is a strong genre and needed a good book, written by an Indian voice. So I said to my colleagues that I am going to give this a shot. It’s a fun genre to write for. I had an idea, and I knew I was going to have fun writing it.
Shobhaa De says that in order to write about sex well, one must enjoy sex and their sexuality. Do you agree? What were the challenges you faced when writing the sex scenes?
I agree with her. When I first began to write short erotic pieces two years ago it was a little weird but great fun. With the novel, it was relatively easy — like swimming — once you are wet, it doesn’t matter how deep the pool is. There was one thing though — Sid has an affair with two different women, who are diametrically opposite in character, and it was important to get that distinction right.
How did you get into the “mood”, while balancing a full-time day job? Is any part of the book based on your own experiences?
If I was ‘in the mood’ to use your phrase, I wouldn’t have gotten much writing done (grins). And no, this book is not remotely autobiographical. I had to find the time to keep thinking about the book and the plot (which was always), had to find the time to write as soon as an idea, or a conversation struck me. I work best when I am distracted. Some parts of the book were written at my desk during office hours (don’t tell anyone!).
How has your book been received?
Quite well. It has been called ‘enjoyable’ ‘cracker of a read’ ‘erotic adventure’ and such.
What next? Will there be a sequel? Do you worry being typecast as an erotica writer?
Yes, there is a sequel. It is called Think of Me. That book will also be about pleasure, and love, and what love can mean to pleasure. Typecast? No. Do writer’s worry about being typecast in their genres?