I began writing in the pre-internet era. And so, to the people who read my books, I was nothing by a name. As for me, my readers were complete strangers, living and breathing in a different world that I could not even begin to imagine. And it worked just fine. I wrote books and my readers read them. We each stayed within the limits of our worlds and did not think of crossing lines.
And then came my first interaction with my readers. Suddenly, I was amongst people who owned copies of my books and I was startled to find them discussing my stories and characters from my stories with the easy familiarity of talking about a loved family member. They hailed me like an old friend, ready to share their memories and experiences with my books. It was disconcerting and to begin with I had no clue how I was expected to behave.
Then, the interactions with readers increased and all of a sudden, I was meeting people who knew me and my stories. And that was when it struck me that these readings and interactive sessions were not entirely about marketing my books. They were giving me a peek into the different places my stories were going, the many people who were reading and reacting to my stories. The interactions showed me which stories worked well and taught me to appreciate the qualities that would be enjoyed by my audience.
Most of all, these interactions proved to the children that the author of the books they loved was someone from their own world, someone who they could talk to and discuss characters and plot with, someone willing to answer their questions about writing and reading. And for me it was an opportunity to see how the characters and tales born of my imagination fared in the world.
What anyone would call a fair exchange!