Q. What prompted you to enter into an uncharted territory? Why, according to you, has no Indian male author ventured into erotic fiction until now?
A. It started out as a conversation around the lack of good erotic fiction in India, especially given the success of EL James and Sylvia Day. I was asked by my publisher if I’d like to write a novel and I accepted. It wasn’t a question that came out of the blue — my colleagues knew that I had written short erotic pieces before. Yes, we did know that this was uncharted territory. I think Indian fiction either takes itself too seriously, or has always played safe. It’s a very thin line between good writing and bad, further discouraged by awards for bad sex writing. It could also be cultural, it’s hard to tell.

Erotica

Q. You belong to the publishing world; so weren’t you tempted to base your story in it as well? Or was the challenge more in dabbling with another area/profession?
A. Now that you ask, no, I wasn’t ever tempted to base the story in publishing (though if one were to write one, the possibilities are limitless). And yes, I believed that setting the story within an unknown world would help the narrative breathe and let me take some liberties. The protagonist is a photographer, and that is one thing I know something about, though I’ve used it only as a context and the book is not about photography in any way.

Kiss me

Q. Sid comes across as the kinds who is unabashed about his sexual views and leanings, and usually gets what he wants. Was his character fixed in your mind before you started writing the book or did you add nuances along the way?
A. I think I knew who I wanted to Sid to be — and what his creative bent of mind will mean to his personality. And yes, because he is also the narrator, whose reflections and observations are central to the plot, he was meant to be unabashed himself. And as the story unfolds and I was keen for him to be a complex, rather confused character, and I did add aspects to him.

Play With Me
Play With Me, Ananth, Penguin Books, Rs 250. Available at leading bookstores and as an e-book.

Q. All the women in this book seem to be in love with or entranced by Sid at some point...was this intentional?
A. The book is about the women in Sid’s life and what their relationships have meant to him. The relationship between Sid and Nat builds gradually over time and is a result of their shared history, experiences and emotions. And the relationship with Cara, while seemingly physical and linear, develops to into something both of them don’t confront. I was very keen to explore the probabilities of what could happen between people who are attractive, and attracted to each other and used these characters to do that.

Ananth
Ananth Author. Pic courtesy/Ashish Sharma, Open magazine

Q. How were you able to play out the sex vs. love debate in Sid’s mind throughout the book?
A. This book was meant to be about sex. But I also knew that it couldn’t be just that. I wanted to write a novel about pleasure and explore what pleasure can do to love. Sid is a man who is ruled by his heart and almost always lets go. Cara and Nat are very clear about what they want from their bodies. This heady cocktail drives Sid to constantly wrestle with his reactions to sex and love. I introduced the thread with Roy and Aanya for precisely this reason — their affair is also something that makes Sid reflect on how complex human needs are — and how we choose between sex and love.

Q. Do you see Indian readership rising in the coming years, as far as erotic fiction goes, and the emergence of more writers in this genre?
A. Yes, the readership has potential to grow. We just don’t have enough books in this genre. I must add though that since this is not a mainstream genre, unless there is a regular influx of good writing, and the emergence of new writers, readers will wait to buy that one book that makes the most noise and not try everything — like we tend to do in genre fiction like crime thriller, or romance.