I sometimes accept invitations from readers to meet for coffee or a drink. Sometimes these readers travel for the purpose. Sometimes they're long-time readers who, for a variety of reasons, have just moved to the area and are brave and think, Ah, fuck it, I'm going to try meet one of the people I know for sure lives here!
Each invitation is a leap of faith. So is my acceptance. But while I have occasionally wished I'd said no--and can only imagine the same is true for the other party--frankly, this is rare. Mostly I delight in these conversations with readers; they tend to be smart, and kind, interested and interesting; fine human being. We rarely spend much time talking about me or my work. What I have fun with is finding out about them, where and how they live, how they feel, what they think, what makes them tick. Sometimes we go way, way beyond the time allotted--which is anywhere from thirty minutes to four hours depending on my previous guesstimate of the fun quotient. (As a rule of thumb, if you're just from the other side of the city, you get coffee; if you've driven a reasonable distance, it's lunch; if you've flown in, it's dinner.) Sometimes, yes, it's true, I'd have to characterise the meeting as more tedium than fun--but I can always escape early with a "Gosh, is that the time?" and a reference to the exigencies (completely true) of work. But the occasional hour or so lost to experiment is more than made up for by the number of fine people I've met this way--a couple of whom I now count as true friends.
A certain percentage of emails from readers demand refusal but most of the time I accept. Every now and again, though, I get a vibe from an email, something I can't quite put my finger on, and I dither.
Our unconscious mind is expert: it can spot weirdness even when consciously we're not paying attention. And I admit, I haven't been paying much attention to the world the last little while: rewriting Hild means living in the seventh century; living in the seventh century demands the majority of my processing power.
Yesterday I was glad I had dithered over one particular invitation. And today I'm moved to made a Public Service Announcement:
DO NOT SEND NAKED PICTURES OF YOURSELF TO A WRITER YOU WANT TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH.