A Writer’s World#15 Questions Readers Ask

In my interactions with my audience, which is primarily made up of children, I get asked any number of questions. These are usually about how I write, where I live and who draws the pictures for my stories. But occasionally, there are questions that are so unexpected that they have me in splits! Presenting a series of Questions Readers Ask.

Which character do you love or hate from your own books?

When a child asked me this, I was gobsmacked because this was a question that no adult has ever asked me. So I thought honestly about the question before I replied. And it set me thinking – can a writer really like or hate their characters? After all, every character is born out of a writer’s imagination. In that sense, every character is a child of the brain.  Is it possible to hate or love any one of them?

Every character that a writer creates goes far deeper than the portrayal on the page. When I create a character, I like to know him. Of course, I would like to know everything, but since that’s not always possible, I settle for learning as much as possible. If the character is finicky about food (which is something many children in books are!) then I want to know what he thinks of the food and why he feels this way. I definitely like to know what he considers good food and what makes him swallow the food he dislikes. Perhaps he eats it because his mother has told him to, perhaps it’s because it’s never occurred to him that he could refuse to eat it. Right away, I know something about my character. I know that he’s a child who follows the straight and the narrow, and rarely questions people. This helps me plot how he behaves in my story. Will he continue this way? Will this easy acceptance of his be his redeeming quality or will it lead to his downfall? If he’s going to change in the course of the book, will his attitude to food change too? It’s a little bit like getting to know a new friend. You see much you like and admire, you spot a few things that make you feel sorry for him and identify a small number of things you dislike. And before you know it, you are friends with your character! From there it’s only a step to deciding if you like or dislike him!

Sometimes characters do things that writers would themselves never dare to. A character in a series I have authored is constantly body shamed. But her reaction is completely unlike my own reaction to being teased and bullied. She takes it in her stride, making jokes and being so cool about everything that eventually her tormentors are won over. I find her behaviour courageous and am faintly envious of the ease with which she deals with criticism. If only, I find myself thinking, I could be like her!

Other characters, through their own journey within the book, have opened my eyes to the world around me. They have directed my gaze towards relationships that have always been taken for granted and suggested ways of dealing with these. For a fictional character who only lives in your mind to do all this is pretty amazing. It’s difficult not to love these characters.

So yes, I do love some characters from my books! After all, they have taught me a lot. And given me a story while they did this!

A Writer’s World #13 Questions Readers Ask

In my interactions with my audience, which is primarily made up of children, I get asked any number of questions. These are usually about how I write, where I live and who draws the pictures for my stories. But occasionally, there are questions that are so unexpected that they have me in splits! Presenting a series of Questions Readers Ask.

 

 

At one of my interactions, a child asked me, ‘Do you have any ordinary friends?’ I was puzzled. Did the child think I lived in the midst of crazy people? Seeing my confusion the children kindly clarified, ‘Do you have friends who are not writers?’

And suddenly, I saw myself through the eyes of all the children watching me with honest curiosity and waiting to hear my answer. They had been going about their lives peacefully when all of a sudden, there I was, thrust into their midst and introduced as a writer! What was more, I had books with my name on it to prove the fact. What were they to make of it? So they asked me questions. And every question I answered only confused them further. I seemed to do nothing but read lots of books written by other people and then sit down to write some of my own! Surely, they thought, such a person was not normal. She probably lived on food different from the food they ate, knew nothing of boring things like school and homework and spent her leisure with equally mad people.

To answer this very honest question – yes, I do have friends who do not write or spend every waking moment writing and discussing writing when not doing it. These are friends who keep me grounded, who help me see that while writing is an amazing career to have, there are other things that make up life. I go shopping with them, watch and discuss movies, agonise over children and families, swap recipes and information. Since they have nothing to do with the world of writing and publishing, I even share my worries with them. And sometimes, their casually thrown comments and suggestions provide me with a brand new way to move forward.

But it is much more than that. These people knew me long before my tryst with writing began and their  memories are made up of the person who dreamt wide and deep, the person who fell but learnt to stand up again, the person who wanted. And in the midst of all the rejections and silences, in the midst of the wait to hear from editors, it is nice to have such people. They are the oasis of memories which sustain me, which refresh me and which send me back to writing, with my determination renewed.

So, no, I actually don’t have any ordinary friends in my life. Because every single friend I have is so extraordinary.

This is dedicated to all my extraordinary friends who listen and sympathise, cheer me on and believe in me. 

A Writer’s World# 9 An Ideal Reader

Every writer, I imagine, has an ideal reader. This is someone who gets all the nuances of your story, appreciates the elegant twists and turns and knows the characters as well as you know them. But does a writer ever meet the ideal reader?

In my interactions with the world outside, I have met a variety of people. There are those who have not read a word that I have written. They are a mass of questions, asked hesitantly. How do I write? More important, how do I get published? And then, the vital question – do I make money out of my writing? These are readers who require an introduction to the world of writing and I am happy to give it to them.

There are others who, on being told that I write, immediately ask if I have read their favourite author. When I confess to not having read these books, they launch into an enthusiastic description of the book and reasons why I cannot miss reading them.

There are a few people who have read my books. They are happy to tell me how much they liked these books and how often they have read it. These are the kinds of readers any author likes to meet. It is nice to know that your books have touched lives and have found loving homes in different corners of the world.

But the ideal reader would be someone who knows my books intimately, can ask me questions about my characters and tell me in no uncertain terms where I have gone wrong. These are the people who have engaged with the book for so long and so well that it is partly their book. They speak with great vehemence against perceived wrongs, and tell me with gentle authority what I should put into my next book. They are not ideal because they have read my books or that they show a decided preference for my writing. They are ideal readers because they show me where I have gone wrong, they make me ponder their criticism and suggestions. And most important, they make me long to rush back home, to sit down and write a book that they will be certain to enjoy and remember.

Any reader who pushes you to do your best, is, in my opinion, my ideal reader. And I will remain always grateful to them.

 

Conversations In My Mind#2

 

Books, Bookstore, Book, Reading, Writer

 

Being a writer means you spend a lot of time with just yourself. Even after you have daydreamt to your heart’s content there’s still plenty of time between ideas. And that’s the time my writer’s brain comes up with these conversations with various people, some real, some imagined!  

Conversation with a random person in a bookstore who just happens to be standing by a shelf with your books on it.

This is how it plays out in my imagination.

Me: Hi! Are you looking for books for children?

Random shopper: Erm, yes. Do you…could you possibly help me?

Me: Oh, yes. I would love to. You see, I happen to be a children’s writer.

Random shopper:  As in…you have actually written books for children?

Me: Yes. Here! These are some of my books.

Random shopper: Wow! You are a writer. A famous writer.

Me: (being as modest as I can be) Oh, I wouldn’t say that. But yes…I am pretty well known. In certain circles, of course.

Random shopper: I’ve never met a live author. And these are the books you have written? I am buying them all.

Me: But don’t you want to look at them and…

Random shopper: Whatever for?

Me: Well, to make sure, that your children will like them and…

Random shopper: Why would I do that when a real author has suggested what I buy? I am going to buy all your books. I own a chain of schools and I am going to stock all your books in the libraries there. And, I’d like to invite you to the school. To, you know, inspire the children. I know you must be very busy but do you think you could?

Me: Yes, of course. Anything for a book lover.

 

And here’s what reality does to the above conversation!

Me: Hi! Are you looking for books?

Random shopper: What else would I be doing in a bookshop?

Me: Oh, I only asked so I could help you pick books for your children and…

Random shopper: I don’t really need any help.

Me: Yes, of course. But you see, I am a children’s writer. And here are my books. All 22 of them. They are pretty popular among children. And some of them have won awards too and…

Random shopper: Hmmm, they look kind of interesting. But do you know the most interesting books for children? They are written by this absolutely amazing writer called S S. You must have read her books.

Me: No, I can’t say I have ever heard of this author.

Random shopper: Oh, you must read her books. She writes so well. Such simple prose, such strong messages.  Here, this is her most famous book. You can start with this.

Me: Um…maybe some other time. Bye.