How I wrote a book on sex and became a bestseller

Writing about pleasure, and how a relationship is, can be, and needs to be sensory, and not just emotional, was challenging.

 |  4-minute read |   26-06-2015
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The one question that I am often asked these days is what goes behind writing a book on sex.

Play with Me, my recently published novel, an erotica, happened completely by (pleasant) accident. A short piece, and a few more, that I had written more than two years prior, opened the door for me to think about writing a novel. It is quite like that one stolen kiss, especially when that moment doesn't lead to anything more, and you are left longing to pick up where you left off. That was kind of it for me.

Writing about pleasure, and how a relationship is, can be, and needs to be sensory, and not just emotional, was challenging. And I had to make sure, wanted to make sure, that I don't overwrite or use the proverbial purple prose, allure, not allude to, and make it real, and for most part turn it into an honest conversation with your best mate, over a drink at your favourite bar.

You can't research much if you want to write on sex - another thing I am asked often about. And for this genre, I can assure you, reading erotica may not necessarily help. For one, one seldom bumps into good sex on paper, and two, unless it reflects your sensibility, and the act rather than the description, is sensual, it is sure to leave the reader cold. To use two cheesy lines, used by a British sex-symbol-spy; if you try to be a "cunning linguist" the reader will never get "the thrust of it"!

As is with most writing, including this article, even if you know what you want to say, finding the right words is what takes most time. And then to make matters worse, miraculously, between drafts, errors and typos creep in. So, at one place early on in the book beautiful breasts with perky nipples meant to fit in a champagne saucer, somehow appeared "champagne flute"! Now, I don't even want to imagine what that means. And thank God I caught it. Phew!

Sid and Cara do enjoy their romp, and there are quite a few of them, including with Cara's bestie, on a beach and I did want to capture the raw energy and the sheer exhilaration when two bodies (or three) come together (pun intended), especially when one of them is a ridiculously beautiful woman, but in the beginning I wasn't sure if I had to play a voyeur, and then go looking for the right words, or play an artist (as a photographer) and lean on my ability to see, imagine and create a beautiful frame, with two beautiful people, lost in lust, and use the light to describe what I wanted you (the reader) to see. In the end, I became an artistic voyeur, or a voyeuristic artist, I am not sure. But now I think you get the thrust of it. *wink*Then, what Cara, my delightful sex goddess wore became a lot less important than what she took off. So while it was a tantalising moment when she unzipped Sid, it had to be a breathtaking moment when he unzipped her LBD. But, as you will also discover as you read the book, she hardly wore anything, and Sid develops a bit of an obsession with knickers (and talking about words, I did want to say "panties", in that sentence, and I didn't!). As my editor also later pointed out, Cara's lingerie drawer was predominantly white, but I ignored her suggestions to introduce colour. So a bit of discussion did go into it. I must confess here that I did some (delicious) research, and really enjoyed the pages where Cara hangs around in nothing but those, delectably. As the book progressed she became naughtier by the page and one of the places I most enjoyed writing was her lingerie modelling for him, on a drunken moonlit evening, on her terrace.

Writing erotica was great fun despite the fact that in most parts, and you know which ones, I felt like Martin Freeman in Love Actually; naked, playing a body double, rubbing palms to warm them before cupping Joanna Page's beautiful breasts, while simulating a sex scene, chatting about how busy the tube was, on the way to work.

Coming to think of it, that's what writing erotica is like. Playing body double. And will I do it again? Would love to.


Ananth Padmanabhan Ananth Padmanabhan @jilpanz

Photographer, dog lover, book seller, writer, bibliophile and a Penguin. Senior Vice President at Penguin Books

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